The Purge and Politics of Poverty

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A chilling analysis of a franchise that’s suddenly more relevant than ever.

This time a couple weeks ago, The Purge franchise seemed like a dystopic fantasy. Today it feels more like a prediction. The idea of an American populace teeming with enough frustration, pent-up emotions and outrage that they require and are granted by their government a night during which all crime – including murder – is legal sounds like a second-year policy initiative from our new President-Elect. And that’s why now more than ever The Purge, The Purge: Anarchy, and The Purge: Election Year aren’t just horror-thrillers, they’re poignant parables that warn of the politics of poverty, race and religion in a democracy teetering on the edge of totalitarianism.

The Purge – the event, not the film – is for white people, specifically rich white people. They are the beneficiaries, the ones who can afford the security systems to keep them safe, the ones wanting to thin the population for the sake of conserving resources, and the ones whose bloodlust is least in check. The victims are minorities, largely, and economically disadvantaged to the point some even resort to selling themselves to wealthy people on Purge Night in exchange for their surviving family’s financial security. That’s another idea that only a couple of weeks ago sounded like pure fiction, and now….well, not as much.

In the following analysis of The Purge trilogy from Leon Thomas of Renegade Cut, the politics listed above are explored in depth, as are the origins and symptoms of crime, and the ways oppression can masquerade as freedom. The movies of this franchise were designed as pure entertainment, but now they’ve become something else, cautionary tales about unchecked privilege and the extreme perils of living in a civilization whose culture is built on divisive lines of wealth, faith, and ethnicity. These elements and others Thomas discusses would seem to cast The Purge as quite possibly the most relevant film series of the coming decade.

Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist