As men, we have a responsibility to hold abusive men accountable, even those we look up to
By: Manus Hopkins
Marilyn Manson will never know I grew up idolizing him. He’ll never know I had his poster on my bedroom wall, that I saved up my paper route money to buy his albums, or that I think Antichrist Superstar is one of the best records ever made. And if he did, so what?
On Feb. 1, actress Evan Rachel Wood identified Brian Warner, infamously known as Marilyn Manson, as her abusive ex-partner. She alleged that Manson began grooming her when she was a teenager and had gone on to emotionally, mentally, and physically abuse her. This led several other women to come forward with their own accounts of abuse involving Manson, from Game of Thrones actress Esmé Bianco detailing his frightening behaviour during a music video shoot to indie rock artist Phoebe Bridgers recounting a disturbing visit to his house when she was a teenager.
It’s too easy and too common for men to turn a blind eye, to look the other way in crowded bars, to convince their friends he was just flirting — to rationalize and let men off the hook for abuse. It’s easy to overlook what we don’t want to believe when it’s our friends or our favourite musicians perpetrating abuse, but it is happening. Manson will never know or care how much his music meant to me, but the women in my life will. When the vast majority of women deal with various forms of harassment in everyday life, we should not be sending them the message that our teenage record collections are more important than their safety.
For these reasons, I have a responsibility to stop supporting Marilyn Manson, or any other artist who has evidence against them that points to abuse. As sad as it is to see someone I looked up to show his true colours like this, it would be stupid to let this legitimately conflict me.
The people most affected by his actions are obviously the women Manson has abused. There’s no question about that. It’s horrible that reopening these emotional wounds and having their trauma broadcast to the world is what it takes to enact change in the entertainment industry — an industry that protects its elites and has let them get away with too much for too long.
Manson had a clever way of hiding his abusive nature in plain sight. Not only was he protected by his industry, but he was able to put up a convincing façade that his violent, evil persona was an act for shock value. As his fans, myself and millions of others believed that his art was a visceral representation of society’s grimy underbelly. What he created was manufactured controversy with portrayals of real-life issues, like American gun worship and religious bigotry, in order to address the fact that these problems went largely ignored.
I thought that Brian Warner was just a normal man when he wasn’t onstage or in front of a camera and that Marilyn Manson was just a character. I thought it was all an act, and a fucking brilliant one at that. Just watch his clip from Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine or his interview on The O’Reilly Factor. He knew exactly how to make it look like it was all just his artistry. If only it had been. He could’ve had such an incredible legacy. But it wasn’t simply artistry.
It makes me angry that my seventh-grade teacher who told me I should look up to “someone sane, like Einstein” instead of Manson was right. The other kids who made fun of me for listening to music made by a “creep” were right. My principal in Grade 8 who told me not to wear a Marilyn Manson T-shirt to school anymore, the mothers who didn’t want their kids to hang out with me, and the strangers who stopped me on the street to give me shit were right. I spent years unknowingly defending a violent, abusive person who I didn’t even know in real life, and for that, I feel a deep shame.
This isn’t to say that you’re not allowed to like Manson’s music. I wouldn’t be who I am without him and I can’t pretend that that isn’t the case. But I can’t continue to hand him my money and proudly proclaim that I’m a fan of his knowing the horrors he has inflicted on others. It’s my responsibility as a man to take abuse seriously, to believe survivors, and to break the cycle so this does not continue. Abuse has no place in any relationship and that isn’t something anyone should still have to be convinced of. Protection for abusers should not exist in the entertainment industry or any other, let alone be commonplace and normalized.
We need better, more concrete actions. It wasn't enough when Manson's label and management dropped him after these allegations came to light. It wasn't enough when his friends distanced themselves only when the world found out about his actions. Those things should have happened long ago, not just in Manson’s case, but in the case of any abusive artist, actor or entertainer.
Still, this sort of action only follows abuse becoming public knowledge, meaning it is to the credit of survivors of abuse sharing their trauma with the public. That’s why we have a responsibility as men to hold our fellow men accountable. Because it’s still not happening enough.