By Guest Contributor Joshua Alston; originally published at Feminist Wire
This week, Morrissey announced that he is canceling the remainder of his North American tour, due to an ongoing battle with a bleeding ulcer, Barrett’s esophagus, and a case of pneumonia in both of his lungs. I was disappointed to hear about the illnesses plaguing the singer who, since fronting the seminal rock band The Smiths in the 80s, has built a particularly cultish fan base of which I more or less consider myself a part. But there was also a rush of relief when I heard about the tour cancellation because it relieved me of a quandary that presents itself every few years: whether or not to see Morrissey in concert.
A friend of mine texted me a few weeks back to tell me when Morrissey was scheduled to play Philadelphia and to ask if I planned on going. The question startled me. It shouldn’t have. Like most Morrissey fans, I’ll find a way to mention his work if you talk to me long enough, and I often find myself pleading with Morrissey agnostics to listen to his work, particularly those who know nothing except for the penchant for whiny navel-gazing that has earned him the pejorative honorific “The Pope of Mope.” It only makes sense that anyone who’s gotten close enough to see how important Morrissey’s work is to me would ask if I wanted to see him in concert. But it’s a far more complex decision than it seems on its face.
Morrissey doesn’t make himself easy to like and has proved to be as deft at writing catchy, literate indie-pop songs as he is at erecting barriers that prevent the unqualified enjoyment of those songs. He’s egregiously precious and oversensitive and has a tendency to come off in interviews as self-important, vain, and smug. He’s a vocal advocate for animal rights–but perhaps too vocal. His passion for protecting all God’s creatures is an admirable one, but the rigid, bratty way he tends to express that passion represents the type of myopic zealotry that stunts movements more often than it fortifies them.
I could accept all of this, though, if it weren’t for the fact that Morrissey is also probably racist. I say “probably” for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that Morrissey is not at all shy about litigation where such accusations are concerned. Added to this, as with any damaging rumor that shadows a celebrity, Morrissey’s alleged racism is a conjecture built of equal parts fact, perception, and apocrypha. But in spite of his insistence that he isn’t racist–an assertion he’s repeated over the years–no one has done more to make the case that Morrissey is deeply racist and xenophobic than the man himself.