Satire can be subjective, but mostly celebrities should be used for even the most embarrassing depictions.
That’s certainly not the case with British singer Morrissey and former 1980s alternative rock band frontman The Smiths,, who went to Facebook early Monday to write diatribes about Fox The Simpsons. Sunday’s episode of the longest-running TV comedy called “Panic on the Streets of Springfield” featured a thinly curved version of a singer named Quilloughby.
In the episode, Lisa Simpson is unable to find any music she actually likes on the fictional real-world streaming service Spotify. He eventually reveals the alt band The Snuffs – apparently inspired by The Smiths just as Apple’s previous episodes were verseically transformed into Mapple. Feeling angry at the teenager, Quilloughby becomes Lisa’s imaginary friend – the fact is Matt Selman (@mattselman), The Simpsons executive producer, explained on Twitter inspired by Taikom Waititi Jo Jo Zec.
Although many real rock bands – including The Hot Hot Chili Peppers, The Who and The Rolling Stones – have emerged 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” – which is a clear reference to Smith’s “Panic,” which has the verses “Panic on the Streets of London, Panic on the Streets of Birmingham” – told Stereogum that the character isn’t just Morrissey. He has long suggested that Quilloughby is “definitely Morrissey-esque, with perhaps a little dash by Robert Smith of Cure, Ian Curtis of Joy Division, and a bunch of other people.”
He added for a long time on Twitter, “Benedict Cumberbatch didn’t just play Quilloughby – HE BECAME HIM.”
Towards the end of the episode, Lisa attends the actual concert she is at real Quilloughby performs. Instead of the slim 1980s rock star, Quilloughby looks more like overweight hills and overweight – a sight not unknown to anyone who has gone on tour to the former ’80s’ performances in recent years.
Worse, the unimaginative Quilloughby tells the audience, “Don’t you see this show is just a money laundering. I’m only here because I lost a fortune suing people for saying completely true things about me.”
The character is also seen eating meat, claiming that “veganism” was invented by “foreigners,” a not-so-subtle excavation of Morrissey’s anti-immigration stance.
The very real Morrissey didn’t have fun with the satirical depiction and shared his own thoughts on Facebook, writing:
“Teasing with topics is one thing. Other shows like SNL are still doing a great job in finding ways to encourage great satire.
But when the show leans so low that it uses hateful tactics like portraying the character of Morrissey’s belly hanging out of his shirt (when he never looked like that at any point in his career) you make yourself wonder who the real hurt is, the racist group is here. What’s worse – calling Morrissey’s character a racist, without pointing to any specific cases, offers nothing. It only serves to insult the artist. “
Some on Twitter responded to Morrissey’s post.
“Morrissey is upset, stop the press,” @kurthendricks wrote.
@ zach2302 responded to Morrissey’s post on Facebook, tweeting, “which is weird because it’s exactly the same feeling most people have towards morrissey who is a hated old racist.”
While some might argue that The Simpsons he took the joke too far — Quilloughby was seen eating a sandwich, pretending to be a sale, and was in a rather racist mood — Morrissey’s response only ignited a flame, which he could turn into a fire on social media.
“Morrissey took the bait, the hook, the line and the sinker,” said technology industry analyst Josh Crandall of Netpop Research.
“Speaking on social media, it intensified the situation and made it more ridiculous,” Crandall explained. “It’s pure satire, and satire is best when it comes back to reality. It would probably be better for him if he 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 have since spoken on social media to weigh themselves. Social media is adapted to such a reaction.
“Yes, social media is changing everything,” said Billy Pidgeon, an independent technology analyst and professional musician. “It is not news that social platforms are accelerating a formula in which anger, distraction and fear attract a reach that will pay off in increasing attention and engagement. What remains surprising and amusing is the furious overreaction to the trivial arguments inherent in online debates.
“Of course, Morrissey didn’t have to answer because he lacked the social strength to strengthen his disagreement,” Pidgeon explained. “And to suggest that it’s racist to call someone a racist is a Trump-level farce. The immeasurable response to his complaints will be a pretty ‘OK boomer’ subjecting him to further internet ridicule. At least it strikes, but The Simpsons wins again. “
In addition, his reaction could worsen.
“We all already know how easy it is for people to sit alone at their computers and throw out negativity online,” Crandall added. “Weighing for a sensitive topic like this for Morrissey only adds fuel to the fire of people trolling for their daily entertainment. Social media is current, intense and often negative. Today, Morrissey is a topic of entertainment for many online and rainfall is likely to hurt Morrissey’s feelings even more . “
There’s an argument that celebrities seem to be attracted to such controversies as moths to flames, but that doesn’t mean such engagement is necessary – but it could still allow Morrissey to remain relevant today.
“More current stars with a large number of followers could hold a more spectacular battle,” Pidgeon added. “And of course, the controversy will encourage click bait to attract more attention.”