Marilyn Manson celebrates the performance of sexual deviance, which rejects dominant ideals of heteronormativity and gender binaries, and is accepted and demonized by critics. Rock critics that lean more liberal and accept the rock star life style, such as Rolling Stone Magazine, are fans of Manson. But, more conservative critics, such as fox news and religious groups, fear that he has a negative effect on society. Controversial aspects of Marilyn Manson’s public image include satanic worship, BDSM, bisexuality, dressing in drag, drug use, group sex, and androgyny and self-harm. He uses the mostly sexual imagery during live performances and makes erotic fetish music videos in order to express his sexuality.
Marilyn Manson is the front man of the American rock band Marilyn Manson, beginning in 1989 to the present. He was most popular in the music scene from mid 90s to early 2000’s. He is a controversial figure because of his anti-religion lyrics and unfiltered sexuality. Many critics refer to his live performance and music videos as obscene and offense. This is the one of the reasons that he appeals to his audience. He encourages people to be themselves, regardless of how others feel. Thinking for you and expressing yourself is an inspiration for Manson.
Marilyn Manson is a conceptual performance artist that states that his intent is to “make a mockery of gimmicks, to make something that was faker than everything that was fake” (Heath 1). The sexual and religious imagery is a satirical performance and personal life choice that intends to make the audience question their personal beliefs and how those beliefs are formed. He is a criticized for encouraging kids to engage in drugs, sex, self-harm and suicide. Manson openly engages in drug use and has called drugs an “amusement park for adults” (Heath 9). He started cutting himself in high school and often cuts during in his performances to show people his pain. This is then sexualized and fetishized by his audience. Marilyn Manson challenges gender binary by dressing in drag or androgynous clothing and wearing make up. “I wear make up like a girl wears make up. I always have make up” (Scaggs 2). Marilyn Manson wears his androgynous clothing and make up for photo-shoots for music magazines, such as Rolling Stone Magazine. Being on the cover the most popular music magazine help Manson create an image of androgynous sex deviant. This publicity gave him new fans and critics to celebrate and demonize his nonheteronormative sexuality. A controversial music video only increased his deviant sexual image.
In 2003, Manson produced his music video for his song (S)aint. The video has been label art, obscene, erotic, pornographic, and disturbing because of the sexuality, drug use and self-harm. In the video, he uses cocaine and heroin, and cuts himself. The bloody nose and agitated movements after the effects of the drugs are gone is a comment on the after effect of extreme drug use that comes with being a wealthy sex symbol. He cuts himself in an aggressive sexual way and plays with his blood to show that he is fetishizing the pain, which is part of BDSM. There are a few BDSM uses of imagery, along with other deviant sexual acts. Women are bound and gag waiting for him to come have sex with them, which celebrates BDSM acts. There is group sex with men and women, which rejects dominant Christian values about sex being between one man and one woman. The group sex includes homosexual acts that are usually not depicted in music videos. Queer sexualities are normally ignored in pop culture. Manson has one character in the video that starts off as a woman and turns out to really be a man. This transition starts with Manson touching himself while touching a female actress. Later on, the actress is replaced with a male actor in drag playing the same character. Manson sees the switch happen and realizes that it is a man, but does not stop touching the man or himself. This is a comment that in his alternative sexuality the gender of the person isn’t important to sexual pleasure. The source of sexual pleasure isn’t from person; it’s from the act itself. Manson’s sexual imagery attempts to normalize fetishes by giving the viewer permission to desire “the other.” His queer and alternative sexuality has received attention from critics.
Marilyn Manson has become a symbol for moral decay of society. He has been blamed for school shootings, such as Columbine, because his lyrics celebrate suicide, death, and destruction. National Review, a conservative magazine that comments on American society, refers to Manson as a “derange Satanist” (Lowry 1). Conservative critics believe that Marilyn Manson commits obscene acts during live performances because of the lyrical content of his songs and appearance. During his live performance, he does rips apart the bible and wears make up and women’s lingerie. This imagery rejects the dominance of Christianity in American society and celebrates alternative sexualities. Some nonfactual beliefs about him are “that the band hands out drugs to be consumed and puppies to be ripped apart at concerts, that Manson had a rib removed to facilitate autofellation and that he had sex with a sheep onstage” (Heath 1). One media company that reports on nonheteronormative stories and nonconformists with a disapproving bias is Fox News.
In 2001, Marilyn Manson appeared on The O’Reilly Factor on a segment called Children At Risk. O’Reilly factor accuses him of harming children by influencing them to perform morally “bad” behavior. He gives Manson the opportunity to explain himself, but in the end they agree to disagree. Rejecting gender binaries and embracing alternative forms of sexuality are labeled morally bad and wrong because it goes against the Christian beliefs that Fox and their audience follow. These beliefs and repetition of them promotes heterosexuality and gender conformity as the only form of morally right sexual performances. O’Reilly asks Manson about the profanity, suicidal messages and Satanist references in his music and implies that children are going to start to model this behavior. O’Reilly refers to Manson’s public image as “bizarre.” They discuss if he encourages children to have sex and gay sex. O’Reilly believes that if his audience see him performing gay sex acts, they will go out and do them too. O’Reilly implies that homosexuality is wrong when he asks about the act Manson performed on stage. Marilyn Manson states that he is only presenting alternative ideas to make people question their own, but doesn’t force any lifestyle on any one. O’Reilly sticks with his narrative of alternative sexualities and lifestyles are morally bad through out the entire interview, which promotes heteronormativity as the only acceptable behavior.
Marilyn Manson isn’t as scary or kinky as his image would portray according to ex-girlfriends. His image as the man to fear has decreased over the years as details of his personal life have surfaced. Manson is a romantic in his personal life. He wrote his album, Eat Me, Drink Me, to seduce his girlfriend at the time, Evan Rachel Wood. Jenna Jameson states in her book, How To Make Love Like a Porn Star, “I couldn’t believe how intelligent and thoughtful he was. I had a preconceived notion that the sex would be crazy, but he was so tender and loving.” (Jameson).
Marilyn Manson’s deviant sexuality and popular success in the 90’s presented an alternative script to mainstream America. His performance of sexuality rejected the dominant Christian morality judgments surrounding physical appearance based on gender, BDSM, group sex, and homosexuality. Manson’s hyperbolic performance of deviant sexuality questions heteronormativity and gender binaries and makes queer and alternative sexualities more visible.