In the final analysis, Marilyn Manson will be crowned the king of signification at the end of the 20th Century.
It only took rock 'n' roll a short three decades to move from mop tops to heavy metal. While punk rock, hip-hop, and other new, provocative genres slowly came under fire for lyrical content and album imagery, Manson made that fire his bread and butter.
Was he truly anti-Christ? Gay? What does this man stand for? Over the years, and depending on whatever project he was currently promoting, Manson's "message" has been shrewdly abstract. That's because "the point" of Marilyn Manson is, in the great tradition of rock 'n' roll theatrics, the spectacle.
No point of departure encapsulates the Marilyn Manson aesthetic like his videos. And to understand 1996's Antichrist Superstar, which was released 15 years ago this week, it's worth taking a look.
"The Beautiful People," directed by Floria Sigismondi
The first single and video from Antichrist Superstar may be the
album's definitive statement. It's at least the most enduring. The
creepy-crawly, Tim-Burton-gone-wrong, dirt-freak imagery created new
pathways in teeny-boppers' minds and forced them to pay attention.
"Tourniquet," directed by Floria Sigismondi
The follow-up to "Beautiful People" was a visual B-side that reigned in
the madness ever-so-slightly with loose allusions to romance (b/w S-M
and self-mutilation) and a distinctly less-whimsical, more "tortured
high-schooler" set (complete with angst-laden scribbles on the wall).
"Cryptorchid," directed by E. Elias Merhige and Marilyn Manson
Each of Manson's Antichrist videos after "Beautiful People"
made progressively less of a splash, but the controversy surrounding the
album, its various imageries (promotional, video, etc.), and
accompanying tour kept the flame alive. "Cryptorchid" was inspired by
Merhige's experimental horror film Begotten, and Manson quickly
paired up with the director. He liked Merhige's aesthetic so much that
the video they made together featured so much footage from Begotten that it was practically an eight-years-too-late soundtrack to the film.
"Antichrist Superstar," directed by E. Elias Merhige
Manson and Merhige teamed up again for the video to Antichrist Superstar's
titular track and thematic climax. This vid got a little more attention
as no music channels would screen the clip because of its grainy,
lo-fi aesthetic. Not to mention a whole lot of fascist imagery and Bible
rippin'. The video was exceptionally rare until uploaded to YouTube in
"Man That You Fear," directed by W.I.Z.
Manson's final single for his magnum opus was a look forward to the
hypercinematic grandeur he would spring out into from the dark, dank
cellar of Antichrist Superstar. You can't help but wonder if
the clip was meant to be an immediate almost-glam prelude to the
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androgynous, evil-Bowie theatrics of "Dope Show" and Mechanical Animals.