The Simpsons displays an uncanny ability to tap into the zeitgeist and a knack for predicting the future
Methods of predicting the future include old-school toys like the mystifying Magic 8-Ball and the slightly haunted Ouija board. But a local psychic or astrologist on TikTok can provide a slightly more high-powered approach: “I see you paying me $59.95.”
Still, there’s no better soothsayer than a film or television writer. Think about it: They’re sleep-deprived and subsist on takeout sushi, Red Bull and Funyuns as they race to provide fresh and innovative stories. They go beyond the mundane and the plausible to create seminal pop culture moments. They imagine not just what is, but what could be.
Take the writers of Star Trek. They thought up the PADD (Personal Access Display Device), an eerie harbinger of the iPad that preceded the Apple device by 23 years. Let’s not belabor the fact that the props department’s limited budget—not just the writers’ power to see the future—kept the PADD as simple as the no-nonsense iPad.
But a show that has spanned 31 years and produced nearly 700 episodes possesses not only an uncanny ability to tap into the zeitgeist but also a knack for predicting the future: The Simpsons.
Writing in Esquire about The Simpsons, Justin Kirkland maintains that “despite many of its storylines being asinine beyond belief, they end up getting mimicked in real life later on.”
Whether that’s prescience, good luck or bad luck, it’s a jarring trend. “Even creepier,” Kirkland writes, “the show seems to be getting it right with increasing accuracy.”
Some take The Simpsons very seriously, devoting college-level courses to studying the show. With that in mind, here’s a rundown on Luckbox’s favorite Simpsons predictions that have come true.
Murder hornet/ coronavirus parlay
⊲ Season 4, episode 21, Marge in Chains (1993)
A Japanese factory worker spreads the “Osaka Flu” by coughing into a package bound for Springfield. Mass confusion ensues as the authorities prescribe bed rest, declare there’s no cure and predict everything will return to normal soon. Panicked townspeople overturn a truck filled with killer bees, and BOOM that’s the 2020 pandemic/murder hornet parlay.
Apple’s entire product line
⊲ S6, Ep8, Lisa on Ice (1994)
⊲ S6, Ep19, Lisa’s Wedding (1995)
Was Steve Jobs a visionary, or just a huge fan of The Simpsons? In the 1994 episode, the school bullies dictate a memo to their Apple Newton, but the device changes “Beat up Martin” to “Eat up Martha,” eerily foreshadowing how ducking hard it is to
The episode provided a rallying cry for engineers developing software for the iPhone keyboard, Megan McCluskey reported in Time.
“If you heard people talking and they used the words ‘Eat up Martha,’ it was basically a reference to the fact that we needed to nail the keyboard,” an Apple exec told McCluskey.
A year later, in an episode about Lisa’s future nuptials, she wore what appears to be a prototype for the Apple Watch 15 years before its introduction.
⊲ S11, Ep17, Bart to the Future (2000)
⊲ S20, Ep4, Treehouse of Horror XIX (2008)
⊲ S4, Ep21, Marge in Chains (1993)
President Lisa tells her Oval Office staff, “We’ve inherited quite the budget crunch from President Trump,” thereby predicting the 45th president some 16 years before he took office. In a 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, writer Dan Greaney explained that the joke was meant as a warning to the country.
“That just seemed like the logical last stop before hitting bottom,” he said. “It was pitched because it was consistent with the vision of America going insane.”
Eerily, the purple pantsuit Lisa wears as commander-in-chief seems almost identical to the outfit Vice President Kamala Harris wore to the inauguration in 2021.
In the 2008 Treehouse of Horror intro, Homer tries to cast his ballot for Barack Obama, but the voting machine keeps changing his vote to John McCain. In 2012, footage emerged of a voting machine that switched votes from Obama to Mitt Romney. And who could forget the scapegoating of Dominion voting machines in 2020? (Please don’t sue Luckbox.)
In the Marge in Chains episode, Mayor Quimby leaves town for warmer climes in the middle of a high-profile crisis (the Osaka Flu), foreshadowing the junket Republican Sen. Ted Cruz took to Cancun during the Great Texas Winter Blackout.
⊲ S23, Ep10, Politically Inept, with Homer Simpson (2012)
Homer appears on a cable news show called Head Butt, and the chyron across the bottom of the screen reads, “Europe puts Greece on eBay.” This was a full three years before Greece had the honor of becoming the first developed country to default to the International Monetary Fund. Too bad Greece couldn’t “buy now, pay later.”
Truly nerdy predictions
⊲ S10, Ep2, The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace (1998)
⊲ S22, Ep1, Elementary School Musical (2010)
“Higgs boson” may sound like an internet personality test, but the “God particle” is actually a scientific breakthrough that helps explain how everything in the universe has mass. Scientists didn’t confirm its existence until 2012, but in the 1998 Simpsons episode, Homer is pictured in front of a blackboard bearing an equation that predicts the mass of the yet-to-be-discovered particle.
“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,” science writer Simon Singh said in an interview with The Independent. “It’s kind of amazing as Homer makes this prediction
14 years before it was discovered.”
In the episode Elementary School Musical, Martin holds up a Nobel Prize betting pool bingo card with the name of MIT professor Bengt Holmström circled in red. Holmström won the prize six years later for his work in economics.
Other Simpsons predictions that came true include the National Security Agency’s scandalous practice of spying on innocent Americans, the tragedy of a Las Vegas entertainer killed by a white tiger and Lady Gaga’s intense Super Bowl halftime show.
How do they do it? The showrunner of The Simpsons, Al Jean, who has been writing for the show since it debuted in 1989, had this to say: “One of our writers, the guy whose episode predicted Donald Trump as president, said it best: ‘If you write 700 episodes, and you don’t predict anything, then you’re pretty bad. If you throw enough darts, you’re going to get some bullseyes.’”
And the public can get involved. Betting pools are accepting wagers on what The Simpsons may foretell during the 2022 season. Could it be hover cars, the colonization of Mars or a robot takeover?
While prognostication is fun, The Simpsons feels eerily good at it. But it’s a numbers game. It’s why trading small and trading often in the stock and options markets can improve the odds of success.
In the meantime, keep an eye on the first family of Springfield to find out if Elon is going to become president.
Vonetta Logan, a writer and comedian, appears daily on the tastytrade network and hosts the Connect the Dots podcast. @vonettalogan