The Simpsons featured Stephen Patrick Morrissey in their latest episode on Sunday night, and they took the opportunity not just to poke fun at the pop star in typical Simpsons fashion, but to call him that worst insult of all, racist.
Morrissey's agent Peter Katsis shot back at The Simpsons on Facebook, saying that the show took a "turn for the worst," and that while it "started out creating great insight into the "insight into the modern cultural experience, but has since degenerated to trying to capitalize on cheap controversy and expounding on vicious rumors."
He's not wrong. The Simpsons had a glorious run as a satirical animated commentary on the pitfalls and contradictions in contemporary life. It made way for South Park, Bob's Burgers, and Family Guy, among others. But as it has pushed ahead into the era of social justice conformity, it has become conformist itself.
The easy route for so many outlets has been to slam Morrissey for his steadfastness in the face of controversy, and The Simpsons for sure took the easy way out. The more difficult, intriguing, and entertaining task would have been to find the dissent in the debate and not simply latch on to woke talking points that aren't even emblematic of the man himself.
When the show first announced the episode, fans were excited, and it seemed to be in honor of their angsty hero, but instead, the show turned on those very fans it sought to court. But instead they called him racist, played it off by saying that the character was a "composite" of multiple musicians, and went for prime wokeness instead of laughs.
Katsis said the show used "harshly hateful tactics," such as "calling the Morrissey character out for being a racist, without pointing out any specific instances, offers nothing. It only serves to insult the artist."
The episode, Panic on the Streets of Springfield, doesn't mention Morrissey by name, but the allusions are obvious. The character, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, is an angsty, 1980s era, alternative pop star who looks down on those sub-literate, non-vegetarian fools in Lisa Simpson's life.
While Quilloughby, as he is named, comes into Lisa's earbuds through a music streaming service, he soon becomes a voice in her head, making wry comments about her schoolmates, her neighbors, family, and the pastor. Mother Marge Simpson notes that "Lisa is sullen, dressing weird, and obsessed with English music," saying that she's having "a pre-pre-teen rebellion."
The episode pivots around Lisa's attendance at a music festival which features a reunion performance of Quilloughby and The Snuffs, which features the "real life" Quilloughby, spectacularly overweight, insulting the crowd, and announcing that the concert is "merely a cash grab," saying "I'm only here because I lost my fortune suing people for saying things about me that were completely true."
The Quilloughby voice in Lisa's head can't reconcile himself to the fat, meat eating pop star on stage. When Quilloughby is insulted by the crowd for eating reversing his previous stance and eating meat, he replies that he stopped being vegan when he realized "veganism was invented by foreigners, of which there are far too many on this planet."
"I hate the foreigners coming to this country and taking our jobs," the fictitious Quilloughby tells the crowd in what is far from a good natured parody of the real British crooner.
Lisa's eyes are suddenly opened to the truth about her beloved Quillougbhy, and she realizes that "you've turned your back on veganism, and you're also a huge racist." This, of course, is a ridiculous assertion and not based in reality in anyway, but based instead the fevered dreams of corporate whore, woke 'journalists' who continue to defame him for speaking common sense, inconvenient truths.
The Quilloughby voice in Lisa's head urges her not to think of his old persona in light of the new one on stage, but for Lisa the fantasy is over. "I think we both know it's time for you to go," she says. "I'm gonna miss you." Quilloughby is then further heckled as the crowd storms the stage, resulting in a riot.
Once Lisa is back in her mother's arms, she laments her behaviour, saying "I don't know what came over me. I was sullen, moody, thought everyone but me was an idiot."
Speaking to Rolling Stone, Katsis said that "It's funny that none of the stories are talking about the false portrayals or what The Simpsons did. The Simpsons are claiming it's a composite of several artists — obviously so we don't sue them. What no one's talking about is how insulting it truly is. The guy is still a super vegan. His beliefs in animal rights is what's got him to this point."
Katsis pointed out that "It's clear The Simpsons are hurting and they're trying to be pertinent again. But this is an effort to be specifically hurtful in some weird kind of way."
As to the allegations of racism, Katsis said that "It's hard to understand how someone who has Thelma Houston singing on his last single, or has been such a strong proponent of the writings of James Baldwin, or has three latinos in his band, could be called a racist."
Morrissey blasted the Chinese wet markets even before the pandemic, as well as "terrorists and extremists," Katsis said, but none of that is what could be termed racist. Morrissey is opposed to the mistreatment of animals, and as such, he called out the Chinese for their treatment of animals, as he has called out Canada for their treatment of wildlife, even refusing to tour the northern nation for some years in protest.
Of course, as any western denizen of 2021 will tell you, saying you're not racist is one of the clearest indications that you are racist, saying you have a nuanced view instead of one that is black and white is another way of admitting that you're some kind of extremist.
But for fans of Morrissey, who would have welcomed a good natured parody, who would have been open to something more nuanced than a love letter, this send-up of what The Simpsons claims is a composite is not only inaccurate, but lazily executed, poorly scripted, boring, and not even remotely amusing.
The Simpsons belittled themselves in their poor portrayal, skated close to violating libel laws, and did it all without any understanding of the music, the man, or his fans. But the worst crime of all? The Simpsons' jokes have gone woke, and it just isn't funny anymore.
Morrissey commented on The Simpsons affair, saying:
"The hatred shown towards me from the creators of The Simpsons is obviously a taunting lawsuit, but one that requires more funding than I could possibly muster in order to make a challenge. Neither do I have a determined business squad of legal practitioners ready to pounce. I think this is generally understood and is the reason why I am so carelessly and noisily attacked," Morrissey wrote.
"You are especially despised if your music affects people in a strong and beautiful way, since music is no longer required to," he went on to say. "In fact, the worst thing you can do in 2021 is to lend a bit of strength to the lives of others. There is no place in modern music for anyone with strong emotions. Limitations have been placed on art, and no label will sign an artist who might answer back. "