Coronavirus: The Simpsons writer slams fans for ‘gross and terrible’ jokes about show’s pandemic ‘predictions’

A 1993 episode saw Springfield besieged by ‘Osaka flu’ – which has become a racist coronavirus-related meme in 2020

Adam White
Monday 16 March 2020 10:18 GMT
Simpsons predict Coronavirus in episode 'Marge in chains'

A former writer on The Simpsons has condemned fans for making “gross and terrible” jokes about the show’s coronavirus “predictions”.

Numerous clips from the long-running animated series have gone viral in recent weeks, with fans suggesting the show anticipated specifics about the pandemic.

2007’s The Simpsons Movie featured Tom Hanks, voicing himself, being placed in quarantine by the US government – 13 years before Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson announced they were in quarantine following a coronavirus diagnosis.

A 1993 episode of the series also saw the town of Springfield besieged by a virus that originated in Japan and was dubbed the “Osaka flu”. Clips from the episodes have been used in memes and in racist propaganda in recent weeks.

Bill Oakley, who co-wrote the episode in question, has now criticised the apparent connections.

“I don’t like it being used for nefarious purposes,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. “The idea that anyone misappropriates it to make coronavirus seem like an Asian plot is terrible. In terms of trying to place blame on Asia — I think that is gross.”

Oakley confirmed that the “Osaka flu” story was inspired by the Hong Kong flu of 1968, adding: “It was just supposed to be a quick joke about how the flu got [to Springfield] … It is cartoonish.”

Oakley additionally refuted claims that The Simpsons has repeatedly predicted the future.

“It’s mainly just coincidence because the episodes are so old that history repeats itself,” he said. “Most of these episodes are based on things that happened in the Sixties, Seventies or Eighties that we knew about.”

The Simpsons isn’t alone in being referenced as a piece of entertainment that predicted coronavirus.

The UK’s reaction to the global pandemic has been compared to a scene from the British sitcom Yes Minister, while a book by Dean Koontz went viral for “predicting” the outbreak.

The Steven Soderbergh thriller Contagion, released in 2011, has also experienced an enormous resurgence online.

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