The Simpsons: 14 of the series’ most uncanny predictions
Have no fears: The Simpsons has stories for years.
The seminal cartoon created by Matt Groening is back in the headlines with the return of a fan-favourite character after 33 years.
The animated show has covered a lot of subject matter over the course of its nearly 700-episode run.
While it retains a devoted fan following across the globe, it's also been kept strangely relevant in recent years, thanks to an uncanny pattern of headlines that suggest only one thing: The Simpsons can predict the future.
From a sly mention of a Donald Trump presidency in a 20-year-old episode, to a revolutionary scientific theorem 14 years before its discovery, the series has often been months, years or even decades ahead of global news events.
While its creators have sometimes disputed the veracity of the show's status as a modern Nostradamus, The Simpsons' ability to foreshadow seemingly unforeseeable occurrences is often astounding.
Here is a selection of 13 times The Simpsons "predicted" the future...
The Simpsons actually predicted Donald Trump’s presidency back in the 11th season episode “Bart to the Future”, which aired back in 2000.
Set in the future, the episode alludes to a Trump presidency, which seemed far-fetched at the time (though Trump’s unsuccessful run as a third-party candidate likely provided inspiration for the gag).
The 23rd season episode “Lisa Goes Gaga”, reviled by a large section of the Simpsons fanbase when it aired back in 2012, saw Lady Gaga (voiced by herself) flying into a stadium while suspended from cables – a stunt the popstar would later enact in real life during her Super Bowl halftime show in 2017, wearing an uncannily similar outfit.
Nobel Prize winner
A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot in a 2010 episode saw Milhouse bet that Finnish economist Bengt R Holmstrom would win the Nobel Prize in Economics – which he really did, six years later (in a joint win with Oliver Hart).
Fun fact: @TheSimpsons' Milhouse once predicted MIT Prof. Holmström would win a #NobelPrize. Today, he was right! https://t.co/CC0LRk1avy pic.twitter.com/syhMiJBK2A
— Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (@MIT) October 10, 2016
The Biden-Harris presidency
Series animator and director David Silverman recently joked on Twitter that the series had “predicted the future again” in a 2019 clip that seemed to predict Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s joint places on the Democratic ticket. Towards the end of the segment – an anti-Trump song that parodies “America” from West Side Story – Biden and Harris are pictured beside one another, though their joint candidacy and eventual election would not happen until the following year.
The Higgs boson
In the 1998 episode “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace”, Homer becomes inspired by Thomas Edison to pursue a career as an inventor. At one point, he writes an equation on a chalkboard which pretty much predicted the mass of the Higgs boson particle. “That equation predicts the mass of the Higgs boson,” specialist Simon Singh told The Independent. “If you work it out, you get the mass of a Higgs boson that’s only a bit larger than the nano-mass of a Higgs boson actually is. It’s kind of amazing as Homer makes this prediction 14 years before it was discovered.”
Even series writer Bill Oakley admitted that The Simpsons had “predicted 2020” when a clip from the season four episode “Marge in Chains” went viral last year. The clip in question sees residents of Springfield fight each other over access to a placebo, which fans thought had predicted Donald Trump’s scientifically spurious Covid-19 treatment claims. What’s more, the clip then sees the unruly mob overturn a container of killer bees, which viewers interpreted as an ominous prediction of last year’s murder hornet invasion.
Horse Meat Scandal
The classic 1994 episode “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song” featured a scene in which lunch lady Doris (the late Doris Grau) is seen pouring “assorted horse parts” into Springfield Elementary’s school meals. In 2013, the scene would take on a harrowing new significance when the UK was rocked by a scandal involving horse DNA found in beef products.
The Beatles letter
An early episode of The Simpsons sees Marge receive a response to a piece of fan mail she had sent to Ringo Starr decades earlier. The premise became reality for two Essex women in 2013, who were sent a letter by fellow Beatle Sir Paul McCartney 50 years after they had attempted to contact him.
Though the first commercial smart watch would not be released until 2014, the idea was in fact depicted in the 1995 episode of The Simpsons entitled “Lisa’s Wedding”. In the episode, the multi-functional wristwatch is seen being used by Lisa’s prospective bridegroom, Hugh (Mandy Patinkin).
The $71.3bn dollar acquisition of Fox by Disney took most of the world by surprise in 2019 – but not some attentive Simpsons fans. The series had in fact “predicted” the Fox-Disney merger in a joke back in 1998, which showed 20th Century Fox studios labelled as “a Division of Walt Disney Co”.
US Olympic Gold
A season 21 episode titled “Boy Meets Curl” saw Homer and Marge join a mixed doubles curling team, eventually travelling to the Winter Olympics and, in a true late-era Simpsons turn of events, beating Sweden to take home Olympic gold for the US. The surprising win actually happened eight years later in Pyongyang, when the US men’s team took home the nation’s first ever Olympic gold in the sport.
Tom Hanks’ inauguration address
When Tom Hanks addressed the nation during Joe Biden's inauguration as president, Simpsons fans collectively pointed to a scene in The Simpsons Movie 14 years earlier that seemed to anticipate the moment. "The US government has lost its credibility, so it's borrowing some of mine," says Hanks in his cameo, which Twitter users suggested felt oddly similar to the actor hosting a post-inauguration TV unity special for the Biden administration.
The deadly pro-Trump riots at Capitol Hill on 6 January 2021 were a moment that shocked the world, and rocked the very foundations of the American democracy. But some Simpsons fans suggested that the show had in fact "predicted" the riots in the 1996 episode “The Day the Violence Died”, pointing to a scene in which the steps of Capitol Hill are stormed by an angry mob of cartoon characters.
Richard Branson going into space
Virgin media tycoon Richard Branson journeyed to the edge of space in the year 2021, prompting some fans to suggest that the series had in fact predicted this, back in the 2014 episode “The War of Art”.
I am not sure how to feel about 2014’s Simpsons prediction of Richard Branson’s space travel 🤨 $SPCE #VirginGalactic pic.twitter.com/WJGg2PDl8T
— Emanuele Miglino (@MiglinoEmanuele) July 13, 2021
In the episode, a man is seen floating in a zero-gravity spaceship bearing a close resemblance to Branson. However, this is not so much a prediction as simply basic foresight — it was already announced at the time of the episode’s conception that Branson aimed to launch Virgin Galactic in the future.