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Marilyn Manson: Pushing the 1st Amendment
Marilyn Manson is a name that has been a thorn in the side of society as a moral and ethical issue for the parents and kids of the generation “X”. He is one of the most controversial artists in the world today, one who chooses to express himself in a way that provokes in the most extreme methods possible. His methods are bizarre and shunned by most of society, as it cannot fathom what he is trying to accomplish. However, further research into his life and beliefs will explain that he is sending a very strong message to the world. A message that is firmly protect by the First Amendment in the American Constitution. This freedom has unleashed a number of technical issues, as well as indirect damage done by the people who would interpret his message incorrectly.
The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of association (assembly). It also protects the rights of citizens to worship as they please and the right not to be forced to support someone else’s religion. The First Amendment also provides for the right to assemble and to demand a change in government policies. (Bill of Rights, Encarta 1999 CDROM). Manson uses this freedom fully, getting his message across by any means possible, mainly to the younger generation. These younger generations are more accepting of his attitude and beliefs, partly due to the fact that teens are more susceptible to mass persuasion and are easily confused. This has helped Manson conjure up a large loyal following of disgruntled teens that are called “Mansonites.”
How Manson gets his message across has been the center of controversy revolving around the US ever since Manson’s rise to stardom. His moral, ethical and religious actions have been questioned repeatedly. His ethics may be a representation of how disorientated American society has become in the late 1990s. Alternatively, Manson may simply be showing that the media can be used to manipulate the American mind more easily than their own values at heart. “God is in the TV” (Rock is Dead) Manson screams.
Now, how did this man become what he is today? Where did he form his views about life and society, which would ultimately lead to his notorious antics and cause millions of American parents and city council members to want to cancel his concerts, against the First Amendment? (“Politicians Rally against Manson”).
Marilyn Manson is the band name and the stage name of lead singer Brian Warner, who formed the band in 1989 and whose apparent business savvy and flair for controversy turned into a success. Using androgyny, satanic images and themes of rebellion and death, Manson irked bystanders and proved that outrageous rock was still a viable form of entertainment. (“Manson: Rock Star”) The name Marilyn Manson comes from a pseudonym of Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson, two opposites of society. (Manson, 85) Ever since Marilyn Manson’s release of his album Anti-Christ Superstar, many people have associated and accused him of influencing teen suicide and Satanism, just because he acted, dressed and performed as an individual brought up by society’s mistakes. (“Marilyn Manson”) It is this kind of media and political attention that Manson has received to become such a big name in controversy in the last decade. It all depends in how one takes his remarks and viewpoints. If no attention were paid to Manson’s antics, there would be no controversy; therefore, his entire essence of being the AntiChrist may have been created by society itself.
“On moral responsibility: Kids see more from their parents than they would anyone else. They’re the ones who should set the example.” (“Manson on Manson”) This is Manson’s criticism of all the parents who would criticize him. Parents are the biggest complainers about Manson, partly because they are of the older generation and partly because they can use Manson as a scapegoat for problems with teenage crime and suicide in the US. “We talked about the kids inside, the tragedy of hopelessness, the blatant rebellion against God and Manson’s part in the whole thing.” (Benson, It’s only Rock N Roll..NOT). This is where the conflicts within the First Amendment come into play. Too many people disagree on everything, however everyone is entitled to their own opinion, of course there are more against Manson than for him which is where extreme actions are taken that are either ridicules or unconstitutional.
When college students are fined $250 plus court costs for simply wearing a Manson T-shirt, there are definitely problems. (“Manson Shirt Wearer Fined”). This is a violation of the First Amendment and has been labeled a form of religious persecution. The amount of critics that Manson has is incredible, and society as a whole has been the major instigator of the negative publicity Manson receives. In fact, a bill to shield children from violent and sexual material in music, film, books and games was shot down in Washington. (Dansby 55) These are some of the extreme measures taken to try to shield the country from the unfortunate popularity of sex and violence in American entertainment. It is this violence and sex, which has helped promote Manson. This negative publicity is helping Manson however, as he is being heard, and the more his is being heard, the more people he can reach out to, no matter what negative connotation there is involved.
