Over-Analyzing "The Purge": 4 Reasons Why the Purge is Even More Terrible Than You Think

At this point, we can all pretty much agree that 2016 has been one shit-laden clusterfuck of a year. And in honour of that shit-laden clusterfuck, I recently watched the only movie that really sums up the feel of current events: The Purge: Election Year. 

Like it or not, this is pretty much the most quintessentially American thing I've ever seen.

As I write this article, America is staring down the barrel of the first presidential candidate in history who thinks the Purge is a documentary and still can't quite wrap his head around the fact that other people have feelings. Americans everywhere are living in fear that they'll be called on to hunt the Most Dangerous Game come next March, and hey, they may have a point. But before you enroll your children in sniper training and start shopping around for the best deal on blast doors, let's take a moment to think about what the Purge would actually look like. For starters:

Most of the crime committed during the Purge would be petty bullshit.

If I handed you a rusty machete and told you that you could murder the absolute shit out of someone, with absolutely zero consequences, would you do it? It could be someone you hate, someone you've never met, or that guy who just sniped a Dragonite right from under your nose, but you have to stand there and watch them suffer, writhing around until the life drains from their eyes. Not up for it? What about your mother? Is she down for murder? How about your siblings? Your spouse? Your best friend? The little old lady who lives next door?

Actually, look out for that last one, she will absolutely fuck you up. 

Unless you're currently having this read to you over the phone while you sit in a maximum security prison, you probably don't know many people who are down for the unprovoked torture and murder of a complete stranger. But according to the people who wrote the Purge series, all humans are secretly garbage monsters who need to unleash the beast at least once a year in order to function - according to them, your answer to "do you want to kill someone with a machete?" should always be "Fuck yeah! Pass me a homeless man and a corkscrew!", because annual homicide is the only thing keeping you from sexually assaulting your neighbor and robbing the local liquor store. That's an explanation that Sigmund Freud would masturbate to, but it doesn't necessarily hold up in real life. In the movies, the Purge is absolutely all about murder; that's the whole point of having it. On Purge night, people of all ages leave work, have a pleasant family dinner, tuck their kids into bed, and then go out and disembowel the local homeless man with a soup ladle. And then they get up the next mornings, send the kids off to school and head off to work, feeling spiritually refreshed as they carefully steer around all the human viscera littering the highways. Sure, there are other crimes being casually committed in the background, but the main result of a lawless, anarchist free-for-all would be murder, right? Right?

Murder, and bitchin' hood ornaments.

Wrong. As I alluded to at the beginning of this section, murdering another human being is actually an incredibly difficult thing to do. As much as the movie - along with a plethora of other equally cynical movies - would like to pretend that the law is the only thing keeping us from doing each other in with a chainsaw and a Mix Master, there's a hell of a lot more to it than that.

Even if you know there are absolutely no legal consequences to killing another person, there'll sure as hell be psychological consequences. Despite what you've seen on the news, humans do actually have empathy; watching another human being in pain will cause you psychological pain. Unless you were raised in a loveless, backwoods incestuous murder-cult, killing another person would be the single most traumatizing event of your life. Sure, there are a handful of psychopaths in the world who don't feel empathy, but those people don't give a fuck about laws and would carry on with their murdering at all times of year. But those people are few and far between. Think about it. Soldiers at war are sometimes required to kill complete strangers, from long distances, because those strangers are actively shooting at them, and the act of killing still fucks them up for life. Bludgeoning a random person to death on your front lawn with a garden hoe for no reason is going to absolutely ruin you as a person.

And even if you don't face legal consequences for what you do on Purge night, you can be damn sure that there will still be social repercussions for going out and murdering a bunch of folks on Purge night. If you're an elementary school teacher and you decide to spend the full twelve hours of the Purge mowing down children with a chainsaw, you may not go to jail for it, but you might find that parents no longer want you spending quality time with their children the next day. If you work for Apple and you're caught carving out a man's entrails while still wearing your Genius uniform, your employers might think twice about having you as the face of their company.

And also the fact that you have PTSD flashbacks every three hours is really going to hurt your job prospects.

