A Biblical Interpretation of Marilyn Manson's Violent Fantasies With Evan Rachel Wood


Let's take another look at Marilyn Manson's infamous Spin interview from June 2009, specifically when he says the following:

"My lowest point was Christmas Day 2008, because I didn’t speak to my family. My walls were covered in scrawlings of the lyrics and cocaine bags nailed to the wall. And I did have an experience where I was struggling to deal with being alone and being forsaken and being betrayed by putting your trust in one person, and making the mistake of that being the wrong person. And that’s a mistake that everyone can relate to. I made the mistake of trying to, desperately, grasp on and save that and own it. And every time I called her that day — I called 158 times — I took a razorblade and I cut myself on my face or on my hands.

I look back and it was a really stupid thing to do. This was intentional, this was a scarification, and this was like a tattoo. I wanted to show her the pain she put me through. It was like, 'I want you to physically see what you’ve done.' It sounds made up but it’s completely true and I don’t give a shit if people believe it or not. I’ve got the scars to prove it. I didn’t want people to ask me every time I did an interview, 'Oh, is this record about your relationship with your ex-girlfriend?' But that damage is part of it, and the song 'I Want to Kill You Like They Do in The Movies' is about my fantasies. I have fantasies every day about smashing her skull in with a sledgehammer."

Though I have established in previous articles that what Manson is saying here has nothing to do with reality and is in fact all about album promotion and creating an image in the minds of his fans of the type of story he is trying to create for his album The High End of Low, which many have falsely and immaturely interpreted with reality, here I wanted to take another look at what Manson is saying in light of the Bible.

I have no inside information to interpret what Manson is saying here and my associating it with the Bible, but for anyone familiar with the Bible and Manson's use of the Bible in his art, when they read this segment of the interview, it strikes of biblical imagery.


A Broken Promise

For example, we have to ask ourselves why Manson chose the number "158", a number he combines with the times he called Evan Rachel Wood on Christmas in 2008, as well as the number he cut himself on his hands and face for every time he made a phone call. If there is a biblical association with this number, then the only real possibility is if we look at Psalm 119, which is the only chapter in the Bible that offers the possibility of having a verse 158 because it is the longest chapter in the Bible. If we were to read the King James Version of Psalm 119:158, it says: "I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not thy word."

I find this verse to be very interesting, because the entire album The High End of Low is based on a broken promise.

If we recall the lyrics to the song 'Heart-Shaped Glasses' from the album Eat Me, Drink Me, which Manson was inspired to write when Evan Rachel Wood one day walked into his house wearing heart-shaped glasses as a joke they both were amused by, he sings: "Don't break my heart, and I won't break your heart-shaped glasses." This line is basically about vengeance after a broken promise. 
 
Manson was wildly depressed over losing Dita around this time, so Evan turned to him and said that she would die for him, that they could die together. “It might sound strange,” Manson said in an interview in 2007, “but this made me want to live.” Inspired by this promise, Manson would eventually propose marriage to Evan, but she said no, citing her desire in wanting to concentrate on her career at the time. This led to a break up in October of 2008, and Manson writing and completing the album The High End of Low a few months later.

In a 2009 interview with Shockhound, Manson describes the album this way:

"At the beginning of the record I was a person who confused love with dependence and, I guess, desire with weakness. By the end of the record, I was no longer the same person. It may be autobiographical, but it's only because I realized I can't create a more fucked-up story than my own - and the characters that are in my life, I don't need to imagine or create metaphors for them. But at the same time, I set out to tell a story that everyone can relate to. I don't want to tell a story about my personal relationships, I want to tell a story about being a person that wants to try and be human, and I think that's how everyone feels. I'm not trying to be the ultimate outsider... I just wanted to see, 'What do I have to say anymore?' and I didn't know. So by track 15, if you say to me now, 'I'll love you until we die,' and you change your mind... run, or I'll kill you, and that's as non-metaphorical as I say it is."

If this is read carefully, Manson clearly explains that the album is a story created for everyone to relate to, and that it is not about his own personal relationships, though he uses himself and elements of his own biography to create this story. This fact is very important, though many find it confusing and think Manson is indeed talking about his own relationships.

The first song on the album is the song "Devour". The album shows Manson's idea of love and romance evolving from the first track to the last track, which is called "15". The story Manson creates behind the first song was that it was written three days before what was planned to be a dark Romeo and Juliet murder suicide. He had planned to kill himself and his lover. As he says in an interview with Revolver in June of 2009:

"It's kind of a murder-suicide story based on the reality of my life that day. The record maybe saved me, and the person I would have killed also. If somebody says they want to be with you until they die, I take that kind of seriously. It became a song...luckily."

Thus "Devour", the first song of the album upon which the whole album rests and develops, is a song inspired by a broken promise, which is seen as a transgression that brings judgment upon the one who broke the promise. Psalm 119:158: "I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not thy word," is the psalmist lamenting the broken covenant, or promise, of the people of God, the Jews, who he saw transgressing the commandments of God and the calamity which came upon them as a result.

Manson said to Shockhound, comparing himself to how he was before the album was completed to how he was after: "I was attaching myself to a Shakespearian concept of, 'If the world can't accept me and I'm in love, then let's die together', and now I look back at that as cowardice."

