‘Simpsons did it’
Have you ever stopped and wondered how many times The Simpsons have predicted the future? Well, if you haven’t, it’s a lot. And they’ve been right about things that, at the time of airing, seemed so wrong. So wrong they were hilarious. Like, about a former reality TV star becoming the President of the United States. Sigh.
Regardless, there has been a number of theories that The Simpsons predicted, from 2021’s US and UK fuel shortages a decade prior and Lady Gaga’s flying entrance at the Super Bowl to Toys “R” Us closing from as early as 2004.
We spotted a few examples back in 2017, but there have been so many more since, so we’ve had to raise the bar on what we consider freaky-good fortune-telling.
So, after much deliberation, here is JOE‘s definitive list of Simpsons predictions (for now). We’re sure we’ll be updating this in no time at all…
Donald Trump becoming US President (Season 11, Episode 17: ‘Bart to the Future’ – 2000)
Naturally, we have to start with the one we all wish didn’t come true: Donald Trump winning the US Presidency. Not only did the show predict this more than 15 years before he was elected in 2016, but they even spoofed his famously memed elevator entrance when he announced his candidacy.
Many have even highlighted that Lisa‘s appearance is strikingly similar to the current VP, Kamala Harris – but we’re going to go ahead and believe this was more just an attempt to make her look somewhat stately. Still a pretty striking resemblance though.
Disney buying 20th Century Fox (Season 10, Episode 5: ‘When You Dish Upon a Star’ – 1998)
As far as Simpsons predictions go, this one’s pretty wild. Back in 1999, Groening and co. write a script that, in short, sees writer and director Ron Howard pitch Homer‘s movie screenplay idea to some Hollywood execs at 20th Century Fox and, in nothing more than a throwaway freeze-frame gag, a line below the sign to the offices reads: ‘A division of Walt Disney Co’. Creepy, right?
Siegfried & Roy tiger attack (Season 5, Episode 10: ‘$pringfield’ – 1993)
Younger generations might not be familiar with Siegfried and Roy but the famous Las Vegas magicians and entertainers were pretty big back in the day and well known for performing with animals – specifically tigers. However, in 2003, one half of the duo, Roy Horn, was nearly mauled to death by a seven-year-old white tiger.
In the episode itself, Mr Burns builds a luxury casino in Springfield, and two fairly obvious caricatures called Gunter & Ernst put on a show featuring their circus tiger, Anastasia. The creature then remembers being captured by the two showmen and proceeds to attack them. As if this particular prediction wasn’t grim enough, the real tragedy happened on Roy’s birthday.
The Nobel Prize for Economics (Season 22, Episode 1: ‘Elementary School Musical’ – 2010)
There’s an argument to be made that this one is simply a case of naming a few notable economists in order to construct a gag about ‘the Nobies’ as Homer calls them – but it doesn’t stop Millhouse from predicting that Bengt R. Holmström would go on to win a Nobel Prize six years prior to it actually happening in 2016.
While Jagdish Bhagwati takes home the award in the episode from 2010, our bespectacled buddy still has Holmstrom in the pools. It wasn’t the right winner that year – but if it’s good enough for MIT, then it’s good enough for us.
The Simpsons predict the Super Bowl. Three times (Season 3, Episode 14 – 1992 and onwards)
The Super Bowl is the cornerstone of Simpsons predictions and one of the first times people started noticing they were getting stuff right. The football-centric episode ‘Lisa the Greek’ aired back in 1992 – only a few days before Super Bowl XXVI – and correctly predicted that the Washington Redskins would win. Pretty cool but could just be a fluke, right?
Well, they did it again the following year, re-dubbing the episode for fun and correctly predicting that the Dallas Cowboys as victors. Well, luck can strike twice but that’s not all: they were believed to have done it yet again, re-dubbing once more to predict the San Francisco 49ers winning Super Bowl XXIX. Crazy.
