I have to admit. I was a bit emotionally traumatized when I watched the original movie, The Purge.
Of course, I tend to be a little sensitive sometimes, but this movie really struck a nerve. At what point do people stop being counted as people?
At what point is it ok to take out your anger and hatred on another person or group of people? In other words, is the Purge real? And could it really happen in America?
The Purge is not a real event but a movie inspired by actual moments of anarchy. This horror movie was turned into a popular television series that continued to depict the same types of wealth disparity and power imbalances that we saw in the original film. And while the actual Purge may not be a real event, there have been times throughout history that look similar, proving that the Purge could potentially happen in America.
In this article, we’re going to talk about the movie The Purge and the subsequent tv series. Then, we’ll look at some of the underlying themes of the purge and take a look at whether our constitution will allow it.
First, though, let’s take a quick look at the original movie.
What is The Purge?
The Purge is a movie based on the idea that once a year, all crimes are legal.
For a 12-hour period, anything goes without legal consequences: theft, rape, threats, and especially murder. In the original movie, the New Founding Fathers have decreed that it is the duty of all citizens to purge their anger and hatred during this one night each year.
The purpose of the purge was simple: to reduce crime for the rest of the year and improve the economy.
The movie follows one family’s struggle as the purge unfolds in their home, resulting in destruction and even death.
This night of mayhem was so popular that the horror movie turned into a popular television series. In addition, you can watch the Purge on Amazon.com.
What Are the Underlying Themes in The Purge?
There are several underlying themes in the purge, which might be reasons for or against it happening in the United States.
The Rich Versus the Poor
One theme is that the rich are more important than the poor and that poor people need to be eradicated.
Since the wealthy can afford much more extensive ways of protecting themselves, the poor are significantly at risk and are usually the victims on this awful night.
In fact, it was a homeless man that sparked outrage in a group of wealthy individuals, setting off the chain of events that marked this particular evening.
The people believe that they are doing their civic duty by taking out all their anger and hatred during this night. This will mitigate their urges to commit crimes throughout the rest of the year, as well as get rid of people that are more likely to commit a crime.
In supporting the purge, they believe they are keeping crime low for the rest of the year. Instead of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, the poor get eliminated.
All People Have Repressed Anger
The Purge plays on people’s anger. It assumes that all people have deep-seated anger and hatred that needs to be appeased in order to keep it under control.
In other words, people are inherently evil, and that evil must have an outlet in order to keep it from spreading into the rest of their lives. The people in the movie believe that this one night of crime will help them remain calm, law-abiding citizens the rest of the time.
However, anger usually begets more anger, and violence begets more violence, not the other way around. And as we see at the end of the original movie, change happens not by killing everyone but by drawing the line at killing.
The Purge Will Benefit the Economy
The purge definitely increased the need for alarm systems, security cameras, guards, and weapons. However, it also eradicates the people that need the most financial help from the government. In subsequent shows, when the poorest people were gone, the purge turned on the middle class, which opened up more jobs and reduced unemployment.
At some point, though, the ‘benefits’ will diminish because there won’t be enough people to handle all of the jobs that need to be filled. Eventually, there would only be white collar works and the blue collar jobs would go unfilled. Who would build the houses, fix the plumbing, or collect the trash if only the Upper Class were left alive?
Good Versus Evil
Many movies today are based on the theme of good versus evil, but the tides are a bit turned in this movie. The lines between good and evil are blurred. Everyone is trying to protect their families, and everyone has evil in them, which must be mitigated by purging.
Of course, everyone has a right to purge, but it is also their civic duty. This movie has an underlying theme that all people are evil and can only be good if the evil is appeased.
Power and Powerlessness
Still just as crucial to the movie is the theme of power and powerlessness. While many people wanted to hide away in their homes and just ride out the night, others took to the streets to exert control over their perceived enemies.
In most cases, it was the rich exerting power over the poor. It was those who had weapons who had power over those who did not. Those who could afford security systems had the ability to protect their families, while others simply did not and were killed for the sake of not having enough power (or money) to defend themselves.
