On Feb. 1, Evan Rachel Wood came out publicly, stating that she had been in an abusive relationship with Brian Warner, known to most as Marilyn Manson, a “goth-shock” icon in the expansive genre of punk-rock.
Wood states via her Instagram that Manson had groomed her for years and she was “brainwashed and manipulated into submission.” In 2018, Woods had testified in front of the Senate about her experience as a survivor of domestic violence. She was a part of a bigger effort to get the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act implemented in all 50 states. At the time, Woods did not name her abuser but speculation arose and many thought Manson could have fit the bill.
In the years that followed their relationship, which ended in 2010, Manson was cited alluding to certain damaging behaviors. “I have fantasies every day about smashing her skull in with a sledgehammer,” Manson was quoted saying in an interview with Spin.
Woods is one of a few women to come forward and name Manson as their abuser. His ex-wife Dita Von Teese shared a post on instagram, stating that her own experience with Manson did not mirror that shared by other women. She did, however, offer support. Sarah McNeilly, Charlyne Yi and Ashley Lindsay Morgan are among the other women that accused Manson of misconduct.
Phoebe Bridgers also tweeted out her own experience that she had at Manson’s house when she was a teenager. Bridgers shares that Manson referred to a room in his house as a “r*pe room.” She also shared that Manson’s team knew of this behavior back then.
Since the allegation, Manson has been dropped by his label and his booking agent and has already tried to deny the allegations with a statement that claims his relationships were “entirely consensual.”
Nine-inch-nails frontman Trent Reznor has spoken out against Manson following the allegations. He has also addressed, what he calls, a “fabrication” of a story that Manson included in his auto-biography. Reznor had also publicly denounced his relationship with Manson in 2009, suggesting he had a series of concerning behaviors and was self-absorbed. In 2017, Manson suggested the two had moved forward in their friendship, a claim that Reznzor has never backed.
The discourse surrounding Reznor and Manson speaks to another issue. The ways in which people tend to let certain genre icons off the hook due to obscure makeup or strong messages against the status quo. No one could ever put their finger on what it is Manson actually stood for. Was his face paint and sometimes hard-to-look at face jewelry all a facade? Or did he genuinely believe in what he’s created to be his image?
Not to mention, Woods started dating Manson when she was just 19 and he was 36. You would think this behavior, which is one that takes advantage of the vulnerability of young women and morphs it into unwarranted desire, would’ve caught the eye of the music industry? Or if this wasn’t enough, maybe his blatant, very clear misogyny would have, or the fact that in an interview, Manson admits to calling Woods 158 times a day at one point would have been the final, red flag.
But, no. Manson always seemed provocative, it was a part of who he was. And maybe since he wasn’t so mainstream, no one really cared about cancelling him online or dragging his name through Twitter. But, there’s the problem. In the music industry as a whole, these predatory behaviors go unseen, or actually, ignored.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, we saw Ryan Adams exploited for his repetitive, abusive behavior against women in his past. Some of us sat through the “Surviving R. Kelly,” a Lifetime documentary that detailed the sexual abuse allegations against the rapper.
But even in the aforementioned cases, it takes a village for society to strongly switch sides. One allegation is never enough, a bad experience years ago falls second in the minds of industry insiders because whatever sells sells. And this happens outside of the music industry, too. It’s a Hollywood problem, a Wall Street one. Any sort of power imbalance gives fuel to predatory behavior and a small, subtle slap on the wrist becomes the norm.
The final point here is that toxic masculinity can shapeshift. Abusive and predatory behavior does not only fit one bill, it can hide behind layers of shock or it can be swept under the rug in the case of an outcast. For someone like Manson, his hellish, provocative image has made it hard for people to really care, to ring out his wrongdoings in public. Despite mounting evidence throughout his career that his attitudes and on-stage persona could leak into his personal life, he’s still managed to keep going.
In a piece for “The New Yorker,” Amanda Petrusich dives deeply into how the nature of sexual violence has always been central to who Manson really was. She writes about how it’s easy when you’re younger to not fully indulge in the reality that these musicians could really represent the darkness of their music. She represents a really strong call to action here.
We’re no longer in the age where we can wholeheartedly back celebrities because of their catchy lyrics or engaging online presence. We have to hold people accountable and take things and people for what they really are. Someone like Marilyn Manson has been let off the hook more times than necessary and it’s our job to make sure the next predatory, abusive counterculture figure doesn’t get so far.