Controversial Artists: Loving Works by People You Hate

Within the past week, several serious allegations of abuse have come out surrounding the ever-so-popular artist your mom loves to hate, Marilyn Manson. Initially starting with Evan Rachel Wood, who came out stating that the shock-rock artist groomed her as a teenager and mentally abused her for years, more and more women who’ve had relationships with Brian Warner have piled on the allegations of sexual misconduct, abuse and misogyny. Within days, Marilyn Manson was dropped from his record label, his manager, and legions of fans, it seems, have overnight turned on him.

I’m not here to debate whether the allegations against the musician are true or not; it seems to be unlikely that so many people would care enough about ‘taking him down’ to falsify claims of misconduct and abuse. Like with Harvey Weinstein, it’s far more likely that one person with the courage to speak up emboldened other women – women who had felt pressure to remain silent for years – to finally tell their own truth. Perhaps Manson has been a terrible person for decades, and people willfully turned a blind eye; perhaps the power that comes with being a household name corrupted him to the point where he felt he could get away with whatever he wanted. Either way, it’s important that the victims of abuse – whether at the hands of powerful people or not – are able to come forward and voice their truths.

What’s fascinating to me about this most recent sensation is not that Marilyn Manson is capable of abusing women or power – I have no doubt he is – but how quickly the masses turned against him. In all the media frenzy I’ve seen regarding the situation, the closest to a counterargument I’ve seen was from Dita Von Teese, who simply said it didn’t align with her experience with Marilyn Manson, although she did eventually leave him because of his behavior and infidelity. Rather, everyone who had supported him throughout his career turned their backs on him in a heartbeat – faster, even, than if they had been completely ignorant of his abusive behavior. This, to me, is perhaps more telling than even the allegations themselves.

It reminds me of what happened with a slightly lesser-known band, Iced Earth, in the wake of the United States Capitol riots earlier this year. Photos of their guitarist, Jon Schaffer, actively involved in the violence surfaced only days after the riots took place, and within days, their label dropped them, the representation was lost, and Schaffer himself is, by all accounts, now arrested and awaiting trial. Although this is not related to sexual abuse as with Marilyn Manson – and there is less evidence that Schaffer was prone to violence prior to the riots themselves – the dropping of the artist like a hot potato is a theme that is starting to become a repeating pattern.

The question this poses for me is this: when an artist, band, producer, or celebrity of any kind ‘goes down’, and unsavory truths come to light about these people, where does that leave their legacy and their body of work? Can their music, their books, or their films still be enjoyed, despite what we now know about them as people? And while the answer might at first seem to be a simple ‘yes’, it doesn’t change the fact that new information can change our perception of old art.

For example, every time I watch The Lord of the Rings – often praised on this blog as one of the best series of films ever made – I’m reminded in the credits that Harvey Weinstein was their executive producer, and enormously influential in getting the films made. To an extent, I owe an abusive, manipulative sexual predator a debt of gratitude for helping bringing to life my favorite movies of all time. Does that somehow taint the enjoyment I get from simply watching the movies, removed from the fact that at the time, Weinstein’s behavior was either unknown, or at least a well-kept secret?

Moving forward, I really enjoy Marilyn Manson’s music. His album Mechanical Animals is a huge part of my youth, and his songs and lyrics spoke to me deeply as a troubled teen. When I listen to his music now, I can’t help but think that it was made by a sexually abusive creep. How can I still listen to his work, knowing now what I do about the man as a person?

Or what about Iced Earth – another band whose music I enjoy? Do I still listen to their releases, despite knowing that their main songwriter is in jail for inciting violence against the literal government of the United States? That he’s a right-wing nut job who would probably just as soon shoot me as look at me?

The paradox here is that art is created by humans – flawed, imperfect, and sometimes downright despicable – but the art itself, removed from the context of the artist, can often be enjoyed regardless of the creator’s original intentions, meanings, or personal beliefs and behaviors. After all, even Mozart has been thought to be a sexual predator and womanizer, but it doesn’t change the fact that, 200 years later, we still enjoy his music as some of the best to have ever been written.

Beyond that, what of financial support? With streaming platforms, every time I listen to one of Marilyn Manson’s songs, he gets money. Not much, but added up over all the fans he has around the world, and it still means that I’m providing a living to someone who I now know to be a fiend. It feels wrong to continue to support someone like that, but at the same time, it doesn’t change the fact that his music means something to me, both from a lyrical and nostalgic perspective. Do I simply cut off an entire part of my life, simply because I don’t agree with an artist’s behavior?

I don’t know if there’s an easy answer to be found here; from Marilyn Manson to Michael Jackson, Bill Clinton to Bill Cosby, there countless examples of celebrities who have done unspeakable, immoral, or even illegal things. I think that, in most cases, most of these people were not inherently bad people to begin with, but I recognize that power corrupts; and while this isn’t an excuse to their behavior, it at least brings into consideration that what these people created and did for the greater good should still be taken into consideration, despite their aberrant, destructive and manipulative behavior.

