Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Visual Deconstruction Of "The Dope Show"

And who doesn 't remember Marilyn Manson's  most androgynous era back when Mechanical Animals came out?

Yes, it was mind-boggling and it really brought back that ultra glam Bowie-esque vibe. The look in Mechanical Animals went quite well with the times due that we were almost at the end of the millenium, but it's no secret either that most of Marilyn Manson's albums have always had an apocalyptic feel, never to be taken literally though.

On this ocassion we make a visual analysis of the first single and video, "The Dope Show"; why? For many reasons, one of them because it was really fun to watch.

So let's start off with one of the first scenes in which Manson lands on 'Earth' as a white androgynous white alien, Omega which is captured and taken into a building that's kind of familiar. Now you might think that it was the Power Rangers, no, the truth is that this building is known as the Brandeis Bardin Institute located in Simi Valley, California. It´s now the Brandeis-Bardin Campus of American Jewish University, a Jewish retreat. It is known for its nondenominational summer programs for children, teens and young adults.

"The Dope Show´s" futuristic laboratory...

The House of the Book building at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute
They say that many inspiration for this video was taken from David Bowie's 1976 film named "The Man Who Fell To Earth", a British science fiction film directed by Nicolas Roeg, based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, about an extraterrestrial who crash lands on Earth seeking a way to ship water to his planet, which is suffering from a severe drought.

As you can see in this scene Manson is taken studied to be studied, and you can clearly see his ambiguous fisonomy. This reminds us of another one of the scenes from the "The Man Who Fell To Earth".

MM taken in to be studied...

David Bowie as  Thomas Jerome Newton.

Another aspect that caught our attention was the use of these futuristic sculptures or devices around Manson's body, both of which are supposed to have a function. The first one is these series of red plugs which mimic wiring and circuits. The piece was actually known as "Overflowing Blood Machine" by Rebecca Horn, a German installation artist most famous for her body modifications such as Einhorn (Unicorn), a body-suit with a very large horn projecting vertically from the headpiece, and Pencil Mask, a mesh harness for the head with many pencils projecting out. In May-August, 2005 the Hayward Gallery in London held a Rebecca Horn retrospective.

"Overflowing Blood Machine" was a visual performance, orginally with a male strapped to a series of red tubes, simulating his circulation system and reducing him to nothing but a machine which keeps pumping blood. This is not the first time Manson has used this resource. In the cover art for "Antichrist Superstar" a similar series of tubes were tied to his genitals.

"Overflowing Blood Machine" , recreated for "The Dope Show", by Rebecca Horn.


The original suit by Rebecca Horn, Überströmer, New York 1993
Starting from the song title, "The Dope Show" mocks many of the aspects that make Hollywood so decadent. In the limo sequence where Omega is to be transformed into a rockstar he meets a producer briefly played by Billy Zane, who was worked with Manson several times. Part of the tabloid magazines he's holding resemble the National Enquirer and Spin. This last part could be about an incident which took place back in November 1998, where Spin editor Craig Marks was assaulted by Manson's bodyguards. Ironically, the video was shot in August of the same year...

Cameo by actor Billy Zane, showing parodies of the National Enquirer and Spin magazines.
Next, another interesting Rebecca Horn's sculpture dubbed "Cornucopia" which a molded plastic device set in place with a strap on the forehead that simulates a self-nurturing effect. The piece was conceived back in 1970; the one Omega wears is a more modernized version.

MM, showing a modern version of Rebecca Horn´s Cornucopia.

Rebecca Horn, Cornucopia, 1970

Among the real-life locations that were used in the shooting of "The Dope Show" is the Municipal Traffic Court Building, located in Downtown Los Angeles, with a style known as Brutalist architecture. This was shown in the Omega and the Mechanical Animals ficticious performance, shot while the band was placed on top of the trailer of an 18-wheeler transport truck.

Omega and the Mechanical Animal's performance...

The actual place: Municipal Traffic Court Building 1970 by architect William Allen
Many of the costumes were conceived by Manson along with designer Terri King, who has worked for several artists like Ozzy Osbourne and Iggy Pop. She also designed the transparent feathered suit seen on the "Rock Is Dead" video.

Another outfit designed by Terri King Clothing

In another sequence we see Omega smashing his clonesor copies enraged by what he sees. This evokes Alejandro Jodorowsky´s film from 1973 "The Holy Mountain", but in his case he destroys several mannequins of Jesus. This aspect is incredibly symbolic because Manson has made it very clear by saying that a holy figure or an idol has become a figure of massive consumption:

"People are made to feel so guilty about having human feelings, but then they´re supposed to pray to this phallic symbol with a half-naked rockstar on it." (Revolver Magazine, Winter 2000)


Scene from Alejandro Jodorowsky´s "The Holy Mountain"
The last sequence features a transvestite dancer commonly known as The Goddess Bunny. It´s actually a boy whose real name is Johnnie Baima. He also appears in some deleted scenes from this video in the VHS edition of "God Is In the TV" where he and the other band members are in the back of the limousine.

Johnnie Baima , aka The Goddess Bunny.

So what else can we highlight about "The Dope Show" that hasn´t been said before. The live performance in the 1998 MTV VMA´s included huge signs with keywords like "DOPE SHOW" emphasizing the whole concept about drugs and fame...

"there´s lots of pretty, pretty ones that wanna get you high, but all the pretty, pretty ones will leave you low and blow your mind..."

These lyrics are similar in nature to "Heart-Shaped Glasses":

"that blue is getting me high, making me low..."

As well as "I Have To Look Up Just To See Hell":

"...we reached the high end of low..."
and most recently with the title of the painting "Everyone Has A Blue Period"; a possible analogy for "the low" or deep sadness, depression or a state of calmness or feeling numb.

One of Pink Floyd´s "The Wall" most famous track, "Comfortably Numb" clearly expresses what it´s like to live in a period where there´s absolutely no pain, but it´s also a of limbo which is similar to the concept behind the ficticious character of Coma White. So once again "The Dope Show" symbolizes a futuristic world deprived of feelings, emotions and replaced by artificial thrills.

This, in the end turns out to be a timeless phenomenon covered in the past centuries with the rising of art movements such as Expressionism, and Futurism. It also reminds us very much of the Fritz Lang movie "Metropolis" in which the female character Maria is replaced with a sinister robotic version of her.

The robotic "Maria"; compare to "The Dope Show´s" still of Manson with
the "Overflowing Blood Machine" costume.

So please enjoy watching this visually stunning video directed by Paul Hunter. Have a great weekend!

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