A new episode of The Simpsons has angered Morrissey’s manager for its satirical portrayal of the singer/songwriter. Now in its record-breaking 32nd season, the beloved animated series has practically built a legacy on controversial content. Long before South Park or Rick and Morty pushed boundaries, The Simpsons was synonymous with provocation.
In more recent seasons, however, Springfield hasn’t been quite as rife with controversy as it once was. That being said, issues still continue to pop up. The decision to stop having white actors voice non-white characters has been welcomed by most fans, though the series has experienced criticism for not taking this step sooner. A similar stance could also be taken regarding Hank Azaria’s decision to no longer voice the character of Apu. But while these issues are reflections of a push to consider the feelings of all cultures in its comedy, The Simpsons‘ biggest controversies traditionally come from its love of skewering pop culture. In that respect, at least, the series can still prove itself capable of picking a fight – or even just mocking the people and personalities who make themselves targets.
After airing its most recent episode, Panic on the Streets of Springfield, in which Lisa becomes enamored by an imaginary musician called Quilloughby and his band The Snuffs, The Simpsons has been criticized by Peter Katsis, the manager of real-life musician, Morrissey. According to Deadline, Katsis took exception to the similarities between Quilloughby and Morrissey, taking to the 61-year-old star’s Facebook page to post a critique of Panic on the Streets of Springfield as well as of The Simpsons:
Surprising what a “turn for the worst” the writing for The Simpson’s tv show has taken in recent years. Sadly, The Simpson’s show started out creating great insight into the modern cultural experience, but has since degenerated to trying to capitalize on cheap controversy and expounding on vicious rumors. Poking fun at subjects is one thing. Other shows like SNL still do a great job at finding ways to inspire great satire. 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. They should take that mirror and hold it up to themselves.
Ironically enough, some might argue that Morrissey’s career has taken a similar trajectory to the one Katsis accuses The Simpsons of taking. Morrissey’s former band, The Smiths, was well-known for its fearless dissection of politics and its critical stances against everything from the meat industry to the British monarchy. In later years, as Morrissey has become more famous as a solo artist, he’s repeatedly made questionable, and at times outright racist comments. Many long-time fans have been particularly concerned about his stance on immigration, having previously aligned himself with one of Britain’s far-right political parties. In this way, for Katsis to accuse The Simpsons of degenerating from a source of “great insight” into something far less appealing could strike many as hypocritical.
For its part in all this, The Simpsons has remained quiet. Their parody of Morrissey was hardly the show’s most brutal takedown, and Katsis’ response seems a bit heavy-handed. To not expect Morrissey to be the subject of scorn or mockery given his more controversial statements is naïve at best. The Simpsons has never backed down from making its opinion heard, and the character of Quilloughby seems like a standard tactic in the show’s never-ending quest to challenge all aspects of pop culture.