One Golden Age The Simpsons Episode Was Rewritten Due To Real-Life Tragedy
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One Golden Age The Simpsons Episode Was Rewritten Due To Real-Life Tragedy


  • The Simpsons had to rewrite an episode to avoid mocking a cult tragedy, showing sensitivity to real-life events.
  • The show’s satirical writing results in accurate predictions – like Trump’s presidency – due to sharp social satire.
  • By revising the plot of Season 9 Episode 13, The Simpsons turned a tragic coincidence into a classic episode with added gags.



While The Simpsons has commented on many real-life new stories, one classic episode of the series was rewritten to avoid mocking a tragedy. The Simpsons has been credited with predicting the future for years and some of the evidence for this is surprisingly compelling. In areas as diverse as politics, entertainment, and sports, The Simpsons has accidentally made accurate predictions throughout the show’s 760 episodes. However, this is mostly due to the sharp satirical writing of the show. The Simpsons deftly satirized pop culture, politics, society, and the media, and this approach has humorously resulted in the show inventing surprisingly believable events.

Most infamously, The Simpsons predicted Donald Trump’s presidency in what was intended to be a jab at celebrity culture and the US political scene. While The Simpsons season 36 might change this formula, as of season 35, the show still mocks current events and uses them as fodder for its plots. Season 35 has seen the show address the Varsity Blues scandal, controversies over workplace gender inequality, and the NFT boom in its first twelve episodes alone. However, on one occasion, the show skewed too close to reality and subsequently needed to rewrite a episode during the Golden Age of The Simpsons.

The Simpsons Season 9 Episode 13 Was Rewritten After A Tragic News Story

The Heaven’s Gate cult was too similar to The Movementarians

Marshall Appelwhite of the Heaven's Gate cult

Season 9, episode 13, “The Joy of Sect” featured a cult called the Movementarians who swiftly took over Springfield thanks to their charismatic frontman, the Leader. According to the show’s writers on a season 9 commentary track, “The Joy of Sect” was originally way too similar to the real-life Heaven’s Gate cult in its first draft. Since the Simpsons never age, the show is rarely considered realistic or grounded, but the coincidental similarities between the Heaven’s Gate members and the Movementarians would have made the episode seem tasteless. Members of the Heaven’s Gate cult tragically took their own lives in March 1997.

Active since 1974, the Heaven’s Gate cult believed its members would become immortal aliens once they shed their human bodies. They originally believed a spaceship was coming to take them away before the death of one of the cult’s co-founders changed this, and this belief was shared by the Movementarians in the episode’s first draft. The cult also wore matching clothes and shoes. These incidental details were also present in the first draft of “The Joy of Sect,” resulting in the show’s writers reworking the plot. The creators redesigned the Movementarians and the Leader, making them a less insensitive parody of cults.

Why The Simpsons Changing This Story Worked Better

The Simpsons added more gags thanks to these rewrites

There is a reason that the Golden Age of The Simpsons is often praised as some of the best sitcom writing in the history of the medium. Rather than throwing out the episode’s plot after a real-life tragedy mirrored its story, the writers instead heavily revised the plot and added numerous new gags in the process. This allowed The Simpsons to mock dozens of cults, celebrities, and mainstream religions by mixing up references to a broad array of sources, such as Michael Jackson, Scientology, and Rajneesh. As a result, The Simpsons turned an unfortunate coincidence into a classic episode.


The Simpsons

The Simpsons is a long-running animated TV series created by Matt Groening that satirically follows a working-class family in the misfit city of Springfield. Homer, a bit of a schmoe who works at a nuclear power plant, is the provider for his family, while his wife, Marge, tries to keep sanity and reason in the house to the best of her ability. Bart is a born troublemaker, and Lisa is his super-intelligent sister who finds herself surrounded by people who can’t understand her. Finally, Maggie is the mysterious baby who acts as a deus ex machina when the series calls for it. The show puts the family in several wild situations while constantly tackling socio-political and pop-culture topics set within their world, providing an often sharp critique of the subjects covered in each episode. This series first premiered in 1989 and has been a staple of Fox’s programming schedule ever since.

Tress MacNeille , Julie Kavner , Harry Shearer , Pamela Hayden , Nancy Cartwright , Hank Azaria , Dan Castellaneta , Yeardley Smith

Release Date
December 17, 1989



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