These 15 Episodes Prove The Simpsons Will Always Be Relevant

01
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Modern Times

Blazed and Confused
Things get weird for the Simpsons at Blazing Guy. TCFFC

Usually, The Simpsons tell timeless stories that you’ll be able to watch for centuries. Occasionally, The Simpsons do an episode pointedly about modern times, and those prove that there will always be material for Simpsons stories to satirize. These aren’t just single jokes in an episode, because there’s always a joke or two about the latest movie or presidential candidate. These are episodes where the whole premise of an episode reflects a topical issue. Catch them on FXX.

02
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YA Fantasy Novels - "The Book Job"

Neil Gaiman on The Simpsons
Neil Gaiman helps the Simpsons write YA fantasy novels. TCFFC

Ever since Harry Potter I’ve been saying this. All these YA fantasy stories are the same. They just change the made up words. The Simpsons figured out the formula: an orphan goes to a magic school and plays a nonsense sport. Homer, Bart, Patty, Principal Skinner, Moe and Professor Frink write the book, while Lisa tries to prove them wrong with artistic integrity, but she has writer’s block. Guest star Neil Gaiman is a great sport, probably because of all the fantasy writers, his stories are the least formulaic.

03
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Fracking - "Opposites A-Frack"

The Simpsons Tackle Fracking
Season 26 episode "Opposites A-Frack". TCFFC

Fracking has been big business in America, so Mr. Burns tries to cash in. His fracking actually sets the Springfield water on fire, but he hires Homer to sell the town on it. The only holdout is his own wife, Marge. Well, Lisa judges Homer too, screaming “judge judge judge judge judge” until Homer leaves the room. In the end, Homer uses the flaming water to destroy the fracking plant. 

04
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ADD and Ritalin - "Brother's Little Helper"

Bart Simpson on Focusyn
Focusyn makes Bart too focused. Fox, Screencap via GeekFest.com

Back in 2000, Bart was diagnosed with ADD, like many children of the ‘90s. The doctors of Springfield prescribed the powerful drug Focusyn, but it worked a little too well. Giving Bart focus turned him into an OCD Beautiful Mind obsessive. In the end, they just gave him good old fashioned Ritalin.

05
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Hipsters - "The Day The Earth Stood Cool"

The Simpsons Go Hipster
Homer in skinny jeans. TCFFC

When a family of hipsters (Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein & Patton Oswalt) moves into Springfield, Homer tries to be cool like them. He wears skinny jeans and a wallet chain, and Lisa enjoys sharing the compost. The Simpsons aren’t cool enough for the hipsters though, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. When the hipsters take over Springfield, they install a medical marijuana dispensary and a Taschen store, while stocking Moe’s with Duff Blue Ribbon. The hipsters leave once Springfield becomes played out, but not before The Simpsons ridicules their pet armadillo, moustache stencils and toe sneakers! 

06
of 16

Burning Man - "Blazed and Confused"

The Simpsons at Blazing Guy
The Simpsons attend Blazing Guy music festival. TCFFC

Burning Man has been held since 1986, before The Simpsons were even shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show. It took them until 2014 to get there, when it had become so popular they couldn’t ignore it. Only they called it Blazing Guy. Lisa fits right in musically. Homer lets the tent blow away. Maggie uses a syringe for a pacifier and Marge drinks some “special” tea. The artists of The Simpsons really captured all the costumes, atmosphere and neon glow sticks. Some of the funny costumes include a telephone and a group Milhouse with his eyes, nose and glasses. 

07
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Uber and Lyft - "My Fare Lady"

Marge Drives for a Ride Share Service
The Simpsons Tackle Ride Sharing. TCFFC

South Park did an episode on ride sharing services too, but it takes The Simpsons a lot longer to produce an episode. So when Marge begins giving rides, it showed that Uber and Lyft were here to stay. In case you didn’t get it, the cab drivers complain, “We used to get uber amounts of work giving people lifts.” In Marge’s car we get to see every Springfieldan’s individual request, including Grounskeeper Willie, Disco Stu and Nelson. 

08
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Trader Joe's - "Exit Through the Kwik-E Mart

Swapper Jack's Vs. The Kwik-E-Mart
Swapper Jack's is the Simpsonized Trader Joe's. TCFFC

Health food stores like Trader Joe’s had been around for decades, so this episode actually shows there’s no limit to the depths of the past The Simpsons can mine for comedy either. The Springfield equivalent of a Trader Joe’s, Swapper Jack’s, opens and puts the Kwik-E-Mart out of business! While investigating the competition, Apu has a toothpick sword fight with Homer. But if that’s old news for you, this one has Bart turn into a Banksy type street artist, with cameos from Robbie Conal, Ron English, Kenny Scharf and Shepard Fairey. Fairey gets haw-hawed by an off-camera Nelson. 