Can The Purge Really Happen in the United States?
Do you think the purge could actually happen in the United States?
Before we answer that question, let’s take a look at some examples of what happened when laws were not able to be enforced.
Here are some possible purges that may have occurred throughout history.
Some people believe the movie, The Purge, was inspired by the ancient Roman festival known as Saturnalia. During the festival, rules and societal taboos were suspended. Slaves took charge of their masters, public gambling was allowed, and public drunkenness followed. The week long festival saw temporary kings and leaders put into position. At the end of the week, the new leaders were sacrificed without repercussions.
We may not know the full extent of this festival, but it does point to just how bad human nature can get when it doesn’t have to follow societal laws and taboos.
In Brazil, around 2017, police went on strike, and crime increased considerably. For example, the police strike in the State of Espirito Santo lasted for six days, and mayhem ensued. Murders, rape, theft, looting, and arson show how far people will go when there is no one enforcing the law.
Protests broke out around the state, and the violence induced the shutdown of schools, stores, and health services. The military was called in to restore order. It is said that crime increased 650% in just three days.
How can this happen in a civilized country?
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the New Orleans area, doing over $125 billion in damage and causing over 1800 fatalities. Many people were evacuated, and about 14,000 people took shelter in the Superdome to wait out the storm. They expected to be there for about two days and were instructed to bring their own supplies.
Due to the huge storm, the Superdome lost power, food supplies were ruined due to lack of refrigeration, and the roof opened up, allowing water to pour inside. Unfortunately, there was no running water, and people were stuck in there for days.
The National Guard couldn’t keep control of the chaos inside the Superdome, and they were attacked, finding it necessary to retreat and protect themselves. The rest of the Superdome was anarchy. Reports of rape were widespread, as well as people stealing whatever supplies they could find. Find out more here.
In this case, a severe natural disaster created the perfect storm of bad situations, which led to anarchy similar to what you might find during the Purge.
We don’t like to talk about mass shootings or school or church shootings, but they are an example of the kind of extreme violence that might happen during a purge. Mass shootings can happen when someone has no need to respect the consequences of their actions and, with easy access to weapons, are able to attack helpless or unaware victims.
Since the consequences don’t matter to the perpetrator, they are able to exert extreme power over others who cannot stand up for themselves.
According to World Population Review, the United States has a higher propensity for mass shootings than any other country. So if you’re concerned that the Purge might happen in the United States, you might want to consider the prevalence of mass shootings as a form of a purge.
While these are examples of purge-like incidents from history, does that mean a government-backed purge will actually happen?
The United States of America was created for freedom. Specifically, it was a means for people to escape religious persecution. However, when the founding fathers signed the declaration of independence, they included this:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
If all men are created equal, then this means that both the rich and the poor are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Since then, this has been expanded to include women, as well. The Constitution, as well as the Bill of Rights, were founded with those self-evident truths as their basis: that all people are entitled to these rights for the very reason that they are people.
The Purge cannot happen so long as these documents remain unchanged. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence prevent the government and other individuals from being able to get in the way of other humans having the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
In order for the Purge to happen in the United States, there would have to be a reason to change the constitution. However, this type of change is unlikely to happen unless the United States as we know it no longer exists because we have checks and balances in place to protect the legal and judicial system.
What Would It Take for the Purge Happen in the United States?
In many countries, societal breakdown happens when the financial stability of the country crumbles or when a natural disaster makes it impossible to control resources fairly.
For example, in the case of hurricane Katrina, people were desperate for life-saving supplies, and there were not enough people in charge to help keep order.
However, after a few days, the people were rescued, and order was eventually restored, so the chaos and anarchy was short-lived.
So it seems that the only way the Purge could happen in the United States would be for a permanent, irreversible disaster that would forever change the way we live. It would have to something so severe that it is beyond the scope of our government’s ability to organize and provide for the people.
In that case, a new government would have to arise that would find a way to restore order by eliminating particular people groups.
However, our current government is increasing the number of laws we have and reversing some of the freedoms we were given. This is really the opposite of what happens with the purge when all laws are removed for a period of time.
