Constructing the Antichrist as Superstar: Marilyn Manson and the Mechanics of Eschatological Narrative

Patrick William Osborne


This article examines the moral crusade against Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar, the various sign-vehicles that contributed to his persona, and the social construction of a folk devil. By fashioning his persona using previous claims concerning Satan’s influence in society—primarily, those employed during the 1980s Satanism scare—Manson ensured that Antichrist Superstar would incite panic as moral crusaders interpreted his pseudo-ostensive actions using collective memories and explanatory millenarianism. He achieved this aim by attacking middle-class Christian ideologies and connecting his persona to previous social problems and cultural scripts to delineate his deviant character. The pseudo-ostensive characteristics of Manson’s stage performances and blasphemous lyrics grant creditability to traditional folk beliefs concerning Satan’s influence in rock music therefore allowing conservative groups to interpret his persona using pre-existing rumours and narratives. By presenting himself as the Antichrist, Manson became a social problem for fundamentalist Christianity: a reiterated moral panic greatly blown out of proportion, and produced using traditional exaggerations and deviant stereotypes in a collective attempt to construct a folk devil. Because Manson’s image and lyrics are meticulously fashioned from various cultural symbols concerning evil and the Antichrist, he encourages his own demonization by enticing his audience to employ explanatory millenarianism and the knowledge of previous cultural scripts to interpret the traditional representations of evil he dangles before them.


Marilyn Manson, Persona, Moral Panic, Eschatology, Satanism, Social Constructionism

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