The Dope Show: Marilyn Manson, Monica Lewinsky, and the Religious Reich
By: Bernadette Giacomazzo
Let's be completely honest for a minute. When it comes to women, sexuality, and the Roman Catholic church, Americans sit at both ends of the double-edged sword - at one end, we have the complete hedonists, the people who prove that it's not just blondes who have all the fun; at the other, the puritans, those who are proving to be more conservative than their great-grandparents were at the turn of the century. These diametrically opposed attitudes also, not coincidentally, coincide with our musical tastes and the great spectrum therein - at one end, we have the Hansons and the Spice Girls of the world, the gender-bending pre-pubescent teen-screams who make music worthy of the latest issue of "Jack and Jill" at best and the cesspool of AM radio at worst. At the other, we have the Marilyn Mansons and Ozzy Ozbournes of the world, the alterno-goth demigods who oscillate between idyllic worship and satanic capriciousness.
Of course, there are also the in-betweens, those who are neither/nor, but seeing as how the gap between the two extremes is widening as the decade closes and what was once new goes down worse than a jar of Cheez Whiz and tastes like it too, we'll just focus on the two extremes for now.
To be perfectly honest, as "naive" to the world as I may seem - I can fake a dumb act better than all the bottle blondes you can fit on a No Doubt album - I cannot, in good faith, listen to the "puritan" side of the musical sword. I cannot stomach naivete seeping from every pore of all three and a half minutes of chart-topping pop-rock hell - which may also explain my predilection to older men and Cristal champagne, but that's another issue entirely. My life experiences, the people I associate with, and my lifestyle in general do not coincide with all the mmm-bopping, zig-a-zig-ahing, and I'm-just-a-girling that seems to be the common staple of every twelve year old's Walkman.
And up until recently, I couldn't stomach the "hedonist" end of the sword either - mostly because I had a major bone to pick with pop-goth's latest offering, Marilyn Manson. I mean, here's this Ohio-born Floridian wearing more face makeup than Ann Miller and looking just as dead, screaming at the top of his lungs about antichrist superstardom and starfucking sycophants, writing a book about growing up Roman Catholic and the cascade of psycho-traumatic events leading to his ordainment into the Church of Satan, and hanging out with the likes of bitch-goddess(said with all due respect and honor to)Courtney Love and uber-artist Michael Stipe.
Don't get me wrong - nearly all of his points were valid, at least in my eyes. Believe me, growing up Roman Catholic can redefine the word MINDFUCK, and if given the chance I'd let Michael Stipe put his penis in places the Goddess didn't intend, but there comes a point when one has to decide whether or not to cross the fine line between artistic expression and post-kindergarten temper tantrum.
When you become the name on everyone's lips - which, like it or not, is the reason most major label musicians become as such - and go multi-platinum, people are going to pay attention to what you do. I'm not suggesting it's right, I'm simply saying IT'S DONE. The public, especially the American public, doesn't think twice about vivisecting other people's lives at the blink of an eye, which certainly explains the success of the baboon-like feeding frenzies better known as talk shows. The thing is, when a thirteen-year-old punk decides imitate Marilyn Manson, we tend to think of it as a phase - "oh, s/he'll get over it." Some would prescribe Ritalin, some would suggest intensive psychotherapy, some would even contemplate Bible revivals with a busload of Jesus Freaks, but for the most part, we really couldn't care less about some thirteen year old kid in some random part of Middle America. As long as s/he doesn't start opening random fire in the middle of a McDonald's parking lot. . .
But Manson - well, he has the power to INFLUENCE people! Deviations from the societal norm may be part of the rock'n'roll lifestyle, but what may seem like a petty faux pax becomes the eighth deadly sin when you are in the public eye. Especially if you take such an extremist viewpoint as Satanism. Understand this - I'm one of the most tolerant people on the planet, I accept people's lifestyles no matter how strange or unusual because I myself am strange and unusual - but even I cannot understand the logic and reasoning behind Satanism. No matter - it isn't for me to decide. Just don't make pissing off the consensus your main goal and then complain about it when you succeed in doing so.
