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Should I Still Listen to Marylin Manson?

by Chris Hearn 2 years ago in metal
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Is Separating Art from the Artist Possible?

Image by Shunya Koide/Unsplash

Oh boy. There appears to be a #MeToo reckoning happening in the metal world as Marylin Manson has been outed as an abuser by actress and former girlfriend Evan Rachel Wood. And there are no shortage of people saying he is guilty as hell.

I have no doubts about his guilt. I remember watching a documentary on Marylin Manson where they talked about when Evan Rachel Wood left him and he went on this big bender, destroyed his house, wrote crazy stuff all over his walls, slashed his body up and just generally didn't handle it well. So, that's a pretty good reflection of how things were in the relationship itself.

But, it was far from just her saying the guy is bad news. After years of watching live concert footage of Manson, it's pretty clear that he treats his bandmates like utter crap as well.

I kind of knew all along that with Marylin Manson, you are dealing with a pretty messed up dude. Wes Borland, the Limp Bizkit guitarist who was in Marylin Manson's band for a short time, is pretty blunt about the accusations, as transcribed by Metal Sucks:

“Marilyn Manson… I was in the band for nine months. He’s not a great guy. Every single thing that people have said about him is fucking true. So relax about the allegations towards the women… like when people say [bad things about] these women that are coming after him right now… fuck off, they are speaking the truth. ..But that guy, he’s amazingly talented, but he’s fucked up and he needs to be put in check and he needs to get sober and he needs to come to terms with his demons. He is a bad fucking guy."

RELATED: Limp Bizkit: Greatest Band Ever?

But, here is the thing: He is brilliant. Now, of course, this is all subjective. Other people might not like the guy or think he is talented. But, I've always found him to be an amazing musician. I've loved his style, how he morphs over time, his lyrics, his voice, the whole Marylin Manson schtick. To me, the guy is one of the most interesting artists out there.

So, once again we are faced with the age old question about what to do when you fully understand just how awful of a person an artist you like is. Should I keep listening to his music? Should I keep enjoying his art? Should I abandon him? What should I do?

Well, there are no shortage of people online who have vowed to never listen to him again, to throw out their albums and CDs, to get rid of any merch they might have. I know now that listening to Marylin Manson or mentioning his name will result in backlash from others enraged by what he is done. And these people have every reason to be enraged. What he has done is awful.

There has long been a debate about separating the art from the artist. We've seen it recently with people like Kevin Spacey and Woody Allen. The answer was complicated then...and it is once again now. Obviously, with Marylin Manson, the same brain that thought it was okay to abuse those around him is the brain that produced his great music.

I think we all like some artist of one medium or another with a problematic past. No one is perfect. With Marylin Manson, not perfect is an understatement.

I like the art. I feel that I can still enjoy it and not really like the guy who made it. Some aren't able to do this, and that is fine. But I don't think it is wrong at all to enjoy the guys music. It's good music.

There is purity quest going on at the moment where society seems to be absolutely purging itself of any and all connection to historical wrongs. The great cancellation, if you would. Statues are tumbling, names of buildings are being changed, people are having their book contracts cancelled, others are being disinvited to conferences for their views, the list goes on. There are those who want to make modern society pure and sin free and are ruthless in this pursuit. But this desire to cleanse society isn't realistic. Humans are deeply flawed.

So, for sure, the result here is that Manson is on the fast track to being cancelled. He has been dropped by his record label, been fired by his manager. Who knows if he will have a career after this point.

But, I can't say that the music he created wasn't good. It was. And I still like listening to it. I listened to it before all of this stuff was revealed, even though I knew the guy was a bit demented. I can't say I am surprised by the allegations against him, but I also can't say that I want to stop listening to music I really like.

In an essay on website The Conversation, philosophy professor Janna Thompson argues that art and the artist are two separate entities:

A work of art or a performance is supposed to have value and meaning in its own right. It’s supposed to be judged for what it is and not its relation to extraneous factors. This view allows that the biography of the artist can be used to provide an insight into the work, but the life of the artist is not supposed to affect our judgement of the aesthetic value of his or her works.

I feel that this is an excellent approach. I agree. Judge art for what it is - art. Judge the person who created separately. In this case, I judge the art as being incredibly interesting and well done. I judge the person who created it as a crazy jerk. And then I get on with my life. I feel for the victims. I don't approve of what he did. But, man, his music!

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About the author

Chris Hearn

I'm a 47 year old writer, amateur photographer and amateur dad living in Winnipeg, MB, Canada.

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Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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  • Lou2 months ago

    I have only had the thought to research this topic. After I heard the allegations towards Manson, I had deleted all his music off my phone and given the shirts I had of him to my pet rats. I very much believe in separating art from the artist. But on this occasion, I was unable to do so. I am totally against what he has done and think he needs serious help. He may never be able to redeem himself after his cruel actions against women and people he's worked/interacted with. But damn, I do miss his music.

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