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Marilyn Manson and wife Lindsay attend Enfants Riches Déprimés event at Maxfield LA

Los Angeles brand Enfants Riches Déprimés is currently showcasing their Spring 2024 collection at Maxfield LA, and the event was attended by Marilyn Manson and his wife Lindsay on April 17th. On March 16th, Manson posted photos on his social media wearing the Enfants Riches Déprimés brand, which is French for "Depressed Rich Kids". Enfants Riches Déprimés is a Los Angeles and Paris based luxury fashion brand founded in 2012 by the conceptual artist Henri Alexander Levy, who has created a French punk streetwear line based on the movements of the late 1970s and Japanese Avant-garde movements of the 1980s. One of the core precepts of the brand is high price points, with T-shirts ranging on average from $500 to $1,000, and haute couture jackets priced as high as $95,000. ERD consistently utilizes the business model of artificial scarcity. In this regard, all styles are sold on an extremely exclusive basis, and thus in relatively small quantities. In a 2016 interview with Complex

Marilyn Manson and the Resurgence of Taboo Exploration Through Controversial Art

One of the noteworthy contributions of Marilyn Manson, especially in the first twenty years of his career, is helping to bring underground taboo exploration through transgressive controversial art into the mainstream. He did this at a time when there was a resurgence in transgressive taboo exploration, beginning around the late 1990's, but no one brought it to mainstream audiences like Marilyn Manson, which was part of the initial shock of his persona. One could say it was the foundation upon which his career was built and it was the means by which he would continually reinvent himself. The list is too long to explore this in detail, but we see it beginning with his very name, taking the first name of a woman and the last name of killer and bringing together opposites. We also see it in his first major hit with his cover of the 80's dance hit 'Sweet Dreams' by the Eurythmics, in which he explores its dark lyrics without changing a word and gives it a sleazy, creepy BDSM feel. Even his early Willy Wonka inspirations reminded us that Willy Wonka was actually a devilish villain who tempted children with deadly delights. With these and many other things, he extracted something out of the mainstream and made us think differently about it. And thinking differently about things and thinking for yourself is basically what Marilyn Manson is all about, which is also at the very essence of him being misunderstood.

When it comes to taboo exploration in Marilyn Manson's transgressive art, which is a subject I will delve into here and there on this website, I think it's important to put him in a certain historical context. Here I would like to do this through three people who have some connection to Marilyn Manson, and explored the taboo themselves in evolving ways, especially when it comes to Nazi symbolism, which has become especially controversial these days with Manson. The first we will look at is Vivienne Westwood, then David Bowie, and then the lesser known Nana Rapeblossom. Nothing that follows is necessarily a description of what Marilyn Manson believes in or approves of, but it is applicable to understanding his persona and how he views controversial symbols.

Vivienne Westwood

Her usage of the swastika symbol (most infamously donned by Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious) in her early designs signaled a rejection of the ideals of the older World War II-era generation and is still questioned by critics of her work to this day.

“I was about 36 when punk happened and I was upset about what was going on in the world,” Westwood told Harper’s Bazaar in 2013. “It was the hippies who taught my generation about politics, and that’s what I cared about – the world being so corrupt and mismanaged, people suffering, wars, all these terrible things. And I blamed the older generation for what was going on too,” she added, “so we wouldn’t even accept their taboos. That’s how the swastika symbols came to be used in punk, for example."

Emblazoned with a bold red Nazi swastika, an inverted image of Christ on the cross, the word “DESTROY,” and Sex Pistols lyrics, her anarchic 1977 shirt (pictured above) epitomized Westwood and partner Malcolm McLaren’s trailblazing brand of punk politics. Westwood has said that the shirt – undoubtedly one of her most controversial creations – was about standing up to horrific dictators around the world who were torturing people, such as Chile’s Augusto Pinochet. More broadly, it was a means of challenging the older generation, of saying “We don’t accept your values or your taboos, and you’re all fascists.” The shirt was sold at their iconic SEX store on the King’s Road.