“Recent attempts by conservatives to ban his shows have made him the darling of the left wing and a perfect example of the kind of controversy the First Amendment can bring about.” (“Manson-Politically Correct?”). Now why is Manson under such heat? The First Amendment does allow him the freedom to say and do what he wants to provoke, but what exactly does he say?
“I’m a controversial artist, one who dares to have an opinion and bothers to create music and videos that challenge people’s ideas in a world that is watered-down and hollow.” (Manson 56) Manson has particular problems with the entertainment industry and the way society reacts to the media. It was never more apparent with the Columbine shootings last May. These are the criticisms that have caused the most controversy in Manson’s saga. “I was dumbfounded as I watched the media snake right in, not missing a teardrop interviewing the parents of dead children, televising the funerals.” (Manson 57). It is easy to criticize someone and put blame on them because they seem like the easiest way out of a problem. Manson even postponed his own concert because of the heat he was taking for the Columbine incident, although there was absolutely no relevance between Manson’s viewpoints influencing the two boys. (Eliscu 23). “Responsible journalists have reported with less publicity that Harris and Klebold were not Marilyn Manson fans -- that they even disliked my music.” (Manson 57). He also accuses the media of being able to manipulate who and what influences the minds of the public. “They love you when you’re on all the covers, when you’re not then they love another” Manson sings in “The Dope Show” as a criticism of the entertainment business. It can be compared to the coverage of the Clinton scandal, which although the media had an obligation to televise, was also overdone, and left part of the American public with a negative image of their leader.
However, this does not stop Manson from saying what he thinks, no matter how many people who may have problems with him. “Whether you interpret the Bible as literature or as the final word of whatever god may be, Christianity has given us an image of death and sexuality that we have based our culture around. A half-naked dead man hangs in most homes and around our necks, and we have just taken that for granted all our lives. Is it a symbol of hope or hopelessness?” (Manson 57) These views are not accepted because of his differences in religion and moral values compared to most of America, which is predominantly of the Christian faith. No matter how strong of a point Manson would make in his comments, there will always be a large percentage of the population ready to disagree. If Manson were to say he loved God, nobody would object, but because he has different views, and prides himself of it, a majority of society looks down on him. Nevertheless, the nation also gives anybody the right to say what he or she thinks, which is where the line is drawn for interpreting the constitution.
There are people who do accept his views however. Foreigners who do not live under the same kind of society that Americans do tend to have a more liberal view of Manson. “In America, the attentions of the Moral Majority and the Fundamentalist Christian constituency outraged by his professed Satanism and sex and drug-obsessed lyrical bent, have ensured his status as Public Enemy Number one.” (Mille, Monitor Online). This is just one view from an Irish critic of Manson. Manson should be allowed to act how he wishes and the observer would have to choice of agreeing or disagreeing. This freedom of interpretation leads to a completely new package of problems and issues.
Marilyn Manson comes to the world with a whole collaboration of new philosophies and beliefs. Some people accept them and some do not which is why he is so controversial. The younger generation is typically more accepting of Manson's values.
“The only thing that scares me is to lose the power and strength of my own individuality. I wouldn’t want to become like the less creative people.” Says Manson in an interview. (qtd.in Marray 77) This is a strong principle of Manson’s and a big part of the understanding of the religion of Satanism. “I went to God just to see/and I was looking at me.” Sings Manson (The Reflecting God). This is part of how Manson feels of himself. This is the essence of Satanism, the belief that one’s individuality should be the sole influence of one’s moral and ethical values. (Manson 168) “In this way, his kind of intellectual elitism (and mine) is actually politically correct because it doesn’t judge people by race or creed but by the attainable, equal opportunity criterion of intelligence. The biggest sin in Satanism in not murder, nor is it kindness. It is stupidity.” (Manson 168) Manson is speaking about his concurrence with Anton Szandor LaVey, the founder and high Priest of the Church of Satan. LaVey was a follower of Nietzsche’s philosophies and thus transferred them to Manson when they met. (Manson 164) “He told Rolling stone Magazine: It’s the whole Nietzsche philosophy of you are your own god” (Benson, AFA). This philosophy has appeal to people of the younger generations who are often confused about their own ideals. (Benson, AFA). It is obvious that this kind of thinking does not have good connotation with most other religions represented in America. His philosophies are by no means far-fetched and therefore they should not be under any sort of heat for being “stupid”.
