Why Are People Dancing at the End of White Noise, Explained

Image Credit: Wilson Webb/Netflix

Directed by Noah Baumbach, Netflix’s drama film ‘White Noise’ revolves around the Gladneys, whose lives turn upside down when a chemical explosion happens in their town Blacksmith. The explosion makes Jack and Babette evacuate the town with their children. Although the authorities succeed in dealing with the “airborne toxic event” that happens after the explosion, Jack and Babette end up having unbearable fear of death, which also affects their marital relationship. Jack comes to know about Babette’s infidelity, which threatens their togetherness. Still, the couple overcomes the same and celebrates the next chapter of life by dancing at a nearby supermarket along with everyone present there. But what exactly is the significance of their dance? Let us share our thoughts regarding the same! SPOILERS AHEAD.

A World Obsessed with Death: How Entertainment Shapes Perception

‘White Noise’ is fundamentally a film about the fear of death or mortality. Jack and Babette live in a period when death has become a fictional spectacle glorified in television and movies, as the opening scene of the film depicts. Because of the fantastical depictions of death in the medium of entertainment, it becomes unrealistic or improbable for the people around the Hitler studies professor and the posture teacher. But both Jack and Babette are exceptions among their peers. Babette fears death even enough to trade her body in return for a remedy.

Image Credit: Wilson Webb/Netflix

Jack and Babette’s fear of death is what leads them to the supermarket at the end of ‘White Noise.’ When they enter the place, they forget about their potential deaths and the fear associated with the same gets evaporated. The husband and wife immerse themselves in consuming/buying commodities, which makes them stay away from death and/or the fear of the same. Like Jack and Babette, everyone in the supermarket relishes the act of buying, which makes them dance. Thus, the dance at the end of the film is a metaphor for the ignorance of society, which seeks comfort and solace in consuming things they don’t even need for the sake of living.

‘White Noise’ is a film adaptation of Don DeLillo’s eponymous novel. The author wrote the novel as a critique and reflection of the “consume or die” nature of the American society of the 1980s. In the novel and film, Jack, Babette, and their colleagues, acquaintances, and fellow townsfolk connect their identity and survival to the act of consuming, which also makes them forget about death. The dance sequence Baumbach conceived depicts their ignorance of how death is a reality and inevitability, which makes them celebrate their current life in the form of a dance.

Image Credit: Wilson Webb/Netflix

According to Baumbach’s interview with The New York Times, the dance is “a visual, visceral, physical representation of what I felt like the whole movie was about,” indicating how consumer culture helps Jack and Babette, the couple who has been running away from their fear of death throughout the film. The dance sequence is accompanied by a song titled “new body rhumba,” conceived by the band LCD Soundsystem, especially its frontman James Murphy. “I told James, essentially, write the song you would have written if you were writing music in 1985, and write a really catchy, fun song about death,” Baumbach told THR about how the song enhances the “dance of death.”

In addition, the dance sequence is also about the changing consumer culture, specifically addressing the transition from supermarkets to the internet. “[The dance was] the visual equivalence of white noise,” Baumbach told Vogue. “But we’ve lost a lot of that ‘going to the store’ feeling because of the internet. So I was also thinking about the supermarket as if we were inside the internet. That it was a way to visualize what we do on screens a lot of the time—a place where all the things are right next to each other,” the director added.

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