Fans often say that The Simpsons "predicted the future" — so much so that the joke is becoming worn out, misquoted and dissected. The Simpsons have portrayed many absurd events in its time which have since "come true" to some extent, leading fans to pose conspiracy theories that the show has some kind of prescient power. A new report by The New York Times examines those theories more closely.
Some of the real-world events that fans joke The Simpsons "predicted" include 9/11, the Trump presidency, Disney's takeover of Fox and the discovery of the Higgs boson particle. Depending on how much you're willing to stretch the definition of a "prediction," you could argue that it has predicted dozens of events, using characters as stand-ins for real-world figures. Fans typically chalk these predictions up to the writers, claiming either that the writers must be geniuses, or that they must have made a pact with a demon in exchange for some otherworldly power. Showrunner Al Jean told the Times that the reason the writers seem prescient is that "it's just a sort of frame of mind that we've got that we think one year ahead."
"I predict people will make too much of our great predictions," he added jokingly. The Simpsons are notable for making the public more aware of TV writers, and framing them as big stars of the industry. These days, most people are aware that writers wield more power than directors and cast members when it comes to creative decisions on TV sets, and you can thank The Simpsons for that, in part. Jean said that the immense talent in his writer's room is the best explanation for some of the real predictions the show has made.
"When that many smart people produce a television show, it's bound to make some startling predictions," he said. He also cited the show's extremely long lifespan. In over three decades on TV, The Simpsons have told so many stories that it's statistically probable for some of them to have come true.
Finally, author Dr. Bernard Beitman gave the Times the closest thing it has to a paranormal explanation for The Simpsons predictions. He suggested that The Simpsons has created what he calls a "psychosphere," where a collective mental atmosphere or "group mind in action" can manifest reality over time. He said: "Under the right conditions, we can know things that we don't know we know, and we can sometimes predict events or attract what we are thinking."
However they do it, The Simpsons are still going, so let's hope they don't portray anything too horrible that might come true later. All 32 seasons of The Simpsons are streaming now on Disney+, with a free trial here for new subscribers. The show returns for Season 33 on Fox on Sunday, Sept. 26.