One of the best animated shows, The Simpsons, is popular for several reasons. Among them is the depiction of some events in its episodes that seem to have come true in real life, even though inadvertently. Viewers, over time, have found uncanny similarities between these reel events and those occurring in actuality years later. Thus, many of us take them as rather intriguing future predictions by The Simpsons.
Created by cartoonist Matt Groening, The Simpsons began as a cartoon short in 1987. Its first proper episode was aired as a Christmas special on 17 December 1989. Today, it is the longest-running animated television series and the longest-running scripted prime-time TV show in American history.
The show is essentially about a dysfunctional Simpsons family that lives in the fictional city of Springfield. Homer is the protagonist of the show. He is married to Marge and has three children — Bart, Lisa and Maggie. Among its vast primary, secondary and guest characters are Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Abraham Simpson, Barney Gumble, Mr Burns and Selma Bouvier.
To date, the show has aired 750 episodes spread across 34 seasons. Throughout its run, it has presented situations, events or objects that were seemingly fun and sometimes implausible at the time but eventually became a reality. Indeed, diligent fans are able to find a connection to a real-life event to something that may have been depicted already on the show. Since several events have come true, The Simpsons has built a reputation for itself as a show that can peek into the future of our society and the larger world.
Of course, not all its ‘predictions’ have come true. One of these is about the world coming to an end sometime in 2005, which (obviously) didn’t happen. But as time marches on and advancements in sciences indicate, several of their predictions will likely come true in the future. Chief of them is the colonisation of Mars and the global rise of artificial intelligence (AI).
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Major predictions that The Simpsons got right
Emergency in an underwater submersible
When: 8 January 2006
Episode Title: Homer’s Paternity Coot (season 17, episode 10)
Fans of the show drew parallels between a scene in the episode and the June 2023 tragedy of the OceanGate submersible named Titan, which sank with five passengers on board during a dive to see the wreck of Titanic.
In the episode, Homer goes on an undersea adventure with a man named Mason Fairbanks. Homer believes that Fairbanks is his biological father. The two try to find the treasure of a sunken ship named Piso Mojado in individual submersibles. During the exploration, Homer’s submersible gets stuck in corals, and he loses consciousness as his oxygen supply depletes. However, he awakens three days later in a hospital.
The passengers of Titan were not as lucky, though. The US Coast Guard, which launched a rescue mission soon after the submersible lost contact with the surface, announced on 22 June that a “catastrophic implosion” in Titan had killed all five passengers on 18 June — the day of its dive.
Donald Trump as the US president
When: 19 March 2000
Episode Title: Bart to the Future (season 11, episode 17)
One of the most famous The Simpsons’ future predictions was about Donald Trump occupying the highest office in the world’s oldest democracy.
In the episode, Bart gets a peek into his own future and the people around him. He sees that his sister, Lisa, has become the US President. During a meeting, Lisa says, “We inherited quite the budget crunch from President Trump.” This was a reference to Donald Trump, who would become the US President in real life in 2016.
Disney acquires 20th Century Fox
When: 8 November 1998
Episode Title: When You Dish Upon a Star (season 10, episode 5)
In the episode, Homer agrees to work for Alec Baldwin (voiced by Baldwin) and Kim Basinger (voiced by Basinger). He makes a phone call to 20th Century Fox executives to suggest an idea. A scene then shows that the company is owned by Walt Disney with the words “A Division of Walt Disney Co.” beneath the 20th Century Fox logo.
Indeed, in March 2019, Disney completed its acquisition of 20th Century Fox for USD 71.3 billion. Following the acquisition, Disney renamed 20th Century Fox as 20th Century Studios and one of its TV studios as 20th Television.
Smartwatches with voice identification
When: 19 March 1995
Episode Title: Lisa’s Wedding (season 6, episode 19)
Although smartwatches are ubiquitous today, it was certainly not even in most people’s imaginations around 30 years ago when The Simpsons made a future prediction around it.
