Though typically associated with Generation X, Marilyn Manson has become the single greatest personification of what could be in store for the Millennial Generation and younger ... in terms of mental health anyway.
Written By: Anton Sawyer
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If you haven't been paying attention to recent headlines, shock-rocker Brian Warner, better known to the world as Marilyn Manson, is in a heap of hot water. Though his ex-fiancee Evan Rachel Wood had been speaking out about her experiences with physical, mental, and emotional abuses she had suffered for years during a prior relationship. For a long time, she refused to name her accuser. Over the last week-and-a-half, she has come out and named him: Mr. Manson. Since the accusations, he's lost his record label, management of 25 years, booking agency, and many other business partners.
Manson has come out denying any of the allegations, calling them a "distortion of reality." The problem was the damage had been done through his words, and more importantly his actions, through the decades. Wood claimed at the time of her initial report, her abuser had called her 158 times on Christmas day one year, each one becoming more violent and terrorizing. In a Spin magazine interview, he openly spoke of the incident and added that he cut himself each time he called her so she could physically see what she had done to him. One of the most used excuses to explain away any of his behaviors since the beginning of his career has been along the lines of "art imitating reality."
It seems those lines have been blurred, if not completely obliterated, over time. That reality, and perception of reality (POR), were one and the same; there was no Brian Warner, only Marilyn Manson. This is a trend that has always followed those who want the world to see them in a way that may not be congruent with their core-self and the two merge. I'll go into how this plays into the current, online fantasy world we all seem to live in now in a moment. But first, Manson should have known better; and I don't mean in the fact that treating another human being with decency should be baked into the cake once you reach adulthood. What I mean is; knowing who one of his idols was growing up—Alice Cooper—and seeing the same kind of pitfalls that can come from life imitating art, while learning nothing.
Cooper was never involved in any sex or illicit scandals to ruin his career. Rather, he's was doing it all himself by blurring the lines of Vince Furnier—singer of the Alice Cooper band—and Alice Cooper, the bloodthirsty alcoholic who espoused villainy. For the first few tours and albums, the character of Alice Cooper was coming together. With more focus came more success. Millions of records sold, non-stop touring to sold-out arenas across the world, money. Cooper, the man, and the myth now combined became the character all the time. He felt that to be authentic, he had to BE Alice Cooper in every instance. This began to take a toll on him in every facet. Cooper himself said he was hitting a personal low at his career peak. “By the time I was doing ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’ I was ready to die, go into hospital or have a nervous breakdown. There came a point where every time I saw my costume I would almost start crying and almost throw up.”
His longtime manager Shep Gordon had Cooper placed in a mental institution in New York to dry out. Over the next decade, Cooper would struggle with sobriety while still skating in the world of Alice. He eventually became sober by the mid-1980s. One of the things he attributed to his success was separating the Alice character, from Alice the man. Since then he's always spoken of "Alice" in a third-person during interviews. He's made it clear time and time again that he can only let Alice out on stage. He learned first-hand the mental toll it can take to be "on" all the time. Manson never got the warning and let the character take over in a sea of drugs and violence, and is now paying the price. I think it's of key importance that the Millennial Generation, and younger, learn from this example.
Since the turn of the 21st Century, the online world has permeated every crevice of our society. From using it as a learning tool to a device that re-connects loved ones and lost friends, the internet has become interchangeable with culture. One of the biggest impacts that this leverage has on the world is "online fantasy." That anyone can go online and give the perception of what, and who they are. Some are completely related to the core-self of the user, while others are utter fabrications. But no matter what side they are on, there's a massive amount of hive-mind out there that can dictate what someone does, or doesn't do, in their daily lives that would be envied by others. Or, on the flip-side, mocked relentlessly. We see this in phrases like FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). That if one person is doing something that could be envied by the masses, then the masses follow-suit and try to present that same world in order to feel validated. When people are attacked by online trolls—especially if the user's online persona is indistinguishable from their core-self—it has disastrous impacts on self-worth.
In a 2020 article in Psychology Today, author Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. wrote, “Did you know that the U.S. suicide rate has skyrocketed over the last decade and that more than 48,000 people took their own lives in 2018? Did you know that even children under the age of eleven are committing suicide at an increasing rate? Suicides among children under the age of eleven more than doubled in the last ten years.” When you see the levels of online trolling, and how it truly spills everywhere, you get an idea that the targets are vast in numbers. In a 2017 Pew Research piece, 41 percent of Americans have themselves experienced online harassment, and over 60 percent report having been witness to such actions.
When looking at can cause such a disconnect with real-life consequences for what is said online, Gran Hilary Brenner MD, FAPA wrote in 2019, “In the presence of loneliness, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadism all were associated with increased internet trolling. Moreover, when higher levels of loneliness accompanied higher levels of Machiavellianism or psychopathy, internet trolling was even more likely.” With events like Covid-19 which has caused millions to be forced to stay at home, this loneliness has only amplified, making the situation that much worse.
Trolling is never going to stop, sadly. With people like Trisha Paytas who openly admit to being a troll and loving it, it's going to continue. I think the younger generations could stop and look at the Manson case. Reality, perception of reality, how the dissolution can break a person. That maybe trying to separate the online reality from the core will make the trolling less impactful. Or learning that your core is not reflected in the perception of your core held by someone who doesn't matter.
With suicide rates rising in those who are becoming younger and younger, and the fact that many children aged five and above have phones, I sadly could see this only getting worse. I'm too much into Freedom of Speech to try and censor anyone. But I think that knowing about a problem, how to possibly combat it (or decimate it at the source), and being armed to the teeth with preparation can only help. I just hope this "cavalry of education" will arrive before more lives are lost.
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