Amy Lamé has been touring her contribution to the canonisation of Morrissey, Unhappy Birthday, around England. It is a personal comment on his enduring influence on the lives of queers via The Smiths with a hardy dose of hairspray. Then ‘Bigmouth strikes again’ fills the studio, an apt time to say something political, in line with Moz’s tendency to mouth off. Lamé gives an audience member a paragraph to read into the microphone, an excerpt of news on Morrissey’s stage talk following the bomb and shooting in Norway in 2011. Without googling the exact quote, what he said was something like ‘what happened in Norway is nothing compared to the massacre of animals that happens every day’. This quip earned the feted vegetarian (or is he vegan? Mrs Lomez cannot be sure) worldwide scorn, from fans and detractors alike. He’s a tough guy to love. Lamé is a fan who distances herself from her idol because of this. As if to refute the statement entirely, she stuffs a Big Mac in her mouth then ejects the masticated mince patty into the paper takeaway bag. A lot of people in the audience applauded at this point.
What is wrong with what Morrissey said? Why is it so offensive that even quiff-loving queers want to disown him?
Mrs Lomez suspects that it is the comparison of animals with humans that wounds so. Humans are special and because of this status, humans should not kill or inflict violence on other humans. To do so is to offend the special status of humans. But animals are not special, so any violence directed at them is acceptable. Further, to say that animals endure more harm than humans is to disrespect those humans that have been killed or have suffered because it suggests that they are less than human, as low as animals. Even using the word ‘massacre’ to talk about animals is offensive because this is a ‘human’ word, only appropriate when talking about humans. Its significance is too great to describe mass animal slaughter. Conversely, if we were to say that humans were slaughtered, this would mean that they were killed like animals.
Morrissey wasn’t quite so explicit, typically leaving himself open to interpretation. Perhaps he didn’t intend to be interpreted this way, as if devaluing human life. Maybe he was just thinking of the animals who, according to M, are just as special as humans are.
Lamé’s response is a great illustration of the absent referent in action. The reality of animal massacre that Morrissey speaks of becomes a trope in Lamé’s performance. Instead of a war of words, she eats a piece of meat, the dead animal disappearing in her rejection of Mozza’s moral values. By stuffing the Big Mac in her mouth she says that animals do not matter, that their deaths are insignificant, and we are meant to forget that an animal has died in the making of this hamburger. The Big Mac represents solidarity with the Norway victims and their families and every person with a sense of humanity, whatever that may be. McDonald’s becomes the harbinger of justice. But it isn’t a moral imperative to align yourself with either humans or animals, though Morrissey has clearly made his choice.
Until next time,
Further reading: The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol Adams