It shows Hugh trying to propose to Lisa using a smartwatch, into which he speaks. The episode shows several other futuristic tech-related jokes as well, but it was only the part with the smartwatch that hit the bull’s eye.
The first smartwatch with a voice command feature was introduced in 2013. It was launched by Irvine, California-based company Martian Watches. They popularised it as the “world’s first voice-command watch.” Its users could connect it to their Apple iPhones or Google Android devices via Bluetooth and make calls, dictate texts or take notes, among other features.
The censorship of Michelangelo’s David statue
When: 20 December 1990
Episode Title: Itchy & Scratchy & Marge (season 2, episode 9)
Marge succeeds in getting a hyper-violent cartoon of The Itchy & Scratchy Show — a show within the show — censored but gets a taste of her own medicine when her own supporters protest Michelangelo’s sculpture, David, over its nudity. As such, it is seen that the statue’s modesty is covered with jeans.
The episode was certainly hilarious, and many would have perhaps thought it is highly unlikely for such an incident to occur in real life. Because who doesn’t like Michaelangelo’s work? Like several other The Simpsons predictions, it came true around 33 years later at several places.
In July 2016, residents of the Russian city of St. Petersburg voted on whether a copy of the iconic statue on display in their city should be covered up or removed altogether.
But forget Russia, even the US, which chest-thumps about its liberalism and tolerance, had an incident in March 2023 at a Florida school where parents opposed the display of the statue in an art class as offensive. It led to the resignation of the principal.
In another part of the world, Glasgow to be precise, a subway advertisement featuring the statue had to be censored due to nudity in May 2023.
Putting horse meat in the food
When: 28 April 1994
Episode Title: Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song (season 5, episode 19)
Lunchlady Doris of Springfield Elementary is seen serving horse meat to school kids for lunch from a drum labelled “assorted horse parts.” In real life, however, a major scandal broke out in the UK in 2013 when it was found that beef products contained horse meat.
Dubbed the “horse meat scandal” by The Guardian, it began when the Food Safety Authority (FSA) of Ireland began testing cheap frozen beef burgers from supermarkets in November 2012. Their findings revealed that horse DNA was present in more than a third of the samples while pig was present in 85 per cent.
Soon after, the UK FSA ordered a test of beef products. It was found that there was a 100 per cent presence of horse meat in some “beef” products made for companies such as Tesco, Aldi and French manufacturer Comigel’s Findus brand. This triggered a Europe-wide analysis. Ireland, the UK and other European countries, such as Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, withdrew meals that contained horsemeat.
This wasn’t the only ‘prediction’ involving Lunchlady Doris. Her lack of cooking skills led her to use gym mats as a meat substitute in another episode. Years later, fans connected it to the 2014 scandal involving Subway, in which a food blogger revealed that it used a chemical called azodicarbonamide in its bread. Though approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a dough conditioner and bleaching agent, the chemical is also used to make yoga mats. Following the controversy, Subway stopped using the chemical.
Space travel for the common people
When: 24 February 1994
Episode Title: Deep Space Homer (season 5, episode 15)
This episode is hailed by fans of The Simpsons for its guest stars — astronaut Buzz Aldrin and musician James Taylor. In it, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) decides to send an average Joe to space to boost its ratings. They select Homer, and he becomes the first ordinary human to go to space.
Today, the idea of anyone in the world jetting off to space has become more commonplace and achievable. At its core are civilian programmes that fulfil the spaceflight dreams of paying customers, thereby boosting what has come to be known as ‘space tourism.’
The first space tourist was American aerospace engineer and financial analyst Dennis Tito, who paid Russia USD 20 million to fly aboard a Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2001 at the age of 60. Several other civilians have flown to space since. Exactly 20 years after Tito’s flight, Elon Musk-owned private space agency SpaceX successfully sent the world’s first all-civilian mission to space.
