I’m on vacation. Sort of. I’m in Kansas for my family reunion. Given that I’ve been traveling and having Mom time, I didn’t really have a chance to write anything for this week’s blog. But I’ve had this one written for a while, sitting in a folder of backup posts. Lurking, if you will, and waiting to become appropriate. And with the exhaustion inherent to travel and coming home and family stuff, I figured that now would be a good time for it. Not my best work, but I’m posting it anyway because I need a break. I’ll be back next week with something more topical. Maybe. I don’t know. I might be brainfried. We’ll see.
Also, the midwest is fucking weird, you guys. So there’s that.
So, I was listening to Marilyn Manson the other day. Don’t judge. I have a shitty MP3 player and pretty much just have to take what the machine gives me. Not my fault. I actually still quite enjoy Manson’s stuff. I’m sure there’s a little dose of nostalgia in my adult consumption of those albums. But I maintain that Twiggy Ramirez is a hell of a bass player.
When I was younger, I wasn’t actually a proper goth’s goth. I was really just a metalhead with too much eyeliner on. No Cure, no Joy Division. Those weren’t necessarily on the menu for a 90s goth, anyway. I’m a few years too young for the New Wave leftovers of Gen X. Not that anyone in my small redneck town would’ve noticed anyway. All they saw was piercings, black nail polish, and the Nietzsche book in my back pocket. Ooh, so scary.
Antichrist Superstar came to me by accident. My cousin came to stay with us one summer and left his copy. When he went home I found it under a couch and popped it in my tape player. And then my brain exploded. A big moment. (Fun side note: that same cousin later hit Manson in the eye with a very pointy shoe at a concert and narrowly escaped being mobbed by angry fans frenzied by the sight of rock star blood. Good times.)
Here’s the thing about Manson and his ilk, though: while the shock rock factor was important, obviously, the bigger message in his music is about nonconformity and cultural numbness. Pretty much every song he’s ever made is the same. Don’t be a fucking sheep. Think for yourself. Don’t believe everything that you’re told. Including what you’re told by him. For a fourteen-year-old kid who already feels wildly out of place, that shit is heavy. Yeah, yeah, every kid that age feels like a weirdo. Sure. It’s a necessary evil. But I’m telling you, I was a legitimate oddball. Remember that Nietzsche book in my pocket? I guarantee you that 98 percent of the people I grew up around don’t even know who he is. I would stake money on it. A lot of money. Money I don’t have.
And there was that teenage tendency toward darkness at play, as well, in this fandom. Why do we do that? At the same time that we’re most convinced that we’re invincible we also begin to develop a fascination with death and dying and mortality. I’ve never understood this juxtaposition of the teen brain. Mystery of life. But totally normal. Important, even. Those seemingly morbid interests may lead, eventually, to something awesome. My best friend kept Closer by Nine Inch Nails on a constant loop for about a year in eighth grade and developed an interest in all sorts of metal and weird pseudo-anti-religious stuff. And now he’s a brilliant minister. It worked out. Comic fans make good artists. Movie buffs make good directors and writers. You never know where that spark will come from.
Also, maybe don’t shit on something until you’ve experienced it for yourself. I feel like so often the people who are rallying against a thing are the exact people who would never absorb that thing. For whom, in fact, that thing is expressly not intended. Like all those religious nutjobs in the 90s who protested Manson’s music and his concerts, but never ever listened to the albums. Or, at least, didn’t listen to them closely enough to understand that often he’s not actually talking about religion. Metaphor and allegory. I know it’s hard. It’s scary, alien, above their heads.
Read a book, morons.
No, not that one! Any other one!
I’m firmly of the opinion that until I hear/read/see something, I’m not allowed to have a legitimate say in anyone else’s enjoyment of it. I can make an informed prediction, ie: I’ll probably hate Justin Bieber’s music. But I haven’t heard it, so do I make fun of his fans? Yes. But I shouldn’t. It’s not right. I’m a horrible person. You should’ve figured that out by now. Come on, guys, keep up.
What’s the point? Besides wallowing in my memories of being a teenage outcast who wore badass jackboots? I was thinking about the family tree of gothiness. Where did it come from? What has it developed into? (Musically speaking here, of course. The whole image thing and the cultural perception of the image thing is ancillary to the music, as far as I’m concerned. All teenagers are the same kind of crazy, they just listen to different bands.) Because, from my perspective, “goth” in its purest form had its heyday in the 80s. By the time my generation got to it, it had morphed into some sort of dark metal, hadn’t it? It goes Bowie and Ozzy (glam and metal) to Smith and Curtis (goth gothity gothy goth) to Reznor and Manson (industrial goth metal with a touch of glam). And then there’s just a bunch of that whiny emo crap that I don’t understand because I’m between generations.
Damn it, you whippersnappers! Get offa my lawn!
Or something like that.
I don’t know. I guess I just connect that kind of music with being young and reckless and having horrible taste in everything. I appreciate it, and at the time it spoke to me on some level that I don’t think I even have anymore. I’m not angry like I used to be. Which is good, don’t get me wrong. But I really fucking miss being able to just jam out to some dude in eyeliner screaming his face off. Without having to overanalyze it or apply unnecessary irony. I probably shouldn’t miss that feeling, but I do. Call me crazy. You wouldn’t be entirely wrong.