Autocorrect (Season 6, Episode 8: ‘Lisa on Ice’ – 1994)
While we ruled out the possibility of The Simpsons predicting things like smart-watches (we’ve seen that kind of thing in pretty much every bit of sci-fi for the past few decades), we think this one is pretty cool given it was a direct satire on Apple before they were, you know, absolutely everywhere.
In 1992, the company released the Newton: essentially a PDA that pre-dated devices like BlackBerrys and iPhones but they didn’t exactly take off – being discontinued in 1998. Its handwriting recognition feature was far from perfect and in 1994, The Simpsons decided to make a gag that essentially predated our embarrassing autocorrect failures before they were even a thing. Cool, init?
FIFA corruption arrests (Season 25, Episode 16: ‘You Don’t Have to Live Like a Referee’ – 2014)
This one came just a year prior to the actual event happening – now that is poignant. Though the whiff of sleaze and corruption had been potent around FIFA for as many years as the current Tory government, nothing ever really happened to stop it: Sepp Blatter never went anywhere; ‘death, taxes and’ so on, rinse and repeat. Until The Simpsons piped in, of course…
As we said, the corruption had long been the elephant in the room so it wasn’t exactly news when the story broke – but considering nothing ever seemed to happen about it, the writers must have got a strong sense of the case actually gaining traction. It doesn’t rank the highest in the all-time Simpsons predictions but they certainly read the room.
USA winning the curling (Season 21, Episode 12: ‘Boy Meets Curl’ – 2010)
In case you didn’t know already, Sweden is really good at curling and pretty much always has been. That being said, having them appear in the final at the Olympics isn’t so unbelievable – but America beating them to the gold is a fair bit more eye-catching. They were some eight years (or two Olympic tournaments) out but it’s still a cool little bit of serendipity.
Covering up Michelangelo’s ‘David’ (Season 2, Episode 9: ‘Itchy & Scratchy & Marge’ – 1990)
The Simpsons touched on the age-old debate of should art be censored way back in 1990 after just one season on air with Marge engaged in a debate about freedom of expression after growing concerned about the violent Itchy & Scratchy cartoon (their take on Tom & Jerry), yet defending Michelangelo’s ‘David’.
The best part is the statue is given a pair of pants in the episode and some 26 years later, Russia genuinely had a vote on whether to clothe the nudey fella. Always ahead of their time, The Simpsons.
Faulty voting machines (Season 20, Episode 4: ‘Treehouse of Horror XIX’ – 2008)
This one caused a big stir at the time. While the concept of voter fraud and technical errors can by no means be claimed by the show alone, the fact that they ‘predicted’ faulty voting machines in an election that involved Barack Obama is pretty eerie.
They didn’t get the right one though mind: as you can see, in this episode Homer tries to vote for Obama only for it to pick political rival John McCain (twice) when, in fact, it was the next election in 2012 when Obama came up against Republican Mitt Romney that someone filmed themselves voting while the polling booth machine changed their answer. Four years out is still pretty telling though.
Homer—yes, HOMER works out the mass of the Higgs boson particle (Season 10, Episode 2: ‘The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace’)
Ok, this is just getting silly now. Perhaps one of the most infamously stupid characters on the planet reportedly figured out the mass of the Higgs boson particle. For those unaware, this was one of the properties the Large Hadron Collider was built to figure out – you know, that thing that could theoretically recreate The Big Bang? We can’t even begin to explain this one, just mad.
The Simpsons predict The Shard in London (Season 6, Episode 19: ‘Lisa’s Wedding’ – 1995)
Sheer chance, a lucky guess as someone drew their rough idea of the London skyline or yet another one of The Simpsons‘ many impressive predictions?
Either way, even if it’s just a coincidence, it’s a pretty cool one – as this episode from 1995 shows Big Ben with a digital clock face. A simple gag but if you look in the background, you can see what looks like The Shard 17 years before it was actually built.
Horse meat scandal (Season 5, Episode 19: ‘Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song – 1994)
This one not only hits close to home but there are multiple examples of it, making the prediction even more impressive. Believe it or not, people still eat horse meat in some parts of the world and there is a historic problem with it – they even did an episode about this on Mad Men – but The Simpsons still predicted the 2013 horsemeat scandal nearly 20 years early.