Premiere of Matrix 4
When: 14 March 2004
Episode Title: The Ziff Who Came To Dinner (season 15, episode 14)
In a blink-and-you-miss-it moment from the episode, a poster reading “A Matrix Christmas, Coming Soon” can be seen behind Homer outside a theatre. On the poster is an image of Neo, the character played by Keanu Reeves, wearing a Christmas hat.
Interestingly, the fourth film of The Matrix franchise, The Matrix Resurrection, was released on 22 December 2021, in time for Christmas. Of course, Reeves wasn’t wearing a Christmas hat during the promotions or in the film, but the coincidence was not lost on fans of The Simpsons.
The first The Matrix film was released in 1999 and was quickly followed by two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, both of which were released in 2003. The first three films were blockbusters, but the fourth failed to meet expectations.
The COVID-19 pandemic
When: 6 May 1993
Episode Title: Marge in Chains (season 4, episode 21)
No person in the world has not been directly or indirectly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is one of history’s most defining periods, where billions went under lockdown and millions lost their lives to a virus whose origin remains unclear.
The Simpsons were far ahead in their predictions when they aired this episode where a foreign-origin flu spreads like wildfire among residents of Springfield.
During the episode, it is seen that a shipment of products from Japan causes what is termed in the show as the “Osaka Flu.” Doctors tell the residents to get bed rest as there is no immediate treatment available. The flu isn’t the focus of the episode, though, which is about Marge who is forced to serve prison time on mistaken charges of shoplifting.
Years later, many fans saw how similar the flu depicted in the episode was to the COVID-19 virus. They found a connection to the flu’s origin country, its rapid spread, and the fact that patients could not be inoculated against it because the vaccine hadn’t been developed yet as prescient.
But in March 2020, the co-writer of the episode, Bill Oakley, slammed those connecting the pandemic to Asia and revealed that the flu in the episode was inspired by the Hong Kong flu of 1968.
“I believe the most antecedent to [Osaka Flu] was the Hong Kong flu of 1968. It was just supposed to be a quick joke about how the flu got here,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
“I don’t like it being used for nefarious purposes. The idea that anyone misappropriates it to make coronavirus seem like an Asian plot is terrible. In terms of trying to place blame on Asia — I think that is gross,” added Oakley.
FIFA corruption scandal and Germany winning the World Cup
When: 30 March 2014
Episode Title: You Don’t Have to Live Like a Referee (season 25, episode 16)
The FIFA World Cup corruption was a major scandal that continues to be a dark spot in the history of the beautiful game. It happened in 2015, just a year after this episode of The Simpsons aired which, interestingly, also predicted Germany’s win.
FIFA employees were indicted and several arrested on accusations of fraud, money laundering and bribery by the end of the year. At the heart of the scandal was the awarding of the hosting rights for the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. Sepp Blatter, the then FIFA chief, was removed from office.
The Simpsons episode shows Homer being brought as a referee in a FIFA World Cup tournament because corruption in the organisation had led to a shortage of officials. Homer decides to be fair and, therefore, Germany wins the cup.
The German team did indeed win the FIFA World Cup later the same year at the tournament in Brazil by beating Argentina 1-0.
Watch The Simpsons here.
(Hero image: FOX/CR: FOX – © 2014 FOX BROADCASTING/IMDb; Featured image: IMDb)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: 'The Simpsons' has had over 100 writers throughout its run. Chief of them are Al Jean, Matt Groening, Dan Greaney, Stephanie Gillis, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Matt Selman, Tim Long, Carolyn Omine, Joel H. Cohen and Jeff Westbrook.
Answer: There is no clarity on which of the events shown on 'The Simpsons' can come true in 2024, but some believe it could be Donald Trump's run for presidency.
Answer: The latest 'The Simpsons' prediction that has come true is the sinking of the submersible 'Titan,' which was on its way to explore the wreckage of the 'Titanic' at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.