Published on May 1st, 2021 | by Kim Kurtenbach


Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before

A harsh lampooning of Morrissey has KK wondering if it’s still acceptable to love The Smiths.

The April 18 episode of The Simpsons (1989) was a searing parody of Morrissey, and the Moz has lashed back. In just a matter of hours after airing, headlines began to appear atop stories that all gasp and murmur in furious confusion. Moz says, “The Simpson’s…horrible; dreadful; lawsuit; racist; no free speech anymore; corporations; *sigh*” – the same general everything Morrissey has said for the last ten years. He doesn’t come across with a good point as often as he should for a guy who talks so much. Morrissey loves to say things, but he loathes to explain them. It’s so predictably dull of you to be ignorant, I simply can’t be bothered. And then I say, “just asking, Moz, because the last thing you said made no sense whatsoever. More tofu crips?” See, now I’m doing it. I’m poking fun at Morrissey and I didn’t mean to. He’s a perplexing figure and the very definition of enigmatic, so you’ll have to excuse me for struggling to find the correct behaviour model response to him. The Simpsons seem to think the best response is satire and ice cold jokes. 

The Simpsons, that 703 episode behemoth which has mentioned every celebrity in history ever, has been making some recent changes to their show. These include some adjustment of character’s voices and  representation and has become their most common challenge. Current attention is greatly focused on Kevin Michael Richardson replacing Harry Shearer as the voice of Dr. Hibbert, and other such messages either by story content, dialogue discussion or character changes. But I think all the reports on-line, the scathing ones under those outraged headlines, are missing the point. They miss the cultural influence upside (yes, still) of The Simpsons while overexposing Morrissey’s inflammatory side. 

The Simpsons is thirty-freaking-two years deep and has basically employed every abuse of time, space and dimension at some point or other. And thoroughly! So, never mind that eight-year-old Lisa is having a fifteen-year-old life experience in this episode. That isn’t the point. Neither is Hibbert’s different voice, the portrayal of Morrissey as a bloated racist (or his hurt feelings on the matter), or how “free speech isn’t a thing anymore”. The point is, The Simpsons have shone a light back onto a dusky jewel – The Smiths. 

The tagline for episode S32E19 Panic on the Streets of Springfield reads: “Lisa’s new imaginary friend is a depressed British singer from the 1980s”. Obviously it’s Morrissey at every single turn from the posters in Lisa’s bedroom, to the voice-alike, provided by Benedict Cumberbatch, and songs by “The Snuffs”, provided by Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Concords (2007). There was even careful attention to some music video samples that looked shockingly familiar in every way, right down to the gladiolus, a flower long associated with the band. Even the band photo of The Snuffs on the wall is exactly true to history: obviously Morrissey, obviously Marr, and obviously two other guys that are unremarkably forgettable. Furthermore, the episode showed how things age. Sometimes not so beautifully, sometimes not so escapable.  

When Lisa opens her Slapify account, she dis-likes nearly 3,000 songs before finding Quilloughby and The Snuffs. As a teenager who loved music and struggled to find the right things for me, I can relate to the delight of finding a soundtrack to the ever changing moods of my youth. I think that’s inescapable for music loving teenagers in any era, but here is the shocking consideration: all the music I was finding as a teenager was current to the moment, more or less, but in 2021 all music from every era exists at the same time and it’s all on your phone. Everything is available all at once now, and it must be overwhelming without guided assistance. If there were 100 artists available when Elvis hit the scene, and his influence started a chain reaction that saw that number of artists double every five years, we would have 819,200 choices in 2020. Spotify currently offers access to 1.2M artists, so, ballpark. The point is, even with the algorithms a teenager would need some human guidance to panning gold. At least to get those bots on the right track. And here The Simpsons are providing that very guidance, attempting to lead their ever-changing viewer demographic to a band and a sound with great historical value and influence. That’s worth something. That’s worth talking about. 

If my logic tracks, and The Simpsons featured The Smiths in this episode with the intent on influencing a new audience, they really offered an interesting drug. A dangerous drug. The Smith’s catalogue is utterly delicious, and easy for newcomers to gorge upon. The problem is, if you don’t know when to stop, you’re going to make yourself sick. Literally. Morrissey has, in recent years, stood or spoken for a notable list of idiotic and harmful doctrines. I refrain from listing the specifics of those openly racist and fascist comments because it’s best if you read them for yourself (if at all). The “yeah, but…” and “well, maybe…” defence of Morrissey’s behaviour ended a few years ago. I’m not sure exactly when, but it’s clear that the Morrissey we know today has caused tarnish to his legacy and that of his former band. Fans unwilling to overdose on his poisonous opinions have left him behind but, unfortunately, it may spoil the social acceptance of listening to The Smiths, and that would be viciously shameful. 

The history behind the band, the breakup, emerging solo careers, is a treasure of thought-provoking contemplation because it was always brilliant, frustrating, puzzling and rare. Such strangeness and such powerful, emotional music. Millions have comforted their own loneliness and despair in the arms of The Smiths. They saw you, heard you, and spoke for you in poetic ways you could only dream. Then, bit by bit, Morrissey’s interviews began to reveal that his maudlin, sensitive side had grown cold, bitter and vitriolic. This is all part of that complex package of considerations I mentioned earlier. The music is so compelling and unique but the singer, Mr. Note-perfect in one take, has been utterly tone deaf in social settings his entire life.  

Morrissey has always had difficulty accepting love, and that has finally made him easy to hate. What’s that line he used to sing so passionately? It’s so easy to laugh/It’s so easy to hate/It takes strength to be gentle and kind/It takes guts to be gentle and kind. Perhaps so, Morrissey, but can you apply your love for animals to a love for humans? It doesn’t appear so. Therefore, the last possible stretch I can make to understand Morrissey, and comprehend where his current agenda is coming from, is that we might be seeing the early onset of alcoholic dementia. I said possible stretch, right? I’ve read more than a few stories where people have been surprised by the heroic amount of liquor he can consume in a night, and he does often sound like a very brain-sick person. At 62-years-old, that’s concerning.

Consider what roll The Simpsons plays in this airing of filthy laundry. Morrissey may try to creep you out with the idea that the more you ignore me, the closer I get, but now that he has been exposed, it’s probably best if we just let him fade away. The Simpsons offered up a conundrum when they offered Morrissey a platform: 1) here’s something you’re going to love that will make you feel great (eventually followed by 2) you are about to be shockingly sick to your stomach now.  

The Simpsons message? The Smiths may be cool, like smoking pot, but only if you don’t use it as a gateway to do too much Morrissey. That shit is like smoking meth and you will not like where it ends. But you should totally try smoking pot in small, measured doses. It’s so good! I suppose The Simpsons roasted Morrissey to warn us that he now seems like he’s been running some delusional, immoral bait-and-switch with his fame, fortune, and fans for 38 years. To see his feeble outrage and cries that he’s misunderstood on his website the day after this episode aired was almost laughable. He wants to know why people must keep attacking him when he should be left well enough alone. I hate to throw this straight back, but you sung it yourself Moz: If you’re wondering why all the love that you long for eludes you, and people are rude and cruel to you, I’ll tell you why. You just haven’t earned it yet son, you must suffer and cry for a longer time

There. It looks like I found my response to Morrissey after all, and it isn’t a joke. Seriously, Moz: That joke isn’t funny anymore

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is a Beatlemaniac who is constantly bemoaning the state of rock music. He is rueful of low ceilings, and helpful to strangers in supermarkets where the shelves are too high.

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