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“It’s All Me… In One Way or Another”: Transgressive Queer Embodiment in the Music Videos of Marilyn Manson

Masterman, Brandon P. (2012) “It’s All Me… In One Way or Another”: Transgressive Queer Embodiment in the Music Videos of Marilyn Manson. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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My work attempts to understand the deployment of transgressive queerness in contemporary American popular music videos. Rather than aligning with either the conservative moral panics or liberal arguments regarding free speech, I suggest that productive alternative understandings exist outside of this oppositional binary. Focusing on Marilyn Manson, particularly, I analyze how various performances open up a space of potentiality for greater imaginings of embodiment and erotics.

The music of Marilyn Manson presents a scathing critique of the cultural landscape of the United States in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Through performance, the band is critical of religion, particularly Christianity, capitalism, and numerous ideologies of normativity, including beauty and sexuality. This performative commentary manifests in a number of different forms, which can each be traced, in true Deleuzian fashion, back to different nodes along a common theoretical plane—a rhizomatic constellation of critical discourse—of queer and gender studies.

I begin by situating Manson as gesturing toward an eroticized posthuman aesthetic. Informed by diverse scholars such as feminist theorist of science Donna Haraway, gender theorists Kim Toffoletti and Judith “Jack” Halberstam, and musicologists Suzanne Cusick and Judith Peraino, I argue that Manson discursively suggests alternative ways of being—and ways of being erotic—outside of normative humanity. Essentially, Manson asks why, in a society so inundated with intersections of technology and the body, must we insist on notions of the “natural” body as superior to other modes of being, particularly regarding the erotic? I extend this argument to examine tropes of the non-normative erotic body in Marilyn Manson’s oeuvre in relation to theories of transgender embodiment, which is informed by my own musicological work, as well as the work of contemporary queer and transgender studies scholars.

I suggest that through constant erotic depiction on non-normative bodies, the performances of Marilyn Manson provide a space of possibility for the viewer to realize powerful alternatives to the normative mainstream discourse regarding viable ways of being and forms of erotic pleasure. As such, these polemical performances might serve to destabilize conservative notions of appropriate behavior and acceptable citizenship in contemporary American culture.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Masterman, Brandon P.bpm22@pitt.eduBPM22
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairHelbig, Adrianaanh59@pitt.eduANH59
Committee MemberReeser, Todd W.reeser@pitt.eduREESER
Committee MemberCassaro, James P.cassaro@pitt.eduCASSARO
Committee MemberRoot, Deane L.dlr@pitt.eduDLR
Date: 30 May 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 30 March 2012
Approval Date: 30 May 2012
Submission Date: 11 April 2012
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 91
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Music
Degree: MA - Master of Arts
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: queer theory, queer performance, transgender studies, transgressive embodiment, queer musicology, popular music studies, queer negativity, Marilyn Manson, music videos
Date Deposited: 30 May 2012 19:47
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:57


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