No, murdering the poor for the economic good of your country is way beyond even the cruelest of bored, suburban teenagers. But what about arson? If I told you that you could burn down your old junior high school with no consequences, would you do it? Of course you would! We all would! Fuck that place! That sounds like an objectively fun thing to do. What about smashing a bunch of windows? Spray painting giant dicks all over the downtown? Breaking into the public library, snorting lines of coke off of the Franklin the Turtle books and having a three-way on top of the story time cushions? Hell yes!

Franklin likes to watch. 

All of that shit is exactly the kind of thing that young people would want to do, and on Purge night, there would be absolutely nothing stopping them. Your own consciousness and deeply held desire to not scream yourself to sleep every night is what keeps you from murdering people. Your fear of jail is the only thing that keeps you from drinking absinthe in a public park and peeing in the town fountain. The Purge is less "government-endorsed extermination of the transient and unemployed" and more "twelve hours of stoned nineteen-year-olds getting naked and smashing things". At one point in The Purge: Election Year, a group of scantily-clad teenagers rocks up in a car completely covered with fairy lights, blasting their stereos, and hops out with liquor bottles in hand to loot candy bars from a corner store. And the moment that scene came on, I thought "Finally, this is it. After four and a half hours of this franchise, they've finally shown us what the Purge is really all about". 

The car in question, seen here behind this wonderfully festive Purge mask.

So the next time someone jokes about Donald Trump declaring the first annual Purge, or the next time your slightly-too-serious-about-this friend argues the merits of the Purge on Facebook, remember what it is we're actually talking about. Because the Purge is not a class war. It's not a culling of the population. It's not a murderfest. The Purge is nothing more than Halloween night, with less candy, more drugs, and exactly the same amount of shitty masks. The Purge is one night a year where teenagers and disillusioned twenty-somethings alike can eat a fistful of mystery pills and commit all the vandalism, arson and public fornication their little hearts desire, because murder is awful, but spray-painting an enormous vagina on your high school math teacher's garage door is fucking hilarious. 

The Purge would be incredibly expensive. 

In The Purge: Election Year, one thing is made absolutely clear throughout the movie: by choosing to end the Purge, Senator Charlie Roan will be throwing the economy under the bus. Throughout the franchise we learn that the state-sanctioned murder of homeless people each year has single-handedly fixed the economy. By reducing the number of people collecting food stamps and unemployment each year, American taxpayers are apparently free to frolic in an economic paradise of government surpluses, low taxes, and whatever else happens when the economy is good. I was born in 1992, guys, I don't actually know what a strong economy looks like.

This, on the other hand, I can picture vividly.

And yeah, while the "let's fix the economy by machine-gunning all those lazy freeloaders" method might make a lot of sense to the sort of person with a Jesus fish bumper sticker and a "Make America Great Again" baseball cap, it doesn't actually hold up to public scrutiny. For one, as I showed you in the last post, the Purge is less about murdering the homeless and more about finding out how many fireworks you can fit in your butthole before the Quaaludes kick in, which is bound to lead to an expensive aftermath for everyone involved. And secondly, the Purge as it's depicted in the movies would be the single most expensive disaster in American history.

But on the other hand, the boosts to the plastic sheeting and dry cleaning industries would be almost worth it. 

Look, I get it. Food stamps, subsidized housing, Medicaid and welfare cost the state a lot of money each year. But you know what else costs lots of money? Paying every doctor, nurse, EMT, fireman, and police officer the millions of hours of overtime they'll be working in the weeks after the Purge. Paying tens of thousands of municipal workers to work around the clock, cleaning up blood and debris off the streets. Paying road crews all over the countries to re-pave thousands of kilometers of streets that have been chewed up by bullets and hearty games of "pass the grenade". Paying contractors, drywallers, stonemasons, plumbers, electricians and painters sky-high post-Purge rates to fix all of the damages to thousands of government buildings. And if you think Medicare costs are high on an average day when low-income people are dealing with ordinary wounds and infections, imagine what they're going to be in the weeks after the bottom third of the population has spent the night being hunted for sport.

This is already tens of thousands of dollars in damages and it's one goddamn monument.