Vivienne Westwood and her lover Malcolm McLaren had been at the heart of the British punk movement: they had dreamed up much of the look, the attitude and the lyrics, though not the sound. A full year before David Bowie adopted the same hair style, Westwood had her hair bleached blonde and cut ‘coupe-sauvage’ style: tufty, asymmetrical and barmy-looking. She went to America and dressed the New York Dolls. Together, she and McLaren assembled the Sex Pistols, whom they got to know thanks to SEX, the clothes shop they (McLaren and Westwood) ran on the King’s Road. There is fierce disagreement as to whether Westwood or John Lydon, a.k.a. Johnny Rotten, thought up the title ‘Anarchy in the UK’ – he says it was him; she says it was her – but there is no doubt that she had a powerful influence on the way punks, including Lydon, dressed. She was the first to design T-shirts covered in punk ‘bricolage’, ranging from studs and chains to chicken bones to nipple zips, and she was the one who put a safety pin through the queen’s mouth on a T-shirt. By 1977, teenagers all over England were copying the look she had started: the spiky hair, the studs, the clothes daubed with antisocial messages. It wasn’t what Westwood had wanted, though. She was hoping for revolution. "When I turned round, on the barricades,’ she says in her autobiography, ‘there was no one there. That was how it felt. They were just still pogoing. So I lost interest."

"The way I thought about 'punk' politics," Westwood later in life said, "was this: at the time, we were just becoming aware of these terrible politicians torturing people – I’m thinking of Pinochet, for instance ... The idea was that kids would try to put a spoke in the wheel of this terrible killing machine." She saw herself as someone who would "confront the rotten status quo through the way I dressed and dressed others." But it turned out that the kids were mainly interested in buying the new rubber skirts and bondage gear from her shop and playing punk rock records. Whoever deserves the credit for the title ‘Anarchy in the UK’, the people listening to the music were not taking the message seriously enough. Few punks got the connection – so obvious to Westwood – between wearing a distressed top featuring a swastika, the word DESTROY and defeating Pinochet. Westwood believed her clothes – which she saw and always saw as her art – were inexorably leading punks towards radical politics. When you put on a punk garment such as a real dog collar, Westwood says, "basically you are insulting yourself, but you’re also clearing yourself of all egotism." But when she turned round, they were just spitting and jumping. So by 1979 she moved on to other things.

David Bowie

His album Station to Station (1976) introduced a new Bowie persona, the emotionless Aryan Superhuman "Thin White Duke" of its title-track. Visually, the character was an extension of Thomas Jerome Newton, the extraterrestrial being he portrayed in the film The Man Who Fell to Earth the same year. The extent to which drug addiction was now affecting Bowie was made public when Russell Harty interviewed him for his London Weekend Television talk show in anticipation of the album's supporting tour. Shortly before the satellite-linked interview was scheduled to commence, the death of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco was announced. Bowie was asked to relinquish the satellite booking, to allow the Spanish Government to put out a live newsfeed. This he refused to do, and his interview went ahead. In the ensuing lengthy conversation with Harty, Bowie was incoherent and looked "disconnected". His sanity—by his own later admission—had become twisted from cocaine; he overdosed several times during the year and was withering physically to an alarming degree.

Station to Station's January 1976 release was followed in February by a nearly four-month-long concert tour of Europe and North America. The tour was highly successful but mired in political controversy. Bowie was quoted in Stockholm as saying that "Britain could benefit from a Fascist leader," and was detained by customs on the Russian/Polish border for possessing Nazi paraphernalia. The London-based Uncut magazine reported Bowie was carrying books about Nazi Germany leaders Joseph Goebbels and Albert Speer, and that he considered them "research" materials for a film he was planning about Hitler's propaganda tactics.

Cameron Crowe, an American film director and writer, conducted the infamous Bowie interview, which Playboy magazine published in September 1976. There Bowie was asked by Crowe: "You've often said that you believe very strongly in fascism. Yet you also claim you'll one day run for Prime Minister of England. More media manipulation?" To this Bowie replied:

"Christ, everything is a media manipulation. I'd love to enter politics. I will one day. I'd adore to be Prime Minister. And, yes, I believe very strongly in fascism. The only way we can speed up the sort of liberalism that's hanging foul in the air at the moment is to speed up the progress of a right-wing, totally dictatorial tyranny and get it over as fast as possible. People have always responded with greater efficiency under a regimental leadership. A liberal wastes time saying, "Well, now, what ideas have you got?" Show them what to do, for God's sake. If you don't, nothing will get done. I can't stand people just hanging about. Television is the most successful fascist, needless to say. Rock stars are fascists, too. Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars."

