The Purge (2013)

The purge is a psychological thriller that offers a wonderful depiction of a twisted dystopia where all crime is made legal for 12 hours every year. The story follows a family of four during the experience. At first they claim to be non participants in the purge. However, things get really complicated when the son allows a stranger who is being followed to enter the house for protection. A mob of psychos threaten to kill the family if the protected person is not given up. That is when the father does the unthinkable in an effort to protect his family.

This movie indirectly digs into sociological constructs of crime and the fabrication of news and reality by the media. For instance, in our modern society murder may or may not be legal depending on the circumstances. Murder during a war or as self defense during a dispute is seen as legal, while premeditated or violent murders are seen as wrong. It is an open invitation to wonder how much of what we accept as normal is really close to barbaric. In addition to murder we can look at other crimes such as the reality of domestic violence involving rape of one partner, which often goes unreported or unnoticed. Something that the #metoo movement brought into the spot light. The rationale behind the Purge is that allowing a legal outlet for people to release pent up violence can lead to an overall more peaceful society. The underlying assumption is of course, that human nature is inherently violent and that everybody would commit crimes if there were no consequences. The storyline plays with the tension created by this assumption, where those who choose not to partake are seen as defective, broken or non patriotic.

One of the very interesting aspects of the plot was the way in which crime was reported. The government claimed that unemployment was at a 1% while crime was at an all time low for years since the implementation of the policy. However, the events happened during the ‘annual violence’ release were not added to the statistics. Thus, it is quite easy to support policy effectiveness by simply altering the definition of what is being measured (in this case, the definition of what counts as a crime). Furthermore, the movie invites the audience to reconsider the very definitions of violence and peace. Is absence of physical violence really peace? Johan Galtung makes a distinction between real peace that exists without grievances and negative peace which exists creating a passive aggressive environment. One example of negative peace is built up on the scene where a neighbor comes by the house to drop off some cookies that she baked. The interaction between the characters is visibly tense and it is unclear if the neighbor is trying to avoid being killed that night or if she is giving the protagonist a warning. That tension shows how physical violence is only the symptom of underlying structural violence that we find embedded in the fabric of our everyday interactions. Some examples of these micro aggressions are expressed when we think that poverty is due to a lack of character and not a lack of cash, blaming the poor for their condition; Or when assuming that a homeless person will spend the money on drugs if we give them any. Those micro aggressions build up towards certain groups that can later erupts into armed conflict if not addressed.

The movie invites the viewer to consider what if you had unresolved issues with a neighbor or even a family member and you could get a way with any crime for 12 hours. What would you do? Would your “Purge Persona” be different from your everyday persona? Other factor that came to mind was the difference in class in terms of the purge experience. The rich could protect themselves and felt safe during the event, they even had parties while complete chaos was going on else where. It made me wonder how such an event could change power relations in societal structures and institutions such as marriage. Would rich people get divorced less in order to remain protected? So many questions that made it really hard to keep this review brief.

What did you think of this movie? Leave your comments below.

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