“Land of the free, and home of the brave” or “Blessed be America, a nation reborn”: Which of these is from our country’s National Anthem and which is a line from a dystopian film? Both sound extraordinarily similar, which is what makes it truly frightening.
The amount of the dystopian, Big Brother-esque, teenaged hype films appears to be the new hot plot topic, replacing all of the cheesy Vampire films. Bye-bye Twilight! Movies like the Hunger Games, Maze Runner, and Divergent, all take place in an overwhelming, overrun government structured society that manipulates and feeds off of the citizens’ obedience to remain in power. All of these films are set up on the basis of government fear, fear that they will gain too much power, fear that all citizen freedom will be lost and everyone will have to answer to a powerful government entity. These popular films present freedom as unattainable, as the ending goal but more than likely a wishful dream. Of these popular dystopian society films, one series stands out by addressing the idea of freedom and government control in a different light, that film is The Purge.
As opposed to an attractive gang of teenagers fighting back against the big mean government, The Purge actually takes place in a society where freedom means more than the typical cliched version of freedom that is sung in the Star-Spangled Banner. Within The Purge their freedom is much more fundamental. They are free to do anything they want. You see, living in the world we do, freedom in the sense of American pride or the American ideal has nothing to do with being completely free. In the United States we perceive freedom as meaning “not enslaved”. Slavery has been abolished and therefore we are free, but this is incorrect. Freedom is having the power to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. This is the type of freedom The Purge harps on. The freedom to do anything you want, ethical or not, moral or not, for 24 hours.
In The Purge, the government proposes a night of, you guessed it, purging of people. They rationalize it as a way to “relieve aggression” and “perpetuation harmony” for the rest of the year. Crime, murder, and poverty are said to be at an all time low because once a year citizens are able to purge themselves of their human nuisances. In the film, people plot all year about how they will kill those who have wronged them or rid society of human “waste” (members of society who are not succeeding in the society, that being unemployed, homeless, or deathly ill). This is what results when the true meaning of freedom is put in place.
The Purge, as a film, tests out the idea of what true freedom would be like if society would let it occur, not the freedom that is a state of not being enslaved but a free for all where horrible events are allowed to take place and moral safety and ethical laws are thrown out the window. And how would a free for all, no rules society run? It would be an extreme capitalist extermination of the weaker social classes. People would seek revenge in the most horrifyingly gruesome ways. Trust and honesty would feel rehearsed, because the people you love and trust could be the ones after you at next year’s Purge.
From this, freedom becomes a terrifying thought. True freedom is not the delightful thing we celebrate every Fourth of July with fireworks and BBQ; it is a road to unknown human nature and the fostering of violent activity which is brought to light by The Purge.
Feature Image by Prozac74 via Flickr