Kill or Be Killed: ‘The Purge’ Critique

The Purge is a dystopian horror film where the federal government has allowed all violence to be legal for 24 hours out of the year. The plot consists of a family who attempts to avoid crime and violence by staying in their house the whole time but violence later finds them in their home. The family is portrayed as a representation of the American Dream. They got extremely rich after the dad sold security systems and they now live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood. During the purge, they let a homeless man into their home to protect him from the crime, but that made them a target in their neighborhood. Because of this, a group of people come looking for the family, demanding that they release the homeless man. The family ultimately refuses to do so and the rest of the movie consists of the family defending their home from the violent people.

This film is classified as dystopian because it is an imagined world in which, for 24 hours, the people live wretched lives under some form of oppression. Although many of the people in this society may feel empowered and even excited that they can release all of their pent up aggression, many of the people also feel powerless. The main characters in the film had a constant feeling of powerlessness because they never had any desire to hurt anyone; therefore, they were oppressed in the situation. I believe that the psychology of the movie is definitely realistic. Theoretically speaking, if The Purge were to happen, the groups of people portrayed in the movie would align with the groups of people in real life. Although I believe that it is possible, I do not believe that it is probable because the United States government would never give up complete control to the people. 

The dystopia portrayed in the film is more of a realistic take compared to other dystopian readings and films that I have seen. For example, the first movie was created in 2013, but the setting is 2022. I believe that the writers wanted the audience to relate to the film more to make them believe that something like The Purge could happen sooner than they think. The movie, in contrast with other dystopian movies, completely omitted government control during the purge. This removes the main theme of government oppression as seen in other dystopian works and allows the people to be in complete control of oppression. This, however, creates other forms of oppression related to those who are capable of violence versus those who are not. For example, the people who came to the house with the face masks were the oppressors because they had a will to kill. The family was the oppressed because they did not want to hurt people and had to adopt the mindset of “kill or be killed” in order to survive. Historical analogs can be seen in any instance where a group of people were “purged” in order to cleanse a population. From the colonial times when massacres to kill Native Americans occurred, to the Holocaust in the 1940s where the Nazis systematically killed millions of Jews. These events parallel the movie because they all involve some type of mass killing in order to control a population. Overall, The Purge contains many elements of the dystopian genre, creating a realistic, yet improbable form of oppression.

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