Goth to Glam: The Ever-Changing Faces of Marilyn Manson
It’s odd to think that Marilyn Manson turned 51 in 2020. Brian Hugh Warner has been around forever, surely, yet the idea of him being middle-aged is oddly jarring. It feels like he should either be 21 or 201.
He’s always had the capriciousness of a young man, going out of his way to needle and provoke — but at the same time there’s something kind of eternal and elemental about him, perpetual and magical, like a mischievous warlock out of time, swilling absinthe and cheerfully enraging parents. The great thing about ensuring you stick out means you could belong equally in any era – he freaks people out now, he’d freak people out in Victorian times; send him into the future and he’ll freak people out then. Happy half-century to the eternal weirdo, the never-normal, the antichrist superstar.
He’s had a lot of looks in his five decades, hasn’t he? Join us on a visual journey through the always interesting life of The God Of Fuck.
The Spooky Kid
The young Manson of the Portrait Of An American Family days is a less polished version than the one we’d later get. He’s a big-hatted, bright-stockinged pantomime villain, all fancy dress and Technicolor gurning. Visually it’s all a bit more DIY than his later incarnations, more resembling the results of a really overexcited trip to Camden Market than the high-end, tailor-made, Hollywood-quality outfits that would come later.
The Scary Adult
The Victorian Rave Mummy
Suddenly Manson is physically imposing, less jester-like and more threatening, leering into the camera, writhing around violently, riding a pig, seeming dangerous and unhinged – no longer a glow stick clown but a self-mutilating maniac. Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics (who did the original version of the song) said this video was one of the scariest things he’d ever seen. Manson appears in a tutu and wedding dress, the beginning of a lot of playing with performative gender identity – not something one saw a lot of on television in the 1990s.
The Beautiful Provocateur
Bound, on stilts, using surgical equipment as accessories and sporting disturbing prostheses, this bandaged, shamanic, terrifying figure was the first a lot of people saw of Manson, as the lead single from Antichrist Superstar blew up massively. Unsettling, not quite human and frequently wince-inducing (that thing on his mouth, woof), Floria Sigismondi’s video introduced the world to a truly creepy-looking individual.
The video for Long Hard Road wasn’t shown on television a lot due to the social mores of the time, objections to blasphemous imagery and fairly non-progressive views on gender-shifting. However, Manson’s hair is so extraordinarily beautiful in it that it should have transcended all broadcast rules. Clad in the cymbal-like bustier of an ectomorphic Brunhilde or an Amanda Lepore-esque striking sexual Valkyrie, his glorious locks are a sight to behold. Or maybe it’s a wig.
The Androgynous Extraterrestrial
Simultaneously sexless and hyper-sexual, the be-breasted, genital-less figure Manson strikes here, complete with toucan-like makeup, straddles the uncanny valley, occasionally seeming more like a CGI construct or a special effect than a man. The video partly functions as a homage to Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell To Earth (starring David Bowie, another keen provocateur who enjoyed blurring gender lines and shocking with his art).
The Sadomasochistic Marching Band Leader
A shirtless dictator, uniformed yet half-naked, in both latex and warpaint, Manson is a creature of contradictions. Embodying a public figure yet clad for very private activities, he’s sporting painstaking, intricately applied, millimetre-perfect makeup yet also embodying total chaotic energy, making it seem impossible that he could possibly sit still long enough to get dolled up.
The Hood Goth All-Weather Party Crasher
Hip-hop influences started to make themselves seen on Manson around this time, from his choice of sunglasses to his awesome big open anorak. Also of note: despite being liberally covered in tattoos, the calligraphy-like Ms on his neck are makeup. Why would a man with dozens of tattoos have fake tattoos applied for a music video? To keep us guessing.
The Business-Ready Satan
In adopting suits and ties, Manson may have been acknowledging his status: no longer an outsider but a member of the rock establishment, a powerful force within music, essentially The Man. Also, he was 35 by this point, and a man’s mid-thirties can do some strange things to his naked torso.
The Bloated Joker
A lot of Manson’s visual incarnations have made him seem more than human — prostheses, stilts, editing tricks and other things being used to create a larger-than-life figure. 2012’s version trades the flawless makeup for smudged lipstick, smeared inelegantly across the exhausted, pained-looking face of the suddenly very human, newly fragile Manson. He looks like a hangover in human form.
48-year-old Manson cuts a different figure to the lithe, frantic, slender nymph of his youth, but with age comes a new type of anger, the hardened, sickened glare of the man who’s seen it all. Flashes of sky-blue emphasise the new droops in his face, the lived-in physiognomy of a man who has done enough wild shit for a hundred lifetimes, a scarred deathless ghoul in a fuck-off trenchcoat, shirt collar stained with makeup, an aging gangster weary with disdain but alive with fire. Here’s to the rest of the century, Manson, you beautiful fascinating maniac.