A quality of something which makes you recoil for a moment when you see it and, depending on your personal beliefs, either remain disgusted or smirk intelligently and move along. Now, when applied properly, shock value can be both a powerful tool of artistic expression and an exploitable marketing gimmick. However, when one removes the content from the object which has this shock value, it becomes cheesy and manipulative.

For example, take Nine Inch Nails. They had pigs' heads on turntables and beating disembodied monkey hearts. But, in addition, they had (and still do have) talent. Now, for the other extreme, take Marilyn Manson. He is shocking, sometimes disgusting and almost entirely about the money now. Maybe, at some point previous to now, he had artistic integrity, and yes, I am aware that he was once Trent Reznor's protege. But I digress. Its important to understand why you like the musical act you do. Is it because they scare your parents shitless or because they scare your parents shitless and write great lyrics?
Shock value is something that has always been a part of, and probably always will be a part of rock and roll music. Everything from Elvis thrusting his hips suggestively to Iggy Pop mutilating himself with broken glass (a move stolen by Marilyn Manson) to the very name itself, an old-school slang term for having sex.

The examples are limitless and varied. From The Velvet Underground romanticizing bondage and heroin usage to Darby Crash covering himself with peanut butter and licorice and falling from high places, to the Plasmatics cutting TVs in half with chainsaws and driving buses through walls of flaming TVs, shock value is something that has always been a part of rock and roll. But there's shock with a purpose - like the Dead Kennedy's offensive name and lyrics, which were used to get people to pay attention to their music and Jello's political ideas - and then there's shock with no purpose other than to get kids to buy records and worship satan. Good examples are Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Slipknot, and basically any type of new music that could be considered a hybrid of metal and another genre: hip-hop, hardcore, whatever. It's all the same bullshit.

There's nothing wrong with pissing people off. But if you're not doing something constructive at the same time, what's the point?

Shock value is used in more places than just rock music, although Eminem, Marilyn Manson, etc., certainly made careers out of it. Rush Limbaugh uses it, Andy Kaufman used it, even Socrates used it to an extent, I think.

Shock value is used for one of two reasons:

  • You can't think of anything else to do, or
  • You want to get someone's attention very, very fast.

Everyone has exploited shock value at one time or another in their youth -- maybe something simple, like a tattoo, or a piercing. Sometimes a bit more extreme -- like, say, taking up satanism.

Can't find a creative spin on shoot 'em ups? Release something like Postal. Want to get contraversy for a talk show? Make fun of women's rights. The dollar doesn't care why it was spent -- a Marilyn Manson CD costs you $15, whether you're a fan of it or if you're exploring the nature of the beast for your informative article in the Church paper.

The good news is that shock value itself runs out after about a year or so. The Onion put this very eloquently in their article, "Marilyn Manson Now Going Door to Door Trying to Shock People."

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