It was intended, according to its creator, as a “warning to America”, a horrifying and fantastical vision of the future in which the US – ludicrously – had elected as its president Donald Trump.
But with the property billionaire now the favourite to gain the Republican nomination for the presidency, the episode of The Simpsons that in 2000 foresaw such a laughable outcome has begun looking unnervingly prescient.
A possible future Trump presidency, said the episode’s writer Dan Greaney, “just seemed like the logical last stop before hitting bottom. It was pitched because it was consistent with the vision of America going insane”.
The episode, broadcast almost exactly 16 years ago on 19 March 2000, saw Bart offered a vision of his future in which he is a beer-swilling bum, while his sister Lisa has become president, following Trump’s time in office.
“As you know, we’ve inherited quite a budget crunch from President Trump,” Lisa – who describes herself as “America’s first straight, female president” – tells her advisers from behind her Oval Office desk. “How bad is it? The country is broke? How can it be?”
The previous regime, she is told, made the mistake of “investing in our nation’s children … The balanced breakfast programme just created a generation of ultra-strong supercriminals. And midnight basketball just taught them to function without sleep.”
Bart’s vision, he is told, is 30 years in the future, which would mean Trump is hoping to claim the White House either six or ten years ahead of Greaney’s prediction – depending on whether his fictional counterpart serves one or two terms in the White House.
He told the Hollywood Reporter, “The important thing is that Lisa comes into the presidency when America is on the ropes and that is the condition left by the Trump presidency. What we needed was for Lisa to have problems that were beyond her fixing, that everything went as bad as it possibly could, and that’s why we had Trump be president before her.”
The Simpsons, he said, “has always kind of embraced the over-the-top side of American culture … and [Trump] is just the fulfilment of that.”
In a separate brief animation, released by the Simpsons broadcaster Fox in July, Homer is paid to attend a Trump campaign rally (“Do you care who the next president is? No? Come with me”), where he is captured by rogue fronds of Trump’s puzzling hairstyle before being dragged off by two security guards. The presidential candidate’s podium slogan reads: “America, you can be my ex-wife!”