Repeat my shorts! The times life imitated The Simpsons
President Trump, the baby translator, three-eyed fish - here's a look at real-world events predicted by The Simpsons
Mexico winning the World Cup
The World Cup final remains at a distance but that hasn’t stopped football fans from suggesting this year’s winner had been predicted by The Simpsons. An episode in the ninth series, The Cartridge Family, showed a match “to determine which nation is the greatest on Earth, Mexico or Portugal?”
Social media fans became convinced that this could be the World Cup, with one uncanny detail tying it to this year’s Cup: “There seems to be a reference to the scandal that recently plagued the Mexican team who allegedly partied with several women before the beginning of the tournament,” Portuguese newspaper Eco reported.
The two teams could even make it to the World Cup Final. On Monday, Portugal drew with Iran, meaning they are in the top half of the draw for the knockout stage. If Mexico win Group F then they will be in the bottom of the draw, meaning they won’t meet Portugal until the final.
President Donald Trump
In 2000, Simpsons writer Dan Greaney folded in the notion of Donald Trump as US president into a grimly dystopian episode called Bart to the Future. Under Trump’s management, America in 2030 had been crippled financially and was relying on bailouts from China and Europe. The country’s only chance? The victory of presidential candidate Lisa Simpson.
The person who actually saves the day, however, is her down-and-out brother Bart, whose experience in dodging debts gets America out of its deficit. Greaney said this year a Trump presidency, 16 years ago, “just seemed like the logical last stop before hitting bottom. It was pitched because it was consistent with the vision of America going insane”.
When Disney bought Fox
It was announced today that Disney has paid $52.4-billion for 21st Century Fox, assuming control of its vast film and television library, including The Simpsons itself. But, like so many things, the sale of the Rupert Murdoch-owned company was predicted by the show nearly 20 years ago. The animation has always taken the occasional pop at its producer, but in 1998 a tweak was made to 21st Century Fox’s iconic logo that potentially spelled the future:
When Cypress Hill and the London Symphony Orchestra got in touch
Sometimes, social media can do wonderful things. In the 1996 episode Homerpalooza, the London Symphony Orchestra gave a strings rendition of Cypress Hill’s Insane in the Membrane, after the band had ordered they attend the festival, “possibly while high”. Possibly while nostalgic, the rap collective shared stills from the episode on Twitter in March. Six weeks later, the LSO finally picked up the thread. LSO then explained that their “people” were talking to Cypress Hill’s representatives to try to get something happening.
When Yoko Ono was given a floating plum
Yoko Ono’s new exhibition at the Reykjavik Art Museum features a fruity artwork that may give Simpsons fans a sense of déjà vu. It’s a sly nod to the 1993 Simpsons episode Homer’s Barbershop Quartet, a send-up of The Beatles, in which Homer’s band, the Be Sharps, are propelled to stardom, until one of his bandmates (local drunk Barney) starts a relationship with a Japanese conceptual artist (a thinly veiled Yoko Ono). In one scene at Moe’s bar, the artist orders “a single plum, floating in perfume, served in a man’s hat”. Before her exhibition opened, Ono sent out a call for submissions to local artists, asking them to present an artwork that could be a “vessel” for water. Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson took her up on the offer. His “vessel” was, of course, a single plum, floating in perfume, served in a man’s hat.
When a lemon tree was stolen
In the 1995 Simpsons episode Lemon of Troy, the children of Springfield waged war against their Shelbyville rivals, after the latter stole a treasured lemon tree belonging to the town. But would anyone bother to steal a lemon tree in real life? Apparently, the answer is yes. In 2013, a bizarre theft took place in a suburban area of Houston, Texas, when thieves dug up and ran off with a lemon tree belonging to local resident Kae Bruney. Addressing the robbers directly, Bruney told news channel KHOU: “I hope you find yourself stricken with dysentery on a long drive in the middle of nowhere. If you needed my lemons so bad, I hope they serve you well.”
When a man grew a ‘tomacco’
Inspired by the 1999 episode in which Homer invents “tomacco”, a highly addictive tomato-tobacco hybrid, Rob Baur, a Simpsons fan from Lake Oswego in Oregon, cultivated his own tomacco plants. Using a Scientific American article that outlined how to graft together a tobacco and tomato plant, Baur created a plant that produced fruit that looked like a normal tomato, but contained high levels of nicotine (enough to render it inedible and potentially very toxic). Unlike their Simpsons counterparts, Baur’s tomacco plants were not eventually destroyed by a herd of marauding tobacco-addicted farm animals.
