Purge Again

Perhaps  you’ve heard of the new movie called ‘The Purge’. Spoiler alert, I’m going to talk about it.

NOTE: Contains minor additions from the original post.

It kind of looks like a scary movie. If that’s what you’re looking for, don’t look here. As a scary movie it is mediocre at best. It’s not an action movie either but it does combine elements of both. Check the trailer before we move on.

Some of  you might remember that there was a Star Trek episode that was a lot like this. It was called ‘Return of the Arcons‘ and as it turns out this episode of Star Trek was a huge inspiration for this movie.

Rather than have the computer involved with communism and war undertones to the plot, The Purge movie uses humans as the origination and executors of the purge method. Rather than explore technology or politics this new movies explores morality.

Yep, I said that. It is a morality tale with a bit of action and scary bits and a couple of parts that had people in the audience speaking out loud.

In the movie is it already widely accepted that once per year for 12 hours there are no laws. This seems to be largely used to rid the country of those who are not productive contributing citizens – mostly poor and homeless folk. It relies on the ‘idea’ that most people seem destined to be psychotic murderers if there is no law against them being so. You’ll remember this kind of theme from theists that think atheists who do not believe in god have no morality so they should be okay  with murder and eating babies and such.

In the movie, we follow a four member family. The father is a successful salesman for lock down security systems to protect ‘good’ people during the Purge night. The law says that during the Purge there is no law, all crime is legal. The family is conflicted over whether this is right. Apparently there is a lot of murder on this annual Purge. One by one each family member makes up their own mind whether or not the Purge is morally good or not. This leads to the introduction of killers…. dun dun duuunnnnn

What I’m writing about is that the movie very realistically portrays morally good action (doing the right thing) as a natural and human thing to do. This further implies that those who don’t are psychotic or vengeful and animal like. What the audience is left thinking is that if these people are like that on the annual Purge, why would you like them the other 364 days of the year?

Let me translate that for  you: If your god and his laws are the only thing that stop you from killing and raping then you are  most likely a psycho or lunatic and can you just get the hell away from me please, don’t ever come back here again.

Above, I mentioned that each of the family members concludes that the Purge is not morally good and that they did so individually, mostly as a result of direct exposure to raw aggression and violence. This leaves the thinking viewer understanding that good morality comes from within our brains, not from an external source.

To me, this gives the movie a deeper meaning. From this we can imagine how morality came to be common among humans. We can also see that not only did violence, rage, and murder spawn morally good behavior and thinking, it also was the impetus for those same morally good people to act in depraved ways. They seemed to almost enjoy the violence required to punish those murdering psychos. This, in effect, justifies the core values in the justification for the Purge in the first place. I find it hard to take a moral stand on either side of the Purge justification without deep reflection on many things.

We need to consider things like the death penalty, cruelty to non-humans, cruelty to those we dehumanize, violence, the cost of peace and safety and many other things. Are we justified in killing murderers? Is violence an answer to anything except violence?

Have you seen the movie? What did you think?

UPDATE: Check out this post about psychotic killers on tv by Azevedo.

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  1. I have not seen the movie but it sounds really interesting and thought-provoking, from what you have written. Also makes me wonder what the natural inclinations of humans are, and if laws are the only things stopping people from doing bad things.

    I don’t think any kind of cruelty or violence is ever ‘justified’ in the moral sense, but maintaining order in society comes at a cost.

    • Thanks for commenting Ariel,

      It was thought provoking for me. I am especially impressed how this was done without religion other than slightly religious tones of how the government was treated/acted – which not much time was given to.

      The act of murder was used as a pivotal device in a morality tale. I think this takes the question of morality into a safely grounded area from which to speak about it. The conversation can be confusing when talking morality with regard to child rearing etc. Murder seems to be well bounded in our brains (individually) as to whether it is right or justifiable.

      In one or two points very graphic violence and murder were seen as justifiable but even then the movies questions whether this is good when we see the motivation behind it.

      Very thought provoking indeed. I can see this movie ending up in philosophy classes for discussion.

  2. Thank you for the reference 🙂

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