June 3, 2013
Coming soon to a theater near you, “The Purge” has an interesting concept: One night a year, for 12 hours, any and all crime is legal. No cops, no emergency services, and anything goes. What would you do?
The new thriller, “The Purge” which opens June 7, stars Ethan Hawke as James Sandin, a private security contractor and the patriarch of a well-to-do family. Like all Americans, he’s been sold on the idea that “The Purge” is a necessary evil, a government program designed to make life better for the American citizen.
“Tonight allows people a release for all the hatred and violence that they keep up inside them.”
The action takes place in the future, in a Utopian America. Unemployment is at one percent and crime is at an all-time low.
The “new founding fathers” of America would have citizens believe that this Utopia they’re living in is a result of The Purge. One night a year everyone is allowed to do whatever they want, to whomever they want, and get all their pent up rage and emotion out of their system.
In a sense, it works. The citizens enjoy their Utopian lifestyle 364 1/2 days a year, and for those who do want to commit some type of crime, well, 12 hours is plenty of time to knock off a jewelry store, rob a bank and rub out your grumpy neighbor with the yappy dog and still have time left to snag a six-pack from the corner store and club the clerk to death. With 364 1/2 days to plan everything you could conceivably get a year’s worth of crime out of your system and live happily ever after until the next Purge.
But at what cost?
The government has created The Purge for three reasons: Ostensibly, it gives Americans a way to let off steam one night a year. For the rest of the year, everything’s coming up roses. America’s prisons are already bursting at the seams and The Purge eliminates the need to build more. And if a 12-hour nationwide crime spree free-for-all pushes the crime rate to zero for the rest of the year, well look how much money we save on law enforcement.
But the dark, underlying reason for The Purge is to manipulate and control the American people by creating an atmosphere of fear and distrust that’s not too far beyond Janet Napolitano’s “See Something, Say Something” campaign.
In this Utopian/Dystopian society, for 364 1/2 days out of the year you’re not only planning your crimes (if you’re so inclined), you’re wondering what crimes your neighbor is planning. If you have money, a nice home, lots of material possessions you can almost guarantee you’re going to be a target.
But, did you make someone angry over the past year? And remember, the deterrent of prison or the death sentence is gone, so you don’t even really have to make someone “angry enough to kill you” anymore. All you have to do is piss them off enough that they’ll remember it when The Purge rolls around.
And what makes people angry enough to kill – especially when they know there’s no penalty? Just about anything. A yapping dog in the middle of the night. Jealousy. Greed. Minor disagreements over football scores. Or, say, political debates.
The movie goes a step further and considers the moral implications of a lawless society. What if you choose not to participate? The Sandin character is a security contractor and he’s built a virtual fortress for his family. No one can get in or out during The Purge. The Sandin family essentially enjoys all the perks of The Purge without ever having to do any of the work.
Sandin’s son, however, has a tiny streak of morality, and he offers refuge to a man who’s being chased by a gang of murdering thugs, putting the entire Sandin family at risk. Now, they either have to defend the man for the next 12 hours, or throw him back out on the street to his death.
That’s the moral dilemma that The Purge creates – Must we sacrifice our humanity to make America a better place to live? Are we really free if we live in constant fear and paranoia?
You might think “The Purge” is futuristic thriller, but it’s alarmingly realistic. We’re already living in an atmosphere of constant fear and paranoia. We allow our children to be ruthlessly interrogated over toy guns. We’re actually trying to ban the sale of pressure cookers. We willingly allow complete strangers to grope us in airports – all because we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves by being the person who stands up and objects, because there will be consequences if we do. And all because we believe our government leaders when they tell us this will make America a safer, happier place to live.
“This is your emergency broadcast system, announcing the commencement of the annual Purge. At the siren, all emergency services will be suspended for 12 hours. Your government thanks you for your participation.”