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Arts | Culture

This ‘Simpsons’ writer is fed up with ‘nefarious’ coronavirus conspiracy theories

"The Simpsons"
An old episode of “The Simpsons” has sparked discussion about whether it predicted the coronavirus.
(Fox)

First the coronavirus came for “The Simpsons.” Now one of the show’s writers is coming for the people who tried to link his episode to the outbreak.

In a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Bill Oakley, co-author of the 1993 episode “Marge in Chains,” expressed his frustration with internet users who made it appear as if his work predicted the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, three stills of characters contracting and spreading an ominous cloud of germs went viral on social media, drawing comparisons to previous scenarios in which “The Simpsons” seemed to foretell Donald Trump’s presidency or the Disney-Fox merger years in advance.

The conspiracy theory has since been debunked, however, as a fourth image — which shows a news anchor reporting on “corona virus” — was revealed to be photoshopped. In fact, that still hails from a different episode entirely.

The culprits behind the misleading collage also lifted a scene from “Marge in Chains,” which sees an Asian character cough into a package addressed to Homer Simpson.

“I don’t like it being used for nefarious purposes,” Oakley told the Hollywood Reporter of the episode he cowrote with Josh Weinstein. “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.”

Stills from “Simpsons” episodes shared online suggest that the animated comedy — known for its prophetic writing — has done it again with the coronavirus.

In the actual episode, the packager, who is working in Japan, transmits an illness deemed the “Osaka flu.” According to Oakley, the scene in Japan was “supposed to be a quick joke about how the flu got there,” and nothing more.

“It was meant to be absurd that someone could cough into a box and the virus would survive for six to eight weeks in the box. It is cartoonish,” Oakley told THR. “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.”

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Handout illustration image of the virus that causes COVID-19, taken with a scanning electron microscope.

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