In 1987, a series of short animated clips began entertaining audiences on The Tracy Ullman Show. Five family members colored a dubious shade of yellow, gathered in front of the TV and introduced sketches laden with gags and pithy witticisms about everyday family life and general wider American society. This family was known as The Simpsons. It became such a regular and popular segment of The Tracy Ullman Show that in 1989, The Simpsons were given their own series (and a pet dog to boot – Santa’s Little Helper).
Kicking off its 28th season and airing episode 600 later this year, The Simpsons is still going strong and has entertained and amused generations of families, from kids and even their parents when they were kids and their parents too. A postmodern study on society and the structure of the western world, for almost 30 years, The Simpsons have painted a cuttingly fond image of the world, using acerbic wit that has cleverly been tailored to fit any age and any taste of humor, from slapstick to satire. Using a highly cerebral blend to meld the sublime, the mushy and the ridiculous, The Simpsons poke fun at everything, including themselves and have spawned a plethora of copy cat style shows, from King of the Hill to Bob’s Burgers. Spawning a movie and even a crossover with its main rival, Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy and defying gossip that it’s past its sell-by-date, The Simpsons remains popular.
Casting an eye back over those three decades, The Simpsons have seemed so on point regarding their inspections of society that it seems many of those observations have turned out to be eventually a true depiction of the world we live in. Here is a run down of 15 times that The Simpsons appeared to have predicted the future in their episodes.
“Sometimes, I whittles the future.” – Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel.
15. 9/11 Conspiracy
Now the jury is out on whether this one is true and some may wish to tip their tin foil hats in homage to the conspiracy theory sphere that is as active and kooky as ever. But in an episode where Barney disappears with Homer’s car, he later discovers the vehicle is in New York and Lisa shows the family the back of a magazine, offering coach journeys to The Big Apple for $9. The poster depicts the number next to The World Trade Center, which seems to look like 911. This seemingly innocuous design sent conspiracy lovers nuts after the terrorist attacks of September 11 and although this isn’t a prediction per se, the rumors and paranoia linked to this short glimpse of what was no doubt a hastily sketched image in the mid-90s, has littered the internet ever since.
14. Predictive Text
In this episode, Lisa joins a local youth ice hockey team, in order to stop her from failing Gym. It is at this point that she discovers she has an innate talent for goalkeeping. Naturally, older brother Bart has a natural talent for goal scoring, stoking a bitter sibling rivalry, goaded by Homer. During assembly, the bullies are planning to punish Martin for his dorkiness, with one writing on his Apple Newton device a memo, to “Beat Up Martin.” The Newton corrects the memo to say: “Eat Up Martha.” So the bully throws the Newton at Martin’s head. This was a prediction of an annoyance we all deal with 20 years later… the perils of autocorrect!
13. Smart Watch
There have been several episodes of The Simpsons that have a guess at foretelling the future, often with jokey implications. However, some of the predictions painted an image of some of the very real tech we’d have in a couple of decades. When Lisa visits a Medieval Fair, she encounters a fortune teller who relays to her the tale of her first love. Fast forward to 2010, Lisa is at college and is engaged to a stuffy, English, Hugh Grant style gent (named Hugh, no less) who is rather disdainful of Lisa’s family. Some of the glimpses into the future were way off, lunatic planes, Big Ben’s clock face becoming a digital watch and sentient robots. Although when Hugh proposes to Lisa, he seems to speak into a device attached to his wrist, kind of telling of the Smart Watch developed by Samsung, Apple and others. Though 2010 was a tad early, it wasn’t too far off from these innovations. Furthermore, the same episode rightly predicts that The Rolling Stones would still be going strong.
12. Faulty Voting Machines
All Simpsons seasons begin with their Halloween specials, dubbed Treehouse of Horror. In the 20th edition, the show starts with Homer entering the voting booth for the 2008 Presidential Election and tries to log his vote for Barack Obama. Although in true Fox fashion, the electrical voting machine would only accept votes for the Republican candidate, John McCain. Attempts to keep voting and then reveal the fraud to officials, result in Homer getting butchered by the demonic machine. Perhaps some unscrupulous politicians thought that this was a good idea? As a voting machine in Pennsylvania during the 2012 Elections kept registering votes for Republican candidate Mitt Romney, instead of President Obama. Registering nearly 5,000 wrong votes before the machine was taken out of circulation.
