Again from Chuck Klosterman's Fargo Rock City:
The significance of this new gimmick is substantial; [Marilyn] Manson slowly realized that American society had grown to fear drugs more than the devil. We have so demonized narcotics that they now seem worse than actual demons. In the eyes of a lot of stupid parents and confused teachers, the concept of a kid experimenting with marijuana is more terrifying than a kid who is intrigued by worshiping the devil!
Part of that evolution is due to the ill-conceived ranting of idiots like Nancy Reagan, but a larger factor was the decline of American spirituality throughout the 1980s and '90s. Regardless of how many people still describe themselves as "Christian" in census surveys, we live in a primarily agnostic culture. Intellectually, agnosticism makes more sense. But the downside is that when people lose their convictions about the existence of God and Satan, they are less able to have personal perspectives on what's right and what's wrong. They are more open-minded about old taboos, but they're also less able to see what's obvious (and therefore susceptible to propaganda).
It was easy for a vocal minority to turn drugs into the postmodern Lucifer, and savvy rappers like Cypress Hill and House of Pain picked up on that perception immediately. However, Marilyn Manson was the first metal guy smart enough to capitalize on a new era in spook rock: In the twenty-first century, Satan can be smoked, snorted, and shot.
Of course, there is a problem with all that metaphorical social deconstruction: It's all speculative. Rock 'n' Roll has followed the same path as politics, sports, film, and every other slice of the pop culture hodgepodge -- they've all placed a greater reliance on mixed messages in order to cloak selfish motives. One obviously suspects Manson's true quest is to parlay outrageousness into fame, and then sell that fame to consumers. His ultimate aspirations are almost stupidly transparent. However, his modus operandi is more sophisticated and non-linear -- at least when compared to the guileless metal satanists from the '80s.
Tags: Klosterman, Fargo Rock City