The Simpsons has earned the wrath of Morrissey after it parodied the former Smiths frontman in an episode of the show.
The singer was satirised during the episode Panic on the Streets of Springfield, which aired in the US on Sunday night. In the episode, Lisa Simpson becomes obsessed with a fictional band called the Snuffs and befriends its frontman, Quilloughby.
The character, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, is a young, depressed British singer from the 1980s who, like Morrissey, is vegan and sports a quiff. The episode features other nods to the singer, including an Oscar Wilde poster, and parody song titles including How Late Is Then, Hamburger Homicide and Everyone Is Horrid Except Me and Possibly You.
It turns out, however, that Quilloughby is a figment of Lisa’s imagination and her dream is shattered when he morphs into a grey, meat-eating, overweight man with anti-immigrant views.
Amid a long statement posted to his website, Morrissey writes: “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.”
He continues: “You are especially despised if your music affects people in a strong and beautiful way, since music is no longer required to. 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 … In a world obsessed with Hate Laws, there are none that protect me.”
He complains more widely of his treatment across the media: “I’ve had enough horror thrown at me that would kill off a herd of bison. Accusations usually come from someone with a crazed desire for importance; they don’t operate at a very high level. Writing for the Simpsons, for example, evidently requires only complete ignorance. But all of these things are too easy for me to say. In a world obsessed with Hate Laws, there are none that protect me … free speech no longer exists.”
Hours after the episode aired, a statement written on Morrissey’s behalf by his manager, Peter Katsis, had appeared on the singer’s Facebook page, calling the show “hurtful and racist”.
“Surprising what a ‘turn for the worst’ the writing for The Simpsons TV show has taken in recent years,” the statement reads. “Poking fun at subjects is one thing … but when a show stoops so low to use harshly hateful tactics like showing the Morrissey character with his belly hanging out of his shirt (when he has never looked like that at any point in his career) makes you wonder who the real hurtful, racist group is here.
“Even worse, calling the Morrissey character out for being a racist, without pointing out any specific instances, offers nothing. It only serves to insult the artist.”
Morrissey, 61, has consistently denied being racist, but has been condemned on many occasions in the past for his comments on race, including referring to Chinese people as a “subspecies” citing their treatment of animals, calling halal meat “evil”, saying the animals suffer, and saying the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, cannot speak properly.
He has also expressed support for the far-right For Britain party, wearing a badge bearing its logo during a US TV performance.
His manager’s statement, which did not explain how the Simpsons episode had been racist, went on to accuse the show of hypocrisy after Hank Azaria’s apology for voicing the Indian character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. “Hank Azaria’s recent apology to the whole country of India for his role in upholding ‘structural racism’ says it all,” the statement said.
In his own statement, Morrissey writes: “False theories of race are now the most common (and boring) aspect of all criticism, and will continue to be so until accusations of racism are in themselves illicit.”
The writer of the episode, Tim Long, previously told Variety that the character was not solely based on Morrissey. “I’m sticking by that. The character is definitely Morrissey-esque, with maybe a small dash of … Ian Curtis from Joy Division, and a bunch of other people.”
Inspired by Long’s love of British indie bands during the 1980s – he told Variety how seeing the Smiths on their The Queen Is Dead tour had changed his life – the episode features parody songs written by Long and Flight of the Conchords songwriter Bret McKenzie.
The episode is expected to be broadcast in the UK on Sky One next month.