Charles Manson Phenomenology (or how a psychopath keeps infecting pop culture) | Rolling Stone Italy

Let’s start with the first surprising fact.
The black man, the most famous baubau in history, the serial killer second only in fame to Jack the Ripper, the man who ended a cherished era of Peace and Love, is actually not technically a serial killer. At least not directly, but only through a third party.

Even when he wounded Gary Hinman, the music teacher held hostage for days, then he didn’t finish him, but let others kill him. Manson may not have materially committed the long list of murders, but obviously he inspired them and was the clear instigator of all the heinous actions of the sect: in the list of victims we have a mixture of people who wanted to punish, or who considered dangerous for the his plans, but also random victims (Sharon Tate and the subsequent murders), in the declared aim of causing the greatest possible agitation. Manson hoped that the most “illustrious” murder of her (the Tate with her child and all the poor people who were in the now infamous home of Cielo Drive) would be blamed on the African American community with the ensuing problems of social disorder.

Charles Manson died in prison in 2017, but we are not able to file him for this, he continues to sail undisturbed in pop culture and to “contaminate” it. Just like the spores, which due to their intrinsic nature are extremely difficult to eradicate, a continuous collective fascination, still current, means that we cannot get rid of it.

We have resilient and continuous products inspired by him, especially in recent years, both because in 2019 the 50th anniversary of Woodstock falls, and because Evil always wins, even if only for its persistence.

To help you orient yourself, here is a selection of works contaminated by Manson, with different styles and facets, ranging from “waste of my time” to “excellent”, to “very hype” to “what am I seeing.”.

The new season of Midhunter, TV series on the first profilers in history, in which we will also have Manson. In fact, in this second season, the two protagonists have the opportunity to interview Charles Manson in person. The series directed by David Fincher does not disappoint this time either, enveloping the viewer in glacial and turbid atmospheres at the same time. Highly recommended for summer binge-watching.

The film is available on Chili The Haunting of Sharon Tate, protagonist Hilary Duff who plays a dazed Sharon Tate. His murder is treated in a psychological horror version, and can only be defined as an “ugly film” in which you try to make dear Hilary look like the Final Girl of the situation, as if we all had collective amnesia and forgot about the end of history. Hilary, needless to say we liked you more in the Disney version.

Also 2019 gives us another movie with the title The Manson Family Massacre by Andrew Jones, who announces himself as probably unavoidable even only for the alterations of the plot that he has undergone, starting from wanting to be a biopic to become a ghost story. Italian release date still unknown, but we will make a reason by looking instead at something well done: Charlie Sayswho has already passed through Venice, will be in cinemas from the end of August, and gives the best picture of how the events unfolded, of that hallucinogenic climate and continuous mental manipulation that reigned within the group of faithful to “Charlie”.

Manson has entered so much into the collective unconscious that in some works he is not even formally named, but we instantly understand that he is being talked about or that the character is inspired by him, particularly in fiction. This is the case with Emma Cline’s debut book The girls.

Cline writes, “… Evie just wanted someone to notice her. Like all adolescents, she sought the gaze of others upon herself. An opportunity to be dragged away, even by force, from one’s existence. But she had never believed this could actually happen. Her until she saw them: the girls. The long and disheveled hair, the very short clothes. Their fluid and careless gait like “sharks cutting the water”. Then the ranch, hidden in the hills. The incense, the music, the bodies, the sex. And, at the heart of it all, Russell. Russell with his dark charisma. Were there warnings, signs of what would happen? Or was Evie too seduced by the girls to understand that going back would be impossible? … “. The focus of the story is on young girls involved in a cult by a charismatic leader, the point of view is theirs and theirs only; but it is always painfully clear that behind the fictional figure of “Russell” there is always him, we are always talking about Manson.

If, on the other hand, you want to read something less fictional and more biographical, the authors of the splendid examination of the punk phenomenon are being prepared by the same authors. Please Kill Me, Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, a complete history of the Manson Family, with interviews with witnesses, focusing on Manson and his “girls”. The two authors collected the testimonies of more than one hundred and fifty people present at the time of the events, a complete summa.

Last but not least, Tarantino, in the highly anticipated new film by Quentin Tarantino, Once upon a time in… Hollywood, protagonists Leonardo di Caprio and Brad Pitt, we have a young Tate on the eve of the massacre, played by Margot Robbie. Manson’s figure and philosophy are poorly represented, not only is his role minimal in the plot, but he is half misunderstood for narrative purposes. The character does make a quick appearance, but there are glimpses of the Family’s life that are properly developed, including the plight of George Spahn, the owner of the ranch where Manson’s followers settled.

We thank Nanni Cobretti for the precious collaboration.

Charles Manson Phenomenology (or how a psychopath keeps infecting pop culture) | Rolling Stone Italy