Morrissey's quiet desperation and romantic worldview continues to connect and inspire fans
Whether gay, transgender, or the myriad of other ways that a young person can be sexually exiled from society, Morrissey fans saw a beacon of understanding in their repressed prophet, knowing all too well what it is to feel intense biological longing with no available action to be taken. This leads many of them to cut their hair into sycophantic pompadours, showing up to his shows with wrapped gifts, which they hurl onto the stage, along with desperately flung gladioli flowers.
Though it's not just LGBT hipsters that respond to Morrissey's enchanting body and lurid stage-presence. "Young heterosexual men -- and now old heterosexual men -- respond to him at a homoerotic level," says writer Will Self. "[His performance] speaks to the homosexual component in a lot of heterosexual men."
Like the enigma of his character, the people who call themselves Morrissey fans can be equally baffling -- not for who they are, but for who they aren't. Considering Morrissey is known for being a tender, vulnerable, intellectually effeminate singer who loves to reach those high notes, a surprising number of his fans hail from very masculine cultures, such as North England's football hooligans, or the straight-as-a-gun-barrel males of East L.A.'s Latino community.
In his 2002 essay, Viva Morrissey!, pop-culture academic Chuck Klosterman visited a Morrissey convention in Los Angeles -- expecting to find a lot of indie-rock white kids fresh from their Vespa trips to Urban Outfitters, Klosterman was surprised to be faced with a crowd estimated to be around 75 percent Latino. Interviewing a "cut like marble" twenty-year-old named Cruz Rubio, the intimidating young man confessed, "Sometimes I lay in my bedroom and listen to 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out' and I cry. I cry like a little bitch, man."
After hypothesizing on how it came to be that Morrissey found a home in the unlikely hearts of Mexican immigrants (perhaps that Morrissey's family immigrants from Ireland, or maybe it was his embracement of rockabilly and 1950s "greaser" culture), Klosterman theorizes. "Maybe it's just that Latino kids still hear what conflicted bookworms heard during the Reagan administration: the soul of a man who's tirelessly romantic, yet perpetually unloved. Assembly-line stars such as Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias simply can't touch the authenticity of Morrissey's quiet desperation."
Yet the electricity a true-believer feels while listening to "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" on their headphones during a rainy day is not transferable. Like the title of The Smiths 1987 compilation, The World Wont Listen, fans have been preaching the gospel of Morrissey for three decades now, insisting to parents, co-workers and frustrated girlfriends that if they just sit and listen to "Reel Around The Fountain," one more time they'll understand what all the fuss is about, and how much better life will be once you've converted.
But it rarely works. If you get it, you really get it -- but if not, you most likely hate the man. This is ultimately the plight of James Kiss, the eighteen year old Arvada youth who packed his backpack full of Smiths cassettes, threw his newly purchased rifle in the car, and headed toward a Lakewood radio station with the plan of assaulting the airwaves with the urgent crooning of Morrissey's voice.
Kiss ended up surrendering his gun, perhaps with a realization that no one can be persuaded into being a Morrissey fan. It's nothing that is chosen; rather, it's in your DNA -- it chooses you. All it takes is being born with an above average eccentricity, combined with a good measure of self loathing and a cripplingly romantic worldview. That, along with a few records under your arm and some gladiolis in your back pocket, and your off.