Video Analysis – Marilyn Manson, Personal Jesus Marilyn Manson (born January 5, 1969 as Brian Hugh Warner), is an American musician and artist known for his controversial stage persona and image. His stage name was formed from the names of actress Marilyn Monroe and convicted murderer Charles Manson, doing so to demonstrate the odd dichotomy of society (American society in particular). His long legacy as being depicted in the media as a bad influence on children, along with his seemingly outrageous styles for which he models, and the controversy surrounding his lyrics all have led to his more pronounced public appeal. Mason formed Marilyn Mason and the Spooky Kids in Florida in 1989 (the name was shortened to Marilyn Manson in 1992). While with The Spooky Kids, he was involved in two side-projects: Satan on Fire, a faux Christian metal ensemble where he played bass guitar, and played drums in Mrs. Scabtree. In the summer of 1993, the band drew the attention of Trent Reznor (American songwriter/musician/producer). Reznor produced Marilyn Manson’s 1994 debut album, ‘Portrait of an American Family’ and released it on his Nothing Records label. The band began to develop a cult following, which grew larger with the release ‘Smells Like Children’ in 1995. That EP yielded the band’s first big MTV hit with ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’. In the US alone, three of the band’s albums have been awarded platinum certification, three more gold, and the band has had three releases debut in the top ten, including two number-one albums. ‘Personal Jesus’ was Depeche Mode’s twenty third UK single, released on August 29, 1989 and was written by Martin L. Gore. Marilyn Manson then covered this track in 2004. The cover does not deviate in any large degree from Depeche Mode’s original version, apart from additional guitar distortion. The single was accompanied by a music video directed by Manson and Nathan Cox, which features the band members accompanied by rear-projection images depicting various images of American and international political figures such as John F. Kennedy, Joseph Stalin, Gandhi, Adolf Hitler and George Bush. Nothing Records was an American record label, specialising in industrial rock and electronic music, and this was the record label that Marilyn Manson was initially signed to. It is considered an example of a vanity label, where an artist is able to run a label, with some degree of independence from within a larger parent company, Interscope in this case. Nothing Records became defunct in 2004. Interscope is part of Universal Music, who own 25% of the world’s music sales. Interscope have a wide variety of artists including Marilyn Manson, 50 Cent, Enrique Iglesias and U2. Mark Williams (voted the no.1 A&R on the world top A&R chart 2005) says in an interview: “I approach A&R by helping artists make records and trying to figure out what is needed in each particular case. We have a wide variety of artists at Interscope Records. I work with more varieties than most people do. I don’t just do hop hop. I tend more towards the Alternative and Rock/Pop side of things.” Marilyn Manson directs many of his own videos, so has a very active input into the overall look of the video. Stereotypically rock/gothic videos have a very strong performance element to them, due to the nature of how the music is streamed to fans – generally through the use of live performance. Marilyn Manson conforms to this
convention, as ‘Personal Jesus’ does have a strong performance ethic, with many shots of the band performing in front of a backdrop. The target audience for Marilyn Manson is difficult to put in terms of Young and Rubicam’s ideas, as Marilyn Manson’s music is appreciated by a niche market that may not be specifically included in their ideas. However, Marilyn Manson could attract a mainly teenage market, due to the rebellious nature of his music. Throughout the video for ‘Personal Jesus’, there is a continued theme of dark colours, with many shadows. This could be reinforcing the genre of horror within his videos, and through the use of dark lighting and shadows, the video has a very sinister atmosphere, reflecting the nature of the music. There are also many references to Christianity, through iconographic images of marks on the palms of the hand, and the religious element of the video has a direct relation with the song title. A generic band set up is used in this video to reinforce the genre of rock, however the clothes they are wearing also set up the genre of horror, with very abstract dark make up and hair conforming to the conventions of horror. Marilyn’s make up is very stylistic, presenting that he is perhaps not real. In the shot below, he is shown amongst the darkness, and this could present to the audience that he is scary, like the night stereotypically is associated.
Close up shots of the instruments are used, portraying that the physical music is an important factor and that the band can actually play their instruments, reinforcing the genre of rock. A backdrop is also used for the band to play against, setting up a live music location. The dark colours create an eerie atmosphere, and promote for the audience to be wary of them though this.
Political figures are continually flashed throughout the video, in the backdrop behind the band. This explains to the audience hidden meanings behind the song “someone to hear your prayers, someone who cares”, perhaps presenting an irony towards to government. Using political topics also presents the band as ‘serious’ and therefore the physical images of them are taken seriously as well.
The shadow of the drummer reinforces the enigma of the dark being the ‘unknown’, which could also present the band as being mysterious and frightening as they are not showing their true selves, but shadowing in the darkness.
This still shows an image of the lead singer infront of an image of the moon. The moon has a number of connotations, linking in with the supernatural and wild nature, has anti-Christian/Pagen sentiments (irony created with the title of the song ‘Personal Jesus’ relating to religion), and insanity. The lighting blends the colour of the moon and Marilyn’s face as the same colour, showing the audience that he is all of the connotations of the moon, and placing him in front reflects his importance.
This still shows a distorted sexualised image deviating away from conventions of how women are presented. Similar lighting is used in this shot throughout all of the shots, reflecting that these women are in the same ‘world’ as the band, with the same ideologies. However, these women are presented as having no opinions, as they just have a backdrop of the colour black, presenting a blankness to them, and they will just follow in the distorted expectations of the band’s opinions. This idea could also be presenting a further irony to the mainstream market with the perfectionism of women and how they must be presented as a sex object.
This image presents the band’s opinions on the corrupution of the church, with women posing as nuns, but yet wearing dark make up, and carrying a baby, reflecting Christian beliefs about abortion, but yet the baby is being brought into a corrupt world.
The women handing the new born baby over to Marilyn could present Marilyn bringing the baby into his own world of knowledge without ignorance. The distorted image of the American flag in the background could reflect the perceptions of the ‘American Dream’. It could also reflect the innocence of children, and how they need protection from the presented corruption. This shot is shown over the lyrics “And your all alone”, reinforcing the idea that there is no hope for young children. The final shot shows Marilyn in front of the moon again, presenting his importance in the video. The editing reflects the pace of the music, with cuts generally occuring on the 2nd or 4th beat of the bar, maintaing the upbeat tempo.
Published on Dec 29, 2009