Additionally, in times of civil unrest or natural disaster, the National Guard is sent in to assist and protect citizens. And although it could take a few days to get things under control, such as with the Superdome, law, and order were eventually restored so that people could feel safe again.
How Could You Protect Yourself During a Purge?
If a purge were to happen, how would you protect yourself? In the movie, the purge occurred during a set time each year. So you would have time to prepare for the 12-hour period of anarchy. Also, if money were no object, you would have an easier time setting up systems to protect yourself.
- Travel to other countries. Given a choice, the best and easiest thing might be just to leave the country, if you can afford it. Of course, this leaves your home vulnerable without you, but it might be a lot safer than being at home when people are looking to kill and steal.
- Bug out. Bugging out is another option, especially if you can’t afford international travel. Imagine heading deep into the woods where no one can find you. You would want to take along as little as possible, so it wouldn’t be obvious what you were doing, but you would need to be gone long enough to get far away from people. Again, you would be leaving your home vulnerable, but it might be the least expensive way to protect yourself and your family. You would need to be able to travel by foot quickly and quietly.
- Bug in. Bugging in is how many people in the movie treated the situation. They spent excessive amounts of money on security systems, security cameras, and of course, weapons to try to keep themselves safe. If you could turn your home into a fortress that no one could penetrate, you would be safer, especially when compared to people who couldn’t afford any kind of protection. For example, you might hide quietly in a safe room, an attic, or a basement, where people wouldn’t notice you.
Keep in mind, though, that in the movie, a good family tried to bug in. They hoped their security system was enough to protect them. They had cameras and weapons. But when they let a homeless man into their home, they got caught in the middle of a terrible situation. Lives were lost when they refused to sacrifice one man for the good of the family. In this case, even the good, wealthy people were not immune to being killed.
4. Band together with like minded people
Forming alliances with other people might help during the Purge. You would have a larger number of people to combine resources, keep watch, and overpower intruders. However, these would need to be people that you could trust with your own life.
Because there are no consequences, there would be no reason for them not to turn on you other than the fact that they genuinely love and respect you. But could you ever truly trust someone else not to turn on you if there were no consequences?
What You Think about the Purge Probably Reflects What You Think About Human Nature
Do you think the purge could actually happen in the United States? If your answer is yes, then you probably have a pretty grim view of human nature. But, on the other hand, if you believe that people are inherently evil and need to appease their inner demons, then the purge might appeal to you as a way to live in peace and harmony most of the time.
On the other hand, if you believe that people are inherently good, then you probably think the Purge can’t ever happen here. This is because you believe that most people want the best for everyone and don’t need to carry out their occasional anger.
Final Thoughts on the Purge in America
The movie The Purge misses one really critical point. It assumes that any damage done during the night of the purge won’t cause bad feelings for the rest of the year and that at 7:00 AM when the purge is complete, the violence will end.
We also see in the movie that peaceful, law-abiding citizens can be pushed into such desperation that they, too, participate in the violent acts. People whose lives are at risk will fight back, escalating the violence when there might not otherwise be any violence at all.
It isn’t human nature to let go when your child is murdered or your home is damaged. People just can’t turn on and off their feelings because the clock says it is time to stop. More likely, the violence that occurs during the night of the purge would cause increased levels of anger and hatred to the point that it cannot be contained to a single night.
As a result, crime would eventually rise, and the purge would no longer work as people sought retribution for the wrongs that were done to them.
The Purge is really just a story about America and the split between the rich and the poor. In order to prevent the purge from ever happening, we need to continue to vote for a government that supports the rights of all people, not just the wealthy ones, so that we can all exercise our inherent right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The purge in the original movie happened from March 21, 2022 to March 22, 2022 from 7:00 PM until 7:00 AM the following day.
Interestingly, a Star Trek episode focused on a similar theme when a planet’s people are guided by Artificial Intelligence. Every day at 6, the computer goes offline, at which time people let out all of their hatred and rage through murder, fighting, and rape.