Netflix’s “White Noise” sparks renewed interest after Ohio train derailment

Noah Baumbach’s latest film White noise, arrived on Netflix in late December without much fanfare. Despite a strong fall film festival run, it received mixed reviews from critics; it peaked at No. 4 on Netflix’s self-reported global top 10 list, where other recent releases such as glass onion, The light blue eyeAnd Matilda the Musical by Road Dahl had higher numbers; and it was completely disqualified from the 2023 Academy Awards.

But White noise is coming back into the public eye in a big way after the recent poisoned train derailment in eastern Palestine, Ohio, prompted many to point out similarities between real life and the film.

About half an hour into it White noise, the film interrupts a lecture by Jack Gladney (Adam Driver), a professor of Hitler studies, about the Nazi leader, who reminisces about the early days of his rule and the crowds that came out to shower him with footage of something see what appears to be a gas truck collides with a train. The cut connects the two, with the latter sequence culminating in a seismic explosion and mushroom-shaped cloud seen for miles, threatening the small town where the Gladney family lives.

Dubbed “The Airborne Toxic Event” in the film, the blast causes much confusion, a lack of concrete information being released to the public (leading to much speculation on the part of the Gladneys), mass evacuations for public safety and the fear of contamination and death when Jack has to exit his car to fill an empty gas tank and is briefly exposed to air containing noxious toxins; His interactions with authority figures do little to allay his fears or prepare him for the worst. (The possibility of the whole family inhaling toxic fumes in their car is not addressed.)

In body image
A train wreck from the Netflix film “White Noise”.


But in the last week or so, White noise‘s Airborne Toxic Event got a lot of focus. On February 3, a train derailment in Norfolk Southern caused the dangerous contents of several train cars to burn for several days. A contrast between clean official statements and videos claiming the chemicals are causing harm – such as polluted water that residents have been told is safe and the deaths of domestic and wild animals – has led to growing suspicion .

“Apparently there was a movie on Netflix last year that nobody saw White noise where a catastrophic train crash threw a cloud of chemical waste over a northeastern Ohio town,” explained @salvatore_says. “And I think it’s just sort of a breakthrough that we’re in a digital matrix right now.”

Another TikToker posted the scene White noise Portraying the train wreck and paired with spooky music, writing, “This movie came out in August last year (2022)… Notice anything familiar?” (The August date refers to the film’s world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, not to the Netflix release date of December 30th.)

@loveflasun White Noise #trainderail #eastpalestine #whitenoise #ohio #conspiracy #movie #2022 #2023 #vinylchloride #polyvinylchloride #hydrochloricacid #usa #traincrash #derailment #fyp ♬ Spooky, calm piano songs with a scary atmosphere – Skittlegirl sound

People love to point to pop culture as a precursor to our weird reality, no matter what the outcome, and it actually happens to me White noise. The film was pretty much under the radar upon its release compared to other films released at the time. In addition to people discovering the similarities between the Netflix film and what’s happening in Ohio, they’re also learning White noise exists at all.

@199.1_tokfm #ihio #chemicalohio50 #ohiotrainderail #chemicalspill #news #fypシ゚viral #whitenoise #adamdriver #netflix #viral #foryoupage #trending ♬ Original sound – ~👾W1SE~

TikToker @awwli777 pointed to another scene depicting the “controlled chaos” of the city’s evacuation.

@awwli777 White Noise Predicted Ohio Train 🚊 Incident / derailment in 2022 #fyp #ohio #trainderailment #awwli #woketok #awareness #spooky #predictions #planned #eastpalestineohio #eastpalestinetraincrash #whitenoise #chaos ♬ Suspense, horror, piano and jukebox – takaya

“Are we living the movie? White noise?” Luke Glavan asked his followers after sharing images that appeared to be of a dark cloud believed to have originated from the blast in eastern Palestine, which was visible from an airplane.

As tempting as it may be, it’s not entirely accurate to say that the Netflix film predicted what’s happening in eastern Palestine right now. White noise based on Dom DeLillo’s seminal 1985 satirical novel, and the origins of the Airborne Toxic Event – which functions as a metaphor and as a prescient (both 1985 and 2022 when the film began) exploration of paranoia and misinformation – come from there; Baumbach, while pressing for White noisehas praised the novel for its evergreen foresight.

It’s kind of scary and White noise has an even more surreal connection to East Palestine: White noise was filmed in Ohio in 2021 and some of the film’s extras included residents of eastern Palestine who have now been forced to flee their homes after a similar airborne poisoning event hit their city.

Still, people make the connection White noise and the East Palestine train derailment makes sense to people familiar with DeLillo’s work.

“The terrible oil spill now is of course a coincidence. But it plays out in our minds, as if life were imitating the art that life was imitating, and so on and so on, because, unfortunately, as DeLillo also suggests in ‘White Noise’, we’ve gotten too attached to the mediated language and staging of disasters.” Jesse Kavadlo, an English professor at Maryville University, told CNN.


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*Initial publication: February 14, 2023 2:37 pm CST

Michelle Jaworsky

Michelle Jaworski is a staff writer and television/film critic at the Daily Dot. Covering entertainment, geek culture and pop culture, she has covered everything from the Sundance Film Festival, NYFF and Tribeca to New York Comic Con and Con of Thrones. She lives in Brooklyn.

Michelle Jaworsky Netflix’s “White Noise” sparks renewed interest after Ohio train derailment

Jaclyn Diaz

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