And that's not even addressing the issue of all the corpses. In the third movie, there are government crews out all night, collecting bodies from the streets on flatbed trucks; if there are so many bodies lying around that they need to get a head start on body collection at three o' clock in the fucking morning while bullets are still flying, we can safely assume that there are a lot of bodies to deal with after the Purge. Unfortunately for all of us, life doesn't work like a video game - bodies don't disappear into a shower of coins when they hit the ground. Instead, they need to be transported, cleaned, embalmed, and buried or cremated before they stink up the place. Since the majority of the people killed on Purge night are assumed to be low-income, they government is going to have to pick up the tab, which is something they already do at a huge expense each year. The USA does not keep accurate statistics on the cost of burying the homeless each year, presumably because they don't want their statisticians to hang themselves in despair, but Canada carefully keeps track of that sort of thing. The province of Alberta - with a population of just 4 million people - spends an average of $5.2 million to bury deceased low-income people each year. The cost of burying and bandaging the poor across the country, post-Purge, would pretty much wipe out the money you'd save by knocking off part of the homeless population.

Oh, and for the record, the average cost of treating a non-fatal gunshot wound? $154,000 per wound. That shit adds up.

"But wait!" you cry, because you have fetid coffee grounds instead of a soul and you're still desperate to defend the Purge, "the government has to pay all those people to clean up the Purge! That boosts the economy!"

Yes, people would get paid to clean up after the Purge, but they would be paid with government money that has to come from somewhere else. And every time the government is forced to cut spending on research, arts, infrastructure, education, food inspection, internal spending or the military in order to cover the costs, that's hundreds or even thousands of people whose jobs are reduced or eliminated altogether. It's not boosting the economy overall, it's just shuffling the money around a little.

Plus, if you were awake through the entirety of the third movie, you'd have learned that Purge actually creates new homeless people just as fast as it turns existing homeless people into roadkill. Millions of people in America live paycheck-to-paycheck, and many of those people work at small businesses in potentially bad neighborhoods in order to scrape together an existence that doesn't look like a goddamn UNICEF commercial. The existence of the Purge means that small businesses and households in poor neighborhoods that are barely getting by now have to cover the costs of security gates, fancier alarm systems, and a large cache of semi-automatic assault weapons in order to protect their stores. Businesses and households that can't afford these things will broken into, looted, vandalized and potentially burned to the ground, which generally has a negative effect on a business's ability to pay its employees on time, or a homeowner's ability to pay their property tax that year.

This sort of thing generally isn't included in your local pet store's operating budget.

In an ideal world, that's the sort of thing that insurance would cover. But as we saw in the third movie, insurance companies have turned the Purge into an annual racketeering scheme, charging people exorbitant fees at the last minute for Purge coverage - fees that many people simply will not be able to afford to pay. Each and every year, the country would see thousands of hardworking, stable families pushed out into the streets by the loss of their homes, their jobs, or both - in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of people who lost their homes were still out on the streets two years later. A yearly financial shitstorm like the Purge would churn out thousands of new homeless people every year - and if the middle-class think they're immune, they've got another thing coming.

This is in no way a solution to crime. 

So the Purge is basically an excuse for teenagers to pave the city with broken glass and the tears of their disappointed parents, and every iteration of the Purge would be breathtakingly expensive to pull off. Fine. But if there's one thing the Purge is good for, it's stopping crime - surely, by offering up a 12-hour window for everyone to get their yearly raping and pillaging out of the way, the country will get all their illegal activities out of their systems and go back to being polite, productive model citizens for the rest of the year. Right? Right?

Just six more minutes until I can legally download child porn!

Not right. For one thing, the whole "crime rates are at an all-time low!" thing probably only refers to violent, "blue-collar" crime; it's hard to imagine white-collar criminals rushing to get all their fraud and embezzlement done outside of regular business hours on Purge night. And for another thing, a depressing amount of crime in the United States is directly related to soul-crushing poverty. An estimated 70,000-80,000 people - mostly women - will be arrested this year on charges related to prostitution. Out of every 100,000 prostitutes working in the United States in a given year, around 205 will be murdered. Even if you avoid ending up as Jane Doe #64, the average American prostitute can expect to be assaulted once every month. And the Purge won't change any of that. The demand for sex workers is a year-round thing; it's not like Johns will keep their sexual urges in check 363 days per year, just waiting for sweet, sweet Purge night to come around - especially because the vast majority of Johns never face any kind of legal repercussions for engaging in prostitution. So long as there are desperate women and men with rent to pay and kids to feed, and lonely people with a taste for sex with complete strangers on motel waterbeds, the sex trade will boldly solider on - including the part of the sex industry that sells an estimated 14-17,000 children into the sex trade every year.

