This is a nice bookend to another malaphor recently posted, “the genie is out of the bag” – https://malaphors.com/2020/06/17/the-genie-is-out-of-the-bag/. It is also similar to “we can’t put the genie back in the box”, another malaphor posted on this site. https://malaphors.com/2016/04/11/we-cant-put-the-genie-back-in-the-box/. “The genie is out of the box” was uttered on CNN recently and also appears in an Axios article:
“We think the model has long-term viability,” says Barbieri. “The next California wildfire or earthquake or hurricane… now that the genie is out of the box, it’s never going back.”
It is a mash up of “the genie is out of the bottle” (something has been done that cannot be changed) and “opening Pandora’s box” (doing something that causes a lot of unexpected problems). Both involve mythical creatures that cause trouble. Also, opening Pandora’s box has a similar meaning to letting the genie out of the bottle. Both are impossible to close once opened. I also think the mix up is caused by the containers themselves – getting things from boxes and bottles. It’s possible a jack-in-the-box was also on the speaker/writer’s mind. A tip of the hat to Ginny Justice who heard this one and passed it on.