By the time you read this (unless you’re in…The Future…hi, future humans!) there will already be something in the neighborhood of 7,000 deaths worldwide from the Covid-19 coronavirus. So, clearly, Covid-19 is no laughing matter. People, including people who should know better, are saying that a 27 year old episode of The Simpsons “eerily” predicted the coronavirus outbreak.

Obviously, that’s silly and the writer of that episode wants you to know it’s also offensive. Bill Oakley, who co-wrote the episode, told The Hollywood Reporter, “I don’t like it being used for nefarious purposes. Anyone misappropriating it to make coronavirus seem like an Asian plot…I think that is gross”.

Here’s the gag as it appeared in 1993:

As Oakley explains, the joke was based on the 1968 Hong Kong flu and was just a set up for all the characters in Springfield getting sick. That’s not only a good explanation for this “prediction”. It also sheds light on most of the other Simpsons predictions.

One that comes to mind that had a lot of normally sober-minded people wondering is the episode from 2000 which “predicted” the presidency of Donald Trump.

This SEEMS like a completely random, zany prediction.

Actually, there’s a reasonable explanation. Donald Trump had actually run for president. It was in 1999 just a year before that episode aired. Trump entered the 2000 election cycle as a Reform Party hopeful. His candidacy was seen as a vanity project; a publicity stunt that no one ever took seriously. He never polled above 7 % and Trump dropped out of the race in February of 2000. Later that year, The Simpson’s writers, trying to come up with a hilarious but cringe inducing future, envisioned a grown-up Lisa Simpson taking the Oval Office after a disastrous term of…wait for it…President Trump. HaHa! Ha?

So this was less of a “prediction” and more of a “joke about something weird in the news that had happened less than a year before”. It’s the same thing with the “coronavirus episode”. For starters, the idea of “a flu epidemic” existed before 1993. Blaming a specific country for diseases also has a long history. Also, the episode has the “Osaka Flu” originating in Japan, not China (the “Osaka” part should have been a giveaway).

Another component in the Simpsons Prediction Phenomenon is the sheer number of episodes that have aired. The Simpsons have been on for SO long and referenced SO many things it only makes sense that some of the episode are predictive because, well, history has a tendency to repeat itself.

I guess South Park actually predicted this phenomenon. “Simpsons already did it”!

Indeed.