The Simpsons writer responds to Osaka Flu episode being used for “nefarious purposes”

The fictional illness was inspired by a pandemic from the 1960s

The Simpsons - couch 2

The co-writer of a classic Simpsons episode has hit back at those who have linked its plot to the current coronavirus pandemic.


Bill Oakley co-wrote the season four episode Marge in Chains with Josh Weinstein, where the Simpson family contracts “Osaka Flu” when it arrives in Springfield with products imported from Japan.

The episode aired back in May 1993, but has become prominent in recent weeks as the coronavirus has spread from China to the rest of the world.

It has been the basis of internet memes as well as racist propaganda, which Oakley has described as “gross” to The Hollywood Reporter.

He said: “I don’t like it being used for nefarious purposes. The idea that anyone misappropriates it to make coronavirus seem like an Asian plot is terrible. In terms of trying to place blame on Asia — I think that is gross.”

Oakley revealed that the flu was not supposed to be taken seriously and was inspired by a pandemic that took place decades earlier.

“I believe the most antecedent to [Osaka Flu] was the Hong Kong flu of 1968. It was just supposed to be a quick joke about how the flu got here,” he explained.

In the episode, a sick factory worker coughs into the packaging of a new juicer, which then gets purchased by a resident of Springfield.

Oakley added: “It was meant to be absurd that someone could cough into a box and the virus would survive for six to eight weeks in the box. It is cartoonish.

“We intentionally made it cartoonish because we wanted it to be silly and not scary, and not carry any of these bad associations along with it, which is why the virus itself was acting like a cartoon character and behaving in extremely unrealistic ways.”


The Simpsons will be available to stream on Disney+ from 24th March.