Horror has always been the genre that examines the fears and trends in society. From a Dracula being direct representation of xenophobia and fear of sexuality to Invasion of the Body Snatchers being a response to conformity and anti-communist paranoia during the Eisenhower Era, to the entire slasher genre emerging due to teen promiscuity and fear of drug use during the first wave of the “War on Drugs,” horror allows us to see our fears and societal attitudes amplified and projected on the big screen in front of us. The Purge franchise is no acceptation to this. In fact, I’d argue that it’s the only movie franchise that is daring to confront what most politicians, news outlets and pundits try to ignore: the racist and classist ideologies of the American people.
In this article, I’ll mainly be talking about two movies in the Purge series: The Purge: Anarchy and The First Purge (2018) and how they mirror the current political climate and attitudes of the American people.
It’s no coincidence that these movies both have people of color (namely Black and Afro-Latino) front and center. In Anarchy, we’re introduced to Eva Sanchez and her daughter Cali on the eve of the annual Purge, a night where all American citizens are given a 12 hour period in which all crime including murder is legal.
This movie does a better job than its predecessor of highlighting the classism and racism involved in the entire idea of The Purge. Yes, crime is legal for one night, but only those who can afford high tech security systems are “safe.”
We see how the Purge further takes advantage of the poor and disenfranchised when Eva’s terminally sick father literally sells himself to a rich family so that they can murder him in the comfort of their own home.
All of this is brutal, but the moment that sticks out to me the most in this movie is a brief one. In the third Act, during the All is Lost beat of the movie, Eva and Cali along with their fellow compatriots are captured by the masked gang that has been following them the whole night.
This gang is clearly made up of black and brown people and has thus far been made out to be big bad of the Purge. Upon inspection, it’s clear that most of the gang are on some kind of drugs. Their masks are taunting, their clothes are shabby and worn, and the entire night we’ve seen them do nothing but chase our heroes and terrorize less fortunate souls by throwing them into the van that Eva, Cali and the others find themselves in.
The part that sticks with me though is when Cali asks the leader of the gang why they don’t just kill them already. The leader takes off his mask and is revealed to be a pre-Atlanta Lakeith Stanfield and says:
“We don’t purge.”
It’s revealed that this “gang” is simply rounding up anyone they can find to sell to a society of rich white people who once again, want to purge in style without doing the grunt work of hunting down their kills.
It speaks volumes and reflects exactly how Americans view crime and people of color. Every day we’re bombarded with images of mug shots, fights, and riots of black and brown people. It’s not enough that our skin alone creates an element of otherness, but the media insists on placing the entire criminal enterprise on us while ignoring or glorifying rich “white collar” criminals.
It’s basically the Chris Rock, Born Suspect picture. The two old white women are so focused on the scary looking negro beside them that they don’t notice the wall street man stealing their purses.
This is America. This is how the American people think. This is how the Cheeto assumed office. Which brings me to The First Purge.
I won’t go into too much detail about the movie itself to save you spoilers and because I think the movie does an excellent job of speaking for itself, but I will talk about one image/moment that stood out to me.
Now, this movie is basically picking up where the Purge Anarchy left off in highlighting the racism and classism of the Purge and thus the American people while also giving you the history of this supposedly dystopic practice.
Our heroes this time are Nya (played by Lex Scott Davis) and Dmitri (played by fine ass Daniel from Insecure, Y’lan Noel) who are basically trapped on Staten Island during the trial run experiment of the Purge.
While most of the young people of color took the night as an opportunity to party and do drugs in the streets, the Trump Administration Founding Fathers had other plans and dispatched paid mercenaries, KKK members and generally racists pieces of shit onto the island to bring the murder count up, thus making the Purge a success.
(Dumb ass, evil ass white woman who came up with the Purge, clearly representing the 53%)
There is a montage of the horror and chaos that these paid government servants unleash, but the one that sticks out is the one on the Baseball field. In this shot that lasts no more than 30 seconds but is burned into my mind, a clearly injured black man is crawling away from a smiling police officer who has a baton in hand ready to deliver the fatal blow. The camera zooms out and we see that the entire baseball field is littered with corpses.
At first, this image disturbed me. I thought to myself, “Damn. A trigger warning would have been nice.” And that’s when I realized something.
The Purge is marketed as a future dystopian reality of America where the legalized killing of innocent black and brown people is condensed into one night. The thing is, in our reality, this one night is actually every day of the year 24 hours a day. There’s no horn that signals that we as black people are safe from police brutality or even some psycho who wants to “Stand his ground.” Even the fact that the scene took place on a baseball field which is white America’s past time is symbolic. Once again, VOLUMES.
The franchise claims to be set in a not too distant future, but the reality is, America is already purging.
Remember to like, share and comment. I’ll respond to EVERY comment. Thanks!