Marilyn Manson’s accusations are disturbing – but they are an ominously familiar story for the music industry
IIf you thought all the creeps and attackers were dug up as a result of #MeToo, think again; the well is deep and monsters are still hiding in the shadows. This week brought news of another man in the entertainment industry accused of using his considerable power to abuse and control women.
Actor Evan Rachel Wood’s allegations on Instagram that her ex-partner Marilyn Manson abused her throughout their relationship in the late 2000s are troubling to read, whether they are true or not. Wood claims Manson started grooming her as a teenager and that she “was brainwashed and manipulated into submission.” The singer, who is 52, has denied the claims as “horrific distortions of reality”. Following Wood’s statement, four other women, including Manson’s former personal assistant Ashley Walters and artist Sourgirrrl, made statements about his treatment. The charges include verbal abuse, coercion, violence and rape. All four say they have been suffering from PTSD ever since.
Their stories will be eerily familiar to anyone who has worked or is interested in the world of music. Two years ago allegations were made about the singer Ryan adams‘abusive behavior towards his ex-wife, Mandy Moore, and the singer Phoebe bridgers, with whom Adams had a relationship. He denied the allegations. Def Jam founder Russell Simmons has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women for decades (he denies any wrongdoing). Last year, Mariah carey claimed that her former husband, producer and music director Tommy Mottola, coerced her and cut her off from friends and family. “Captivity and control take many forms, but the goal is always the same,” she writes in her book, The meaning of Mariah Carey. “To break the will of the captive, to kill any notion of self-esteem and erase the person’s memory of his own soul.” He also refutes the allegations.
It’s easy to look at a character like Manson, for whom images of depravity have been central to his creative output, and who presents himself as the “God of F ***”, and imagine that he could be a being. less than honorable human. But his ghoulish appearance may have turned out to be the ultimate disguise, a pantomime villain costume he was assumed to live under as a perfectly ordinary man called Brian Warner. It is possible that Manson – to use that infamously common expression – hid in plain sight. In the mid-1990s, his live shows showed him pulling girls on a leash and faking sex with them. A passage from his 1998 book, The long, hard road out of hell, says he spoke to a young deaf fan about allowing him and his gang to urinate on her and cover her with meat (she said the meeting was consensual); another records it, another records it, next to it Nine inch nails‘Trent Reznor, blindfolding a drunken woman and playing a game called “Guess who’s touching you?” In 2009, speaking of Wood, Manson said, “I have fantasies every day about smashing his head with a hammer.”
Looking back, these would appear to be the actions and statements of a dangerous misogynist, but it is not so clear. Provocative behavior has long been encouraged in an industry that values outrage and invention, and, in the pantheon of shock merchants, Manson was the most shocking of all. His entire career has been a mixture of life and art, his tales of darkness and degradation being part of the theater of this most extreme and subversive artist – at least we thought so. I interviewed Manson in 2003 and he seemed to go out of his way to intimidate me by turning off the lights in his hotel suite, pulling the curtains and sitting so close to me that I could feel his breath on my face. It was uncomfortable, but I expected nothing less from a singer who survived his creepy reputation and urged fans to sing “Kill God” at concerts.
That Manson is also engaged in a fight to defend artistic freedom makes him a likeable figure. By the late ’90s, he was Central America’s worst nightmare and the sworn enemy of a religious right that viewed his cadaverous attire as evidence of devil worship and deviance. After the Columbine High School murders in 1999, when two boys from Littleton, Colorado, shot 12 of their classmates and a teacher before turning their guns on them, a media frenzy ensued in which Manson was held directly responsible. (rumors that the killers listened to his music proved to be unfounded). In the Oscar-winning documentary Bowling for Colombine, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore interviewed Manson. He came not as an emblem of evil but as a perceptive social and political observer, and a victim of hard-right hypocrisy.
Obviously, if the claims turn out to be true, another image has now emerged – that of a man appearing to capitalize on his status as a celebrity and provocateur to abuse and silence women, and using art as a screen. smoke for unacceptable cruelty. In an Instagram post last year, before Wood accused Manson by name, a Twitter user, who first worked with Manson as a tour technician and then as a personal assistant, claimed to have witnessed the singer’s abusive behavior. Referring to Manson’s wife Lindsay Usich, Dan Cleary wrote: “He would threaten to kill her, cut her up, embarrass her for the world. Making her cry and fear him made her feel good. He added: “Everyone around him knows that. But everyone (including myself) is afraid to say anything because of the “code”. It is frowned upon to tell about people’s private affairs.
The disturbing claims extend beyond Cleary’s grim picture of Manson’s sadistic behavior to include the culture of silence surrounding the musician. Whatever the truth in these allegations against Manson, if #MeToo has shown us anything, it is that the “code” that protects violent men in the music industry must be removed and a system in place to allow employees to file a complaint without fear of reprisal. Because right now, those who turn a blind eye, or take abusive behavior for granted to rock star classes, are part of the problem.