Jerry and Natty Tackle Marilyn Manson’s “Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) “

HolyWoodWe’re without a figure to lead the way. Every generation has one of them, and these days, there really isn’t anyone out there challenging the ideals of the Christian right, the masses putting the blame on everybody from musicians to filmmakers for the tragedies that could have been avoided with proper treatment of the individuals who committed the awful crimes. As a society, we’re so quick to place the blame on others, for our mistakes, for our failures.

If there has been one person who has seen more than his share of being blamed for the choices and mistakes of others, that individual would most certainly be Marilyn Manson. The shock-rocker was a red flag and target right from the get-go, and there isn’t a time in his career in which he was put under the conservative microscope and blamed for horrible events as much as 1999’s tragic school shooting at Columbine High school in Littleton, Colorado. When two teenage boys, heavily armed and wearing black trench coats walked into their school and murdered dozens of people, leaving their horrific mark on American history. Instead of banding together and offering hope and faith in things getting better, the right wing conservatives did something that wasn’t very surprising, but still completely ludicrous: they began blaming movies, music and the filmmakers and musicians that created those films and records for the two unstable teens’ actions. It’s always easier to point the finger at someone else, and nobody got it as bad as Manson did. Boycots, death threats you name it, it was in their eyes, his fault for the death of so many innocent people. While the musician withdrew from the spotlight for a bit, when he and his band returned, they didn’t put out a record, they put out a statement, a record so heavy in subject in matter and in many ways, a straight up middle finger to the conservative right, a reply in anger, an album filled to the brim with references to feeling like nobody and and how society would rather blame than admit failure.

That album, 2000’s Holy Wood, would serve as Manson’s answer to the mass of people accusing him being responsible for the actions of others, an angry as fuck, in your face response, that in this writer’s opinion, is easily one of the most important album of the last twenty years. I thought it would be nice to revisit Holy Wood and write about my experience and interpretation of what is one of the most influential and relatable albums of all time.

738355_506580316053137_586868124_oJerry Smith:

I had first stumbled across Marilyn Manson, when seeing the band opening up for Nine Inch Nails in 1994, and like a lot of those very important times in one’s life, I as a young teenager, instantly felt like I had finally found a band that wasn’t afraid to not only say how I felt, but scream it as loud as possible. I was a shy kid, didn’t have many friends, and hated my Christian upbringing, never identified with other kids, and spent all of my nights in my room, writing stories, listening to music and being forced by my parents to take anti-depressants, all because I wasn’t “normal”. Most people my age were attending parties and going to football games, while I would be listening to Sisters of Mercy and writing short stories about monsters and various macabre-filled tales. When I saw Manson open for NIN, it felt like maybe I wasn’t the weird one, that perhaps I was the one who saw things straight, and it was everyone else that needed help. I heard my voice in those songs, my anger and hopelessness in them. I was hooked.

While I loved Portrait of an American Family, the Smells like Children EP and adored the Antichrist Superstar album, it was two albums later, when Holy Wood was released, that I felt profoundly touched by it. As Americans and human beings in general, all of us were affected by the tragedy at Columbine, it was impossible NOT to feel for the many sons, daughters, fathers and mothers who lost their lives at the hands of two unstable teens, who for years, screamed for some kind of attention and never got it. Their actions were atrocious, and this is in no way saying they weren’t responsible for their terrible, terrible actions. What the media failed to address though, is how the situation and the tragedy could have been avoided. I WAS one of those kids growing up. An outcast, someone who never quite fit in, and felt like I would never get the girl, be popular, and resented the fact that I couldn’t fit in, in any way whatsoever. While I had never even contemplated taking anybody’s life, inside, I felt anger and heartache over feeling like I wasn’t good enough, like the people making fun of me for always wearing dark clothes and listening to the music I listened to, yelling homophobic slurs at me (I’m not even gay, but where I went to school, if you didn’t have a football jacket and date rape cheerleaders, you HAD to be gay according to them.

In time, I learned how to come out of my shell, by picking up a guitar and playing in countless local bands, and that introvert side of me slowly went away. I felt fine talking to people, did fair with the ladies, and kind of grew out of the quiet, distant teenager I was.

