On Wednesday, August 12th, Rolling Stone.com published a story with the headline “See Marilyn Manson Play Native American Hit Man in Movie Trailer.” Manson is interviewed in the article, promoting the upcoming thriller, Let Me Make You a Martyr, where he mentions he is “part Indian.” The author of the piece, Kory Grow, notes that “Manson’s heritage is Sioux on his mother’s side” and quotes the singer saying “…her family was from the Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia…”
Grow writes “The singer adds that he did not know Pope (the character he is playing) was Native American when he took the role because the script didn’t specify it.”
Manson goes on to say “I really didn’t have to change too much about myself physically…I already had just shaved my hair to a Mohawk and it’s black already, so without being stereotypical, that seems like the character would have that if he was part Indian. I think originally they had envisioned someone with long black hair.”
Social media has exploded with Native Americans and their supporters criticizing Manson’s apparent new found Native American heritage; Wednesday morning the Wikipedia entry on Manson stated his heritage was German and English, but once the article appeared it was changed to add “Sioux,” citing the Rolling Stone article as the only source. It has been since been changed so that it is not presented as fact.
On social media Native Americans have been skeptical, as Manson did not cite a tribe, but simply used the general term “Sioux,” a word not usually used by Natives on its own. (Most Natives of that heritage prefer to use the Native identity, such as Lakota or Dakota, or a specific reservation name, such as Standing Rock Sioux or Rosebud Sioux.) That was even more puzzling in regard to the reference to West Virginia, which is over a thousand miles east of Lakota territory. Unfortunately, many have been attacked not only by people bemoaning political correctness, but also by Manson fans on Manson’s facebook page, who insists that Manson is doing this specifically to offend Native Americans for the sake of offending people. One fan’s post, which reads “Marilyn Manson doesn’t give 2 fucks if you’re offended, and neither do I,” has received over 500 “likes.”
John Swab, co-director and co-writer of the film, said he couldn’t speak to Manson having Native American heritage, as he was not involved with the Rolling Stone interview. “I was actually surprised to see the headline that said ‘Marilyn Manson to Play Native American Hit Man,’ because I didn’t relay any information to Rolling Stone, and Manson and I had never had any conversation regarding him or his character being a Native, so I don’t know who got that wrong.
“Originally when we wrote the screenplay the character was supposed to be Native. I’m from Tulsa, I have a Native background, not much, but enough to be familiar with it, so I wrote a Native character.” Swab says he is not a tribal member, but he has “some Creek heritage.”
Swab’s partner in directing and writing, Corey Asraf, said Manson is referring to early drafts of the script. “We had talked to a few different Native actors, and we had people booked in advance, and they had pulled out on us, they were unavailable, so we actually changed the story and didn’t shoot it. So when Manson played that role, that’s the script that he read, but that’s not the movie we shot. There’s nothing referencing (his character) being Native in the film.”
Wes Studi and Gary Farmer were considered for the character originally, but according to Swab, when neither of them could be in the film, he and Asraf decided to change the character. “It doesn’t have to be a Native; it can just be someone who lives in the woods. The controversy is totally uncalled for because he’s not actually playing a Native, he’s not playing an Indian.” There are no Native roles in the film.
“I think people are quick to make something out of nothing, like Ben Kingsley played Gandhi in a film, Robert Downey Jr. played an African-American; it’s acting, it’s pretend. For people to take it personally that someone is taking a role that is not themselves, you know, you might as well get mad at a man playing a transgendered person, because it’s acting.”
When asked about the problem Native Americans have had, where their worldwide iconic image on film has seldom been portrayed by, nor even informed by, Native Americans, Swab said “I completely understand and agree with that, and that’s why we changed the character, once Wes Studi and Gary Farmer were ruled out I wasn’t going to stick Marilyn Manson in there and put a headdress on him and call him an Indian.”
Swab describes their independent film as “a cerebral crime thriller,” and they felt fortunate to have Manson appear in their film. It will premiere next year.
Mr. Manson’s representative was contacted by ICTMN for comment for this article, but no one has returned our message.