Turns out the sex trade looks a lot less like this, and a lot more like a crying fourteen-year-old runaway.

Not sad yet? Let's look at more crimes against children. The United States has the worst child abuse of any industrialized nation on earth - each and every day in the United States, between 5 and 7 children will die as a result of child abuse or neglect. 6.6 million children are reported to various child and family services agencies every year for various forms of abuse and neglect. Abusing and neglecting children is a crime, and it's not the sort of crime that you can cram into a twelve-hour window; low-functioning, child-beating lunatics aren't exactly inclined to watch the calendar to see when they can finally beat junior with a 2x4 for spilling that glass of milk back in June. And that goes double for child neglect. Neglecting your children for just a twelve-hour window each year hardly even qualifies as child neglect; I'm sure my own parents frequently left me to my own devices for at least twelve hours at a time when I was riding the tidal wave of hormones and teen angst. By definition, child neglect has to carry on a little bit longer.

Make no mistake, you are absolutely justified in leaving this creature alone for twelve hours at a time.

In general, crime is a clusterfuck of tragedy, oppression, opportunity and various other social factors. The reasons that people steal, lie and assault go way beyond a Freudian itch that you just gotta scratch once in a while. For instance, there's evidence that a lot of your run-of-the-mill break and enter, burglary, robbery, theft and sexual assaults are crimes of opportunity. The criminal didn't wake up and think to themselves "I'm going to go break into that guy's house today" - they happened to be walking along, spotted an open basement window, and made an afternoon of it. Other crimes are known as "crimes of subsistence" - Mom looks at her pantry one day, realizes she's got no food for her three children and no money to buy any, and so she and the kids kill and eat the neighbor. Or go shoplift food from the local grocery store. That sounds like a lot less effort. Opening up a single night per year for looting and pillaging might let a hungry family pilfer a few cans of soup from the local grocery store, but on the whole, it's not even going to put a dent in the crimes that occur year-round out of hunger, boredom, opportunity, rage, poor social skills, frustration, ritualistic cult initiation, or any of the other myriad reasons people break the law.

Sorry, we've already booked this year's initiations for October; March Purge just won't work for us. Also we follow the calendar of Barthusela the Sun Demon because we're bugfuck crazy, so there's that.

And what about murder, the more glamorous of all crimes? Yeah, not much luck there either. Since we've already established that every man, woman and child in America isn't actually driven by a lust for the blood of vagrants, the only type of murder that will actually be isolated to the Purge is premeditated murder. And there isn't really a whole lot of that. For starters, 13% of all homicides in the United States are gang-related. Since people who get jumped into gangs at the age of 11 are not particularly well-known for their restraint or their respect for the law, it's probably pretty safe to assume that they're not going to cram all of their various drive-bys and revenge murders into a 12-hour window. Past that, the exact causes of homicide get very difficult to nail down, because it turns out that murderers aren't always eager to discuss their exact motives with the police, but if you take a gander at the FBI's official homicide statistics, you'll notice a disturbing trend: the vast majority of murders don't appear to be planned in advance.

For those of you who are too lazy to click hyperlinks, in 2013, 686 people were murdered in robberies gone wrong. 386 died in drug deals gone wrong. 27 were killed in carjackings. 7 died in murders related to gambling, presumably because they weren't nearly as good at counting cards as they thought they were. 37 died in deliberately-set fires, 93 went down in bar brawls, 133 were killed in arguments about money, a whopping 2889 people were killed in arguments about bullshit other than money, and exactly 69 people died as a result of being involved in a love triangle, because sometimes the universe has a sense of humour. The point is, no matter how much Dateline you watch, the reality of murder is that it isn't usually committed by a person lying in wait for months or years, carefully planning the perfect crime. It's usually committed by a dude with a short temper and a handgun. So on Purge night, you could probably expect to see a spike in wives and girlfriends killed by their husbands/boyfriends/ex-boyfriends/stalkers/husband's mistresses, and a reduction in that specific kind of crime for the rest of the year. But for other kinds of murders? They'll continue on as usual all year, Purge or no Purge, rendering the entire thing beautifully pointless.