When a three-eyed fish was caught near a nuclear power plant
In the 1990 episode Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish, Bart caught Blinky, a three-eyed fish, in the pond fed by Monty Burn’s nuclear power plant. In 2011, a three-eyed fish was pulled from a reservoir in Argentina. Worryingly, the mutation didn’t appear to be a natural one: the reservoir in question was fed by water from a nuclear plant in the province of Córdoba.
When a man rebelled against his parents by getting the ultimate Simpsons tattoo
Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire, the first episode of the show to air, saw Bart rebel against Marge and sneak off to get himself a tattoo. One man who wouldn’t have seen the episode at the time was 27-year-old New Zealander Lee Weir, who was banned from watching the show when growing up. (Weir describes his father as “a real-life Ned Flanders”). Like Bart, Weir subsequently rebelled against his parents by getting tattooed – with 41 images of Homer Simpson. He currently holds the world record for having the most tattoos of the same cartoon character on his body.
When Homer’s dream car became a reality
The car designed by Homer for his auto-manufacturer half-brother in the 1991 episode O Brother, Where Art Thou featured lurid green bodypaint; leashes and muzzles to restrain “fighting kids”; a bonnet ornament depicting a 10-pin bowler, giant externally mounted cup holders, and a supersized horn that blasted out La Cucaracha. For the 2013 24 Hours of Lemons race – an annual parody of the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race series, held in the US – Porcubimmer Motors recreated Homer’s design in loving detail (right down to the La Cucaracha-blasting horn).
When someone invented a ‘real’ baby translator
A “cry translator” (designed to help parents interpret the sounds produced by their babies) hit the market in 2009. The website for the device claims, “in 3 seconds it will tell you the reason for [your baby’s] crying”. But the Simpsons managed to get there first almost two decades earlier: in the 1992 episode Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?, Homer’s half-brother Herb tried his hand at inventing a “baby translator”, to help mothers understand their children.
When a Kill Bill billboard took inspiration from Itchy and Scratchy
An impressive New Zealand billboard poster advertising Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill made it appear as if blood had splattered out of the poster on to the street below, covering cars in red droplets. But, when it comes to graphic, bloody violence, it’s probably fair to say that Tarantino movies have nothing on Tom and Jerry parody Itchy and Scratchy, the fictional cartoon beloved by Bart and Lisa. It’s therefore not surprising that, several years before Kill Bill hit cinemas, The Simpsons depicted The Itchy and Scratchy Movie being advertised via blood-spraying billboard.
When Michelangelo’s David was forced to cover up
Itchy and Scratchy also featured heavily in the 1990 episode Itchy and Scratchy and Marge, in which Marge led a censorship campaign, horrified by the show’s violence. She later realised the censorship had gone too far, after Michelangelo’s David was taken to a Springfield museum, and local citizens protested against the statue’s nudity. In 2001, a Florida-based shop put a replica of David outside its front door. A handful of citizens objected to the “indecent” statue and successfully campaigned to have David’s private parts covered with a cloth. More recently, in 2014, an elderly British couple, Clive and Joan Burgess, received complaints from neighbours and faced an intervention from their local council, after they placed a replica of the statue in their front garden.
When the Simpsons house was built, then de-Simpsonised
In 1997, a Fox and Pepsi-sponsored competition offered entrants a life-size replica of the Simpsons’ house as its main prize. The four-bedroom, yellow house was erected in Henderson, Nevada. Decorators had to watch more than 100 episodes of The Simpsons to get the colours and furnishings just right. Sadly, the winner chose a cash-prize alternative, and the house was stripped and sold in 2001.
When Florida launched a real life snake ‘whacking’
In the 1993 episode Whacking Day, Springfield’s residents indulged in an annual “snake whacking”, during which citizens rounded up local snakes, drove them into the town square, and beat them to death. Writer George Meyer envisaged the episode as a way to raise awareness about the mistreatment of snakes. One state who evidently didn’t pick up the subtext was Florida, where wildlife officials launched the 2013 Python Challenge, a competition in which hunters competed to see who could kill the greatest number of pythons. To be fair to the Florida Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the idea was motivated by a need to tackle the problems caused by an explosion in the area's non-native snake population, and hunters were encouraged to kill the pythons “humanely”, rather than beating them to death. But with cash prizes offered for the longest and greatest number of snakes dispatched, it’s hard not to think of the Springfield “snake-whacking” spirit.
