16 times The Simpsons predicted the future
16 times The Simpsons predicted the future
Over the course of 31 seasons and 677 episodes, The Simpsons has offered up approximately 153,149 jokes, give or take a few thousand. More than a few of those gags have paid off in real life by turning out to be eerily or at least semi-prescient. Is The Simpsons truly able to gaze into the future and mine it for laughs, or is this all mere coincidence? It’s the latter, duh. (Or is that d'oh!?) We predict that you'll be pretty impressed as you start scrolling and consider the evidence....
What happened on The Simpsons: In the 1992 episode “Homer at the Bat,” then-Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly — who was recruited to the nuclear plant’s all-star softball team — was benched by the ruthless Mr. Burns because of his sideburns.
What happened in real life: Six months before, the ruthless Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner, ordered the team’s manager to not play anyone who didn’t adhere to his clean-cut policy — and Mattingly was benched for not trimming his hair. Even though the episode appeared to be winking at what really happened to the baseball legend, Mattingly recorded his Simpsons role a month before his real-life benching occurred.
Super Bowled over
What happened on The Simpsons: In the 1992 episode “Lisa the Greek,” Homer exploits Lisa’s uncanny ability to successfully forecast the outcomes of NFL games. When she discovers what he’s up to, she is so upset, she's only able to make this Super Bowl prediction: the Washington Redskins will win if she still loves her dad, and the Buffalo Bills will prevail if she no longer does. Not surprisingly, Washington wins.
What happened in real life: A few days after the episode aired, Washington defeated Buffalo in Super Bowl VXVI. The following year, Fox aired a repeat of the episode just days before Super Bowl XXVII, and it was redubbed with an update of the two competing teams, the Dallas Cowboys and the Bills, with Dallas replacing Washington in the equation. (Dallas defeated Buffalo.) The Simpsons went for the three-peat the next year, when those two teams returned to the big game, tweaking a few lines to reflect the rematch. Once again, Dallas bested Buffalo. Since then, the episode has been redubbed a few times and shown before the Super Bowl — and has been right every time.
What happened on The Simpsons: In the 1993 episode “$pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling),” the Springfield equivalent of the Siegfried and Roy magicians is attacked by a white Bengal tiger during one of their shows.
What happened in real life: In 2003, Roy Horn was attacked by a white Bengal tiger during a Siegfried and Roy show, leaving him partially paralyzed and ending the long-running act.
What happened on The Simpsons: In the 1998 episode “Lard of the Dance,” Homer recruits Bart to help him make money by stealing grease; they try to steal grease from Krusty Burger as well as from Bart’s school.
What happened in real life: The rising price of oil created a black market for grease, and as noted in a 2008 New York Times article, restaurant grease thefts have spiked; the article opened with the story of a man who stole 300 gallons of grease from a Burger King.
What happened on The Simpsons: In the 1995 episode “Lisa’s Wedding,” a visit to a fortune teller transports Lisa to 2010, when she’s talking to Marge via her phone’s video chat feature, called Picture Phone.
What happened in real life: Yes, other Hollywood depictions of the future had predicted similar technology over the years, but guess what year Apple overlord Steve Jobs announced the breakthrough videotelephony product known as FaceTime? 2010.
What happened on The Simpsons: The 1998 episode “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace” shows aspiring inventor Homer standing next to a chalkboard that boasted a massive equation. What happened in real life: The equation on the chalkboard was impressively close to predicting the mass of the Higgs boson, a.k.a. the God Particle, when it was discovered in 2012. “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,” said Simon Singh, author of the 2013 book The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets. “It’s kind of amazing as Homer makes this prediction 14 years before it was discovered." (For the record, Simpsons writer-producer David X. Cohen — who has a physics degree from Harvard and computer science degree from Berkeley — asked his friend David Schiminovich, an astrophysics professor at Columbia, to write the equation).
What happened on The Simpsons: In the 2008 episode “Treehouse of Horror XIX,” which aired prior to that year’s Presidential election, Homer attempts to vote for Barack Obama on an electronic voting machine, but the machine registers his vote for John McCain. Six times, actually.