It would not take 18 years to vote out the Purge. 

After the first Purge movie - whose intended message was apparently "keep a closer eye on your dumbass kids" - the second and third installments of the Purge franchise took a look at the social, political and economic impacts of having an annual twelve-hour murderfest in every city in America. In the movies, there are only two groups who appear to give a shit that the Purge takes place: the ultra-wealthy and powerful, who want the Purge to continue at all costs, and the poor, marginalized and homeless, who dislike being hunted for sport. That's it. In this universe, blue-collar black people, recent immigrants and a scant handful of angry white people with dead families are the only people who want the Purge to end. And that's weird, because the movie is missing out on the one group who would actually put a stop to the Purge as soon as it started:

Concerned. Goddamn. Parents.

"Honey, I don't think I like you going on this 'Facebook' website, I don't think it's good for you. Oh, and also strangers are coming to rape and mutilate you in two hours. That, I'm fine with."

Concerned parents are one of the most powerful political forces in America. Don't believe me? Concerned parents pushed for the War on Drugs and Tough on Crime laws. It was concerned parents who singehandedly resurrected measles, mumps and polio from the annals of history. It was concerned parents who created the grossly ineffective sex offender registry. In the deep South, concerned parents have kept Creation in schools and sex education out. Any time there's social progress, you can bet it will be accompanied by a chorus of parents demanding to know how they're supposed to explain someone else's human rights to their snot-nosed, Cheeto-stained loinfruit. You can get people to vote for absolutely anything if you can convince them that it will somehow make their children safer. And it's not real difficult to convince people that the Purge is not in their children's best interests.

And if you molest their children, they will not hesitate to put your face on a tacky blue sign.

If you were a child when the Lindbergh baby, Adam Walsh, Etan Patz, Elizabeth Smart, Jacee Dugard or Madeline McCann went missing, you probably remember the case quite well, because the days those those kids went missing marked the absolute last days you were allowed to walk home or play outside by yourself. If a child gets abducted from their front yard in Texas tomorrow, parents from Utah to Maine will keep their precious little demons locked in the house for months, keeping their eyes peeled for strange vans and calling 9-1-1 the first time they spot a stranger asking a child for directions. Hell, your parents probably inspected your Halloween candy religiously each year when you were a child, and that was to protect you from a crime that literally happened one time in 1974. The death of a single child in America can permanently change the laws and culture of the land - which means the first time some psycho decides to go after a middle-class white child in the first 15 minutes of the first annual Purge night, that shit is pretty much done for good.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, America's Most Wanted television show, and the "missing child" codes at your local shopping mall all exist because this kid got into a car with a stranger. The Purge doesn't stand a fucking chance.

I was four years old when JonBenet Ramsey was killed, which means at this point in my life, I have seen more pictures of JonBenet as a child than I have seen childhood photos of myself and my two siblings combined. So I can be pretty damn sure that the cutest, whitest child to die during the first annual Purge would be the face of the Purge from then on. Parents from both sides of the political spectrum would wave poster-sized images of that child's school pictures at politicians, demanding justice for the family. The only politically sane move would be to call off the Purge, and go back to a world where every murdered child could have their day in court. And any politician who dared to keep on supporting the Purge would find out just how angry those parents could be the next time Purge night rolled around.

So there you have it, folks. Next March, when you're rolling down your blast doors to the sounds of air raid sirens going off, try to remember: it's not nearly as bad as the movies made it look. Happy Purge.

What kind of shenanigans would you get up to during the Purge? Leave it in the comments.


  1. Wait a minute... Others aren't bloodthirsty and waiting to choke hobos with giant, novelty sex toys while clad in nipple clamps and gimp masks? Well damn. Now you tell me. There goes all my practice at the Silence of the Lambs dance to Christian Rock.
    Also, didn't Iraq part II teach you anything? They'd just dig mass graves and bull doze bodies in. No mess, no fuss. Okay, a lot of mess, but no fuss.

  2. Just received a cheque for $500.

    Many times people don't believe me when I tell them about how much money you can earn filling out paid surveys online...

    So I took a video of myself getting paid $500 for filling paid surveys to set the record straight.


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