“The hatred shown towards me from the creators of The Simpsons is obviously a taunting lawsuit,” Morrissey wrote, “but one that requires more funding than I could possibly muster in order to make a challenge.”
The Simpsons episode in question — “Panic on the Streets of Springfield,” which aired Sunday — finds Lisa enamored with a vegan British musician named Quilloughby (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), who formerly fronted a band called the Snuffs.
The character first appears as Lisa’s imaginary friend, influencing her more dour demeanor, and he also sings spoof songs (co-written by Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie) like “Hamburger Homicide” and “Everyone Is Horrid Except Me (And Possibly You).” When Lisa sees the real Quilloughby and the Snuffs in concert, she’s alarmed to discover that he’s a meat-eating xenophobe.
Following the episode, Morrissey’s manager Peter Katsis criticized The Simpsons — via the songwriter’s Facebook page — for “trying to capitalize on cheap controversy and expounding on vicious rumors.” He also condemned the show’s depiction of Quilloghby (whom he described as the “Morrissey character”) as a “racist, without pointing out any specific instances.” (Fox and The Simpsons did not immediately return a request for comment.)
In a subsequent interview, Katsis told Rolling Stone, “It’s funny that none of the stories are talking about the false portrayals or what The Simpsons did. The Simpsons are claiming it’s a composite of several artists — obviously so we don’t sue them. What no one’s talking about is how insulting it truly is. The guy is still a super vegan. His beliefs in animal rights is what’s got him to this point.”
Katsis said they aren’t currently planning legal action but will “surely be looking at options.”
In his lengthy letter on Monday, Morrissey noted that he doesn’t have “a determined business squad of legal practitioners ready to pounce,” adding, “I think this is generally understood and is the reason why I am so carelessly and noisily attacked. You are especially despised if your music affects people in a strong and beautiful way, since music is no longer required to. In fact, the worst thing you can do in 2021 is to lend a bit of strength to the lives of others. There is no place in modern music for anyone with strong emotions.”
Later in his note, the singer wrote that music “and the world in general” has become a “mesmerizing mess,” and that “free speech no longer exists.” “I’ve had enough horror thrown at me that would kill off a herd of bison,” he wrote. “Accusations usually come from someone with a crazed desire for importance; they don’t operate at a very high level. Writing for The Simpsons, for example, evidently requires only complete ignorance. But all of these things are too easy for me to say. In a world obsessed with Hate Laws, there are none that protect me.”
Katsis further commented on the “Simpsons bullshit” Monday night via Morrissey’s Facebook.
“Why did Cumberbatch even agree to take this voice-over gig playing the Morrissey character?” he wrote. “Could he be that hard up for cash that he would agree to bad rap another artist that harshly? Clearly he would have read the outline or script before he took the gig. Could he actually be as big an asshole as the people on the [Simpsons] writing team? and the FOX team? Apparently so. Maybe he should speak up and tell his side of this. Does he even have enough balls to do that?”
A rep for Cumberbatch did not immediately reply to a request for comment.