Nothing like visual media for passive, numb, escapism… yes, documentaries can educate and inspire, and dramas and satires can explore moral, ethical and psychological themes and lessons. Today, however, before I go out to march tomorrow, I want to cower and wallow. Seems like a great day to splurge on The Purge.
The horror franchise has been around since 2013, and it has always seemed to me oddly underrated. It is unabashedly about the violence, class injustice, and easy-answer ignorance of American 21st century culture.
The conceit of the series, by writer-director James DeMonaco, is announced in the trailer for The Purge (2013):
“America: A Nation Reborn. Unemployment is at 1%. Crime is at an all-time low. Because one night a year, all crime is legal.”
That first film is about a white, upper-middle-class family that attempts to sit out the carnage in their fortified mcmansion. Of course, eventually, the violence gets in. If that isn’t a cautionary tale for our times, I don’t know what is. And seriously, this film had me from the get-go because of the teeny little details of white privilege that abound in the opening scenes. Critics had been calling the film “heavy-handed” — How do you like it now that your bubble has burst? Three years later, it looks prophetic. (Except that it prophesied Hillary Clinton as the President.)
The Purge: Anarchy (2014) depicted the event from the streets where gangs of roam. Naturally people of lower class find themselves more vulnerable. Some people preferred this film, which is more of an action-thriller, just as some people preferred Aliens to Alien.
The Purge: Election Year (2016) makes the metaphor explicitly political as a white female senator runs on a platform to end The Purge which “targets the poor and the innocent.” Of course, this makes her a target, and someone on her security detail betrays her on Purge night…
DeMonaco is apparently developing The Purge into a cable-style series, which, frankly, can’t happen fast enough for me.
If you’re not quite up to this level of carnage, may I suggest tuning into TCM at 11:45 EST / 2:45 PST for Elia Kazan’s darkly cynical A Face In The Crowd (1957) which is all about America’s penchant for idolizing “plain speaking” megalomaniacs. In an interview, Andy Griffith talks about his character in terms that seem… prophetic (my word for the day).
Oh yes, there’s also Disney’s Zootopia the accidental allegory for the Trump Era.