Lately, though, all the tides have been changing. Maybe this is the one true sign of the impending apocalypse, maybe the Second(First?) Coming is upon us, maybe people are finally starting to open their minds, or maybe they simply don't give a shit anymore. Whatever the case may be, Americans as a whole seem to accept more and more things that would be considered taboo just four years ago. If you don't believe me, just pick up the latest copy of NEWSWEEK or U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT and read any random Gallup Poll about the Monica Lewinsky issue(a quick aside - and I'm only going to say it once - forget the morality or lack thereof of adultery; the fact is, IT WAS CONSENSUAL. If he'd raped her, or if she was rendered incapable of making a coherent decision because she was underage or because she was drinking or doing drugs, I'd be the first one on Kenneth Starr's bandwagon with the tar and feathers. Besides, if getting a little pussy on the side is the worst crime he can commit as President, we got damn freaking lucky). Most people simply don't care anymore - probably because they know, deep in their hearts, they'd do the same thing, because we're all prone to fault and we know it. On the other hand, four years ago, the President sleeping with someone other than his wife was, well, SHOCKING. People were reeling from the fact that there hadn't been that much bush in the White House(no pun intended) since Kennedy was President.
Yet, just when the riptide was settling into a calm wake, along comes Manson - but this time, as evidenced in his new release "Mechanical Animals" and the single "The Dope Show", he takes less from Rob "Boogyman" Zombie and more from David Bowie circa Ziggy Stardust. With a prosthetic codpiece, crimson hair, and a pair of breasts that the average Barbie doll would envy, Manson clothes himself in a Ginger Spice-ish glitter suit and, in a final move to retain any vestige of ghoulishness, airbrushes the fingers on his left hand so that there are six, instead of five, digits (look closely).
All in all, nothing to get worked up over. Or is it?
Well, it really all depends. Forty years ago, bringing someone like Manson home to meet Mom, Dad, and your 1.3 siblings wold guarantee you to become the talk of the town - in a not-so-good way. But forty years ago, a woman working outside the home was as much as an anomaly as was losing your virginity before you married - which, depending on what poll you believe, nearly all American teenagers do anyway. We can't always live with our head in the sand.
But that's the way some people - poets, priests, politicians, and others in between - seem to think. We're a nation that seems obsessed with putting the blame on something - or someone - other than ourselves because we don't want to admit where and when we've fucked up. We don't like to admit that we're bad parents, so when our kids grow up to become obnoxious brats with homicidal tendencies, we fill them with Prozac and Ritalin until they enter a comatose state, hoping that all those "anti-Christian" feelings will pass(if truth be told, history has proven the Christians to be the most violent, oppressive special interest group. I'm not suggesting that human sacrifice - which was done by a very small group of pagans - was anything to emulate, but the number of people who've died at the hands of Christian enthusiasts is by far greater than all sacrificial rituals over eons combined. What's even scarier is the number of people who continue to blindly subscribe to the notion that there's something 'holy' about dying at the hands of these so-called people. . .which only further proves that humans are on a branch VERY FAR from the top of the evolutionary tree). We don't like to admit that we spend more time catering to our boyfriends/girlfriend's whims than to our children's basic needs - selfish behavior which should've been give up the minute the kid was born - so we allow mass media to play nanny(forget that "It Takes A Village" crap!) and then get hyper-defensive when MTV and Nickelodeon and South Park turn our kids into zombiod versions of Kenny and Tommy and Puff Daddy.
But rather than take the blame ourselves, and subsequently try to ameliorate the problem by becoming more concerned citizens, we blame everything around us - and the more it deviates from the societal norm, the greater the chance of it becoming a scapegoat. Manson is perhaps the easiest target in the 1990's - the 1970's treated us to Johnny Rotten and Ozzy Ozbourne, the 1980's to Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, so when flaccid copies of the originals came along(Poly Styrene and X-Ray Spex, Bon Jovi, Wendy James ), we were in for a treat! - because the airwaves were polluted with the Hansons and Silverchairs of the world. And since we were on such a high moral ground. . .
But how quickly things change. What was once considered sado-maschocist is now considered good bedroom technique(especially in parts of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago), what was once considered no one's business is suddenly reason to impeach a world leader, and what was once considered satanic is now considered Goth-chic. We're focusing our attentions on things that should be an issue - war, children, pollution - and less on the dress code of popular musicians. Besides, if given the right moment, most of us would wear the same thing, and if given enough education, most of us would agree(or at least understand) with the viewpoints expressed in the latest Rockumentary. And those who seem to be more interested in the minutae are proving to be more of a problem than the rest of us put together.
Bottom line? We're too wrapped up in the Monica Lewinsky issues to be worried about the Marilyn Manson issues. If it means a blind acceptance of the man - what the hell, no one died after accepting someone who was once considered an outcast.
Not exactly what the Antichrist Superstar had in mind, I don't think.
Ah, life in the big city. . .