Fact Check

Did 'The Simpsons' Predict the Use of Directed Energy Weapons (DEW)?

Conspiracy theorists claimed a 2016 episode of the animated series "predicted" the use of "DEW," or "directed energy weapons."

Published Aug 15, 2023

 (Daily Simpsons/YouTube)
Image Via Daily Simpsons/YouTube
Claim:
An episode of the animated series "The Simpsons" predicted the use of a "directed energy weapon."
Context

In the 2016 "Simpsons" episode entitled "Monty Burns' Fleeing Circus," a newly erected chrome statue in downtown Springfield unexpectedly reflects the sun's rays in a focused beam throughout the town, virtually destroying it. While perhaps visually reminiscent of a high-power laser beam, however, it was in no sense represented in the episode as a military weapon.

Thanks to the proliferation of an outlandish conspiracy theory holding that the deadly and destructive August 2023 Maui wildfires were purposely started by means of a military weapon known as a "directed energy weapon" ("DEW" for short), a new entry in the canon of supposed "predictions" made by writers of the animated TV series "The Simpsons" was born. Social media users circulated an alleged excerpt of a "Simpsons" episode that they claimed predicted the use of such a weapon on a civilian populace. This example was reposted on X (the platform formerly known as Twitter) after it first appeared on TikTok: 

But although the video clip was real, the characterization of it as representing or predicting a "directed energy weapon" was pure fancy. (Note that the edited, decontextualized clip above only shows a destructive beam of light wreaking havoc with no explanation.) What actually happened in the 2016 episode of "The Simpsons" titled "Monty Burns' Fleeing Circus" was that a newly erected chrome statue in downtown Springfield unexpectedly acted as a mirror, focusing the sun's rays into an intense beam that then destroys most of the town. It was not represented as a military weapon, much less a "directed energy weapon."

Here's what that scene looked like in full, courtesy of the Daily Simpsons YouTube channel

In short, the content of the episode was misrepresented in the interests of promulgating a conspiracy theory that bears scant resemblance either to the script of the episode or to real-world events. Get back to us when a real-life chrome statue is erected somewhere that destroys a town by reflecting and concentrating the sun's rays on the landscape and we'll consider revising our fact-check rating, which currently stands as False.

Sources

Emery, David. "No, This Video Doesn't Show a 'Directed Energy Weapon' Attack on Maui." Snopes, 14 Aug. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/not-direct-energy-weapon-attack-maui/.

Emery, David. "Were 2023 Maui Fires Caused by a 'Direct Energy Weapon'?" Snopes, 11 Aug. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/maui-wildfires-caused-by-direct-energy-weapon/.

"Monty Burns' Fleeing Circus." Wikisimpsons, https://simpsonswiki.com/wiki/Monty_Burns%27_Fleeing_Circus. Accessed 15 Aug. 2023.

Salahieh, Nouran. "At Least 99 People Were Killed in Maui's Wildfires. With Only 25% of the Burn Area Searched, Officials Worry the Death Toll Will Climb." CNN, 15 Aug. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/08/15/us/hawaii-maui-wildfires-death-toll-tuesday/index.html.

Staff, Snopes. "'The Simpsons' Didn't Predict That." Snopes, 22 Aug. 2019, https://www.snopes.com/collections/the-simpsons-didnt-predict-that/.

The Simpsons - STATUE DESTROYS SPRINGFIELD. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04FiCZbEI_U. Accessed 15 Aug. 2023.

David Emery is a West Coast-based writer and editor with 25 years of experience fact-checking rumors, hoaxes, and contemporary legends.