“Stupid” is what Marilyn Manson and many of his followers have been called. Many remarks like these are made by protective parents, whom however, must in turn realize their own moral and ethical deficiencies first. The main argument that has been made of Manson’s antics is his corruption of America’s youth. He has been accused of having sexual intercourse on stage (Manson 246) and influencing others to have sex as well. These are of course false rumors, because singing and playing music at the same time would be rather difficult. Of course Manson is in no way a perfectly clean man.
“The rock group Marilyn Manson consists if demons or evil spirits in that they espouse heretical beliefs, claim to be Antichrists and Satanists, and attempt to tempt children away from Christianity with Sin.” (Manson 248). This is one parents view about Manson’s lack of morals. It is obvious in his music videos and stage antics that Manson is very liberal when it comes to drugs and sex. However, his music does not encourage suicide. “The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry lists 14 signs to look for in a suicidal child. Music choices are not among them.” (Rosen, Music Violence)
His on stage antics are something that many people would find disgusting and erroneous. He does pretend to have simulated sex on stage, along with various on stage effects that are degenerative towards religion. (Lunchbox, Rock is Dead Tour VCD). The pinnacle of his onstage performances are the introduction where Manson is brought onstage crucified to a cross made of TVs, and his performance of “Antichrist Superstar” where he proceeds to rip the pages out of the bible behind a podium whilst the audience cheers and beats their fists in the air. (Antichrist Superstar, Last Tour on Earth VCD) This has been controversial, as the major part of the population does not listen to Manson or follow Satanism. Manson has never done anything criminal other than illegal drugs; there he is not liable for any of the events that happen during his concerts. Unfortunately, many of the audience members cause more problems than the band. Fights have broken out and various other illegal activities have occurred. (Lunchbox, Rock is Dead Tour VCD).
However, not everything involved with Manson is negative. In fact, some parents would interpret Manson in a different way.
“Manson is a gross-out artist, his look is often repulsive, he has a laissez-faire attitude about sex and drugs, his music is often violent and vile. All this crap has made him ridiculously rich. That's nothing new, though, in the world of rock and roll. What is new is his message - America is neglectful, scornful and afraid of its own children and they're not gonna take it anymore. Maybe parents are the ones who should be listening to what he has to say.” (Humphrey, Fort Worth Weekly)
This particular parent believes that Manson does send a strong message and that he is a good spoof of American society. “The Religious Right needs Manson as much as he needs it. With the death of communism, the religious conservatives and the politicians who feed off them needed a new bogeyman to scare true believers into keeping those checks coming in. Marilyn Manson, who urges kids to question the existence of God and believe in themselves, is a gift from evangelical heaven.” (Humphrey, Fort Worth Weekly). In essence, this quote is saying the only person you can trust is yourself, because politicians, the church and other institutions are corrupted and only in it for the money. As can be seen, even the older generation may be somewhat cynical, but able to relate to what Manson is criticizing.
“In these conversations we've had some very spirited exchanges about morality, the First Amendment, values, the profit motive in show business and good taste.” (Hall, Spirit) A parent says of Manson’s appeal to kids. Parents have found ways to show their kids the importance of morals and ethics by using Manson as an example.