11. Lemon Tree Larceny
In the 1995 episode, Lemon of Troy, the hometown of The Simpsons – Springfield – falls afoul of a crime enacted by the kids of their neighboring town and bitter rivals, Shelbyville. The Shelbyville kids steal Springfield’s hallowed lemon tree and the kids head on an expedition into the nearby town to retrieve it. Eventually roping in their dads when it is discovered in a parking compound, resulting in a plot to retrieve it with a Trojan Horse tactic. “No one in history has ever thought of anything this clever!” Homer quietly gloats as they sneak out of Flanders’ purposely impounded RV. In 2013, someone clearly was inspired by this episode. In the suburbs of Houston, Texas, some robbers actually made the effort to dig up a lemon tree and make off with it! What on earth their intentions were regarding the sour fruit bearing flora, is anyone’s guess! They say everything is bigger in Texas, so clearly robbing a few lemons out of the boughs was insufficient? … When life hands you lemons, steal a lemon tree!
10. Grease Monkeys
Continuing with the criminal theme, it seems that The Simpsons offers a little bit of inspiration for the criminally disposed (and intellectually challenged) in modern society. A 1998 episode of The Simpsons, Lard of the Dance, guest starring Friends’ Lisa Kudrow as Alex, a Beverly Hills, precocious 8-year-old who shocks Lisa with cell phones, fashion and boy gossip, swoops in and steals Lisa’s friends. Meanwhile, Homer has branched out into selling grease and pulls Bart out of school (against his will) to assist in selling grease. When he steals Groundskeeper Willie’s “Retirement Grease,” Homer gets into a fight with the Scotsman! It seems the thieves in real life had a tad more vision than Homer and Groundskeeper Willie however. When in 2008, the New Yorkers stole grease left outside restaurants to sell as biofuel.
9. Horse Meat
There is always something dodgy going on when it comes to Springfield and its food supply. Whether it’s the dubious identity of the creature used for Krusty Burger’s Ribwich, or Fat Tony milking rats and selling it on to Springfield Elementary under the guise of cow’s milk! It doesn’t appear that the nonchalant Lunch Lady Doris seems too perturbed by the questionable fare she doles out to children, a testament to this is when she serves hearts, “Grade F Meat,” “Malk, with Vitamin R,” and horse meat (which of course isn’t as bad as serving up the kids themselves, a la Treehouse of Horror V). However, the equine fiasco did hit British supermarkets back in 2013. Many leading brands were found to be not entirely truthful when they claimed to be “Pure British Beef.” Cows weren’t the “mane” make up of the food, so to speak. Was it The Simpsons that made food manufacturers think they could get away with it? Lunch Lady Doris did after all…
8. Three-Eyed Fish
The nuclear power plant, owned by amoral oligarch Charles Montgomery Burns, has always been a source of humor and more than a dash of subliminal radiating metaphor regarding our collective destruction of the planet. Nothing embodied this more than when Bart caught a three-eyed fish in a river near the plant. Harsh censure from nuclear inspectors made Mr. Burns run for State governor (wherever the State that Springfield is in is located!) His corrupt campaign goes “swimmingly,” until Marge – purposely – serves Mr. Burns the disgusting three-eyed fish his toxic waste has bred. Apparently creators of The Simpsons ostensibly have a good “eye” for documenting the negative ramifications of animal’s exposure to nuclear waste. In 2011, a real three-eyed fish was caught in a lake in Argentina… and what do you know, the lake was near a nuclear plant!
7. Higgs Homer
Patriarch of The Simpsons family, Homer, isn’t exactly known for his smarts. As he says to genius daughter Lisa: “ever since you learned to tie your own shoe laces, you’ve been smarter than me.” Although in episode Homr, viewers learned that there was a reason behind Homer’s infamous stupidity… a crayon lodged in his brain (that Homer had removed and then replaced when he couldn’t bear the world’s overwhelming idiocy – deciding that ignorance is bliss!) Yet often, people can be “too smart for their own good,” (to paraphrase Marge when she said this to Lisa after Lisa’s suspicions got the family kicked off an alien craft to paradise) and it takes a true dope to make some innovation. Simon Singh authored a book titled: The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets, where he posited that Homer predicted the Higgs Boson in an equation (a particle that gives other particles mass) 14 years before the theorized particle was discovered in 2012.
6. FIFA La Simpsons!
One of the major sporting controversies of the last several years has been the level of corruption in Soccer’s governing body, FIFA. It was so big and widespread that even the head of the organization, Sepp Blatter, was given a red card and sent off. Before the bribes and the governing body scored all of those own goals, The Simpsons of course was on hand prior to the events to predict such an event. Season 25’s You Don’t Have to Live Like a Referee episode, sees FIFA’s vice-president beseech Homer to referee in the 2014 World Cup. But he is arrested by American authorities under corruption charges. If that wasn’t enough of a portent, the episode even predicted Germany as winning the tournament.
5. Guitar Hero
In season 14, Homer spends a week at Rock n’ Roll camp with a plethora with legends of the genre, including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Elvis Costello and Lenny Kravitz. Homer obviously eventually falls afoul of his idols, yet before the inevitable fallout and catastrophe that follows Homer like his alleged bad smell, Mick and Keith hand Homer a jacket, with Guitar Hero written on the back. This episode was aired in 2002, several years before the game of the same name was released and took the world by storm and replacing all air guitars with a guitar controller. Do we have Homer, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (who lent their voices to the episode) to thank for the gaming phenomenon? Maybe?
Nowadays, things like Skype, Face Time and Google Hangouts are well known to all of us and allow people to see one another face-to-face, wherever they are on the planet at whatever time of the day, week, month or year. In the episode where the gypsy fortune teller predicts Lisa’s engagement and split with British dandy, Hugh, Lisa talks to her mother via videophone. Marge warns her that in the UK: “a mile is called a kilometer, an elevator is called a lift and Botulism is called Steak and Kidney Pie.” The episode is set in 2010 (of course Lisa was still 8 when a Simpsons series aired in 2010) and by that time Skype and other platforms were available… just not as crystal clear as shown in this episode.
3. Troublesome Tigers
Siegfried and Roy are famous magicians and performers that have frequented the Casinos of Vegas. Their act also involves a tiger that does tricks. The Simpsons in their 90s heyday, heavily parodied Siegfried and Roy with their own version, named Gunter and Ernst. Gunter and Ernst were shown at one point to have annoyed their naturally wild tiger a tad too much with their tricks shenanigans, to the point that the tiger turns on them. A decade on from that comedy mauling, Roy of Siegfried and Roy was mauled by one of the tigers they kept… is this proof that animals watch TV?
2. Ebola On Evergreen Terrace
In a 1997, flashback episode about how Lisa got her saxophone, Bart starts Kindergarten and is not too happy as the teacher is mean to him. He is ill and Marge comes up to his room and asks if he would like to be read a story, lifting up the book she is holding. The title of the book reads: “Curious George and the Ebola Virus,” complete with a picture of the eponymous character, the monkey (Curious George) laying ill in bed. Some conspiracy theorists have scratched away beneath their tin foil hats and seem to be under the impression that this was predicting the Ebola outbreak that hit West Africa in 2014. Some just see something darker in a slightly dark joke that is common to The Simpsons and cartoons of that ilk.
1. President Trump
The Republican Party’s candidate for President of the United States as is as divisive as he is controversial and popular… as inexplicable as to how he grew so popular as the madness that is his toupee! Whatever people think of him, be it or support or condemnation, it seems that The Simpsons creators were the only people not surprised by his candidacy. In another episode that looks into the future, Bart is a bum that hangs around with Ralph Wiggum, whilst Lisa on the other hand, has become President. In a scene in the Oval Office, Lisa and her treasurer, Millhouse, are discussing America’s budget crisis, as the nation apparently burrowed too much under recently ousted President Trump. Of course, the USA (and the world) will have to wait until November to see whether Donald Trump beats Hillary Clinton to the White House, but it seems The Simpsons have a firm finger on the political pulse, long before political developments erm, develop!