Bowie continued by describing Hitler "as good as Jagger" in how he "worked an audience" and used the media to his advantage. After several more questions from Crowe on a variety of topics, the journalist asked Bowie if he stood by and believed everything he had said in their conversation. "Everything but the inflammatory remarks," Bowie responded.

Bowie at the time, through his Thin White Duke persona, seemed to insinuate that liberalism and change in society can only come through right wing fascism rising up and dying off, and to bring on this change he was talking about himself as this fascist leader that would kill off fascism. Very few people, however, understood this very controversial persona, and it would eventually lead Bowie to have to denounce it altogether. He would say: "There will be a political figure in the not too distant future who'll sweep through this part of the world like early rock'n' roll did. You probably hope I'm not right but I am ... You've got to have an extreme right front come up and sweep everything off its feet and tidy everything up. Then you can get a new form of liberalism."

Matters came to a head in London in May in what became known as the "Victoria Station incident". Arriving in an open-top Mercedes convertible, Bowie waved to the crowd in a gesture that some alleged was a Nazi salute, which was captured on camera and published in NME. Bowie said the photographer caught him in mid-wave. In an October 1977 issue of the Melody Maker, he was asked about this incident, and after exploding from his chair, he said: "That didn't happen. That did not happen. I waved. I just waved. Believe me. On the life of my child, I waved. And the bastard caught me. In mid-wave, man. And, God, did that photo got some coverage... As [if] I'd be foolish enough to pull a stunt like that. I died when I saw the photo. And even the people who were with me said, 'David! How could you?' The bastards. I didn't ... God, I just don't believe in all that."

He later blamed his pro-fascism comments and his behavior during the period on his addictions and the character of the Thin White Duke. "I was out of my mind, totally crazed. The main thing I was functioning on was mythology ... that whole thing about Hitler and Rightism ... I'd discovered King Arthur." In a 1993 interview with NME, Bowie said: "My interest in [the Nazis] was the fact they supposedly came to England before the war to find the Holy Grail at Glastonbury. The idea that it was about putting Jews in concentration camps and the complete oppression of different races completely evaded my extraordinary fucked-up nature at that particular time."

According to playwright Alan Franks, writing later in The Times, "he was indeed 'deranged'. He had some very bad experiences with hard drugs." Bowie's cocaine addiction, which had motivated these controversies, had much to do with his time living in Los Angeles, a city which alienated him. Discussing his flirtations with fascism in a 1980 interview with NME, Bowie explained that Los Angeles was "where it had all happened. The fucking place should be wiped off the face of the Earth. To be anything to do with rock and roll and go and live in Los Angeles is, I think, just heading for disaster. It really is."

After recovering from addiction, Bowie apologized for these statements, and throughout the 1980s and 1990s criticized racism in European politics and the American music industry. Nevertheless, Bowie's comments on fascism, as well as Eric Clapton's alcohol-fuelled denunciations of Pakistani immigrants in 1976, led to the establishment of Rock Against Racism.

Nana Rapeblossom

The reason I bring up this fetish model and former Suicide Girl is because I noticed that on June 9, 2009, she was #10 on Marilyn Manson's Top 15 on MySpace and at the same time he was her #11, so I decided to look into her. While looking into her, I also found out that she has at least met Marilyn Manson, by her own admission. It appears she has been out of the public eye since around 2010 or so, but at the time lived in Milan, Italy. If you want to learn more about her, look at these links, the contents of which some might find to be disturbing (Suicide Girls, Tumblr, MySpace, Interview). Besides the fact that she has an interesting name and is wearing a shirt that says "RAPE", when I clicked on her MySpace it had a F.A.Q. section that contained the following information:

May 11, 2009

F.A.Q. about me

If you ever wanted to ask me a question, do it now.

Let's start from the beginning...

