Marilyn Manson is Broward's adopted child. So when he’s in the news, we brag about him. We resisted reporting the supposedly unprovoked punch to the face he received at a Denny's in Alberta last month, but now he’s released a new music video, and we’re prey to his temptation.
“The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles” is the fourth track off Manson's latest album, The Pale Emperor. Alongside lyrics that depict his classic themes of sacrilege, Manson hints at his own exhaustion as an idol:
I don’t know if I can open up/I’ve been opened enough. I don’t know if I can open up/I’m not a birthday present.
The black and white video opens with Michael K. Williams (The Wire and Boardwalk Empire) recounting his initial encounter with Manson's title character: “First time I met him, I could feel the hounds of hell on my trail.” Mephistopheles impressed upon Williams and, we discover, a number of others whom he blesses in urban lots and baptizes with pothole water. He subverts Christian tradition with a grille and an unholy scowl.
Who is Manson's Mephistopheles? He’s a demon the devil sends to collect your soul.
In German folklore, a guy named Faust made a pact with the Devil, which, as you know from literature or experience, never turns out well. In today’s terms, Faust wanted money, cash, hoes. The Devil wanted Faust’s soul. Faust agreed, and the devil sent his minion, Mephistopheles, to fuck Faust right over.
As Mephistopheles, Manson's character is more subtle and more basic than his established Antichrist Superstar. Mephistopheles is himself a minion, a servant of Satan. And unlike Satan, Mephistopheles’ task is not to tempt us into sin. Rather, he’s here to collect souls that are already damned. He’s a debt collector, a girl scout who asks if we want to buy some thin mints as though we have a choice in the matter.
Mephistopheles is seen preaching to gangsters, fondling wet women, and stomping through the backstreets of L.A. in a cloak and huge boots. He’s sordid and low. He accepts his depth in the social order. He screams, “Lazarus got no dirt on me!” in an allusion to the biblical leper. Skull-ringed fingers smear lipstick as he begs to meet his maker.
Manson's interpretation of Mephistopheles’ unholy task is exact and academic but contemporary. He’s controversial, not careless. His narrative and imageries are intentional. When he asks, “Are we faded? Faithful? Fatal?” he uses the alliterative F — the sixth letter of the alphabet — to sneak the Devil’s number into his lyrics. By embodying Mephistopheles, Manson might intend to honor to his German roots, or he might mean to suggest we’re all debtors of damned souls, which he's come to collect. Whatever his message, he's our child, and we're just so proud.