The Purge is a dystopian-like film set in an alternate United States that explores the discrepancies between social class and the conflict of morality versus lawfulness (or, in this case, unlawfulness). In the movie, we watch the Sandins family, who live in an affluent community, navigate through the annual Purge, a holiday through which all crime is legalized for one night. Charlie, who is the youngest of the Sandins children, is apprehensive about the violence occurring outside of the comfort of their highly-secured home, and he eventually comes to allow a homeless man into their house despite his parents’ objections. This introduces the conflict of morality versus lawfulness. While Charlie believes it to be completely wrong for people to be rejoicing in the violence rampant throughout the night of the Purge, his parents, alongside the direct participants of the Purge, do not seem to question morality. Though the law permits these killings, is it truly right?
The events of the Purge exemplify Thomas Hobbes’s idea of the Hobbesian Jungle, where people live in a state of nature with no laws or morality, but otherwise choose government and structure in their ordinary lives. According to Hobbes, the nature of man is driven by competition, distrust, and glory, all of which can be seen on the night of the Purge. The ugliness of competition arises when the Sandins family’s seemingly-friendly neighbors break into their homes to kill them out of their hatred towards the family due to their accumulated wealth. Distrust can be seen from the installation of security systems as well as the Sandins parents’ outrage at allowing a homeless man into their home because they are unsure of his own intentions. Finally, glory can be seen in the manner through which the participants of the Purge express their overt enthusiasm in slaughtering others. These various elements of the Hobbesian Jungle highlight elements of a dystopia.
Though the United States of The Purge is not necessarily a dystopia because of the rather innocent setting of the otherwise typical day-to-day life of Americans, the night of the Purge itself does reveal various dystopian faces of oppression. Marginalization, for instance, is observed when people of lower-class backgrounds are targeted by those with access to more weaponry. The killings of these people are used as outlets for the frustrations of the higher class, and their existence is seen as to be victims to the Purge. The marginalization of lower-class people ties into the element of powerlessness, as there is an obvious power play between the social classes. Finally, violence is prevalent throughout the night of the Purge, to the point that even close neighbors turn against one another. Ultimately, The Purge is a film that reveals the darkness of humanity, allowing evil to surface from within and thereby bringing various dystopian elements to light.