Being the longest-running primetime scripted series in history, The Simpsons have created episodes that touched on almost every topic in every way. This has sparked a phenomenon where viewers are convinced that the show is able to predict the future. Yet during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, The Simpsons' writer Bill Oakley stated that he doesn't want an episode about a pandemic attached to the current coronavirus outbreak.
"I don't like it being used for nefarious purposes," Oakley said. "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 is referring to a 1993 episode of the show titled "Marge in Chains." In the episode, Springfield is hit with an epidemic known as the "Osaka Flu." Marge ends up getting arrested while shoplifting supplies for her sick family. In "Marge in Chains," the illness gets to Springfield from a sick Japanese factory worker who coughed on a box that ended up being shipped to a popular juicer in the town.
Bill Oakley co-wrote the episode with Josh Weinstein. Recently, Oakley started to see memes on the internet from when "Marge in Chains" episode where users are replacing the "Osaka Flu" with the coronavirus. People have also used the episode to promote racist agendas aimed at Asian people throughout the pandemic.
Oakley explains that the "Osaka Flu" was merely a "quick joke" created in reference to the Hong Kong flu of 1968.
"It was meant to be absurd that someone could cough into box and the virus would survive for six to eight weeks in the box. It is cartoonish," he continued. "We intentionally made it cartoonish because we wanted it to be silly and not scary, and not carry any of these bad associations along with it, which is why the virus itself was acting like a cartoon character and behaving in extremely unrealistic ways."
Oakley goes on to state that The Simpsons gets "too much credit" from people claiming that the show can predict the future. Oakley admits that some of the speculations are funny, but not when it becomes harmful rhetoric—like the connection between coronavirus and "Osaka Flu." In fact, most of the show's content is based on past events.
"There are very few cases where The Simpsons predicted something," Oakley said. "It's mainly just coincidence because the episodes are so old that history repeats itself. Most of these episodes are based on things that happened in the '60s, '70s or '80s that we knew about."