You know you’re doing something right/well when it really, really pisses off the object of ridicule. Sure, Morrissey is low-hanging fruit for my generation (Gen X) and he probably isn’t too well known by Mills and Gen Z, but he continues to be an embarrassment for non-meat eaters, his countrymen and fans. I also didn’t know Benedict Cumberbatch could sing, let alone imitate the King of Whine.
Other media outlets, oddly an Irish one, were really critical about this episode. They mostly focused on the tired, moldy chestnut we all know about how The Simpsons has lost its relevance and/or it hasn’t been any good since (insert season number here). The only thing I could ever agree on is that picking on Morrissey in 2021 was a weird choice.
However, Lisa getting swept up in the Smiths 34 years after they broke up isn’t much of a stretch. Her character is alienated from the mainstream and yet alienates those around her. She is caught up in her own ego as all teens go through (myself included), aka the phase in which everybody is stupid and wrong, only I know what’s best. There might be an equivalent act today yet Morrissey remains the champ of such people, namely vegans, before they learn to dial back their rhetoric amongst us omnivores.
The episode was personal to me too. No, I was never anything resembling a Smiths fan during their heyday but I lived with one. Chris was my second roommate at Marquette and he was quite fanatical about them. We originally met as interns at WMUR and he turned out to be the neighbor of my established friends Paul and John at McCormick Hall. Chris loved to play the current album (The Queen is Dead) and tell me about the live show he’d seen the previous Summer and how the lyrics were personal to him, blah, blah, blah. I was, “OK. The songs are pretty good, a tad on the whiney side and there’s one with a weird helium-voiced person singing” but I knew my place being a “country mouse” from North Dakota. I readily admitted to my ignorance on what was “cool,” since I didn’t have access to the better music thanks to geography.
Several months later, I learned how Smiths fans didn’t have a sense of humor. Chris played the new single “Ask” our WMUR show and I broke out laughing at the bridge when Morrissey was singing, “If it’s not love, then it’s the bomb, the bomb, the bomb…the bomb that will bring us together.” To me it was a dark, fatalist joke amplified by Morrissey’s Dudley Do-Right voice. Chris was annoyed, for I didn’t “get it.”
The following school year, Chris also read a little too into the lyrics in what would be the band’s swansong, Strangeways, Here We Come. He was also having some girlfriend problems and weirdly thought this situation wasn’t a coincidence, maybe Morrissey was clairvoyant? Didn’t matter. Chris dropped out the following semester for reasons I don’t want to share.
As for Morrissey, the jokes Simpsons writer Tim Long just kept landing a flurry of hilarious blows at the singer. Namely what an insufferable racist he is. Morrissey denies this while talking shit about the Left-leaning The Guardian; One cannot be a member of the UKIP party and say they’re not racist with a straight face any more than a Klansman in America. Long then went even one better by having his parody character, now a fat guy who loves to eat meat and fires sausages at the crowd, plugging his latest solo album titled Refugees? Again?
Thanks Simpsons staff for making an episode which feels like it was written just for me. I seriously hope Chris saw it too and laughed as hard as I did.