Some of my heroes have turned out to be monsters.
First it was John Lasseter. Long before his sexual misconduct came to light, I was watching the films he worked on when I was at my lowest so I could forget wanting to kill myself.
Then it was JK Rowling. It was a shock when she turned out to be like the bigoted, discriminating characters she wrote in such a way that it was easy to loathe their fictional existence.
Last week, I found out Marilyn Manson is basically human garbage disguised as an intellectual artist. I’m having a hard time with dealing with this as I slowly realize just how much the man’s work had shaped my own life.
Manson’s first five albums made up a large portion of the music catalog I listened to at a time when artistic entertainment was the only therapy I had for dealing with the mental and emotional abuse at home. The thought that I might have killed myself if it weren’t for his music makes me almost sick to my stomach now. I had similar thoughts when Lasseter’s sexual misconduct made headlines, but (unlike Lasseter) Manson’s influence went beyond his artistic work.
Beneath the white makeup and red lipstick was a man that was rather charming and well-spoken and sometimes humorous. There have been many interviewers that have tried to treat him like a clown only to look foolish when he responded with intelligence and insightfulness. It was this intelligence and insightfulness that I looked up to. His music gave a poetic perspective on some of the things I was feeling as a budding teenager that was starting to form their own opinions and never really fit in anywhere. It was comforting to know there was someone that understood those feelings. There was a time when he represented the outcasts and nobodies. Instead of fitting into the “normal” mainstream, he gave it the middle finger while wearing a woman’s corset and mismatched contacts.
My first date with my husband and my first big concert was at a Marilyn Manson show. We ended up going to five shows together between 2012 and 2013. We would later play “Beautiful People” during the bouquet toss at our wedding. It was at the show we went to on our first date that I got some great shots from my camera and it sparked an interest in amateur concert photography. Some of my best and most interesting photos were taken at Manson shows. At one of these shows during a pause, he turned his head in my direction and smiled in his smeared make up as if he were awkwardly smiling for a family photo—I thought it made for a great candid shot at the time.
I’m conflicted about the photos because they look okay from an artistic standpoint, but I now find the subject of these photos disgusting and it ruins the meaning and emotion I felt when I first took them.
But there’s one photo in particular that bothers me. It was one of my favorites. When I was editing the photos, I thought he looked so serene and calm in the purple and pink lighting. At the time, I posted my photos to my DeviantArt account and was giving my photos titles. I had decided to name it something ironic: “A Face Made For Violence” (after the lyric from “Disposable Teens”). This title has become incredibly disturbing to me in the wake of the abuse scandal and I feel shame for ever finding this photo charming.
There were things I almost did because of Marilyn Manson. I almost got a tattoo of the lightning bolt symbol that represented the Anti-Christ Superstar era that had put him in the limelight and at the center of controversy. I almost built a cosplay of the red trench coat outfit he wore in the music video for “The Nobodies” and decided that whenever I got around to building it I would buy the precise shade of MAC lipstick Manson uses and has stated he’s been using ever since they invented the color. I almost bought one of his lithographs until I found out the price and now I’m glad I wasn’t willing to sacrifice about half my paycheck for a print.
Now I feel like I have wasted the last twenty years worshipping a monster instead of the rock deity I thought he was. Did I miss the warning signs people have been pointing out since the news broke or did my mind pass it off as being part of the shock rock stage persona? I’m not entirely sure. The only thing I’m sure of is I feel incredibly stupid—my own mother was also a monster that was charming in public, but was an abusive person privately. Why did I not recognize this in someone I looked up to?