Morrissey’s ignominious fall continues, as the singer’s management has picked a feud with The Simpsons after the show parodied him in last night’s episode. The show brutally mocked Morrissey with a Benedict Cumberbatch-voiced character named Quilloughby, a terminally disaffected British rock star from the ‘80s who sings about veganism, depression, and how nobody else is as cool or smart as he is. Lisa Simpson becomes obsessed with Quilloughby after hearing a song on a streaming service, and starts to see him as an imaginary friend and adviser who turns her into an eight-year-old sullen hipster. A bunch of Smiths and Morrissey-related gags follow, including two songs and music videos that really capture their whole vibe. Ultimately Lisa winds up going to see Quilloughby live in concert, and finds out that, in the decades since the ‘80s, he’s turned into a racist, hateful asshole who insults his own audience—oh, and also got really fat and now loves to eat meat. Those last two things make up Quilloughby’s only substantial deviation from the real Morrissey.
Unsurprisingly, Morrissey and his people aren’t pleased. The singer’s official Facebook page posted a lengthy response to the episode, credited to his manager Peter Katsis; it criticizes pretty much every aspect of the show’s Morrissey surrogate, but especially targets the charges of racism and how it depicts modern-day Quilloughby. The statement says that the writers of The Simpsons are the true racists, in the kind of “I know you are but what am I” defense typical of people who get called out for racism these days, and also calls the show “hypocritical.” Perhaps most baffling of all, it also praises SNL for its “great satire.” I never thought the one thing in the world that Morrissey actually likes would be Saturday Night Live.
Morrissey, of course, has long been infamously anti-immigration, has called Chinese people a “subspecies,” supports a far-right British party founded by an anti-Islamic activist, and in 2017 stated that far-right French politician Marine Le Pen “beat” Emmanuel Macron in an election debate—the same Le Pen who French courts determined could legally be called a fascist. Morrissey’s been dogged by accusations of racism for decades, but has really leaned hard into it during the 21st century, to the point where a parody as scathing as the one on The Simpsons is entirely justified. As for the Facebook post’s other complaints—that it depicts its Morrissey stand-in as a slovenly, obese, meat-eating hypocrite—well, maybe the singer was too busy doodling New York Dolls logos onto his textbook covers the day his teacher explained what the word “satire” meant.
It’s a little surprising to see The Simpsons not even attempt to pull any punches in its mockery of Morrissey. It’s more surprising how funny it actually is. Yeah, making fun of Morrissey’s woe-is-me and holier-than-thou schtick has been very easy for almost 40 years now, but the show’s writers still nail his particularly obnoxious strand of self-aggrandizing self-loathing. Lisa even realizes how limiting and ridiculous Quilloughby’s superiority complex is, and starts to turn on her imaginary friend even before she sees the bloated, washed-up bigot he turned into. Eventually turning one’s back on Morrissey has become a time-honored tradition among a certain type of music fan, and The Simpsons really understands what that looks and feels like.
If you missed it on Fox, you can watch the full episode on Hulu right now. And if you want to get just a taste, here’s a clip posted to one of Fox’s YouTube channels. Written by Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords, it’s the better of the two Quilloughby songs we hear in the episode, and a style parody worthy of Weird Al himself. And beneath that video you’ll see one of the most beautiful images ever broadcast on TV: a fat fake Morrissey shooting off a hot dog gun. Enjoy.