09
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UFC - "The Great Wife Hope"

The Simpsons do UFC
Chuck Liddell guest stars. TCFFC

It took about 12 years from the founding of UFC in 1993 for the sport of MMA to get the respect it deserves, and another four years for The Simpsons to do it. When the Ultimate Kick Punch and Choke Championship comes to Springfield, Marge protests it and ends up challenged to fight the owner of UKPCC in the septagon! All of Springfield either goes to the arena or watches on TV. You can even see Hans Moleman cheering on the fights. 

10
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Comic Book Movies - "Homer the Whopper"

Homer Simpson as Everyman
Seth Rogen as his trainer. TCFFC

Just to show how time is on The SImpsons’ side, they had already done an episode about making a Radioactive Man movie, but that was before comic book movies were a monthly event. In season 20 they could do a spoof of the modern day comic book movie. This time, Comic Book Guy creates the superhero “Everyman” and Homer is cast in the movie. Hollywood makes an Everyman movie, but they don’t seem to know Comic Book Guy’s real name is Jeff Albertson, like we do. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote this episode and Rogen plays the voice of Homer’s trainer. 

11
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Evolution Vs. Creationism - "The Monkey Suit"

Flanders at the Evolution Exhibit
Flanders wants creationism taught too. Fox, Screencap via Simpsonsworld.com

Around 2006 there was a big debate about whether Intelligent Design should be taught in schools along with evolution. The Simpsons were very sympathetic to Flanders’ sincere belief in creation, but once he gets his way and gets it taught in schools, The Simpsons skewers creation believes, including a video of Charles Darwin making out with Satan. The Simpsons ultimately lands on evolution and creationism coexisting. 

12
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Reality TV - "The Frying Game"

Frame-Up, The New Fox Reality Series
Homer ends up on a Fox reality show. Fox, Screencap via Frinkiac

This is a spoiler for the episode, but in the early  ‘00s it looked like reality TV was taking over. Fox was getting into it with scandalous shows like Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire and Bachelorettes In Alaska. When Homer is convicted of killing an endangered species and sentenced to death row, it turns out to be an episode of Fox’s new reality show Frame Up. A perfect swipe at reality TV that’s just as funny today. 

13
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HDTV - "Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife"

Homer Sings To His New HDTV
Homer got an HDTV before The Simpsons went HD. Fox, Screencap via NoHomers.net

The Simpsons didn’t go HD until season 20. Three years before that, The Simpsons did an episode about Homer trying to get an HDTV after he sees one at Lenny’s house. HDTVs were revolutionizing television, giving viewers a cinematic experience at home, as homer noticed the soulless emptiness in a shark’s eyes on a nature channel, and then the soulless emptiness in Charlie Sheen’s eyes on Two and a Half Men. This episode is also an updated spoof of reality TV with the Simpsons participating in a wife swap TV show. Ricky Gervais wrote the episode and plays the husband of the other family. It ends with Homer singing the TV a love song. 

14
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Gay Marriage - "There's Something About Marrying"

Homer Simpson Performs Gay Weddings
The Simpsons tackle gay marriage. Fox, Screencap via The AV Club

Back in 2005, only a few states had started legalizing gay marriage. So in “There’s Something About Marrying,” whatever state Springfield is in became the next (actually it’s just the city that legalizes it). You could also count Homer’s online ordainment registration to be timely and relevant, but this progressive episode puts The Simpsons ahead of the Supreme Court. When Patty comes out, it also tests Marge to see if she’s really as liberal as she thinks she is. 

15
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Movie Piracy - "Steal This Episode"

Homer Simpson's Bootleg Movie Theater
Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd star in Judd Apatow's latest. TCFFC

By 2014, films like X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Expendables 3 had been pirated, even before The Revenant got torrented. Homer runs his own movie theater in the backyard. This episode also addresses society’s spoiler fear as Homer gets Radioactive Man Re-Rises spoiled by coworkers, Krusty Burger and a church sermon. There’s also a scathing commentary on the state of movie theaters, the use of FBI resources to track pirates, and Hollywood’s sense of entitlement. Will Arnett plays the head of the FBI piracy task force and Judd Apatow, Leslie Mann, Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd cameo as themselves.

16
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Immigration - "Coming to Homerica"

The Simpsons Tackle Immigration
Springfield tires of immigrants. TCFFC

In 2009, the immigration debate was at its volatile peak in America. Even with the 2016 election and Trump’s talk about a wall on the Mexican border, that all stemmed from the late ‘00s. The Simpsons presented a microcosm of the immigration debate from beginning to end. Springfield welcomes immigrants from Ogdenville and even support Ogdenvillians taking the jobs they don’t want to do. But then there’s no work left for Springfield so they build a wall to keep them out. Satire at its finest.