Zachary Antoyan is a political science senior and Mustang News liberal columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
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“The Purge,” a movie that came out in the summer of 2013, is not a good movie. But my editor tells me I’m supposed to be writing something political, so a movie review isn’t exactly in the forecast. For those of you who have seen it, I’m sorry you did. For those of you who haven’t, allow me to ruin it by not recommending it, and by making its premise the main topic of this article. Spoilers ahead, duh.
We are introduced at first to a dystopian future, where the political party with power in the United States has instituted something called “The Purge,” a 12-hour event that occurs once a year. This clearly well-thought-out idea stipulates that for this time period, all emergency services are rendered inactive and all crimes are legal. For a brief amount of time, murder, rape, theft, grand theft auto, speeding, skateboarding on campus and, yes, even jaywalking become legal.
The movie spends a good portion of the first act building the plot while simultaneously attempting to justify the existence of the purge. Unemployment is down to 1 percent (which technically is not a good thing; 4-5 percent is considered healthy), stocks are through the roof and the crime rate during the rest of the year is at an all time low. It would seem that in this world, the general population is happier and more content, and this is attributed to the ‘cathartic release’ that the purge allows for. Here is where we are presented with some of the most basic assumptions that this movie makes on human nature and the role of government within a society. Additionally, this is also where the movie stops talking about this concept and decides to become a slasher flick.
The ‘cathartic release’ that is supposed to occur during the purge indicates the society operates according to a very well-known assumption about humans — they are evil. The Thomas Hobbesian idea that humans are inherently evil and act solely in self-interest is a part of one of the most prominent political theories, and is the driving force behind the rationale for the purge. Assumptions about how humans interact with each other are key to building a government and a system of justice, and in this case the government adapts to the reality that humans are violent and evil.
If you want to pin down and succinctly explain human nature, go for it. But to assume in all cases based on very limited experience and information that humans act in one specific way as compared to another is folly. Humans can be evil, and they can be self-interested, but we have an established system of justice to deal with these problems. Rather than work to build a solution for the root causes of poverty, homelessness and crime, they would rather bury the issues — literally. Creating a day where people can vent all of their troubles and frustrations by murdering other human beings isn’t a solution, it just proves you have a shitty government.
In some very interesting ways, the approach that the government in the movie takes to dealing with the friction between humans is unprecedented, such that it values the general will and well-being of the country as a unit, over the rights of the individual. This sentiment is also showcased by the blatant references to social inequality and the gaps that exist between different economic classes. The people that can afford to defend themselves are not-so-subtly referred to as the ‘haves’ and those that cannot defend themselves are referred to as ‘pigs’ that are non-contributing members of society.
One important caveat that must be noted is a specific rule to the purge that protects those of high-ranking political importance. During the purge, certain members of government and high ranking officials are immune to the affects of the purge, further creating a gap between classes. With this revelation, it becomes clear that the purge is used to weed out and eliminate ‘social parasites’ or free-riders.
This is a very conventional thought, where those with power and influence wish to keep it, and in this case create an American gladiator match to ensure it. Those in power wrongfully believe that keeping the wealth at the top will also give positive results to those at the bottom of the pyramid. Some believe we should pull from the top, rather than raise from the bottom. The expectation is that if those at the top have more, they can give more, but I guess that would be an issue if all humans are evil assholes that want to kill each other all the time.
This is Zachary Antoyan, thinking that got dark really fast; next week won’t be so bad. Have a fantastic week, everyone.