When the Rolling Stones toured, despite being in their seventies
Lisa is given a glimpse into the future in the 1995 episode Lisa’s Wedding, which was actually set in 2010. One of the episode’s jokes was a poster advertising the “Rolling Stones Steel Wheelchair Tour 2010”. In real life, the Stones toured in 2005, 2012 and 2014, and are still going strong. Singer Mick Jagger is 70, as is lead guitarist Keith Richards; drummer Charlie Watts is 72, and guitarist Ronnie Wood is a comparatively sprightly 66.
When video phones became a reality
Lisa’s Wedding also contained another prediction that went on to become real: in the episode, Lisa and Marge chatted on phones fitted with video screens. After promising Lisa that she’d make sure Homer behaved at the wedding, Marge crossed her fingers, prompting Lisa to remind her that she was on “a picture phone”.
When thieves made off with ‘retirement grease’
In 2008 thieves in New York reportedly began stealing used cooking oil left outside restaurants and selling it as biofuel. They may have been taking inspiration from Homer’s “retirement grease”: in the 1998 episode Lard of the Dance, Homer discovered he could make a profit through stealing and reselling grease.
Real-life Bart Simpson, meet real-life Mr Burns
In 2013, a British man named Bart Simpson, accused of carrying a prohibited firearm, was called to appear before a judge named Mr Burns at Warwick Crown Court. The 56-year-old company director Simpson (full name Barton Simpson) was caught with a .38 Smith and Wesson revolver in his hand luggage at Birmingham Airport. The real-life Mr Burns let Simpson off with a fine and community service, acknowledging that the gun had been left in the bag owing to a genuine mistake.
When the ‘Good Morning’ burger stopped being a joke
Nowadays, given the proliferation of ever-bigger, ever-stranger fast food creations, it's hard to remember that The Simpsons' Good Morning burger – essentially a super-large, super-fatty breakfast burger – was originally intended as a joke. Perhaps the closest real-life equivalent was Burger King's “Enormous Omelette Sandwich”. Introduced in 2005, the product consisted of sausage patties, bacon, eggs and cheese within a bun sandwich; it was later criticised for its high fat and calorie content, and discontinued in the US.
When a man complained about an 'all-you-can-eat'
In New Kid On The Block, an episode that first aired in 1992, Marge and Homer visited Captain McAlister's All You Can Eat Seafood Restaurant. Homer proceeded to take the “all-you-can-eat” injunction literally, prompting the Captain to declare: “Tis no Man. 'Tis a remorseless eating machine.” After being removed from the restaurant before eating his fill, Homer consulted an attorney who advised him to sue. (“This is the most blatant case of fraudulent advertising since my suit against the film The Never-Ending Story”) In 2012, an outraged customer from Thiensville in Wisconsin, Bill Wisth, phoned the police and organised a picket, after an “all-you-can-eat” fish restaurant refused to continue serving him. Closer to home, in the same year, two men were bnned bnned from a Brighton restaurant after allegedly regularly abusing its “all-you-can-eat” rule.
When the Albuquerque Isotopes became a real baseball team
In the 2001 episode Hungry Hungry Homer, local minor-league baseball team the Springfield Isotopes decided to move to New Mexico and become the Albuquerque Isotopes. Two years later, real-life team the Calgary Cannons announced a move to Albuquerque. When they held a contest for Albuquerque citizens to name the new team, the winning entry was: the Isotopes. Like Springfield, which houses a nuclear power plant (where Homer works), New Mexico is also home to several nuclear research facilities. The term isotope, which refers to a particular form of an element (often a radioactive one) is frequently used in nuclear research.
When real-life voting machines began changing people's votes
In a 2008 Halloween special, Homer was seen attempting to vote for Barack Obama; the electronic voting machine continued to register a vote for Mitt Romney instead. This prediction came true during the 2012 presidential elections, when a Pennsylvania voting machine was recorded doing the same thing. A man identified online as “centralpavote” recorded the malfunction on his smartphone and uploaded the video, where it shot to instant fame. The faulty machine in question was subsequently taken out of service.
When Simpsons products hit real shops
In 2007, as part of a marketing campaign for The Simpsons Movie, real life versions of a number of well-known Simpsons products appeared in shops belonging to the international chain 7-Eleven (the chain has no UK-based outlets). Cans of Buzz Cola, Krusty-O's cereal, Squishee slush puppies, and a special edition of the Radioactive Man Comic were all sold for a limited period, alongside other The Simpsons merchandise. However, the team behind the marketing stunt decided not to sell the Simpsons' famous Duff Beer, but instead introduced an alcohol-free Duff Energy Drink.
