The Simpsons aired a rather unusual episode on Sunday night where Lisa befriends an imaginary version of Eighties Morrissey who goes by the name Quilloughby, only to turn on him when she realizes he’s a sullen malcontent who’s incapable of joy. It ends with her encountering the modern-day Quilloughby at a festival where he spouts racist drivel onstage and reveals that he’s no long a vegetarian by eating a pastrami sandwich and firing sausages into the audience.
The episode seemed custom-made to infuriate Morrissey, and he responded the following day with an online tirade. “I’ve had enough horror thrown at me that would kill off a herd of bison,” he wrote. “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.”
The Quilloughby character on The Simpsons was a recluse who hadn’t played in public since his band the Snuffs broke up thirty years earlier. But Morrissey has been extremely active since the breakup of the Smiths in 1987, releasing 13 solo albums and touring heavily. He’s also as committed to vegetarianism as he was when he released “Meat Is Murder” in 1985.
His most recent concert took place on March 14th, 2020, at the SSE Arena in London. The pandemic had already shut down much of the industry by this point, but Morrissey refused to cancel the show. As you can see from this fan-shot video, he begins the set by singing a few lines of the 1962 Skeeter Davis song “The End of the World” before coughing into the microphone and kicking in to his first live performance of the Smiths classic “London” since 2007. The backdrop is a mock-up of the cover of his 2004 LP You Are the Quarry with the title changed to You Are the Quarantined and a mask airbrushed over his face.
One might accuse him of not taking the pandemic very seriously, and it’s quite possible this whole gig was a superspreader event with horrible consequences, but he’s in far better physical shape than the bloated Quilloughby from the Simpsons. He’s also not chomping on a pastrami sandwich or pummeling the crowd with sausages. His past comments on race are certainly fair game for criticism, and they’ve indeed caused many longtime fans to put turn away from him in disgust, but did they really need to make him an obese meat lover? As a man once said, that joke isn’t funny anymore.