Cults and Los Angeles Term Paper

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Marilyn Manson?

What is a cult?

Is MM a cult?

Why is Southern California most affected by cults? 6-8

Marilyn Manson shot to heights of unprecedented fame when his album 'Antichrist Superstar' became a multi-platinum success in 1996. As the name of the album suggests, the group stands for everything unconventional, shockingly bizarre and appallingly occult. The bandleader, Brian Warner, doesn't mind being given so much attention even if most of it is negative in nature. While Manson is seen as a curse on America's moral fabric, he is madly idolized by millions of teenagers in the country who would probably give an arm and a leg to be in his shoes. His fame appalls many but not Manson himself who believes an anti-hero is an essential figure in the American culture (Baddeley, 2000). However what is even more interesting than his sudden rise to extreme heights of notoriety is the fact that his cult has affected Southernern California more than any other region.

We are familiar with the way cults are readily accepted by Californians but what we don't understand is why this happens. What are the social and psychological factors, which make Southern Californians vulnerable to new ideas and beliefs? We shall discuss this later in the paper because answering this question is not an easy task and requires clear understanding of what MM stands for and what exactly makes it a cult.

Who And What is MM.

Marilyn Manson- the band is synonymous with everything bizarre, defiant and in opposition with mainline culture and beliefs. The band may not deserve this kind of notoriety and the press and public may have been a little too harsh on Manson's ideologies, but it is clear that this band will not be able to get rid of this negative image and reputation, at least not in the foreseeable future. That is because this band has indeed been involved with things that have negative overtones for example their close association with the Church of Satan. It is important to know what makes Marilyn Manson a cultic group and whether the band leader, Brian Warner deserves to be classified as Public Enemy No. 1.

Born in the town of Canton Ohio in 1969, Manson did not exactly have a happy or normal childhood, something that might be partially responsible for his connection with the Dark world of occults. In an interview with Billy Sloan of Sunday Mail, Manson recalls: "I don't think I had an unhappy childhood, but I was left on my own a lot...I didn't have a lot of friends, so I had to find other ways to keep myself company and entertain myself. I was very much in my own little world and I still am. It's a much easier way to live." (Sloan, Sunday Mail)

While studying and analyzing Marilyn Manson and his cult, it is extremely important to take into account the bandleader's history, his personality traits and his preferences and obsessions for they are reliable sources of information on the development and evolution of cults in our society. From his days at the Christian Grammar School, Manson developed a fascination for the darker side of religion and theology. He was more interested in gathering information about the people who opposed the Christ than the ones who supported him. This says a lot about Manson's psyche and the reason why his band is termed as cultic group. In the same interview, Manson elaborated on his bizarre obsessions saying, "I have an obsession with medical devices and prosthetics...I own the skeleton of a seven-year-old Chinese boy. I also like animals, which have been stuffed by taxidermists because as a kid most of my pets died. I thought if I had pets, which were already dead, I didn't run that risk."

Now, you don't call that normal. But then Manson has never been associated with anything orthodox or conventional. It is not exactly easy to decide whether Manson is for real or if he is just a bored American kid exploiting people's fascination with the dark side. At times it appears that Manson is only putting up an act, but at others he appears too genuinely devoted to his beliefs and cause to be termed a fake. But since the genuineness of the band and his leader is out of the scope of current discussion, we must now move on to analyze the band from other aspects.

What is a cult?

Manson has been termed a cult and therefore it is important to see what exactly is a cult and if MM can be classified as one. Cult is a group whose members have similar ideologies and principles, most of which are strange and bizarre in nature. Cult groups use psychoactive techniques to control the minds and actions of their members. Margaret Thaler Singer Cults in Our Midst: The Hidden Menace in Our Everyday Lives (1995) closely examines the cult phenomenon in our country and focuses on some of the main features of a cult. She is of the view that Cult is not only for the crazy few it can affect any one of us in a vulnerable state. In other words, Singer maintains that cultic groups use psychoactive techniques to brainwash their followers but to do this they need to make use of their members' frailties and weaknesses. Singer concludes that cult phenomenon is not exclusive to the United States but is penetrating every culture and society around the world. "Instead of one Big Brother, we see herds of Big Brothers in the world today." A cultic group is one that promises its members a whole new world where their ideals and principles reign supreme and where authority is aggressively questioned. She writes, "Eventually these groups subject their followers to mind-numbing treatments that block critical and evaluative thinking and subjugate independent choice in a context of a strictly enforced hierarchy."

Is MM a cult?

MM can be called a cult because its ardent fans support the convictions, beliefs, and practices of its leader. In such groups, cult leaders play the most important role. MM fits this description of a cultic group too since Brian Warner literally controls the thoughts and actions of his fans. Singer argues it is not only the leader's personality that matters but his persuasive skills that make all the difference. "Legend has it that all cult leaders are charismatic. In reality charisma is less important than the skills of persuasion and the ability to manipulate others. In order to start a group, a leader has to have ways of convincing others to follow him or her, and such leaders tend not to relinquish control."

Marilyn Manson does have that kind of power over its fans. While we may hate to admit this, but fans of MM are not ordinary fans of a musician. They are his devotees in the real sense and like true followers have adopted his beliefs and thoughts which may not be a positive sign.

It is one thing to admire someone and appreciate his work, it is another to become a devotee and relinquish control of one's own thinking faculties. It is when fans turn into followers that problems surface and a group can no longer be categorized 'normal'. This is exactly what happened with MM, which rose to new heights of fame when Columbine high school massacre was associated with it. It was rumored that two school children who killed 12 of their classmates in 1999 were MM devotees. While it was later found to be a baseless allegation, MM's reputation as a cult gained even more momentum with this accusation.

Supporters of MM argue that Manson has an easy-to-blame face that makes it easier for the people to hold him responsible for such incidents. Opponents on the other hand maintain that the kind of control MM enjoys over his fans is not something normal and thus his activities should be carefully monitored.

Why Cults affect Southern California

It is interesting to note that while the teenagers in almost every part of the country and internationally too adore MM and his radical lyrics; it is only in Southern California that his popularity reached alarming limits. It was once again this part of the United States that came into the grips of this dangerous trend. But the important question is why? Why does Southernern California suffer from cultic traditions and trends more than other parts of the world? The question has been answered by experts in the light of different sociological and psychological theories with some even blaming the geographical location for this rise in cult following. The answer to this question will also help us understand how and why California played an important role in the success of MM.

Mike Davis in his book, Ecology of Fear' feels Los Angeles' rapid unplanned urbanization is the very reason disasters hit this part of our country more often. He blames the city's lack of common sense and rising…[continue]

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