In fact, it is quite ironic that parents would be criticizing Manson’s morals and ethics. After all, Manson is the way he is because of his poor childhood and bad parenting. His lack of morals can be blamed on the fact that his parents did not give him the attention he needed as a teenager. (Manson 60) He was never put through the moral and ethical background that many of us take for granted. He was left to figure out his own morals for himself. (Manson 71) “He is a hurt man. Regardless of his actions, he still has feelings, and truly believes that is what Christianity is all about. If some could reach him, maybe, just maybe, he could be able to bring millions of teenagers into Heaven, instead of leading down the road to hell.”(Ignored Now Famous, Seaport Community Church)
This comes to the younger generations’ perception of Manson. Many of the younger generation can relate to Manson’s state of mind. Almost all teens feel confused and disgruntled growing up, trying to determine where they fit in and Manson has given them a place to look. Manson too, had experienced just about every kind of abuse and seen all the horrors of a young teenager growing up in Christian School and then transferring to Public High School. His life has been a messed up one and only now has begun to capture a meaning, which has come to him through his music. (Manson 180) Teens can relate to him, particularly the ones who are “different” look up to Manson, because he is the epitome of different. He dresses differently, often cross-dressing and he pretends to be a homosexual, which is always a big issue of acceptance in society. (Manson 182)
Much of his onstage antics also appeal to teens, the same ones that would appeal to adults if they were in a different place. In fact, the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) has employed some of the same antics that Manson uses on stage. It has become one of the most popular entertainment phenomena in America in the last few years. “Manson has become the Rolling Stone cover boy and the idol of quasi-Goth teenagers everywhere.” (Collins, YH online) Teens labeled “Goth” are the ones who dress in black, are often depressed and into gloomy settings and themes like Halloween and Edgar Allan Poe. (Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary's Definition)
Teenagers can relate to Manson’s thinking: “ I've always tried to let people know it's OK, or better, if you don't fit into the program. Use your imagination -- if some geek from Ohio can become something, why can't anyone else with the willpower and creativity?” (Manson, Rolling stone). He uses himself as an example to show everyone that he made himself into a rock star. This is a strong message to young kids who are confused and discontented.
The younger generation also tends to be a lot more liberal and accepts Manson much better than the older generation. It is also because of the short attention span of many youngsters who need someone like Manson to do outrageous things to keep them entertained. Even kids however, will support one another in what music they listen to, no matter whether they like it or not. Teenagers however do listen to Manson’s music much more than adults and this is because they can relate much better to him and the feelings of emptiness. “Because it’s a Great Big White World/and we are drained of our colors/We used to love ourselves, we used to love one another.” (Great Big White World) Manson sings about the emptiness of a world where perhaps a person has had bad luck. A certain amount of teenagers can relate to Manson’s childhood where faith failed him, love went sour and money was not fulfilling. In this case, Manson resolves to promoting himself to his own god, a elitist view, but one that appeals to adults and teens alike.
The harm in Manson’s expression comes indirectly to most. Teenagers such as Harris or Klebold who would interpret messages in music and entertainment negatively are where problems start to arise. Manson does preach two things, drugs and sex which can easily lead to greater problems should a person interpret his music’s message incorrectly. “I am the god of f$#%, I am the god of f#$%/Virgins sold by quantity, herded by heredity /Who says date rape isn't kind.” (Cake and Sodomy) Manson sings. It is this kind of lyrics which would cause problems if an action were taken according to the message. However, those particular lyrics come from an older not well-known song of Manson’s and luckily, no real crimes of rape have occurred because of them. (Humphrey, Fort Worth Weekly)
It is given that Marilyn Manson has done dishonorable things, but he has self-confessed this to the world. “I’m such a dirty Rock Star, yeah,” (Deformography, CD) Manson sings in his song Deformography, a song about his transition from a nobody into a Rock Star. People, who listen to him, listen because they find him intriguing in that he speaks his mind against common concrete beliefs.
Although Manson does has done immoral things, sings about sex, drugs and the antichrist, there are bands and people out there who are much worst than him. If America is complaining about morals and ethics, it should first worry about whom it selects as President, because he has not shown to have much stronger morals than Manson. Manson chooses to convey himself to the world openly, which is why he receives so much negative publicity. This negative publicity is publicity either way, and that means Manson is getting attention, which is what he wants. If people who dislike him were to utterly ignore him, there would be no controversy over his religious and moral position or whether he was influencing teenagers to become delinquents.
The bottom line is, Marilyn Manson is an entertainer like all other entertainers, and although he chooses to articulate himself in an out of the ordinary fashion, he is still protected by the First Amendment. The boundaries of what exactly the Amendment allows and does not allow is a major controversy and which will never be solved because the Amendment allows for so much difference in interpretation. Just like every belief of Manson’s is open for interpretation as can be seen with the different viewpoints of parents and an older generation compared to the views of teenagers and “generation X”. The freedom of speech, press and religion granted by the First Amendment should benefit those who do not like Manson as much as those who do. Those who dislike him do not have to listen to him or acknowledge him, and those who admire him will experience a plethora of bizarre ideas and antics. Perhaps no one can sum up Manson better than himself; “F$#% all your protests and put them to bed.” (Rock is Dead)
CDs, lyrics, rollingstone.com
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