In the newly-released video for "No Reflection," we see what appears to be Marilyn Manson and his family seated at their dinner table in their home. Examining the out-of-continuity elements in their proper order, the general narrative thrust of the video seems to be that he's leading the family in an evening of Bible study, group prayer, and worshipful hymnals.
Just another quiet night in a nice, pious household...but with a distinctly Marilyn Manson spin on the proceedings, of course!
In HIS variation on the theme, naturally, the family indulges in an absinthe toast to help get into the spirit of things, if you will:
And lest anyone doubt it IS absinthe, just take a look at Manson's own glass! He's clearly drinking his own favorite variety, Serpis Red, while everyone else consumes the traditional green variety:
And then, of course, things begin to get a little strange. The girls start reeling from the delirious effects of the drink and exhibiting signs of intoxication and hallucinatory apprehension as the wormwood works its magic and their father barricades the door with a nailed-up board in preparation for the next step of the evening's festivities.
After securing the room so no one and no thing can get it in or out, he begins to lead the family in prayer, with some interesting results. The dinner table levitates. The stove bursts into flame. The liquid that's been seeping in from the storm outside begins to gush in at their feet. And the girls go crazy and smash the place to bits. Wait...what?!?
We'll get there.
But first, backing up for a moment...
I found it quite intriguing that Manson chose to specifically highlight his use of The Living Bible for this narrative, as opposed to any of the many, many other permutations of the material available. As many of you may already know, this variation was a highly popular effort to modernize and paraphrase the language of the Bible so as to render its densely archaic language more readily accessible to the youths of contemporary times.
By the same token, in many ways the work of Marilyn Manson himself can easily be seen as a similar albeit decidedly nontraditional modernization and retelling of the Bible for contemporary youth as well. His body of work is fairly solidly FILLED with recontextualizations of its messages customized with shifting perspectives for his own purposes and his own "sermons" to his own "congregations," if you will.
To that end, I see the feathered shoulders he wears during the band's performance footage of "No Reflection" to be a rather obvious and definite allusion to and echo of his own role as a dark, fallen angel as visualized with his previous self-stylings from the Triptych, with his role as the Antichrist on Antichrist Superstar, the angel of "Coma Black" from Holy Wood..., and -- most directly -- the black-feathered shoulders of his wardrobe from the tours supporting Mechanical Animals.
And which song did he wear that black-feathered shoulder-piece during?
Oh, yeah..."The Reflecting God."
So I see this video as a furtherance of those same ideas in a rather more family-oriented and domestic setting, perhaps symbolically returning this career-spanning motif to its very foundations within his own childhood and his earliest exposures to the ideas which would come to dominate his self-expression as an adult. Also, interestingly, The Living Bible is almost the exact same age as Manson himself, first having been published in 1971, shortly after his birth in 1969. Oddly, the author of The Living Bible was even born on May 8th, exactly one week apart from the day Born Villain will soon be released. Curious! But anyway...
While looking deeper into the life of its author, Kenneth Taylor, something else jumped RIGHT out at me:
Now, yes, that DOES indeed correspond STRONGLY to the family bible study, prayer, and strangely family-oriented musical debauchery depicted within the video for "No Reflection," but it also corresponds directly to the home lives of a great many other religious families.The Living Bible was born out of Taylor’s deep desire for his children to understand God’s Word. Taylor and his wife, Margaret, raised ten children in their Wheaton home. Each night, as a part of their evening routine, the family spent time reading the Bible, singing hymns, and praying together. But Ken found the King James Version of the Bible—the most commonly used translation at the time—especially difficult for his young children to understand.
Wouldn't want anyone to think I'm going too far out on a limb here or anything!
But what if one simply looks at the most commonly available resource available on the subject of The Living Bible, the man who wrote it, and his life? Someplace readily accessible to anyone curious about all that? Like Wikipedia, say?
Well, quoted right there in his own words while explaining the process of conceiving The Living Bible, the author clarifies:
"The children were one of the chief inspirations for producing The Living Bible. Our family devotions were tough going because of the difficulty we had understanding theHmmm. Now go watch the beginning of "No Reflection" again...at, oh, about the FIFTEEN second mark:King James Version, which we were then using, or the Revised Standard Edition which we used later. All too often I would ask questions to be sure the children understood, and they would shrug their shoulders—they didn't know what the passage was talking about. So I would explain it. I would paraphrase it for them and give them the thought. It suddenly occurred to me one afternoon that I should write out the reading for that evening thought by thought, rather than doing it on the spot during our devotional time. So I did, and read the chapter to the family that evening with exciting results—they knew the answers to all the questions I asked!"
Now that is DEFINITELY a shrug of her shoulder, accompanied by an expression of complete bafflement as if to say, "Sorry, father, I just don't know..." This is, of course, while seated at the same table which her father is using for their evening, family Bible study group. Hmm.
Out on a limb, indeed!
So there are definitely some interesting things to think out there. Obviously a bit more research is needed to continue with this line of thinking -- the video's barely been out a day, ffs! -- but goddamnit The Living Bible is right there. It's a contemporary of Manson's age and he's certainly knowledgeable enough on the general subject to be aware of it, I'd say. And how knowledgeable does one need to be to find the most EASILY located information on the subject anyway? Sure, it's a bit thin right now and some large questions linger...but it certainly seems like a promising enough start, at least. Personally, I'm very curious to see what deeper revelations dawn on this subject further down the line and just how much Manson and the video crew may have investigated the history and backstory of the specific book they show off so blatantly and for the first time in this particular narrative. Seems like a tantalizingly promising lead to me.
But that's for later. In the meantime, ON WE PLOW!!!
Yet another fascinating aspect of this video's narrative is the overwhelming presence of absinthe and its attendant symbolism. It's been well-established that Manson's well-aware of the various spiritual properties and history of the drink. Considering he seems to be conducting an exorcism or seance or otherwise some variety of mystical ritual within the video for "No Reflection," it's certainly a deliciously appropriate choice of liquid to use in the course of a storyline accompanying such a clear-cut reference to the Myth of Narcissus, which in some tellings even ends with him drowning in the water reflecting his own beauty, and which has likewise been a part of another, earlier song title from the album Holy Wood..., "Target Audience (Narcissus Narcosis)."
Assuming the home we see supplies a visual representation of Manson's own mind's interior, and that the various characters seen inhabiting it merely represent multiple manifestations of his many personae, one could likewise also conclude he is in some ways drowning HIMSELF at the end of the video. Which furthermore supplies a neat and tidy resolution to the question of how exactly he left the building with the door still barred from the inside behind him. Perhaps with all these many manifestations eliminated he himself simply ceased to exist as well?
It certainly seems to echo key themes within the lyrics of the song itself.