Marilyn Manson’s “Coma White” Lyrics Meaning

We’re going to take a dual-pronged approach to the analysis of Marilyn Manson’s “Coma White”. First we’re going to look at the narrative featured therein from a surface perspective. Then we’re going to delve into how Manson himself has described Coma White and try to correlate the two.

Who or What is “Coma White”

Surface-wise, “Coma White” itself appears to be a person and/or a personification. And without jumping too deep into the metaphors at hand, she possesses two main characteristics. First is that she actually comes from what the singer describes as “a perfect world”. And second is that she is apparently in some state of depression. Perhaps buried somewhere deep in the lyrics is the exact reason why, as it would appear she is suffering from a malady akin to self-image issues. But more to the point is that she is trying to ease the pain via the abuse of drugs.

Meanwhile, the singer is able to perceive that doing so is a vain pursuit. Moreover, the “perfect world” referred to earlier was a place that he personally was cast out of. So based on said narrative, the simplest way to describe what’s going on is that the singer is empathizing with a particular, unhappy lady who has become addicted to drugs.

Marilyn Manson explains the meaning of the Lyrics of “Coma White”

And now comes Marilyn Manson’s own explanation of the lyrics. He admits that, at the beginning of the song Coma White does indeed represent a person, i.e. “a girl (he’s) in love with”. That would be one Rose McGowan, the lady he was dating at the time. But later on, the selfsame Coma White “ends up to really be a drug (he’s) been taken”. So in that regard, this is a song based on the classic drug-as-a-female trope – a somewhat commonly-utilized theme in American music we shall say.

And as for the color white, Marilyn offers a detailed explanation of its symbolism also. And as he put it, it “is the composition of all colors”. Additionally it is representative of “the numbness manifested in drugs”. And lastly it is symbolic of “all the people who want to suck the life out of you when you become a rock star”. Furthermore, concerning the titular “coma”, we will logically proceed under the assumption that said term also refers to the effect of drugs.

A Loaded Song

So as you can see, there’s a lot going on in “Coma White”. And in an attempt to put all of the above together into one concise theory, we will postulate that the titular character, when presented as a person, is actually an allegory for Manson himself.  Or as implies earlier, he is able to fully empathize with her. In other words, like her, he has had his own issues with drugs. In fact in once again going back to the word white, that is also a slang term for coke, which Marilyn Manson (the band) was sadly quite fond of at one point in time. Meanwhile some other observations he has of her, such as her being genuinely unhappy in the world, may be more of an allusion to Rose McGowan herself.

These Damn Hard Substances!

But the main issue at hand is the drugs. Both Marilyn Manson and Rose McGowan are known to have been (or be) users. So it can be theoretically asserted that that singer is able to perceive that drugs are not the solution for Coma White based on his own experiences with such substances.

That “Perfect World”

Also concerning the “perfect world” that Coma White came from, Manson can be alluding to his own childhood. Indeed by the looks of things, his upbringing was more stable than that of McGowan’s. And no, this is not to say that it was all roses. But it does appear that he came from a solid middle-class background. Actually it seems that no one involved in his upbringing would have presumed that he’d grow up to become such a powerful countercultural figure.

Or stated differently, the “perfect world” is a term sarcastically applied to the middle class in general. That is to say that Coma White came from a type of background where no one, ideologically speaking, would expect her to become so despondent and subsequently a drug addict. And also remember that the singer himself, once again being a countercultural figure, identifies this as a place he was cast out of, i.e. the mainstream.

In Conclusion

So conclusively, as far as what sparked Marilyn Manson to create this song, it was an empathy for his first true love, Rose McGowan. But overall, whereas the lyrics may start off being about her, ultimately they become more about the singer himself. Or as he put it “a drug (he’s) been taking”. Or stated otherwise, the story rather becomes about him. Thus at the end of the day, Coma White represents a female subject, a substance and the singer. And the interaction between the latter two entities has led the vocalist to realize that drugs cannot save a person from his or her internal issues.

Lyrics of "Coma White"

When did Marilyn Manson release “Coma White”

Interscope Records (in conjunction with Nothing Records) released this track on 14 September 1998 as a promotional single from “Mechanical Animals”. “Mechanical Animals” is Marilyn Manson’s third and perhaps most-successful album. (For instance, it managed to top the Billboard 200.)

Coma White did not experience any chart success. However, it still managed to make quite a few headlines due to the content of its music video. Also the song itself happens to be a favorite amongst Marilyn Manson fans.

This is the last actual song on the playlist of “Mechanical Animals”.

Music Video for “Coma White”

The aforementioned video was directed by American cinematographer Samuel Bayer, who most-famous work at the time was helming the music video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991) by Nirvana. And it was filmed in Los Angeles during February of 1999.

Controversy

And concerning the previously-mentioned controversy surrounding it, the featured storyline was not directly related to the song but instead based on another Marilyn Manson work of art. That would be a movie script he put together entitled “Hollywood”, which deals with President John F. Kennedy (as well as Jesus). 

And being inspired by such, he decided to recreate the infamous assassination of JFK (1917-1963), with Manson himself taking on the role of the late President. Meanwhile JFK’s wife, Jacqueline Kennedy (1929-1994), was portrayed by Rose McGowan, an actress by profession. And Manson’s bandmates took on the roles of Secret Service agents.

Readers who have seen footage of the actual JFK assassination can attest to the fact that it is quite graphic and even saddening. Well it just so happens that the aforementioned music video was slated to come out right around the time the notorious Columbine High School massacre took place. That event transpired on 20 April 1999, and some people actually blamed the music of Marilyn Manson for that tragedy.

Additionally, JFK Jr. also happened to pass away, quite tragically, on 16 July 1999. Both of these events combined led to MTV considerably delaying the premiere of said music video. This is despite Marilyn Manson describing the visual as “a tribute to men like Jesus Christ and JFK” as well as “a metaphor for America’s obsession and worship of violence”. However, it did eventually air on 13 September 1999 and went on to become one of the most-popular videos on MTV at the time.

Writing Credits for “Coma White”

Marilyn Manson (the singer) wrote “Coma White”. But the song wasn’t composed by him alone. He wrote it with the following bandmates of his:

  • Madonna W. Gacy
  • Zim Zum
  • Jeordie White (aka Twiggy Ramirez, who also renders the tune’s guitar solo)

And he also produced the track, doing so in partnership with Sean Beavan and the well-traveled Michael Beinhorn.

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