In the book Infinite Jest "Safe Boating is No Accident" is one of the independent films made by James O. Incandenza. It is mentioned in the endnotes to the book, where Incandenza's entire filmography is described. While the movie is not important in itself, it contains references that are important to understanding the book as a whole.
This is the synopsis of the movie:
Safe Boating Is No Accident. Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad (?). Poor Yorick Entertainment Unlimited/X-Ray and Infrared Photography by Shuco-Mist Medical Pressure Systems, Enfield, MA. Ken M. Johnson, 'Madame Psychosis', P.A. Heaven. Kierkegaard/Lynch parody, a claustrophobic water-ski instructor (Johnson) struggles with his romantic conscience after his fiance ('Psychosis''s) face is grotesquely mangled by an outboard propeller, becomes trapped in an overcrowded hospital elevator with a defrocked Trappist monk, two overcombed missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, an enigmatic fitness guru, the Massachusetts State Commissioner for Beach and Water Safety, and seven severely intoxicated opticians with silly hats and exploding cigars. Listed by some archivists as being released in the following year, Y.T. -S.D.B. UNRELEASED.
It should also be noted that the description as given may not be accurate, since the author of the filmography that this was taken from is themselves a fictional creation of David Foster Wallace, which he is using to, along with describing the filmography of James O. Incandenza, make a point about academic film criticism. That being said, lets break down some of the things in this synopsis that might need explaining.
- Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad: In Infinite Jest, the years are subsidized for advertising revenue. In addition, it could be that the names of the years are thematically related to issues in the book.
- Poor Yorick Entertainment: Incandenza's production company was named after the fool in Hamlet, one of many Hamlet references in the book.
- Madame Psychosis is Joelle Van Dyne, the girlfriend of Incadenza's oldest son, and a woman he has a close, yet presumably non-sexual relationship with.
- Kierkegaard is Soren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher who is mentioned once directly, and once indirectly in Infinite Jest. The book on a whole could be seen to have Kierkegaardian themes of faith versus thought. How this particular movie relates to Kierkegaard is somewhat more confusing.
- Lynch is David Lynch, avant-garde film director, and a man who David Foster Wallace wrote a laudatory article about. His films are characterized by being bizarre and often violent.
- claustrophobic water-ski instructor: This may be a stand in for Incandenza, who is a tennis instructor, and the claustrophobia may be reflective of the role phobias and compulsions play in Infinite Jest. The claustrophobia is also important because, see sub., they are trapped in an elevator.
- grotesquely mangled: Joel Van Dyne's face was, indeed, (possibly) scarred in an incident, meaning the art of the film parallels the reality of this book.
- Trapped in an overcrowded elevator: being trapped is also a common theme in Incandenza's works.
- A defrocked Trappist monk: Trappist monks also play a role in Blood Sister: One Tough Nun, and could be symbols of silence, which are also used throughout the works of Incandenza.
- Two overcombed missionaries... : The reference to Mormons, while accurate, has no known thematic relevance.
- ...an enigmatic fitness guru: Probably based on Lyle, the enigmatic fitness guru at Incandenza's tennis academy.
- with silly hats and exploding cigars: There are two separate characters in Infinite Jest who are involved in the joke and novelty business. Whether this is a reference to that, is a possibility.
So, we can see part of where Infinite Jest got its reputation. Just one of the movies made by James Incandenza, described in a single paragraph in and endnote, is a nest of references that reflects on the book as a whole.