The Unflattering Mirror “The Purge” Franchise Holds Up to America

The Purge Movie

By The Nerdling

Happy Independence Day to all of our American readers!

For many of us, it is difficult to commemorate the birth of our nation when the government is actively working to create hatred and discontent among its citizens.  Recent events (plus the release of a prequel) make the satirical, home invasion/slasher film The Purge timely in its themes.  The horror anthology created by James DeMonaco has been a disturbing reflection of the United States’s love of guns, violence, and the deep-seated abhorrence white, rich citizens seemingly hold towards non-white persons.

When the first movie was released, I thought the concept of The Purge was interesting, but a far-fetched fantasy.  Looking back, it seems as if DeMonaco understood the simmering racism at the heart of way too many people in the U.S. more than I did.

This is not a test.  Spoilers for The Purge trilogy beyond this point.  May God be with you all.

Don't look behind you..because I know you won't
Image Courtesy of Universal Pictures

The Purge, released in 2013, was a new twist on the home invasion horror genre with racial and political undertones.  Set in the year 2022 and centers on a wealthy, white, suburban family, the Sandins, during the 12-hour period when all emergency services are suspended and “any and all crime, including murder” are legal.

As explained in the opening, the New Founding Fathers of America took control after a massive economic collapse in 2014, doing away with democracy in favor of totalitarianism.  They established Purge Night as a cathartic release for its citizens.  The Purge resulted in unemployment and crime rates sitting at an all-time low.

The Sandins are stalked in their home by a group of purgers hunting a black, homeless man the family granted sanctuary to.  The homeless man, whose name we find out in Election Year is Dante Bishop, had the audacity to fight and flee from his would-be killers.  Those with money and influence are never to be denied their desires.  The gang ask the Sandins to give Dante to them, even stating they do not wish to hurt the family since they are like them, white and wealthy.  When the Sandins refuse, they are seen as traitors by the purgers and are fair game.

The Purge Anarchy
Image Courtesy of Universal Pictures

2014’s The Purge: Anarchy is set one year later and is moved out of suburbia into the streets of Los Angeles allowing the sequel to make more of a statement on class-warfare.  The focus switches to a group of people working together to survive after becoming stranded out in the open during Purge Night.

A resistance group, led by the charismatic Carmelo Jones, hijack TV feeds to broadcast anti-Purge sentiments.  He calls Purge Night a “redistribution of wealth upward through killing.”  A man calling himself Big Daddy leads one of the many hunting squads throughout the city.  He confesses to Leo, an off-duty cop looking to take revenge on the man who killed his son, less and less people participate in the purge each year.

The NFFA have been sending heavily armed crews to up the casualties and round up people for the rich to hunt in controlled purging environments.  Dante, who survived the events of the first film, is a part of Jones’s resistance group who raid a purge center and turn the tables on the wealthy elite inside.

The Purge hints the victims of the holiday are the unemployed poor and working-class citizens.  Anarchy flat out states these persons are to be killed since the few who participate in Purge Night are usually are out to settle grudges.  Most citizens, with the exception of the rich, have no desire to kill random people.  The squads are told to specifically target neighborhoods where the poor and minorities live.

The Purge Election Year
Image Courtesy of Universal Pictures

The Purge: Election Year was released in 2016, obviously capitalizing off the fact that it was an election year.  The movie’s slogan, “Keep America Great”, easily drew parallels between Trump’s campaign and the film’s antagonists, NFFA.

Jumping forward to 2040, Leo goes from cop to body guard.  He’s hired to protect a presidential candidate, Senator Charlie Roan, running on a platform of disbanding The Purge.  She is the clear favorite to win the election.  There is a large resistance movement, now being lead by Dante, who set out to protect citizens during Purge Night and provide medical care to the wounded.  Since less Americans participate, the NFFA allow for murder tourism so wealthy foreigners will come and participate in The Purge.

The NFFA dispatch kill squads to take Charlie out during Purge Night, but Leo and Charlie survive till morning.  Dante is killed helping to protect Charlie.  The Senator wins the election in a landslide, but the film ends with the NFFA supporters violently protesting the end of their favorite holiday.

While Election Year is easily the weakest of the trilogy, it does somethings the former films do not, call out the NRA and its supporters in the government, as well as insurance companies who prey directly on the poor.  The NRA greatly benefit from The Purge as all citizens have to buy guns to protect themselves.  Insurance companies who specialize in Purge insurance raise their premiums the night before The Purge to get people to drop the insurance and the company doesn’t have to pay out any claims.  The NFFA are also portrayed as radical evangelicals.  They gather in a church to sacrifice Charlie and pray over her as if they truly believe God has sanctioned their actions.

The First Purge
Image Courtesy of Universal Pictures

The Purge franchise started with a simple home invasion horror which tapped into our desire for violence.  Who wouldn’t want a free pass to beat the hell out of an obnoxious co-worker?  Burn down the house of that a-hole neighbor (too much?)?  But the movies also dig into our country’s cast system and where that deep-seeded violent nature could take us.

We live in violent times where a crazy, reality star has the ear of a nation.  Hell, Trump is one just-making-a-joke tweet away for suggesting a purge night.  Who would have thought a B-Movie franchise would be a thought-provoking reflection of this era?

The Nerdling was born in the majestic land known as Texas and currently resides there after several years of journeying through Middle Earth in a failed attempt to steal the one Ring from that annoying hobbit, serving the Galactic Empire for a time, and then a short stint as a crew member on the Serenity. Since moving back to her homeland, Nerdling flirted with a hero reputation. Saving children from the dangers of adoring domineering, sparkly vampires (champions with souls are the only vampires worth loving) and teaching normals the value of nerdom, all while rooting for her beloved Dallas Stars. Then came the Sokovia Accords and her short spell of saving others came to an end. With Darth Vader’s reputation rightfully returning to badass status, Nerdling is making her way back to the Empire. They do have cookies, you know. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram