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10 times The Simpsons predicted the future

Currently in its 33rd season with more than 700 episodes under its belt, The Simpsons is a lasting part of pop culture and American history. In fact, even South Park acknowledged that The Simpsons have pretty much been-there-done-that to just about everything with their famous Simpsons Already Did it episode, where the phrase Simpsons did it! is constantly screamed throughout.

But The Simpsons haven’t just done it all, they’ve also had a pretty solid track record of predicting the future. Throughout the show’s three-decade run, some episodes have become surprisingly (and scarily) real years later when history seemed to directly mimic the show. While the show has had a surprising number of correct predictions (some publications cite as many as 30), these are the 10 that were the most shocking … and shockingly accurate.

Siegfried and Roy are attacked by tigers (season 5, episode 10)

The Simpsons spoofs Sigfried and Roy
Gracie Films / 20th Century Animation

In the episode $pringfield (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling), the town of Springfield legalizes gambling to help create tax revenue. Before long, a casino is opened and Homer even ends up working as a Blackjack dealer. The episode’s main plot was pointing out an issue that was very controversial at the time – many mid-size and smaller cities were legalizing gambling to earn money – an issue that has once again become a hot topic in the era of sports betting.

However, it was a short skit in the episode that would truly earn infamy. Naturally, Springfield’s casino needed a Vegas show, so The Flamboyant Magic of Gunter and Ernst premiered (an obvious spoof of Siegfried and Roy’s famous show at the Mirage). Aside from being magicians, Siegfried and Roy were famous for their white lions and white tigers.

In The Simpsons, the white tiger has a flashback of being poached from the wild and suddenly attacks his trainer on stage. In 2003, this became all too real when Roy was suddenly attacked by his tiger while on stage. Roy’s neck was severely bitten, injuring his nerves and spine, and causing a stroke. He barely survived the encounter and was never able to perform again.

Disney buys 20th Century Fox (season 10, episode 5)

The Simpsons predicted that Disney would buy Fox
Gracie Films / 20th Century Animation

In the episode When You Dish Upon a Star, Homer becomes friends with Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger (both voicing themselves), but he soon blows it when he starts revealing their secrets to everyone in Springfield. Towards the end of the episode, a scene takes place “one month later” on the Fox studio lot, and there’s a sign that reads “20th Century Fox…A Division of Walt Disney Co.”

Considering that most viewers are watching The Simpsons on Disney+ these days, it should come as no surprise that this did indeed become reality. In 2017 Disney bought Fox’s entertainment division (basically everything except Fox News and Fox Business) for $52.4 billion.

On top of acquiring The Simpsons and all the other shows on Fox, the deal also gave Disney control of Hulu and the rights to Fox’s last remaining Marvel franchises like X-Men and Fantastic Four, giving Disney complete control over the MCU. The Simpsons would even go on to mention the merger in an MCU-themed episode where Duffman (as Antman) holds up a sign reading “This is what happens when Disney buys Marvel and Fox.”

Richard Branson goes to outer space (season 25, episode 15)

The Simpsons predicted Richard Branson would go to space
Gracie Films / 20th Century Animation

In the episode The War of Art, someone is forging artworks with the belief that they’re helping the world. The episode has nothing to do with space at all, but it does show one scene where Richard Branson is admiring his art collection while floating weightlessly in a spacecraft. In 2021 Branson did end up going to space in one of his Virgin Galactic spacecraft – the company claims it will start commercial operations in 2023.

While The Simpsons did correctly predict that Branson would make it to space, the show’s creators had some help from pop culture. By 2014 when the episode aired, Virgin Galactic was already famous and had been making major headlines since around 2011. So it’s possible that the show’s creators weren’t so much predicting … but were seeing the inevitable.

Trump becomes President of the U.S. (season 11, episode 17)

The Simpsons predicted that Trump would become president
Gracie Films / 20th Century Animation

One of the most famous instances of The Simpsons predicting the future is in the classic 2000 episode, Bart to the Future. In the episode, Bart is shown a glimpse of what his family is up to some 30 years into the future. While Bart has become a total bum, Lisa has just been elected president. Her predecessor? Donald Trump.

Making the prediction even more shockingly accurate is that it revealed Trump left the nation in debt, with Lisa saying on her first day in office, “We inherited quite a budget crisis from President Trump,” which, in 2021, at the end of Trump’s presidency, proved all too real since his administration oversaw the third-highest deficit increase of any president.

On Biden and Harris’ inauguration day, the episode once again made headlines. Lisa’s outfit as president was a purple blazer over a purple blouse with a pearl necklace. Fans of the show noticed that Kamala Harris’ outfit at the inauguration was … a purple blazer over a purple blouse with a pearl-like necklace, giving Bart to the Future a double-whammy in predicting America’s political future.

The NSA is revealed to be spying on the public (The Simpsons Movie)

The NSA spies on The Simpsons in The Simpsons movie
Gracie Films / 20th Century Animation / 20th Century Fox

In 2007, The Simpsons Movie became a smash hit, tackling issues of environmentalism and groupthink, and earning over $536 million at the global box office. In the movie, the Simpson family is on the run after escaping Springfield, which has been quarantined under a giant glass dome. At one point they’re overheard talking on a train by surveillance operatives at the National Security Agency (NSA).

