by: Marilyn Manson
with Neil Strauss
I’m not sure Marilyn Manson would recognize the guy who wrote this book anymore. I’m curious if Brian Warner (who according to Manson no longer exists) would though. When I read this years ago it I experienced a story of Manson on an unknowing journey of self-discovery. Throughout the book, I constantly felt he was on the cusp of grasping the impact his broken childhood had on his current displacement. The result of it all was the creation of Marilyn Manson. Manson is a revolution created to destroy his childhood oppression. Unfortunately, there were a lot of missed opportunities focused on shock antics rather than revelation. Even so, in its essence it was far more revealing than I think Manson had intended.
“Most of the world’s problems could be avoided if people just said what they fucking meant.”
Manson did face some of the current internal struggles his adolescence played on his adulthood with venom. He is an extremely intelligent man, but his self-realizations only feel half-finished. His self-labeling, self-destruction, arrogance, and his ability to destroy anything he ever loved is clearly the biggest obstacle he faces to overcome. He doesn’t recognize this as a problem. As an addict, I recognize some of his self-torment and denial, which is very difficult to overcome. Self-actualization continually seems just out of his reach as he goes on. Unfortunately, without taking responsibility for his whirlwind existence he’s doomed to stay in his cyclone of darkness. But that doesn’t mean he’s hopeless.
I empathized with the suffering of his childhood. He was exposed to things children really shouldn’t and his innocence was lost and he realized this in early on and he manifested his helplessness through rage. He wanted to use music and art to teach or punish others. Including himself. From the self-inflicting wounds to the solitary behavior he carries, it seems he hasn’t forgiven himself. Why? Maybe for not protecting his own innocence. It’s possible he punishes himself for seeing the hypocrisy of Christianity. He may have unresolved guilt or shame for fighting against it. Inside lurks the lost teenage boy he’s tried to escape from being. He claims he’s left that poor, hapless victim behind, but his words and actions betray him all too often. His response was to create “Marilyn Manson”.
“Not only are love and hate such closely related emotions, but it’s a lot easier to hate someone you’ve cared about than someone you never have.”
For years you heard rumors of how wild the Manson tours backstage action was. I didn’t find the things he and his band members did to fans to be as taboo as advertised. In fact, I expected it to be far more extreme. Manson still mostly feels like he’s in midst of a full-on rebellion. His acts feel more about defiance rather than the exploration of himself or pleasure. He claims over and over that it is all calculated psychological meandering, but he doth protest too much. A subconscious part of himself seems to be aware of it. The drug binges he committed himself were surely outrageous, but after reading biographies of Motley Crue (I think Neil Strauss had a hand in “The Dirt” as well-great read) and Ozzy these aren’t bizarre and Manson’s marketing is about being the most feral and most grotesque.
In Manson’s story, he is just an artist expressing himself. He wants to share his message with the world. What he desires more than anything is to be understood through his art. But what he struggles with most is the constant frustration from what he feels is people misinterpreting his art. He defends it over and over again and then explains himself. It feels like a tumultuous identity crisis.
“This is the culture your raising your kids in, don’t be surprised when it blows up in your face.”
He claims he doesn’t have a drug or drinking problem and that he just likes to “party”. I’ve lived that lie too. But in truth, it isn’t all lies. There is a great deal of fun and excitement in living and breathing what feels like “in the moment”. Experimentation can feel and even be liberating, but Manson shows classic signs of someone in denial about their addiction. At the very least as someone using substances to numb the pain rather than face it. It’s another antic to separate himself from his former reality and identity. In his mind he isn’t escaping it, he’s creating a new one.
Not surprisingly there’s a lot about his anger towards Christianity and his path to becoming a Satanist. I have a lot of compassion for his experiences with Christianity. He feels betrayed by it and is very angry about the hypocrisy that exists in it.
His complaints are very real. What many don’t realize is the sense of abandonment this can create. It can leave a void that simply cannot be filled. Because of this Manson has an opportunity to be a voice to others that feel this same heartache and betrayal, but he doesn’t use his platform in a way that has any form of encouragement. He focuses on his rage and has waged a full on war against anything even remotely connected to Christianity. In doing so has rejected the parts of it that still live in his heart without properly mourning their loss. The good he could achieve here is another missed opportunity.
“Everybody has a light and a dark side, and neither can exist without the other.”
If any point was driven home in this autobiography it was to make clear that Manson is a loner and doesn’t care about anyone other than himself. He prophetically returns to the claims that he has no compassion for people and very specific people that have died or are dying. He witnessed two people in a head-on collision and both died. A woman fell out of the car begging him to hold her. He said he turned his head and walked on because those people wouldn’t have held him.
I don’t know if this event was true, but I do know his words betrayed him again. If he really didn’t care about anyone he wouldn’t have even considered the thought of what someone else would do if he were in that situation. He would move on because he believed the philosophical concept that life and existence are meaningless and therefore mourning them would be pointless. But no. He defiantly raged against the idea that he would have been rejected. Narcissistic yes. Nihilistic as he claims? No.
“Occasionally, something will happen that will change your opinion of someone irrevocably, that will shatter the ideal you’ve built up around a person and force you to see them for the fallible and human creature they really are.”
Manson has rejected any sense of morality, loyalty, or compassion whatsoever unless something is directly related to him. Because of this megalomaniac behavior, he has failed to have a single friendship, relationship last in any form of a healthy manner. It’s either his way or fuck you. Take him exactly as he is or fuck you. When he finds people have weaknesses or their own inner demons, he is disgusted by them. Which I suspect is because it’s too close to a reflection of a part of him he wants to bury.
Throughout the book, Manson continually tries to convey the image he’s created in his own mind of himself, but as he shares bits of his childhood and stories about himself, he also gives away his real self. Manson might be arrogant, egocentric, and a bonafide megalomaniac. He may even be a shitty person, but he is intelligent, talented, and has some creative genius when he’s not getting in his own way. What I got out of his story was he’s just a normal guy struggling with his demons. He still wants love and to be accepted for who he is, at least in this story of who he believes he’s created himself to be. I’d like to see if he’s written another memoir since this because I feel like we’d have a completely different story.
“People don’t keep journals for themselves. They keep them for other people, like a secret they don’t want to tell but they want everyone to know.”
I hope he doesn’t still feel like the world is out to get him and I hope he doesn’t continue to deny the existence of Brian Warner because there cannot be Marilyn Manson without Brian Warner. I’ve been a huge fan of his music for decades and have enjoyed his occasional bits acting as well. He is an important cultural icon and while he clearly didn’t have things figured out at this point in his life (who does) he was a seeker and that does take bravery. He was looking to find out who he was without the constraints of a world that seemingly tried to crush him for it. He’s a rock star for a reason and a voice a lot of people have needed. He says a lot of meaningful things worth hearing. It’s an old book, but worth the read.