In my opinion, Psalm 119:158 is a very legitimate biblical verse for how Manson felt when he was writing "Devour", and fits the behavior he describes of calling Evan 158 times and cutting himself the same amount of times. He was lamenting a broken promise and contemplating a day of reckoning.


Precatory Language

Though I personally believe Manson was joking around and quoting Punch-Drunk Love when he said in the interview "I have fantasies every day about smashing her skull in with a sledgehammer", as evidenced by the fact that he was laughing at that point in the interview, I also think there is another element to this sentence which is based on another biblical verse from another Psalm, specifically Psalm 137:9, which reads: "Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones," or as another translation says: "Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks."

Psalm 137:9 is one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible, just like Manson's statement "I have fantasies every day about smashing her skull in with a sledgehammer" is one of his most misunderstood. Neither of them are meant to be taken literally, but people who hate the Bible usually use this verse to show how God is a God of violence who kills innocent babies, and people who hate Manson usually cite this sentence to show how Manson is abusive to women. Both interpretations, which are based on preconceived hate, are wrong.

I will not get into a theological explanation of what Psalm 137:9 really means, but what I want to focus on is that in the Book of Psalms there are a series of Psalms called Precatory Psalms, that speak of violence against the enemies of God. It is important to understand the context of this verse and others like it. The background is the Jewish people calling upon God to exact revenge upon their military enemies.

Psalm 137 is in the context of the Jewish exile in Babylon (Psalm 137:1) where they had been taken as slaves after the Babylonians burned down the city of Jerusalem. The Jews in exile were then told to “sing us one of the songs of Zion!” (Psalm 137:1), adding further humiliation and frustration to a defeated people.

The psalmist recalls both the disgraces of the Edomites (who looted Jerusalem) and the Babylonians who destroyed their capital city. He comes to two conclusions to end the psalm. First, he says, “Happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us” (Psalm 137:8). This cry for revenge desired the destruction of their enemies.

Then in verse 9, the psalmist adds further detail to this cry for revenge, claiming, “Happy is the one” who kills the infants of their enemy. The desire is graphically stated, but it is simply a call for the destruction of the entire nation—the nation that had enslaved the Jews, killed their babies, and destroyed their city. The destruction of Babylon was expressly foretold in Isaiah 13:16, and by referencing that prediction, the psalmist may mean to say that the men who were God’s instruments in carrying out that prophecy would be happy in doing His will.

If we keep in mind that the psalms are songs that express intense emotions, a statement such as “Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks” should not shock us.

The writer did not intend to go out and kill babies; rather, he desired justice, which required the death of his enemies. Even today, those who have lost loved ones at the hands of others understandably desire the death of those who committed the crime; it doesn't mean they themselves will bring about their death in a horrific way.

To bring this back to Manson's statement, we should interpret it in a similar way, because it is likewise a precatory statement. It is a statement of intense emotion people feel at a low point in their lives, and intense emotions are usually accompanied with thoughts of vengeance and violence if they think someone brought them to that state of being. Manson takes this biblical style reference from the Precatory Psalms and applies them to the story he is telling in The High End of Low, in which the characters of his story, himself and Evan, become the subjects - Manson is the one desiring vengeance against Evan for breaking her promise to him. Manson feels intense emotion, and his personal fantasy is to smash her skull in with a sledgehammer, but he decides not to do it. Why? Because he realizes the love he describes in "Devour" and in the album Eat Me, Drink Me is a love confused with dependence and desire confused with weakness. By the end of The High End of Low, Manson no longer feels the need to be dependent on anyone, and he's glad that he never brings his fantasies to fruition. In a way, you can say The High End of Low is a very positive and mature album, an album of personal evolution and development.


Concluding Remarks:

Soon after Manson makes his infamous remarks in the June 2009 Spin interview, he says further on: "This album, strangely, just looking at it objectively, talks about things in the opposite sense. I see a new beginning. And I suppose Christian school hammered the Bible into me." 
 
In a February 2009 interview with Revolver, he said of The High End of Low: "It has a sense of revenge and a sense of payback, of retribution for a lot of things. It feels very biblical in a way that Antichrist didn't really."
 
The Bible is hammered into Manson, possibly with a sledgehammer, and we have seen this in all his albums. Manson tells complicated stories, using a lot of the imagery he gets from reading various books and watching various movies and listening to various albums, but also from the Bible, and he applies all these to his own experiences and life, and wants his audience to identify with them as well. If you are not able to think like Manson, you may get lost in how he is trying to express himself, and end up with either a twisted or a literal interpretation. The Bible is the same way, which is why so many people end up with different interpretations. 
 
So when Manson says he called Evan Rachel Wood 158 times on Christmas day, and each time he called her he cut himself on his hands and face, and that he has fantasies of smashing her skull with a sledgehammer, you have to ask yourself "what does Manson mean here exactly", because if he doesn't show up in photos with 158 scars on his hands and face, then you know right away he is not being literal. A biblical interpretation will lead you to interpret this as precatory language based on a broken promise. The clues I had to go to the Bible for understanding what is meant were the fact that he did this on the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and the fact he talks about cutting himself on his hands and face, which makes me think of Christ's suffering on the cross and the crown of thorns on his head. This is just how you talk when the Bible is hammered into you.
 
 

 

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