Are You Too Old Now for Marilyn Manson?
The elderly people, the elderly people.
Artwork by Devin Pacholik
Youth is like hugging a stranger goodbye: It’s more awkward the longer you hold on. Just give your glory days a mutual high five and move along before it gets weird. Back In The Day™, us 90s kids used to listen to a lot of Marilyn Manson. Songs like “The Dope Show” and “The Beautiful People” tapped into the anti-social parts of our teen brains; Manson put a pop-rock soundtrack to our disdain for the status quo. This pale-bodied demon would show up on our TVs and scare our parents with on-stage dildo antics. While the conservative mainstream reviled him, we, high on common household products as instructed by the Anarchist Cookbook, loved the rebellious spirit Manson represented.
But are we too lame now for the 90’s Anti-Christ and his message of dissent? Or, for that matter, are Manson’s olden day rockstar antics just problematic and washed? Allegations of sexual harassment and racist remarks getting called out may indicate a turning point. The man, whose real name is Brian Hugh Warner, once dazzled us in philosophical debates, like on The Phil Donahue Show in 1995 when he calmly explained why young people find meaning in mosh pits. But the thrill I got in mosh pits at 15 has been eclipsed by things like cashing in reward points on my Denny's card and being a functional human being. Brian’s shocking 1997 VMA address to “the fascism of Christianity” and “beauty” was pretty deep, but these days so is Costco-sized bag of cheddar and caramel popcorn.
In order to gauge whether my generation can still handle Marilyn Manson, I compiled a list of his best lyrics. Through highly sophisticated music science, I compared how we reacted then versus how our old asses hear them now. Manson once said in a 1994 interview with High Times he smoked human bones. So, how close are we to becoming merely grave dust for our shock rock god’s pipe? Read the list below to find out if we’re too boring now for Manson.
“The Dope Show”
“There's a lot of pretty, pretty ones
That want to get you high
But all the pretty, pretty ones
Will leave you low and blow your mind
We're all stars now in the dope show”
In 1998, major retailers wouldn’t sell Manson’s album Mechanical Animals because the cover featured the artist wearing a tight, androgynous bodysuit with fake boobs. How thrilling! The irony of this incident coupled with the lyrics of “The Dope Show” was a brilliant meta-commentary: The song is about the fake world of celebrities, who crave attention until they are used up by the very culture that made them. For many of us outcasts, the pretty ones who “want to get you high” stand in to mean the popular kids from high school.
The biggest stars in the “dope show” these days can be found on social media. These lyrics to “The Dope Show” aged well in this regard. Nothing will “leave you low and blow your mind” more than the popular kids from high school reconnecting with you in a drunk uncle’s Facebook thread about gun control.
How old this makes me feel: Back in my day we fought with status updates on MSN Messenger. 45 years old.
“The Beautiful People”
This is Shakespeare:
"The worms will live in every host
It's hard to pick which one they eat the most
The horrible people, the horrible people
It's as anatomic as the size of your steeple
Capitalism has made it this way
Old-fashioned fascism will take it away"
You see because, like, beauty is a commodity predicated on putting down others in order to uphold a capitalist hierarchy. Or whatever. I used to think about stuff like that when I was 14. Secretly though, I still held out for the possibility of developing Brad Pitt looks so that I could dunk on my peers. Still waiting.
Anyway, at least I’m adult enough now to acknowledge the “anatomic as the size of my steeple,” my own petty wants and judgments. For instance, I can recognise my hatred for capitalism and beauty standards mean little while waiting for more likes on an Instagram of my face next to the gourmet coffee product. Damn,“old-fashioned fascism” via tech company innovation sure fits Manson’s theme here.
How old this makes me feel: I deleted Instagram. 56 years old.
“This is the New Shit”
"Babble babble bitch bitch
Rebel rebel party party
Sex sex sex and don't forget the violence
Blah blah blah got your lovey-dovey sad-and-lonely
Stick your STUPID SLOGAN in:
Everybody sing along."
Here’s what I thought about this song as a young stupid boy: “I am very angry, and I will engage in all of these activities.” You see, I couldn’t analyse beyond my own teenage rage. Being woke wasn’t a thing yet. The only source of information I could tap into on was my own puberty-fuelled delusions. Going deep for me consisted of trying to sync up Tool albums with Hey Arnold! episodes.
Turns out “This is the New Shit” is probably an ironic take on musical trends. “Everybody sing along,” Manson mocks. “Rebel rebel party party/ Sex sex sex” might as well be the title of Lil Uzi Vert’s next album. This wouldn’t be surprising, since Vert idolises Manson, going so far as to spend $220,000 [~£160,000] on a chain with the rock icon’s face on it. Anyway, Manson’s idea here applies across all genres, not just hip-hop. History repeats itself, and artists will be there to score our disgusting habits.
How old this makes me feel: That’s too much money for a chain. 72.
"Some children died the other day
We fed machines and then we prayed"
Technically, I was about 11 when this song came out in 2000. This was a year after the Columbine High School massacre. Manson wrote lyrics like this and gave commentary in things like the documentary Bowling for Columbine. He addressed the outrageous narrative of music corrupting young people and causing such tragedies. He called for more focus on victims and listening, honestly, to the cause of these killings rather than simply paying lip service. His words made a lot of sense back then.
Marilyn Manson is, unfortunately, still right. “Some children died the other day/ We fed machines and then we prayed.” That idea makes a lot of sense, especially when scrolling through thoughts and prayers rhetoric following the recent Parkland, Florida high school shooting. The headlines are still the same – politicians and media figures blaming pop culture and offering prayers – we’re just more exhausted and angry. Artists like Manson tell truths, and truth has no age.
How old this makes me feel: I’m exhausted..
"Bang we want it
Bang we want it
Bang bang bang bang bang"
Here’s what I heard in my head when I was young and “mOBSCENE” queued up on my Zune (I was very counterculture): “Sex is awesome. I will probably have it all the time or something.” However, that is not what this song is about at all.
Firstly, now I know that naps are where it’s at, and I definitely have them all the time. Secondly, this song is a cheeky commentary about women being made into sexual objects that are to be looked upon but never heard. The lyric “Be obscene, baby, and not heard” in the chorus is Manson trolling all that chauvinism junk. After all, he’s spent an entire career mocking beauty standards, gender and turning sex into a hilarious spectacle. This music still goes, and so will you.
Total age after listening to Marilyn Manson: Too old. So I'm basically an old tree that's about to be deforested.
Devin Pacholik is old. Follow him on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Noisey CA.