Morrissey’s manager called The Simpsons’ mockery of the former Smiths frontman “insulting” in an interview with Rolling Stone. On Sunday, The Simpsons aired an episode called “Panic On the Streets of Springfield,” in which Lisa becomes enamored with a brooding, militant vegan British musician named Quilloughby (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), who used to front a band called The Snuffs.
At first, Quilloughby appears as an imaginary friend to Lisa, prompting her to adopt a far more world-weary and sardonic demeanor, while also singing a few spoof songs (co-written by Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie) like “Hamburger Homicide” and “Everyone Is Horrid Except Me (And Possibly You).” But when Lisa goes to see the real Quilloughby and the Snuffs at a festival, she’s shocked to find he’s become a boorish, meat-eating xenophobe.
After the episode aired, a post on Morrissey’s Facebook page — written by Morrissey’s manager Peter Katsis and not the singer — criticized The Simpsons for “trying to capitalize on cheap controversy and expounding on vicious rumors.” Katsis took issue with the depiction of Quilloughby (whom he referred to as the “Morrissey character”) as an overweight slob (“when [Morrissey] has never looked like that at any point in his career”) and for “calling the Morrissey character out for being racist, without pointing out any specific instances.” (Fox and The Simpsons did not immediately return a request for comment.)
Speaking with Rolling Stone, Katsis says, “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 says they are not planing any legal action now, but “we’ll surely be looking at options.” “It’s sad that publications care more about what could achieve viewership or readership than anything that is related to the truth. 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.” Katsis tells Rolling Stone he’s unsure if Morrissey has seen the episode, adding, “I hope he hasn’t watched it to be honest.”
“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,” Katsis continues. “There’s no specific evidence of any of it. Does he hate terrorists and extremists? Yes! Did he blast the Chinese on their wet markets and ignoring animal rights back in 2010? Yes!”
Morrissey’s history of controversial remarks and actions is well-documented. When calling out wet markets in China in 2010, he appeared to describe the Chinese people as a “subspecies” because of their treatment of animals. More recently, he signaled his support for the far-right political party, For Britain, wearing a pin for the party during a performance on The Tonight Show.
Additional reporting by Jason Newman