As agent provocateur Marilyn Manson prepares for the May 1 release of his latest album Born Villain, a recently released music video “No Reflection” by the rocker is ghoulish and controversial. The scene is a dinner party and Manson plays host to women clad in white. Something goes terribly awry as everyone toasts and imbibes on a toxic drink. The women begin vomiting up blood and turning violent. The one closest to Manson throughout drinks again from a cup as he tries in vain to stop her. Once the fate is sealed, a gooey kiss is given and the rocker proceeds to drown her head in toilet water. The dinner party literally turns dead as all but Manson lie motionless.
Is the whole music video a metaphor for addiction, as some have interpreted? Or the latest in a series of releases fetishistic of violence against women?
Five years ago, Manson gave comments as to the reasons why he turned down an earlier offer to collaborate with Eminem telling Spin, “He asked me to sing on his first record, and I would have, except that the song he asked me to sing was… too misogynistic.” In the track in question, the rapper's rhymes were a boastful fictionalized tale of killing his ex-girlfriend. At the time, the rocker made, on the surface of it, an admirable, principled decision.
A roundabout, it was, then, when Manson ruined a perfectly good song when he released his first post-Interscope Records music video for “Running to the Edge of the World” off 2009's The High End of Low which went from bad (singing for too long behind a curtain in the beginning) to worse (bludgeoning an ex-fiancee Evan Rachel Wood look-a-like to death at the end). The effort was condemned as essentially a loathsome wannabe snuff-film and torture porn.
With the album and major label obligations behind him, Manson took to readying his 8th studio album Born Villain off the indie Cooking Vinyl Records. Early blog posts on his website and a teaser video showed a rocker returning to his roots railing against organized religion and making allusions to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. What came next, though, was a long-form music video for its title track. Spin described the Shia LeBeouf directed “Born Villain” as “horrifically sadistic/misogynistic.” What is Manson really trying to say anyway when he dresses up in Surgeon scrubs and inserts an eyeball into a vagina? I'll leave that for others to ponder.
Which brings us back to “No Reflection.” Like “Running to the Edge of the World” before it, the final scene mirrors pervasive images of violence against women in media and the reality of it in society at large. Manson is at his best when a scourge to institutions of the religious right and the rigidness they seek to impose on culture, art and governance with provocative symbolism and angst-driven rock.
But, in a strange irony, with his last couple of music videos, he's exhibiting an attribute richly shared by his arch-nemeses: misogyny.