1) Why did you leave suicide girls?
I didn not leave, they banned me from the site.
I joined the site mainly for a situationistic purpose, bringing an edge to the boredom of their pictures. People were scandalized by the totenkopf in the Nanohana set, but I was actually wearing a triskell (another symbol used by nazis) in the first Nursery Crime set.

2) So are you a neonazi?
Lol no. Do you see me shaving my head and shouting "white power" at black people on the street? My obsession with nazi pop culture and nazi exploitation has totally different roots.

3) Are you a racist?
Nope again, I have friends of all races.

4) How did you start modelling?
It's just a way like another to express myself. It's just a way like another to make art. 90% of my shootings are completely directed by me.

Go on, ask me whatever you want.
I'll answer asap.

And she goes on to answer other questions from her followers here.

In 2009, when Manson was referencing Nazi's and Rape in his art, Nana Rapeblossom was also, so much so that she was banned by the Suicide Girls (read about the controversy here). In her response to her use of Nazi symbolism in her art, she explains it as follows:

"No matter if I tried to explain the meaning I give to the nazism, the allegoric references I put in it, the fact is it symbolizes The Beast Of Prey to myself, where the Prey incredibly supports the Beast (and this might make us think about our own strange nature as humans...)"

Nietzsche uses the image of a “beast of prey” to symbolize humanity's natural tendency toward strength, aggression, and predatory behavior. However, she gets this reference of a Beast of Prey from Richard Wagner, referencing the following:

"Man is a beast of prey.

A beast of Prey Conquers countries.
Founds great realms by the subjegation of other subjugators.
Forms states and organizes civilization in order to enjoy his booty in peace.
Attack and defense, suffering and struggle, victory and defeat, domination and servitude, all sealed with blood.

This is the entire history of the human race."

Nana Rapeblossom and Dolly Lamour

In a fascinating interview from February 2, 2009 (which can be read here), we read her say the following.

"Something that is not easily accepted usually evokes a knee-jerk reaction before a deeper understanding of the concept is acquired. Which is necessary. A necessary 'evil' if you like, because this reaction seems to be somehow inescapable when introducing a new way of understanding. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe I am personally significant in this shift. I’m more devoted to raising the general consent of the public towards these themes and exploiting the confusion it raises. I’m not actively seeking confrontation. It’s not something I would want to engage head in order to understand it’s relevance - either emotionally or aesthethically. However, you will never hear me say that it is easy.

In fact symbols have the tendency to rise above their original intention, allowing just about anyone exploit them for their own purposes. The swastika has still a strong connection to Nazism and there is still a huge feeling of uneasiness when confronted with it. I take it for the reaction it creates without directly associating it with any political or spiritual meaning. This doesn’t mean that it’s devoid of meaning to me though. But to use a symbol is to change its meaning. Whatever connection it has for others personally. The personal resonance it has when I use it is up to others to figure out."

Later in the interview, she is asked the following question about the present and future of taboo exploration, which leads to the follow-up response:

Q: How do you think this new resurgence of taboo exploration is going to look in lets say ten years? Do you think it will all date badly?

A: Sadly, the impression is that we’re in a regressive period. Many things that weren’t taboo 30 years ago became taboos now. And this is why we’re exploring them now - because we feel that THEY are panicking and desperately trying to regain some form of control by telling us what’s right and what’s not. I am optimist anyway. It might appear like a sort of new Middle Age from a certain point of view, but I still hope that we are at the gates of a new Renaissance.

Concluding Remarks:

Vivienne Westwood and David Bowie started something in the 1970s that became a part of underground punk revolutionary culture, though ultimately unsuccessful as a revolution and primarily became a fashion statement with deeper meanings than what common sensibilities perceived them to be. With the rise of the internet in the late 1990s and the mainstream success of people like Marilyn Manson who were bringing underground fashion and philosophy to a wider audience that had no idea how to understand these things aside from their preconceived notions, taboo exploration gained a resurgence which by 2009 was starting to be swept away again but now kept alive through the free expression allowed by social media. But like Nana Rapeblossom's career, it eventually faded more and more with the increasing rise of political correctness and woke culture. This basic historical outline I believe is important to understanding the art of Marilyn Manson. Just by reading everything above, the similarities to Manson in certain ways should immediately pop out if you are familiar with his career.