In 2013, the Edward Snowden scandal would prove that the NSA really was listening in on public conversations through telephone calls and was keeping tabs on what people looked at online. However, it later turned out that Snowden (the informant who leaked the information in the name of “patriotism”) also had his own hodgepodge of problematic views and beliefs, such as outwardly making racist comments, and in 2022 he pledged his allegiance to Russia, which heavily surveils its population, making many question what Snowden’s real motives were.

Faulty voting machines (season 20, episode 4)

A voting machine keeps counting Homer's vote for John McCain
Gracie Films / 20th Century Animation

In the cold open for Treehouse of Horror XIX (which aired on November 2, 2008, just two days before the election), Homer tries to vote for Barack Obama, but the voting machine keeps counting his vote for McCain. When Homer tries to tell someone, the voting machine kills him.

During the next presidential election in 2012, this very thing happened (minus the murder part). A voter in Pennsylvania kept pressing ‘Barack Obama’ on a touchscreen voting machine, but the machine kept indicating a vote for Romney, despite their finger clearly touching the Obama button. Voting gags would become a regular for The Simpsons, doing them again in 2016 and 2020.

The rise of video chat (season 5, episode 19)

The Simpsons had video chat 15 years before Facetime would make it real
Gracie Films / 20th Century Animation

In another episode that transported the Simpsons to the future, season 5’s Lisa’s Wedding sees Lisa visit a fortune-teller at the renaissance fair. The fortune-teller transports her to the year 2010 (then 15 years into the future) to show Lisa her true love and what her wedding will look like.

The episode is filled with futuristic tech, one being the “picture phone,” where Lisa calls Marge and chats with her on a screen that’s attached to the phone (which is hilariously still an old rotary phone). As everyone with a smartphone knows, this became reality when Apple launched FaceTime. Strangely enough, FaceTime launched in 2010, the same year the episode was set. Coincidence?

A pandemic takes over the world (season 4, episode 21)

The Simpsons' Osaka flu episode predicted the COVID pandemic
Gracie Films / 20th Century Animation

OK, there’s a lot to unpack with this one. 1993’s Marge in Chains has become infamous for having many similarities to 2020. In the episode, a viral outbreak from Japan called the “Osaka Flu” makes its way to Springfield. Once there, the town spirals into chaos. Dr. Hibbert tells everyone that there’s no cure and anything he’d give them would be a placebo (because the flu is a viral infection, so antibiotics don’t work on it). Desperate, the townspeople beg for a placebo. Someone from the crowd then finds a crate of “killer bees” and eats one, hoping for a cure.

Let’s start with the stuff the episode got right. Yes, 2020’s coronavirus outbreak originated in Asia, and during the early summer of 2020, Asian “murder hornets” started trending because their population in Washington was growing rapidly (they first made their way to the U.S. in late 2019).

However, alt-right media heavily used the episode as a scare tactic during the pandemic, using the placebo scene to imply that vaccines don’t work and using the fact that both viruses came from Asia as a way to stoke Asian hate – despite the fact that China and Japan are nothing alike. Images even began circulating online claiming the episode called the outbreak “Corona Virus.”

Tensions were high and many gullible people were buying into whatever they saw on social media, further complicating the nation’s response to the pandemic and lending further credibility to those who believed the pandemic was fake. Fact-checkers had to publish articles stating the viral memes were fake and writers for The Simpsons spoke out about the episode being used for misinformation and bigotry.

What the episode did predict perfectly was the mass hysteria and unrest that a pandemic would bring, serving as an eerily accurate foreshadowing of life during the COVID era.

Florida’s python problem (season 4, episode 20)

Springfield celebrates Whacking Day where they kill all the snakes in town
Gracie Films / 20th Century Animation

In the episode Whacking Day, Springfield holds its annual tradition where the townspeople go out and beat snakes to death to help lower the town’s snake population. While originally written to tackle the debate of animal cruelty, the episode gained new relevance decades later, thanks to Florida’s python problem.

First spotted in the ’90s and declared to have a breeding population in 2000, the Burmese Python is, quite literally, taking over Florida, and it’s believed that as many as 300,000 of the large snakes now live in the state. Because of their massive size, long lifespan, and powerful constriction, they are apex predators and are causing massive habitat damage and killing native wildlife. Adding to the danger is climate change. Warmer temperatures are making more and more of the US habitable for the species.

Because of this, every day is now Whacking Day in Florida, and civilians are encouraged to “humanely” kill the pythons in order to stop their spread. To help protect America’s native species, people are encouraged by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to make the snake lose consciousness (they recommend shooting the snake). They then say, “after rendering the reptile unconscious, ensure the animal’s brain is destroyed.”  Happy Whacking Day, everyone!

A FIFA scandal involving the World Cup (season 25, episode 16)

The Simpsons predicted the FIFA scandal just a year before it started
Gracie Films / 20th Century Animation

In 2014’s You Don’t Have to Live Like a Referee, Homer is selected to be a ref for the World Cup after FIFA (named the “World Football Federation” in the episode) reveals that all their refs have been bribed and aren’t reliable. The FIFA exec (cough cough, I mean, the “World Football Federation” exec) then says, “I myself am about to be arrested for corruption,” before being hauled away in handcuffs.

Just one year later, FIFA would be rocked by a very real bribery scandal, and almost 40 people were indicted on charges of bribery, racketeering, and conspiracy. The investigation provided evidence that many World Cup host nations were winning their bids through bribes – including 2022’s host nation, Qatar, who spent millions of dollars to secure its win.

Seasons 1-33 of The Simpsons can be streamed on Disney+.

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Keith Langston
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