The relevance of Don DeLilo’s “White Noise”


Let’s enjoy these aimless days while we still can.” – Don Delilo, White Noise

Victoria Fabre, Staff Writer

Don DeLilo’s classic novel “White Noise ”, a postmodern take on American consumerism that uses satire and philosophy to critique capitalism, has been adapted for the big screen. Noah Baumbach released his film adaptation of the book on Netflix last December and it immediately received both praise and confusion. Many felt it was messy and incohesive. But this approach was an intentional choice to stay faithful to the source material. One of the main critiques of this movie was how its plot aligned with what happened in Palestine, Ohio in early March of this year. This left many quick to say this is an example of “Predictive Programming.”

Due to a lot of viewers not being familiar with the book, Baumbach’s approach did not resonate with a lot of people. 

Both the book and the movie follow the main character Jack along with his family. Jack is aware of the absurdity of consumer culture and believes capitalism and heavy branding have taken over modern society and, more importantly, his life. 

The movie is saturated in colors much like most of the 80’s branding was in the American Midwest. It was a time when consumerism was at an all-time high and prevalent due to new forms of communication and advertising.    

Jack is aware of all of this and it makes him question the meaning of life during mundane moments. Though he questions life, a big concept of the story is the fear of death. He and his family are forced to face this fear when a train containing radioactive materials crashes and releases the toxic substance into the atmosphere. People are instructed to evacuate and chaos erupts. This event made them question their security and tested their need for control in their routine life. After the event Jack finds out he was contaminated by the chemicals and is even more shaken by the realization that death is inevitable.    

Upon the movie’s release, many immediately noted how similar it was to the news we were seeing at the time. Much like the movie, chaos erupted due to toxic chemicals being released into the air, the derailment of a train in Palestine, Ohio led to over 2,000 people evacuated from their homes. Predictive Programming is a conspiracy theorist idea that the government or “higher ups” control the media we see in order to familiarize us with things or show something the government has planned on orchestrating. This theory of predictive programming is usually not productive and used to spread distrust for the government and the belief of a “secret society” that controls the media.    

DeLilo wasn’t off in his representation of our capitalistic society, with his very U.S.centric depiction. Capitalism leads to overconsumption and oversaturation of products and this ultimately leads to lack of creativity, originality, and actual innovation. How much more can we advance? Have we gone too far?