Marilyn Manson may never create another record after this. If he did, I don’t know if I would want to listen to it. How could I in good faith listen to the words and music of someone who can do such horrible things to other people? But at the same time, I don’t want to stop listening to his existing body of work, because before I knew about his abhorrent behavior, it meant something important to me, and I know it meant something important to millions of others, as well.

I’d be curious to know what you think about this. When unsavory information comes to light about someone you once revered, does it change your perspective on what they already did? Are you still able to enjoy their body of work? Does the new information taint how you perceive not just the artist, but their creations? What are your thoughts?

Tales of Despair: Your Words Are Heard

A slight change this week; I feel a need to acknowledge a few things, and a few people, and I wish, if possible, to give some hope, both to them and to myself.

Hello, all of you who have tagged a post with the word Depression. I’m glad to have met you.

I started my WordPress blog primarily as a literary endeavor, and when I realized I could browse posts by tag, I started out with stuff like Books, Writing and Fantasy. I’ve met some incredible people, and some incredible writers, and I couldn’t be happier for it. Many of them are listed in the links at the bottom of each of my pages.

A little while ago, however, I wrote a post that I considered tagging with the word Suicide (an incidental tag – it wasn’t my suicide). I was worried that WordPress might have some red flags up for that sort of thing, and so I refrained – but I was curious, and began searching for posts tagged Suicide and Depression. I was scared; this wasn’t a world I wanted to go back to. I continue to have mental health problems, but I can’t realistically call myself depressed, and I haven’t had a suicidal thought for almost five years.

What I discovered is a world of scarred, lonely and deeply traumatized people, each desperately clawing against their despair, unsure day by day if you will win the fight. You are not bad people; you are capable of kindness, generosity, compassion and selflessness – I have seen it through your tales. Many of you have admitted to some of your deepest faults; some of you have discovered the blessed anonymity of the internet and revealed things about yourselves you wouldn’t dare speak of to your closest friends. You have made me wish I had such a community of messed up minds at the lowest point of my own life, over ten years ago now.

I have found myself compelled to communicate with you, through far too many comments and replies, to the point that you probably feel like blocking me from your site, I’m sure. I am connected to you, and I would like you to know that you are connected to each other, whether you know it – whether you admit it – or not. I will never try to help you; I will (try to) never offer advice. At the deepest depths of black, when I could (quite literally) see nothing around me for the haze of darkness that clouded my vision, I swore that if I survived, and was ever in a position to talk to someone else about their own depression, I would not help them.

Some of you may understand this sentiment; help is not always what you need. Support may not be what you need. I remember; all I wanted was kinship. I was convinced, certain, that no one, ever, suffered as I suffered. No one was as depressed as me. I was proud of this fact; my cuts were deeper, my desire for death greater. I was the one that the teachers were scared of; I was the one that dropped out of school. I drew a bitter comfort from this – being depressed was the only thing I was better at than anyone else. I did not – ever – want to get better. I was offended by the very thought that there was a ‘better’ to get; this was me. To an extent, I still hold true to this; I am no longer depressed, but I am not better. I am still on medication, and my mental troubles have shifted to new, and more disturbing, patterns.

If you are seeking help; if you are seeking support, and therapy – I love you for this. If you are not – I love you no less. It is your choice. I have been touched, and disturbed, and horrified at the stories you have shared. I have no excuse for my depression; I had a happy childhood, was a good student, and loved life. When I was fifteen it all fell apart, and has never been put back together again. Some of you have suffered far, far worse – suicide, trauma, sexual abuse – and I would have you know you are stronger than you think, for you have made it this far. You have passed through terrors that would have left me screaming and insane. You are human, all of you, and you have survived. It’s what we’re best at.

Most of all, I want you to know that you have touched me, and reminded me of the desolation I used to call home. I cannot in faith wish you happiness, for you may not be seeking it. I would rather, if you would accept it, wish you balance, consolation and acceptance, both by yourselves and by others. I do not want any of you to die, though it is your choice, should you make that decision. I would have you know that I care for you, as a dispassionate, third party. I’m not going to intervene; I’m not going to interfere. I will continue to listen, though, for as long as you keep writing.

As a final word, something you will probably as one reject: you are all wonderful.

Thank you.




Alexandra (alexandra writes; aftermath)

bipolarmuse (bipolarmuse)

Carl (stillfugue)

lifeonaxis1 (Mood Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified)

Mandi (Mandi A. Stores)

Nell (letters to dom; pensées sans frontières)

SainT (Dead Negatives)

Sean (alltheavenueslookugly)

Stella (My Body the City: The Secret Life of a Manhattan Call Girl)