What exactly was the Airborne Toxic Event in Netflix’s White Noise (2022)?
The couple Jack and Babette Gladney, a college professor and an attitude teacher respectively, lead a routine life together in Noah Baumbach’s drama film “White Noise” on Netflix. When a stunning explosion occurs in their village of Blacksmith, their routine existence takes an unexpected turn. After the explosion, a poisonous cloud appears in the sky, causing the town’s inhabitants to flee. Despite their best efforts, Jack, Babette, and their children are unable to flee the city due to the “dangerous event in the sky.” But what exactly is the puzzling event? However, here is all the information you need to know about the same! Spoilers follow.
Toxic airborne event: significance and meaning
The after-effects of the Nyodene D explosion are collectively referred to as the “airborne toxic incident.” A toxic cloud that develops after the explosion sends the populace into panic. While the radio and other media hype the situation, the environmental risk quickly becomes a spectacle. After hearing the news of it, even the Gladneys leave their home. Misinformation introduced to the situation over time only serves to increase public panic. The media and rumor makers use the incident to their advantage and make the explosion an ‘event’, without any scientific basis.
Baumbach’s film “White Noise” is based on the book of the same name by Don DeLillo. The author intended the specific plot of the “dangerous event in the sky” as a criticism of the media’s handling of tragedies or dangers. Radio and other forms of information manage the explosion and its aftereffects in both the book and the movie. They try to sensationalize the situation for their own gain without any ethical responsibility to the public. DeLillo managed to expose the sensationalism and unethical behavior of the 1980s media and illustrate its effects through research into the “event.”
In DeLillo’s book, the radio stations propagated the myth that people exposed to the toxic cloud would have déjà vu experiences, only for a number of people to confirm this. The fact that the same broadcasters eventually retract their previous statement that déjà vu is not a symptom illustrates how radio and other information channels influence public perceptions of and response to specific disasters. DeLillo illustrates how ultimately any catastrophe can be influenced by the resources that regulate information, using the example of the supposed symptom. DeLillo’s book can be considered prescient in light of the current instances of misinformation during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The toxic black cloud is the main part of the toxic airborne event. Since the explosion, the cloud has increased in size, which has made the blacksmith’s locals more anxious. The ominous cloud may be a literal representation of the widespread fear of dying that terrifies everyone, including Jack, Babette, and their children. The Gladneys try to flee from the cloud’s exposure but fail, illustrating the certainty of death. After being exposed to the cloud, which can be seen as his encounter with the brutal truth of death, Jack’s fear of dying also increases.
White Noise was intended by both DeLillo and Baumbach as an allegory of death. The Gladneys’ contemporaries in the book and film see death as a mythical spectacle only found in the entertainment media. Both the book and the director managed to show how death is inevitable from the toxic event in the sky. “It [“White Noise”] presents this story of how we have somehow sublimated death to our amusement in our efforts not to deal with our own mortality, to actually deal with death in a meaningful way in our culture,” said Baumbach about the film’s apparent exploration of mortality through the incident.
Anything that threatens life is considered fantasy by the citizens of Blacksmith. To convince his students that death and disasters are largely fabricated, Professor Siskind shows footage of car crashes in the film’s opening scene. The Nyodene D explosion and the toxic airborne event that followed are the events that make the town’s populace confront the harshness of their everyday realities. The incident makes locals aware that disasters are real events that are not just in stories. Ironically, it doesn’t take long for the entertainment venues to turn the explosion and event into yet another show.
The dangerous event in the sky is the best representation of entertainment in the 1980s, as it shows how radio, television and other forms of information distorted reality at the time. Even in the modern age, when the world faces real dangers that the media presents as a spectacle, DeLillo’s prophetic vision makes the event accessible.
Being a binge-watcher himself, finding content to write about comes naturally to Divesh. From anime to popular Netflix series and celebrity news, he covers every detail and always finds the right sources for his research.