LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 14TH: Morrissey performs live on stage at Wembley on March 14th, 2020 in … [+]
Satire can be subjective, but in general, celebrities should also be used to the most flattering depictions.
This is certainly not the case with British singer Morrissey and former 1980s alternative rock band The Smiths frontman, who was on Facebook early Monday to write a searing diatribe about Fox’s The Simpsons. The episode of Sunday’s longest-running television comedy, Panic On The Streets Of Springfield, featured a thinly veiled version of the singer named Quilloughby.
As a result, Lisa Simpson cannot find music she really likes on a fictional streaming service based on Spotify. In the end, she discovers the old band The Snuffs – clearly inspired by The Smiths, just as past episodes have turned Apple into Mapple. Scared of teenagers, Quilloughby becomes Lisa’s imaginary boyfriend – a fact that Matt Selman (@mattselman), Simpson’s executive producer, clarified on Twitter, was inspired by Jo Jo Rabbit of Taika Waititi.
While many real rock bands – including The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Who, and The Rolling Stones – have performed as themselves, in this case the fictional / satirical Quilloughby was voiced by British actor Benedict Cumberbatch.
Tim Long, who wrote “Panic on the Streets of Springfield” – a clear reference to The Smith’s “Panic” with the text “Panic on the streets of London, Panic on the streets of Birmingham” – told Stereogum that the character is not Not just Morrissey. Long suspected Quilloughby “is definitely Morrissey-esque, with maybe a little shot of Robert Smith of the Cure, Ian Curtis of the Joy Division, and a few other people.”
Long added on Twitter, “Benedict Cumberbatch didn’t just play Quilloughby – he became HIM.”
Towards the end of the episode, Lisa goes to a concert where the real Quilloughby performs. Instead of the slim 1980s rock star, Quilloughby looks more like an over-the-hill overweight – a sight not unknown to anyone who has seen earlier 80s acts touring in recent years.
Worse still, the non-imaginary Quilloughby tells the audience, “Can’t you see this show is just a money robbery? I’m only here because I lost my fortune to sue people for saying things about me that were completely true. ”
The character was also seen eating meat, claiming that “veganism” was invented by “foreigners,” which did not subtly affect Morrissey’s stance against immigration.
The very real Morrissey was not enthusiastic about the satirical depiction and shared his thoughts on Facebook, writing:
“It’s one thing to make fun of topics. Other shows like SNL are still doing a great job of finding ways to inspire great satire.
But when a show bends so low to use harsh hateful tactics like showing the Morrissey character with his stomach hanging out of his shirt (if he hasn’t looked like that at any point in his career), one wonders who is the really hurtful, racist group is is here. Worse still – calling the Morrissey character a racist without pointing out specific cases offers nothing. It only serves to offend the artist. “
Some on Twitter responded to Morrissey’s post.
“Morrissey is upset, stop the press,” @kurthendricks wrote.
@ zach2302 replied to Morrissey’s Facebook post and tweeted, “This is weird because that’s exactly the same feeling most people have towards Morrissey of being a hateful old-school racist.”
Accept the satire
While some could argue that the Simpsons had taken the joke too far – Quilloughby was seen eating a sandwich, selling out and being quite racist – Morrissey’s reaction only ignited the flames that spread in a firestorm on social media a full firestorm could have developed.
“Morrissey took the bait, hook, line and sinker,” said Josh Crandall, technology industry analyst for Netpop Research.
“By speaking out on social media, he made the situation worse and more ridiculous,” said Crandall. “It’s pure satire, and satire is best when it folds back into reality. He probably would have been better off if he had just ignored the episode and the similarities between the fictional character and himself. Unfortunately, he couldn’t resist . “
It’s also not surprising that many people then jumped on social media to complain after Morrissey took the floor. Social media is tailored for such a response.
“Yes, social media is changing everything,” said Billy Pidgeon, independent technology analyst and professional musician. “It’s not news that social platforms are accelerating the formula of indignation, distraction and fear attracting increased attention and engagement. What remains surprising and entertaining is the furious overreaction to trivial arguments typical of online debates .
“Of course, Morrissey shouldn’t have responded as he lacks the social leverage to fuel his dissent,” Pidgeon said. “And to imply that calling someone a racist is racist is a Trumpian-level sucker. The overwhelming response to his complaints is going to be pretty much an ‘OK boomer’ who continues to ridicule him online. At least, he hits to, but the Simpsons win again. “
Plus, his reaction could make it worse.
“We all know by now how easy it is for people to sit alone at their computers and spit negativity online,” added Crandall. “Weighing up a sensitive topic like this for Morrissey only increases the fire for people looking for entertainment for their day. Social media is immediate, intense, and often negative. Today, Morrissey is the topic of entertainment for many online and online consumers Fallout is likely to hurt Morrissey’s feelings even more. “
There is an argument that celebrities seem drawn to such controversy as moths of a flame, but that doesn’t mean such engagement is necessary – nonetheless, it could allow Morrissey to remain relevant today.
“More current celebrities with a large fan base could have a more spectacular fight,” added Pidgeon. “And of course, the controversy will fuel clickbait to get more attention.”