During its near 30-year lifespan as the longest running sitcom in American history, The Simpsons has predicted very many things: Super Bowl matchups, the advent of Farmville, and, most famously, Donald Trump’s successful presidential bid. “Bart to the Future” — an episode which debuted in 2000 — not only forecasted Trump’s improbable win, it also more or less nailed the electoral map (and his campaign’s graphic design).
During last night’s episode, Simpsons writers responded to their 16-year-old prophecy in Bart’s chalkboard gag. “Being right sucks,” the only Simpson son scribbled on the Springfield Elementary chalkboard.
The Simpsons updates its 2000 prediction of a Trump Presidency… #TheSimpsons pic.twitter.com/Myf5rYb9Dj
— The Simpsons (@TheSimpsons) November 14, 2016
“It’s really disorienting and scary,” The Simpsons‘s longtime producer James L. Brooks told IndieWire of the show’s accuracy last week. “I’ve experienced someone I don’t agree with becoming president, but I never had a moment where I believed that the country wasn’t going to be the same. I’m giving myself pep talks to not disappear into grief and disillusionment.” Back in March, “Bart to the Future” writer Dan Greaney told The Hollywood Reporter the Trump prediction was, “a warning to America” that “seemed like the logical last stop before hitting bottom.”
But The Simpsons had been warning American viewers about the political ascent of corrupt businessmen long before it called Trump by name. In “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish” — a season two episode which aired in November 1990 — Mr. Burns faces $56 million in fines for his toxic nuclear plant’s litany of environmental violations. Rather than paying the fines and improving the planet’s health, he runs for governor against incumbent Democrat Mary Bailey so that he might change the laws to work in his favor. Bailey is at first well-liked, but Burns derides her credibility with a vicious smear campaign and appeals to voters based on his incredulous wealth. Fortunately, Marge cleverly foils Burns’s plot before Springfield elects a climate change-denying oligarch.
If there is any silver lining to The Simpsons‘s prediction, it’s that “Bart to the Future” depicts Lisa as the inheritor of Trump’s presidency. “As you know, we’ve inherited quite a budget crunch from President Trump,” Lisa tells her cabinet, which includes Secretary Van Houten, who informs Madame President, “We’re broke.” Also, in “Pygmolian” — the season 11 episode that aired the week before “Bart to the Future” — The Simpsons made a bid for “A Gay President in 2084.” We’ll see.