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People Think The Simpsons Predicted Tom Hanks' Coronavirus Diagnosis

Fans are adding Tom Hanks' recent coronavirus diagnosis to the never-ending list of things The Simpsons has freakishly predicted

In their 30-plus years on the air, TV's most famous animated family has starred on nearly 700 episodes and seen more than 800 guest appearances, from Aerosmith to James Earl Jones. The Simpsons has also become somewhat of a prophetic franchise, with a nearly countless number of series plot points that became, to various degrees, a reality. Among the series' weirdest and wildest predictions were the winners of Super Bowl XXVI, XXVII, and XXVIII, the Siegfried and Roy tiger attack, and, most recently, Donald Trump's presidential election. 

Because of The Simpsons' seemingly impeccable track record for calling the future sometimes decades before it happens, fans are now freaking out about what they see as an uncanny link between Tom Hanks' cameo in 2007's The Simpsons Movie and his coronavirus quarantine after he and his wife, Rita Wilson, tested positive for the virus. At one point in the film, the Cast Away star appears in an advertisement for a new Grand Canyon being built in Springfield. During the scene, Hanks, voicing himself, talks a bit about the project and ensures audiences that they can trust the government. Hanks, in his Simpsons form, appears again during a mid-credits gag just before his credit appears. It's here where Hanks states, "This is Tom Hanks saying if you see me in person, please, leave me be."

Many are taking this as a sign of a prediction of Hanks' COVID-19 diagnosis. Twitter user @itssmaliyah wrote, ""OMG YALL THE CORONAVIRUS WAS ON SIMPSONS AND THEY KNEW TOM HANKS WOULD GET IT. WTF." Another fan pointed to one of the series; other famous predictions — Donald Trump's presidential election — as proof of the series prophetic powers. "The Simpsons predicted Tom Hanks getting sick from a global epidemic they also predicted that Trump [would be president]," @b7ook3 tweeted.

While there have certainly been a few shocking parallels between The Simpsons' plot lines and real-life events, the connection between Hanks' quarantine and the PSA-style cameo is pretty thin. 

The prediction isn't really a prediction

The scene from The Simpsons Movie, a clip of which Twitter user @ftbldillon shared, is a brief but critical plot point of the 2007 film. During the flick, President Arnold Schwarzenegger decides to enclose Springfield in a giant glass dome after Homer's actions dangerously pollute a nearby lake, causing animal mutations. When the Environmental Protection Agency arrives to contain the scene and a mob of locals come after the family, the Simpsons flee to Alaska through a sinkhole in Maggie's sandbox. While the Simpsons are away, the government makes plans to destroy the town and replace it with a new Grand Canyon, which they advertise with the help of Hanks. That's where the line is from, and what propels the Simpsons to go back and save their town.

But Hanks isn't ill in The Simpsons Movie — he's simply using his credibility to help out the government and advertise the new Grand Canyon that will replace Springfield. Unlike the series' somewhat unsettling 9/11 connection or even The Simpsons predicting the Disney-Fox merger — a joke that took two decades to pay off — Hanks' quarantine "prediction" really wasn't a really prediction at all. 

It's easy to see how the parallels between the movie's quarantine situation and Hanks' predicament might have some crossover, but it's a weak link at best. Not only does the dialogue in question sound like something just about every famous person says about going out in public, but the circumstances of the quarantine are also drastically different. The cameo and Hanks' current status actually mirrors some of The Simpsons' other softer predictions — like the three-eyed fish Bart found near a Springfield power plant during a 1990 episode mirroring three-eyed fish that was discovered in a reservoir in Argentina near a nuclear power plant nearly a decade later. There are similarities between what happens in The Simpsons Movie and what's going on in real life, but anyone claiming that the film predicted Hanks getting the coronavirus is committing a huge leap in logic.

The Simpsons' predictions are down to writing smarts and luck

Over the years, fans and even some conspiracy theorists have helped build the myth that The Simpsons can predict the future. But the show's writers have long made clear that some of the weird or messed up things in The Simpsons aren't mystical. 

Back in 2010, Bill Oakley, an executive producer on the show at the time, told The New York Observer that the series' 9/11 connection on the "The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson" episode is "a completely bizarre, strange thing," but also acknowledged that the episode was full of World Trade Center material. The "prediction" was noticed by fans who saw that a guide book on New York that Lisa held up during the episode featured the price of nine dollars next to a picture of the Twin Towers.

Simpsons writer Al Jean told BBC's Radio 1 Newsbeat in 2019 that the 9/11 prediction was "totally coincidental," and chalked up things like the foreshadowing of Trump's election to just having a smart bunch of writers who read the news and tune into current events. In the case of Trump, it was all about remembering he had publicly expressed interest in running for president before. As Jean explained, "If you make enough predictions, then 10 percent will turn out to be right."

Writer Stephanie Gillis added, "We are sort of futurologists in that we write 10 months ahead, so we're trying to guess what is going to happen."

In a property packed with references to art, literature, pop culture, politics, and science — and one that's written by some of the smartest people in Hollywood — maybe the only genuinely predictable thing here is that people read will always read too much into what The Simpsons has done in the past.