When are we all going to learn that rock stars do not live by different rules where abuse is concerned?
Actress Evan Rachel Wood has accused Marilyn Manson (real name Brian Warner) of abuse when they were in a relationship. She claims that he groomed her as a teenager – they began dating when she was 19 and he was 37 – and he manipulated her into submission. Wood previously accused an unnamed person of sexual, emotional and physical abuse, including rape and torture, leaving her with PTSD. Other women have come forward and made similar accusations.
Manson’s ex-wife, Dita Von Teese, and former partner Rose McGowan say he didn’t behave that way with them. (McGowan still supports Manson’s accusers.) Manson denies all allegations as “horrible distortions of reality”, but he has now been dropped by his record label, talent label and management.
One striking aspect is that Manson never hid anything, from music journalists or anyone else. Extremely provocative statements and behaviour were integral to his public persona (though we shouldn’t confuse them with abuse). BDSM sex, drugs, excess, alienation, satanism, stage shows where naked women were dragged around on dog leads and more. His autobiography, The Long Hard Road Out of Hell, is relentlessly hardcore. (Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor has come forward once again to deny a segment about him and Manson sexually assaulting a heavily intoxicated woman.) After he and Wood split, Manson told an interviewer: “I have fantasies every day about smashing her skull in with a sledgehammer.” What was that: a red flag or “Manson just being Manson”? Therein lies the problem, and not just with Manson, rather with the darker elements of rock’n’roll culture itself.
This goes some way to explaining why the #MeToo movement has struggled with exposing past and present abusers (and not only artists). Overt misogyny and sexual boorishness have long been embedded in music culture, involving artists, the people around them and the structure they work within. Also, some of the most powerful enablers of all: music fans who wish to live vicariously through rock stars (drink, drugs, sex) and who celebrate and ultimately drive their worst excessive behaviour. It’s these fan-enablers who have traditionally given artist-abusers the financial incentive and cultural permission to continue.
All of which is fine when it’s confined to daring, chaotic “excess all areas”. Who doesn’t want that from rock stars? It isn’t fine when it leads to abuse, using the excuse of “rock’n’roll behaviour” and the other unspoken justification – that the women, even when insensible and defenceless, were “into it”.
Who are the fan-enablers who helped make this culture acceptable? (Me? You?). Is it finally changing? Certainly, the stale argument of “different times” no longer holds. Whatever happens regarding Manson, the music industry was never right to indulge the mindset that the abuse and exploitation of girls and women was wild, sexy and aspirational. It was always grotesque that fans bought into it. Musicians have been let off the hook for far too long.
Spare a thought for Amazon’s staff, not Bezos and his billions
Call me hard-hearted, but I couldn’t care less about the quality of Jeff Bezos’s life. His workers are another matter.
Bezos is partly stepping down from the day-to-day running of Amazon. He’ll still be involved in some capacity, but he will also have time to pursue other interests, including the Washington Post (purchased in 2013) and space exploration. Ooh, the same as Elon Musk! Just what is it about male multibillionaires and feeling an urge to point enormous phallic rockets at the sky?
Bezos may be wanting to duck out of forthcoming investigations into Amazon’s business practices or maybe he just fancies kicking back and having a softcore midlife crisis. Good luck to him. On the other hand, Bezos has proved consistently allergic to Amazon paying rightful amounts of tax. His record with small businesses isn’t the greatest. Then there are the relentless issues with pay, hours and working conditions for Amazon staff .
Is Bezos still accountable for Amazon’s problems as well as its successes? It seems he is and not just because he still owns a significant share of the company. Coco Chanel was wrong – you can be “too rich”, at least if you wish to fly completely under the ethical radar. Bill Gates seems to have become aware of this, especially in recent years. At a certain point of mega-wealth, you become a moral disgrace if you aren’t seen putting conspicuous effort into giving back – or just paying taxes.
In this context, Bezos wandering off in his yoga pants to ponder the meaning of existence, solve the mysteries of the solar system and alarm innocent journalists by being more available for editorial meetings comes across as rather grating. Most of us use Amazon, so it would be hypocritical to fully slam the Bezos business model. However, as our online champ downsizes and de-stresses, let’s not forget some of the messes he left behind.
No wonder Matt Hancock was inspired by a disaster movie
It could be a sign of the times that Matt Hancock’s admission about how Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 film Contagion influenced the UK’s vaccine strategy has not caused much more of a furore.
Hancock said that watching Contagion made him realise that there would be a global rush for the vaccine and “ huge row about the order of priority”. Hence, the health secretary decided to ensure that Britain would be first in the queue, after which, one presumes, he fetched some popcorn from the kitchen and treated himself to a viewing of Tenet.
In fairness to Hancock, he made it very clear that Contagion wasn’t his main source of scientific inquiry. He also noted that Contagion had employed top epidemiologists who went to great pains to be accurate. However, disaster movies, even good ones, shouldn’t feature in any way in official government pandemic strategy. And while the epidemiologists should be respected, most films of Contagion’s nature would ensure they hired experts for the “science bits”.
Above all, Matt, dude, seriously, it’s a movie, not a Sage briefing. And why are you even talking about this? Maybe it’s only the second worst news that Hancock used Contagion as part of his vaccine strategy. The worst thing is that he was dumb enough to admit it in public.
• Barbara Ellen is an Observer columnist