Fact Check

Did 'The Simpsons' Predict the Missing Titanic Submersible?

We've fact-checked many claims about the long-running show's alleged "predictions."

Published June 22, 2023

 (@dopeclips@/TikTok)
Image Via @dopeclips@/TikTok
Claim:
An episode of "The Simpsons" TV show predicted a five-person submersible going missing near the site of the Titanic in June 2023.

On June 21, 2023, as U.S. Coast Guard crews continued a days-long search for five people aboard a missing submersible near the site of the Titanic shipwreck, claims spread across social media platforms that an old episode of "The Simpsons" had predicted the event.

"The Simpsons saw it coming," said a viral TikTok video. It contained an authentic clip from a 2006 episode of "The Simpsons" showing Homer Simpson in a sub getting lost underwater, running out of oxygen, and subsequently passing out, as well as news coverage of the real-life missing submersible from "Inside Edition." At the time of this writing, the TikTok video had 9.2 million views.

We also found posts with the claim on other social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Reddit.

As the rumor spread, authorities concluded the real submersible likely imploded in the North Atlantic waters, killing all five people aboard, according to The Associated Press. The voyage was operated by OceanGate Expeditions, a company that has been chronicling the Titanic's decay and its surrounding environment since 2021. 

That said, there was no mention of the Titanic nor OceanGate at any point in "The Simpsons" episode allegedly predicting the missing submersible. The episode aired in 2006 and was called "Homer's Paternity Coot." In the episode, Homer Simpson used a submarine to find the "famed emeralds of Piso Mojado." He got stuck underwater, ran out of oxygen, and then woke up in a hospital after being in a coma for three days.

There were several other differences between the real events in 2023 and the 2006 episode. For examples, no character in the show went missing, and Homer was in the sub alone. Also, the passengers of the OceanGate voyage paid for the trip. There was no mention of Homer paying money to operate his sub.

The similarities driving the assertion that the episode "predicted" the 2023 OceanGate event were coincidences. Considering "The Simpsons'" catalog of some 750 episodes at the time of publication, viewers can cherrypick all sorts of situations from the animated footage and attempt to connect them to current events.

In 2020, former Simpsons showrunner and head writer, Bill Oakley, told The Hollywood Reporter

There are very few cases where 'The Simpsons' predicted something. It's mainly just coincidence because the episodes are so old that history repeats itself. Most of these episodes are based on things that happened in the '60s, '70s or '80s that we knew about.   

We've previously fact-checked claims about "The Simpsons" predicting world events, including COVID-19, the Silicon Valley Bank Crash, and Lady Gaga's 2017 performance at the Super Bowl. You can find a roundup of the fact-checks here.  

On the viral TikTok video, people commented that the person who had created "The Simpsons" was aboard the submersible. That was also false. Matt Groening is the creator of "The Simpsons," and he was not reported as one of the five people aboard. Former "Simpsons" showrunner Mike Reiss reportedly did travel on four dives with OceanGate, including one trip to the Titanic wreckage, but he wasn't on the June 2023 submersible that went missing.

Sources

Chalk, Will. "The Simpsons Creator Matt Groening on Equality, Memes and Monorails." BBC News, 24 Feb. 2021. www.bbc.com, https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-56024683.

Emery, David. "Did 'The Simpsons' Predict the Coronavirus Outbreak?" Snopes, 3 Feb. 2020, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/simpsons-predict-coronavirus/.

---. "No, 'The Simpsons' Didn't Predict the Silicon Valley Bank Crash." Snopes, 12 Mar. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/simpsons-predict-silicon-valley-bank-crash/.

Evon, Dan. "Did 'The Simpsons' Predict Lady Gaga at Super Bowl LI?" Snopes, 6 Feb. 2017, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/lady-gaga-superbowl-simpsons/.

Harvey, Josephine."'Simpsons' Writer Who Rode In Titan Sub Recalls Hitch That Happened 'Every Time.'" HuffPost, 22 June 2023, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/mike-reiss-titanic-sub_n_64918bb8e4b04ee51a9db48e.

Liles, Jordan. "Did a Game Controller Operate the Missing Sub Exploring Titanic?" Snopes, 20 June 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/controller-missing-sub-titanic/.

Parker, Ryan. "'Simpsons' Writer Calls Perversion of Classic Episode During Coronavirus Outbreak 'Gross.'" The Hollywood Reporter, 15 Mar. 2020, https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/tv/tv-news/simpsons-writer-calls-misappropriation-classic-episode-coronavirus-outbreak-gross-1284744/.

Picchi, Aimee. "What to Know about the 5 Passengers on the Missing Titanic Sub." CBS News. 22 June 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/who-is-on-missing-titanic-submarine-passengers-hamish-harding-shahzada-dawood/.

Winsor, Morgan et al. "'Debris Field' Discovered within Search Area, US Coast Guard Says." ABC News, https://abcnews.go.com/International/live-updates/missing-titanic-tourist-submersible/debris-field-discovered-within-search-area-us-coast-guard-says-100308271?id=100224153. Accessed 22 June 2023.

Izz Scott LaMagdeleine is a fact-checker for Snopes.