Marilyn Manson fans are calling the shock rocker's re-creation of the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy in his namesake band's "Coma White" video valid artistic expression.
But others dedicated to preserving the memory of the slain ex-president are expressing outrage, claiming the video is disrespectful and in poor taste.
"It is profoundly disturbing that an important figure of today's pop culture would exploit an American tragedy in this manner," wrote Mark Gillis, who runs a website called "JFK Memorial Page" out of Boston.
Gillis, who said he watched the video, called it a "freak show."
"Especially so soon after John F. Kennedy Jr.'s death, it is revolting that they would [release a video] that forces parallels between a man who has done nothing but corrupt the minds of our young people and one of the greatest presidents in history," Gillis wrote.
Shot in Los Angeles in February, "Coma White" premiered Monday on MTV. The video shows Manson, wearing a business suit, riding in a motorcade similar to the one Kennedy rode in on the day of his assassination, Nov. 22, 1963.
Actress Rose McGowan, Manson's fiancée, is dressed in a pink suit similar to the one worn by first lady Jacqueline Kennedy that day in Dallas. Manson appears to be shot as his head thrusts backward, while McGowan's frantic response recalls the actions of the first lady when her husband was shot while they rode in an open vehicle.
In a statement issued by his publicity firm, Manson defended his intentions.
"Over six months ago, I filmed a video for the song 'Coma White,' in which I enact the 'Journey of Death.' This is a pageant where I used the assassination of JFK as a metaphor for America's obsession and worship of violence. My statement was always intended to make people think of how they view, and sometimes participate in, these events. Little did I know that the tragedy at Columbine and the accidental death of JFK Jr. would follow. But it was telling to see the media shamelessly gorge itself on these events, which ultimately made my observations in the video even truer than I had originally imagined."
Manson goes on to explain that the "short film clip" was inspired by his script "Holywood" and is "in no way mockery." "In fact, it is a tribute to men like Jesus Christ and JFK who have died at the hands of mankind's unquenchable thirst for violence," the statement concluded.
The singer had no additional comment Wednesday, his publicist said.
Another man who runs a website dedicated to the late president said he found Manson's proclaimed intentions with the clip acceptable.
"Given his explanation, presuming that that's how he really feels, that sounds reasonable to me," said Larry Charbonneau, who runs "Larry's JFK Page."
"If he can use that imagery to convey a message or convey the lyrics of his song, I don't see a problem with that." Charbonneau, who had not yet seen the video or heard "Coma White" (RealAudio excerpt), said his feelings may change once he sees the video and listens to the lyrics.
Manson fans, meanwhile, said Manson has every right to use the familiar scene of the Kennedy assassination to make a statement. Kevin Ennis, a 22-year-old fan in Aspen, Colo., argued that Manson's objection to American culture's glorification of violence has been a constant theme in his work.
"To say that he's just making up an excuse for exploiting Kennedy's assassination is really unfair," Ennis wrote in an e-mail. "He has said over and over again that our culture's f---ed up in how it deals with violence."
Ennis added that most Americans grew up watching Kennedy's assassination on television, and Manson's choice to echo that familiar event in his video is an effective way to make his point.
Others questioned whether Manson actually does bring his intentions across in the video, saying that having a point is different than making one.
June Hagerty, who was contacted through a JFK tribute site, wrote in an e-mail that Manson's message "certainly didn't come shouting out at me" when she watched the clip with her son Tuesday.
"To use the imagery of a real story for a music video is just fine," Art Kevin, who runs vegasradio.com, a site featuring a variety of JFK-related content, wrote in an e-mail.
"The question really arises as to what he is trying to tell us (or make us consider). Is he trying to show an anti-gun tract? An anti-media propaganda piece? Or to foster geek-magazine mod pieces to help sell 'Coma White'?"
Kevin, who gave his age as "60ish" and said he was "quite involved with the [Jim] Garrison probe into the death of President Kennedy," had not yet seen the video, but he said he appreciates Manson's work.
"Manson gorges [on violence] ... why shouldn't the media?" Kevin wrote, adding that he thinks "it's obscene of Manson to link JFK and Jesus Christ."
"I am thrilled to say ... that I live in a society that allows personal artistic expression," said 25-year-old Jeremy Padawer, who runs www.JohnKennedy.com, a tribute site to JFK and JFK Jr., out of Nashville. "I do not believe that we are mere machines, to be molded by pop culture. We have the power to turn off a television, turn our head from a piece of art and deem it social garbage, or turn against our artists by no longer buying their works."
Spokespeople for the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston did not return calls Wednesday (Sept. 15). Reactions were not immediately offered by representatives of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., the late president's brother, and Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, JFK's niece.