Friday, October 08, 2010

Exactly what it says on the tin...

Satire is generally bust when it is so subtle as to be barely noticed, or so blatant as to be impossible to miss (unless one is deliberately ignoring it).

After four years together on the Florida metal club scene, Marilyn Manson came onto the world stage when I was in college ; and he (and the eponymous band as a whole) shocked and offended a lot of people with his music, his persona, his public behavior... everything public about him in fact.

The members of the band chose to name themselves after pop culture icons, and serial killers: Marilyn Manson, Twiggy Ramirez, Madonna Wayne Gacy, Daisy Berkowitz... Marilyn sang about the most shocking, offensive, controversial things...

But really, if you understood what he was (and still is) doing, I don't think that at core, it was controversial at all... and that's where he was brilliant (though frankly, after 20 years, the schtick aint getting old... it ought to be dead and buried). He spread a relatively uncontroversial but much ignored premise, by being as controversial and offensive as he possibly could be.

I'm not a huge fan of Marilyn Mansons music in general, though there are some really brilliant pieces of what I will call "social art" that he has released as music... and there are just some solid industrial metal tunes too (and in a couple of really great cases, both simultaneously. Especially "Beautiful People", which is why I chose it for this piece).


I actually have a lot of respect for the guy, because he has always been up front about his schtick. What he is, and what he does. He's never hid it, he's never had an alternate agenda, he's never been anything but straightforward in what he was doing (screwed up, yes, but nothing hidden there).

From the minute he chose his stage name, he has always been exactly what it says on the tin.

Marilyn Manson, the band, the performer, the public persona, is the most financially and culturally successful act of social satire in history.

20 years, millions of albums, and tens of millions of dollars later, it's the same message as day one:
Pop culture, and mass media, are screwed up and wrong. They are shallow, and sensationalist, and exploitative.
They elevate and glorify everything that is worst in our natures; and suppress and in some ways destroy, that which is best in our natures... all in the service of the pop culture industry.
They are vain, and superficial, and entirely NOT REAL.
It's about money, plain and simple; and it doesn't matter what it glorifies, or what it destroys. If it makes the industry money, they'll do it. 
Mass media runs much of the world, and has a major effect on all of it. They do so for the money, and in many ways they ruin it as they do.
That's it. And it's in large part true. And I respect that.

It's not even an original message. People have been saying it for as long as there has BEEN a pop culture industry. He just came up with a way of saying it that made him very rich, very famous, and very hated.

A lot of people don't like his music, don't like his style, don't like the way he presents his message... But most of them aren't actually paying attention to what his message is.

If you listen, and get it, and decide you don't like the message fine. If you listen and are OK with the message and just don't care for the image and the histrionics, fine.

But if you don't even know what the guy is saying and doing, and you condemn him... all you're doing is proving his point.

And if you're a "fan" of his, and you don't get that point; by literally buying into that image, that satire, you're proving his point even more.

If in fact you're one of the religious whackjobs.. or just the poor deluded folks who listen to such asses... Who think that somehow Manson is evil, or satanic, or a force against god or whatever other screwed up imagining you may have... Guess what? He's actually saying the same things about pop culture that YOU are. He's just doing it in a very different way, AND YOU'RE PROVING HIS POINT.

Is Marilyn Manson offensive? Absolutely. That's the point. He's screwed up. He's probably bi-polar. He's creepy and weird... But he's honest, and for 20 years, he's really been trying to say something that I think is important to say.