Glenn Danzig v. The Internet
The only bully I ever had frequently wore a black t-shirt with the Danzig skull logo on the front. I was in junior high school, about 14 years old, and completely bewildered that I was getting hassled by this random guy. Consequently, I initially had a negative association with Danzig. I had never heard his music, but I didn’t want anything to do with something that was part of this assholes game.
At the same time, I had also become an avid watcher of MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball. Inevitably, I caught my first Danzig video. I couldn’t help it, I liked it. It was raw, unapologetic, and it just plain rocked. Still, my Danzig fandom wouldn’t fully spawn until 1992’s How the Gods Kill LP and 1993’s EP Thrall: Demonsweatlive, which would feature a re-recorded track from the bands debut self-titled album. That track, “Mother,” would explode some 5 years after its initial appearance and go on to become Danzig’s only mainstream hit. Danzig was at his commercial peak and stronger than ever.
Nevertheless, as we became Danzig fans, my friends and I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the photos we would come across in magazines or even the cover of Danzig’s second LP Lucifuge, that features a shirtless Danzig with an unwanted emphasis on his nipples. We were rogue Danzig fans. On the outside we were just your every day Pearl Jam kids. But, the truth was we were interested in any music we could get our hands on that wasn’t mainstream. The more underground, the better. The higher likelihood of our parents disapproval, the better. But, the other kids in school that liked Danzig were the aforementioned bullies, the anti-social Goth chicks, and that weird guy who seemed 2-3 years older than the rest of us. That group of Danzig fans hated us. I have no idea why, but they did. It was junior high school after all.
Despite my new appreciation for his music, I still found ways that Danzig humored me. In doing so, it was a means of coping with that outside crowd. We didn’t understand them, but we knew they liked Danzig – who was kind of hilarious. After seeing more and more videos of Danzig, we soon figured out that Danzig was quite short and could probably only intimidate children. Having the genetic luck of being over six feet tall at age 16, I felt I had a little bit of power over this whole Danzig guy. I had now identified with Danzig as a human, not as some caricature tough guy who sings about the “Snakes of Christ.” Those kids in high school? They were easier to understand, too. I finally saw them as outcasts just like my group of friends. Only difference was we didn’t paint our fingernails black and act like jackoff’s at even the faintest smell of authority.
But, it wasn’t just Danzig being short that made him funny. His ability to take himself seriously was unmatched. One of the metal kids who lived up the street had a copy of Danzig’s Lucifuge home video. The cover adorned with Danzig (or somebody) wearing an animal head and hanging on a cross continues to creep me out today. What was inside wasn’t actually that creepy. Sure, some of the videos were weird, but then the “candid” side of Danzig was presented – that’s when it got really good. First, there’s Danzig’s “library.” The library is three shelves high and Danzig presents a selection of books, shirtless of course. He pulls some weird anti-Jesus books from the shelves that contain stories of a young Jesus murdering another boy. “It’s all true. It’s all in this book,” Glenn would explain. We roared with laughter. Is this guy serious? Then there was Glenn’s mini-guitar lesson. Again shirtless, Glenn aimlessly strums an unplugged electric guitar. At one point he hits an A power chord and says, “I really like this chord, it sounds cool,” and continues to strum just that one chord over and over. What?!? I thought this guy wrote all the songs? Can’t he play guitar? We were incredulous.
It’s interesting we had as much to work with as we did at the time. Pre-internet, our source for information was MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball and rock and metal magazines like Hit Parader and Rip. In the magazines we would get at least one picture and hopefully several hilarious quotes. In a Rip interview in July 1989, Glenn had this to say about religion, “I’ve read about different religions and how they are interpreted. I find subjects like that interesting, as well as the missing chapters that were taken from the Bible in the early days that would cast a completely different light on Christianity if people were exposed to them today.” We understood the Misfits as a bit of a cartoon band, in the sense that the songs about murder were delightful, not disturbing. With Samhain, and then Danzig, we obviously noticed the trend to more occult topics, but reading quotes like these made it seem like Danzig was deadly serious about this whole dog and pony show. We couldn’t take it seriously. Not if he wasn’t wearing a shirt.
Considering Part One of this piece, namely those jumping at the opportunity to find Danzig in an embarrassing scene, I wonder if this isn’t also some peoples way of dealing with their own feelings on the Glenn Danzig persona. If your high school bully wore a Danzig t-shirt, you probably do love the video of Glenn Danzig getting punched. That’s easy enough to understand.
In a sense, it’s human nature to put our fears into a safe context where we can understand them without intimidation. However, more simply, it’s funny to see any serious or egotistical individual in a humorous context. The Danzig kitty litter meme is essentially the same as the Kanye kissing Kanye meme. Interestingly, a few years ago a Facebook page appeared called “The Same Photo of Glenn Danzig Everyday.” As the name implies, it is the same photo posted every day and more than 2700 people have liked the page thus far [ed.-Doc Metal has pointed out that the page originally had more than 40K “Likes” before it was closed and then reopened at a later date]. What’s significant is the photo itself. A close-up portrait shot of Danzig in what appears to be an almost Zen-like state of serenity. He’s still serious, but the subdued nature of the shot makes it comfortable, almost endearing rather than intimidating. Again, it seems to be a reaction of Danzig fans and haters to find him in a neutral or compromised position. But, what becomes less clear is who exactly is laughing at Glenn Danzig, the fans or the haters? Sure, the haters are gonna hate. But, I like Glenn Danzig’s music. And I also enjoy laughing at the brick story or a meme of him carrying kitty litter.
To better understand this internal conflict, I began to explore deeper the latest trend in Danzig’s unique internet history: Danzig memes. If you’re not sure what a meme is, Google says it’s “a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.” You know, like those pictures Axl Rose wants wiped from the internet. But, unlike Axl, it’s not one picture that’s been turned into a joke for Glenn Danzig. Any picture is fair game in the meme world as long as it works. And there’s hundreds of Danzig memes floating around the internet. Interestingly, many of these memes are created by self-professed Danzig fans. Why do long time fans laugh at and share Danzig memes? Shouldn’t Danzig fans hate Danzig memes?
Building on my own autobiographical argument that Danzig jokes are a way of humanizing this guy who would rather you fear his cold death stare; Danzig memes are another way people are taking Danzig and putting him into a ridiculous scenario that is often emasculating or otherwise non-threatening. Founded on the image he began creating more than 30 years ago, one he still maintains today, Danzig seems to be a complicated source of entertainment for his fans. Intensely devoted to his music and often avid collectors of rare vinyl and other ephemera, Danzig fans still laugh at Danzig. Isn’t that weird? U2 fans absolutely never make fun of Bono and he’s hilarious! Sure, Lars Ulrich of Metallica gets plenty of grief in the metal community, but no one else gets it like Glenn Danzig. And no better example can be found than in the perverse and hilarious world of Danzig memes.
– J. Kevin Lynch
Notes – Featured image by Joe Thurston.
Glenn Danzig v. The Internet