British politicians recently scrapped a rule that limits the acceptable levels of radioactivity present in produce, in a move that will look strikingly familiar for those who have watched Golden Age episodes of The Simpsons. Long before The Simpsons started borrowing South Park plots, the raunchier Comedy Central series aired a legendary episode wherein Butters is frustrated to discover that, no matter what story he tries to come up with, “The Simpsons did it.” In recent years, this quote has become increasingly relevant, as The Simpsons has seemingly predicted countless real-life events years before they happened.
These events can be massive cultural moments, like Donald Trump’s presidential election, or obscure, bizarrely specific occurrences, like baseball star Don Mattingly being benched over a haircut. In every case, however, The Simpsons seemingly predicted the future, which appears to have happened once again as the UK lifted a produce restriction. This move affected the radioactivity levels in fish that can be imported into the UK, and did so in a way that a lot of Simpsons viewers will find familiar.
The classic episode “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish” (season 2, episode 4) saw legendary Simpsons writer John Swartzwelder spoof corrupt politicians and ineffective environmental legislation with a story that saw the rich Simpsons boss Mr. Burns run for governor to ensure his unsafe nuclear power plant wasn’t shut down. This results in a debacle for Burns when Marge serves him the head of Blinky, a three-eyed fish mutated by his plant’s runoff, during a dinner that was intended to be a political stunt for his campaign. Over three decades after this episode aired, the UK’s Food Standard Authority scrapped a rule that limited the levels of radioactivity that are considered acceptable in imported foodstuffs. Not only did this decision involve the UK’s politicians approving the import of fish from irradiated fisheries, but the UK’s current prime minister Boris Johnson even recreated Mr. Burns’ gaffe with a publicity photo of him sampling popcorn produced near the site of the Fukushima power plant disaster.
The UK government’s decision to remove the ban on importing irradiated goods flies in the face of previous food regulation guidelines. It has drawn significant criticism from environmental activists as well as political commentators, and the event’s similarity to Mr. Burns’ ill-fated Golden Age Simpsons storyline wasn’t lost on some social media users. Despite this, the UK government has shown no sign of reversing the decision.
However, the event’s similarity to that Simpsons episode doesn't end with the legislation itself and the photo opportunity. Although Johnson wasn’t seen balking away from his irradiated food in the publicity stills, his decision did seem to go about as well as Mr. Burns’ choice to dine with the Simpson family. Only days after the decision was announced, Johnson’s Conservative party suffered devastating losses in local elections throughout the UK, confirming that The Simpsons did predict the whole “trying to eat irradiated food in an ill-fated political stunt” story before reality proceeded to repeat the plot.
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