What happened in real life: In 2012, an electronic voting machine was revealed to be swapping votes from Obama to the then-Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.
Spies like U.S.
What happened on The Simpsons: In 2007’s The Simpsons Movie, the family is on the run, and Marge assures Lisa on a train, "It's not like the government is listening to everybody's conversation." The NSA is then shown to be operating a massive surveillance operation with endless rows of agents at their monitors, listening to all of America’s conversations, including the one between Lisa and Marge.
What happened in real life: In 2013, former CIA employee Edward Snowden leaked classified information from the NSA about the organization’s global surveillance programs, which were much more far-reaching than had been reported.
The sport of corruption
What happened on The Simpsons: The 2014 episode “You Don’t Have to Live Like a Referee” mocked corruption inside FIFA, and culminated with the executive VP of the FIFA-like World Football Federation getting arrested for corruption.
What happened in real life: In 2015, an FBI/IRS investigation resulted in the arrests of high-level FIFA officials and associates for wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering.
What happened on The Simpsons: In the 2012 episode “Politically Inept, with Homer Simpson,” Homer is a guest pundit on a cable news show, and on the ticker scrolling across the bottom of the screen, the news alert reads: “Europe puts Greece on eBay.”
What then happened in real life: Greece — having received bail-out loans in 2010 and 2012, so there was a basis for this joke — defaulted on a third bail-out loan from the International Monetary Fund in 2015. It became the first more economically developed country not to be able to make a payment IMF loan, leading stock markets to tumble amidst fears of Greece exiting the Eurozone.
What happened on The Simpsons: In the 2010 episode “Elementary School Musical,” Martin shows the four-person betting pool on the Nobel Prize, and Milhouse predicted that Finnish MIT economics professor Bengt Holmstrom would win in his field, while Database bets on Dutch synthetic organic chemist Ben Faringa winning in chemistry.
What happened in real life: Neither won that year, but both Holmstrom and Faringa won their first Nobel Prize in 2016.
A jump on Trump
What happened on The Simpsons: In the 2000 episode “Bart to the Future,” a peek into the future showed Lisa Simpson as President of the United States, telling her staff, “As you know, we’ve inherited quite a budget crunch from President Trump,” before she is told by Secretary of State Milhouse Van Houten that America is broke.
What then happened in real life: In 2016, Trump was elected President. Three years into his term, America isn’t broke... yet, but the stock market did experience some of its biggest single-day losses during the coronavirus pandemic. (And to be fair, he had considered runs for POTUS back when the episode was written.)
What happened on The Simpsons: In the 2012 episode “Lisa Goes Gaga," Lady Gaga flies over the audience whilst attached to cables.
What happened in real life: At the 2017 Super Bowl, a cabled Gaga made her entrance by descending from the stadium’s roof (minus the sparkler shooting brassiere).
What happened on The Simpsons: The 1998 episode “When You Dish Upon a Star,” which featured Homer becoming the personal assistant to Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger, offered up a small gag at the end of the episode that 20th Century Fox was now “a division of Watt Disney Co.” according to the giant sign out front of the studio.
What happened in real life: In 2017, Disney reached terms to purchase 21st Century Fox, which includes 20th Century Fox Film and Television studios, for $52 billion.
What happened on The Simpsons: In the 2010 episode “Boy Meets Curl,” Homer and Marge form a mixed curling team and against all odds, win the gold medal, with Sweden claiming the silver.
What then happened in real life: At the 2018 Winter Olympics, the U.S men's curling team pulled off an improbable comeback and claimed the gold medal, with Sweden winning the silver.
What happened on The Simpsons: In the 2005 episode “Midnight Rx,” Homer, Ned, Apu, and Grampa Simpson visit Canada, where Ned, who is offered some "reeferino," is surprised to learn that pot is legal in Canada.
What then happened in real life: In 2018, Canada legalized recreational marijuana. Okilly tokilly!