Wave of the Future!

We got another look into the Simpsons’ future in the most recent episode, and it looks like they’re actually trying to be somewhat consistent this time. Several early episodes included looks into the future, one of the most memorable being when Bart was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The first time this was used as the premise of an entire episode, however, was “Lisa’s Wedding” in the sixth season, much of which took place in the then-far-off year of 2010. Of course, when we actually got to that year, Lisa was still eight years old. We can’t blame the writers for not realizing the show was going to last another twenty years, though. Anyway, this episode set the precedent for other future episodes, with a combination of older versions of the characters and gags based on the future theme, the latter consisting of huge science fiction style leaps in technology in just a few years. Bart was working in demolition, but did mention that he was working out his aggression before going to law school. While possibly just a throwaway joke, it might have been an intentional reference to the Supreme Court thing as well. If so, however, it wasn’t followed up in “Bart to the Future,” which presented Future Bart as an even bigger loser than Present Homer. About thirty years in the future, Lisa is President of the United States and Bart a lazy moocher. As far as I remember, the only direct reference to “Lisa’s Wedding” is that Krusty is wheelchair-bound and resembles an older Groucho Marx in both of them.

I find it kind of a stretch to think that Krusty, who’s already presumably in his sixties and in poor health, would live another thirty years, but stranger things have happened. When we look into the future again in “Future-Drama,” it’s a mere eight years, when Bart and Lisa are both graduating from high school, Lisa having finished two years early. Airing in 2005 and being set in 2013, it’s another future that’s now the past, but it’s not like the year ever matters a whole lot. This episode features even more sci-fi gags than the previous two, Marge lampshading the whole thing by claiming scientists had invented magic. Among other things, the Springfield cops have all become cyborgs, and quantum tunnels are used for transportation. This one was from after the first cancellation of Futurama, and I have to wonder if they incorporated some jokes that they couldn’t use on that show. Bender even makes a brief appearance.

There appear to be a few contradictions here with the other future episodes. Professor Frink is shown as having hanged himself, but he’s alive in “Lisa’s Wedding,” trying to come up with a cure for Mr. Burns being stabbed seventeen times in the back. In “Lisa’s Wedding,” Martin Prince is presumed dead after a science fair explosion, actually having become the school’s Phantom of the Opera.

In “Future-Drama,” he’s graduating with Bart. The Simpsons Wiki gives a possible explanation for this by proposing that the explosion took place AFTER Martin graduated, with his having been a teacher for a while. In “Future-Drama,” Otto jumps off a cliff while on acid and presumably dies, but in “Lisa’s Wedding” he owns a cab company that employs the indicted Mayor Quimby, and he’s one of the people Bart invites to Camp David in “Bart to the Future.” Mind you, I don’t think we actually see him die, and other characters on the show have survived bigger accidents.

“Holidays of Future Passed” was written so it could be the series finalé, which makes a certain amount of sense as the show also started with a Christmas episode. I guess Christmas was brought back after Mr. Burns stole it prior to the events of “Future-Drama.” What’s really interesting here, though, is the reappearance of Jenda, Bart’s girlfriend in “Future-Drama.” Voiced by Amy Poehler, she breaks up with him during the course of that episode; but the Christmas cards in “Future Passed” reveal that the two of them eventually got married, had two sons, and then divorced.

This one is also a thirty-year projection, but it totally ignores the events of the poorly-received “Bart to the Future.” Bart’s characterization is largely the same, but Lisa is married to Milhouse with a daughter and, you know, isn’t President. Actually, wasn’t “Lisa’s Wedding” the first time Milhouse is established as having a crush on Lisa? “Days of Future Future” is a direct follow-up to the Christmas flash-forward, and most of the future fates of the characters remain consistent.

Jenda has actual lines this time, and is again voiced by Poehler. She’s now dating a very friendly alien, and I think the aliens are new with this vision of the future, as are zombies.

Futurama has aliens and zombies as well, but it also takes place much farther in the future. Mind you, this makes more sense with the aliens (especially as Futurama‘s is a future where faster-than-light travel has been achieved) than the zombies, which are really a fantasy construct rather than a sci-fi one.

Martin is said in “Future Passed” to have had a sex change, but he still looks male when we see him on a date with a robot in “Future Future.” Ralph Wiggum’s role in the future is also worth a look. In “Lisa’s Wedding,” he’s spent some time as Krusty’s sidekick and is on the run from the law. “Bart to the Future” makes him Bart’s roommate and the only other member of his terrible band. The two newest future episodes show him as having taken his father’s place as Chief of Police, and having been cloned multiple times.

This is presumably a common occurrence in Springfield’s future, as “Future Future” establishes that Homer has been cloned repeatedly, and “Future-Drama” gives Moe a clone as well as a spider that got into the cloning machine and took on some of his appearance and personality. Since it’s Professor Frink who clones Homer in “Future Future,” it’s not too unlikely that he might have cloned himself as well, explaining how he can be dead in “Future-Drama” but alive later on.

Since all of these future episodes are non-canonical (except for the framing material, which seems to have been phased out in these shows much as it was in the Halloween specials), I suppose the Simpsons’ future isn’t set in stone. Nonetheless, as the AV Club review indicates, it looks like it’s getting to the point where the writers see at least the last three future episodes as THE future for the characters, which is kind of depressing considering what happens with Bart. Does this mean there’s no chance of his becoming Chief Justice of the Supreme Court anymore? Well, maybe that’s actually one of his clones who gets that job. I do think it would be kind of funny to see one of the characters who so far exists only in the projected future in the present. I was hoping a young Hugh Parkfield might show up when the Simpsons visited England several years ago, but no such luck. Maybe Jenda is attending one of the other elementary schools in the district, or maybe her family hasn’t moved to Springfield yet. By the way, an interesting sidenote about Jenda is that “Future-Drama” shows her wearing basically the same jacket as Laura Powers, Bart’s first crush. Guess he has a thing for girls in that sort of apparel.

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