While South Park and Adult Swim are generally considered some of the current torch-holders when it comes to arguably offensive television, one should never rule The Simpsons out. Currently in its 32nd season, the Fox mainstay has made more headlines in recent years for its attempts not to be offensive, by way of no longer having Hank Azaria and other white actors voicing characters of color. But for the notoriously gloomy UK rocker Morrissey, the episode "Panic on the Streets of Springfield" apparently took things too far with guest star Benedict Cumberbatch.
While MCU fans can't wait to see Benedict Cumberbatch return to the role of Doctor Strange for his mind-bending journey into the multiverse, the actor popped into Springfield in the form of an extended hallucination Lisa had after accidentally eating bacon. The character, named Quilloughby, was influenced by '80s-era Morrissey, with some other musical influences mixed in, and was designed as such to go along with the silly song parodies. But it was when the episode showcased modern-day Quilloughby as an overweight, money-hungry sellout that the former Smiths frontman apparently drew the line. Here's how the complaint post started out on Morrissey's official Facebook page:
Surprising what a 'turn for the worst' the writing for The Simpson’s [sic] 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.
To be sure, the Facebook post uses Morrissey's name in the third-person perspective, but these are clearly the award-winning rocker's direct thoughts on display. And not only does the post get The Simpsons name wrong each time, which could easily be a purposeful slight, but Morrissey also touted SNL to be on a higher level of satire than the animated series. Not the most oft-paired bedfellows in the TV comedy game, but it's an apt enough comparison even if you're only looking at how long they've been around.
Upon arriving at the Willoughby concert later in the episode, the hallucinatory version of the character is aghast by how the real version looks up there on stage - "like Churchill," he exclaimed - and how rude and douchey he was when speaking to the crowd of increasingly disgruntled fans witnessing the "cash grab." The fictional interpretation went so far as to say he hated foreigners coming into the country and inventing veganism and "sleeping with our men." This was not one of The Simpsons' more nuanced celebrity spoofs, I think we can all agree.
After stating that the situation with Hank Azaria and The Simpsons' Apu controversy is reflective of the show's own inherent problems, Morrissey's post then laid out this defense:
Morrissey has never made a 'cash grab,' hasn’t sued any people for their attacks, has never stopped performing great shows, and is still a serious vegan and strong supporter for animal rights. By suggesting all of the above in this episode…The Simpson’s hypocritical approach to their storyline says it all. Truly they are the only ones who have stopped creating, and have instead turned unapologetically hurtful and racist.
For all that Morrissey can slam The Simpsons for its spoofy take on him and other brooding musicians, the rocker has not exactly stayed away from his share of controversial headlines over the years. In the past few years alone, he sparked backlashes over his views on American politics, UK politics, race relations, and more. It'll be interesting to see how fans on both sides react to this mild kerfuffle.
As the world waits with bated breath to see what Matt Groening & Co. have in store for Apu's future, The Simpsons airs Sunday nights on Fox at 8:00 p.m. ET, with or without intentional continuity errors.