When Duff became a real beer, against the programme-makers' wishes
Simpsons creator Matt Groening has publicly stated that he will not license the Duff trademark to brew an actual beer, over concern that it would encourage children to drink. That hasn't prevented a number of companies from attempting to cash in by introducing their own version of the product. In the mid-nineties the Australian brewery Lion Nathan tried to sell a beer named Duff, and was sued by 20th Century Fox. Only a few cans were produced, and have since become collectors' items: one case reportedly sold at auction for $13,000. Germany's Eschweger Klosterbrauerei brewery produces a Duff beer, while England's Daleside brewery produces a dark beer that goes by the same name (Duff can be linked to the Gaelic term dubh, which means dark or black).
When hamburger earmuffs became a real thing
Hamburger earmuffs were invented by The Simpsons' Professor Frink, in the 1998 episode The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace. Frink explained to Homer that you can mix any two things together to form an invention; Homer suggested hamburger earmuffs. Frink then revealed that he had already made that particular invention, and that they'd soon be on the shelves. The professor's words proved prophetic: hamburger earmuffs have subsequently become “a thing”. In 2013, the item received an unexpected spurt of fame when Josh Gates, host of the SyFy reality series Destination Truth, ordered a T-shirt on Amazon and received a pair of hamburger earmuffs by mistake. Initially bemused, Gates soon saw the funny side of the mix-up, and began to tweet pictures of himself wearing product, leading to a demand that soon saw the earmuffs sell out.
When real-life actors recreated the intro sequence in painstaking detail
In 2010, the UK-based advertising agency Devilfish produced a promotional video for Sky One, in which each frame of The Simpsons famous opening credits was recreated using human actors (and in which Didcot Power Station doubles up for Springfield's nuclear power plant). Matt Groening was so impressed, he later decided to use the clip as the opening sequence in the episode Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife.
When a woman 'became' Marge
In 2015 makeup artist Veronica Ershova and photographer Alexander Khokhlov worked on a project that transformed real women into works of art: the video above shows how one of their models was turned into an eerily realistic Marge Simpson. Marge's distinctive towering hairstyle was created via a stack of chrysanthemums, painted blue.
When Homer's Land of Chocolate became a real place
In the 1991 episode Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk, two visiting German businessmen inform Homer that they are from “the land of chocolate” (meaning Germany). Homer being Homer, he instantly envisages a fantasy land in which houses, streets, rivers, streetlamps and animals such as rabbits and dogs are all formed from chocolate. In 2013, Homer's dream became a (sort-of) reality, when the Homer-ishly titled theme park Chocolate Happy Land opened in Shanghai. Attractions include a 400-square-metre castle formed from 160 chocolate stands, chocolate handbags, flower vases and jewellery, a chocolate recreation of China's terracotta army, and reportedly a chocolate Hello Kitty.
When Barbara Bush learnt a lesson from Marge
Marge Simpson is known for upholding discipline and good manners – and in 1990, the character had to teach First Lady Barbara Bush a few lessons in politeness. Bush said of The Simpsons: “It was the dumbest thing I had ever seen, but it’s a family thing, and I guess it’s clean.” She later received a letter from Marge, who politely rebuked her for describing the show as “dumb”. To her credit, Bush then wrote back, apologising for her “loose tongue” and praising Marge for setting a good example for the rest of the country. Her letter even ended with, “PS Homer looks like a handsome fella!”
When a man invented a Homer Hammer
In the 1998 episode The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace, Homer becomes depressed about his lifelong lack of achievement, and decides to emulate the inventor Thomas Edison. One of Homer's creations is an electric hammer – but, after he accidentally leaves it at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, the invention ends up being credited to Edison anyway. In 2015, a German man named Patrick Priebe decided to take a break from his full-time job building laser gadgets (as if that wasn't impressive enough), and create a working version of Homer's hammer. Priebe's electric hammer was built from scratch, primarily from aluminium, and powered by an 80.5-volt, 1,000-mAh lithium-polymer battery. Given the relatively limited movement of the head, the finished product looks as if it would be significantly less destructive than Homer's version – but it does prevent the user from having to pull their arm back for each strike of the hammer. Both Homer and Edison would be proud.
– © The Daily Telegraph