I was eighteen when the Columbine shooting happened. It sank my heart profoundly, because in my head, I knew this would forever be stained into America’s history, a moment in which so many people lost their lives, for what? Why? Because two boys weren’t able to find that release and make that decision that I had, that I wouldn’t be silent anymore and that it was possible to find yourself and your voice without becoming a monster or depressed to the point of wanting an exit. The two shooters refused to be silent as well, but their statement was one of blood, terror and murder. It’s still so very upsetting to think back to that time. It was a moment in time that began a long series of shootings that are still happening today.

When people tried to find a reason why the two boys did what they did, instead of looking inside, instead of admitting that maybe the system had failed them, it was much easier to find a scapegoat, and who better to be that scapegoat, than a rock and roll personality known for being the equivalent of a human middle finger to the system, to the right wing fundamentalists, and to religion? Our society put Marilyn Manson over the proverbial grinder, and blamed him for the actions of two boys who weren’t right in the head and hadn’t gotten help for it.

When Manson responded, he did with an album that to this day, hits harder than most albums, and is full of so many reactions to not only being accused, but fires back at more important issues, like our society’s obsession with guns, with our children’s desire to feel like they’re worth something, and how most of the time, they act out because of that feeling of despair and hopelessness. Songs like “The Nobodies” and “The Love Song” are huge statements, and “The Fight Song” is one of the most abrasive middle finger responses to the religious right, with the chorus of Manson screaming, “I’m not a slave to a god that doesn’t exist, I’m not a slave to a world that doesn’t give a shit”. Listening to Holy Wood, you can’t help but to feel Manson’s anger at being accused of being responsible for the kids’ actions, and his anger at how instead of helping kids with mental problems or outcasts who feel hopeless, we’re so quick to say that we’re not responsible, and place the blame on an easy target.

It’s a pissed off, intense as fuck album, a statement shoved brutally down the throats of a society ready to let our kids die or kill, with our heads turned, ignoring obvious signs of hurt, pain, anger and desperation. Instead of realizing that the need for counselling and listening to our kids is necessary, there was a failure involved, where society just wanted to sweep the events under a rug and place the blame on someone else. Fifteen years later, songs like “Disposable Teens,” “Coma Black” are still as relevant as they were in 2000, and the need for people to be open ears to the lost and the outcasts of the world is just as important as it was in 1999.


IS2Natalie (Natty) Cox:

Growing up in a small town, with its appropriate share of small-minded individuals, it would only make sense that I would seek the sounds of Marilyn Manson to rebel. However, for me, it was much more than that. To say I was obsessed with Marilyn Manson is an understatement, I completely saturated myself in the music, and every album quickly became the soundtrack to my teen angst. Which I didn’t really know I had till I heard HOLYWOOD for the first time. At the time, I had already decided I hated everything. Pretty much my life was horror movies, Marilyn Manson, and a few friends who didn’t suck. I wasn’t allowed to listen to Marilyn Manson, and when my parents realized a good amount of his music videos were playing on MTV, I was banned from that too. Yes, I was a 17 year old girl, who was banned from MTV. I still watched it. The only thing that became of my ban, was an angrier teen girl. Not good. I invoked a few looks of disgust, and criticism from my peers when I showed up to one of my confirmation classes in a Marilyn Manson shirt (rebel alert). Quickly, my parents realized that I wasn’t going to change, and I was given the option to quit and not confirm my catholic faith. So I did.

I continued to use HOLY WOOD as a musical crutch to get me through the awkward teen years, as well as PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY, and of course, ANTI-CHRIST SUPERSTAR. My senior year in high school, THE GOLDEN AGE OF GROTESQUE came out. I was all over it. A month after I turned 18, I was lucky enough to check out my musical idols in person, at the Greek Theatre in LA. I’ll never forget that night, mostly because I tried Shrooms for the first time, and had a bad trip. However, I did not let the psychedelic sickness ruin my night. It was one of the most amazing shows I have ever seen. Once again, Marilyn Manson had become a part of the musical score of my life.

To this day, I will have to admit that HOLY WOOD still holds up, and is one of my favorite albums of all time. In my mind, everything about it screams perfection. The lyrics, the music, the voice, and of course, the message. It takes me back to some of the memories I’ve made while listening to it. Yes, that includes my terrible mushroom trip, or that time I ran away from cops down Sunset Strip (a story for a different time), and of course, that time the teacher in my confirmation class used me and my shirt as an example of how not to live your life. As cheesy as it sounds, this album got me through a lot of issues I faced when I was younger, and helped shape me into the person I am today.

Leave A Comment