You might remember hearing that Tesco was putting horse meat in your burgers here in the UK but the problem was actually Europe-wide and even in 2020, illegal horse meat was seized from slaughterhouses in Ireland. Do they know something we don’t?
A doughnut-shaped universe (Season 10, Episode 22: ‘They Saved Lisa’s Brain’)
Cannot stop laughing at this one. Homer and doughnuts are a match made in heaven: the premise of this joke being that his brain revolves around nothing else, even when pondering the universe. However, little did the writers know that when they had him speaking to Stephen Hawking about a doughnut-shaped universe that this would become a genuine theory.
The three-torus model is a thing and has only recently come to light – either way, Homer called it. In short, it suggests that the universe is shaped like a three-dimensional ring and that while not fully finite or infinite, you would never be able to reach its edge; instead, you would simply loop back on yourself as if you were circumnavigating the globe. Not quite as mad as the flat earth conspiracy theory.
FarmVille… Yep (Season 9, Episode 12: ‘Bart Carny’ – 1998)
Right, seriously, get lost. If you can dig back far enough into your young adolescent memory to remember FarmVille – and how daft that sounds now – then that should make this possibly one of the craziest Simpsons predictions of all.
Once again, video games and the idea of virtual reality had been heard of already but Facebook wasn’t invented until 2004 and that silly game you used to waste hours on didn’t come out until 2009. Who predicts a farming simulator!?
Late letters from The Beatles (Season 2, Episode 18: ‘Brush with Greatness’ – 1991)
We like this once because it’s just one of those jokes that teeters on the borders between chance, coincidence, and the surreal. In this very early episode, Ringo Starr made a guest appearance as himself during which the joke was that he was catching up on fan mail he was already years behind on, having just got up to 12 December 1966.
The joke obviously works because it’s The Beatles – the biggest band to ever walk the planet so, of course, they would have an other-worldly amount of post – but the fact that something very similar happened to two women that received a reply from Sir Paul McCartney as late as 2013 makes this once hyperbolic joke much more believable. Wrong Beatle but still cool.
Ted Cruz’s going on holiday during a crisis (Season 4, Episode 21: ‘Marge in Chains’ – 1993)
If you know your Simpsons, you’ll know that Mayor Joe Quimby is famously based on US Senator Ted Kennedy and a composite of various other members of the Kennedy family who shared that unique Boston accent. However, this particular scene from 1993 shows him resembling another notable and more contemporary politician.
In the episode, Quimby flies off to the Bahamas while the town of Springfield is hit with a pandemic (we’ll get on to that shortly): a sequence of events that bears a striking resemblance to when a much less respected Ted Cruz went on holiday to Cancun while his state of Texas was in the midst of coronavirus, as well as a lack of electricity, heat, and water. Crazy right? Wait for it…
Lots of 2020 (‘Marge in Chains’ really is a belter)
Last but not least, in addition to Ted Cruz’s ill-advised getaway whilst everyone else was struggling, the unnerving accuracy of The Simpsons predictions surely peaks with the ‘Marge in Chains’ episode, as the backdrop to his escape resembles two of the biggest stories from 2020 – ya know, that year where no one could have predicted half of the bullsh*t that went down?
Not only does Springfield get hit with the Osaka flu pandemic (we don’t need to spell it out for you, do we?) but amongst the rioting in the town – which we also had plenty of in 2020 – a truck full of ‘killer bees’ is released. Outside of Covid, perhaps the craziest headline of 2020 was when ‘murder hornets’ descended on the US. How can these both possibly be in the same episode?
That’s it, we’ve had enough; we could have touched on so many others that some people would consider equally unbelievable Simpsons predictions but that last one hit us for six and as we edge towards the New Year, all we can think about is what the writers undoubtedly have in store for us in 2022.
Please go easy on us, guys, we’re knackered.
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