Purge Questions
June 27, 2022 8:43 AM - Subscribe

Okay, I am rewatching the Purge film/tv series with my kiddo and I have a growing list of questions. Considering that it is likely impractical to corner James DeMonaco and ask him, I present them instead to whoever might happen upon this thread.

I am likely to add more in the comments below, but for now:
  1. All crime is legal during the Purge. How does that work with property crime? Does it mean you can steal your neighbor's Corvette for a joyride during the Purge, or does it mean you can steal it forever during the Purge? Is he then obligated to sign paperwork confirming the transfer afterward? Or, can he like, use his spare key to take it back from your driveway and then have the locks changed? What if he still has payments left? Can the bank seek those from you? Or even from him?
  2. Why doesn't more people just flee the country? I live in the metro Chicago area and I can absolutely promise you that my family and I would go to Canada a few days before and would not come back until a few days after. Likely, it wouldn't even just be middle class and up people in hotels, it would be poor people sleeping in their cars by the side of the road, or in bus stations.
  3. Given the (intentional, on the part of the government) large number of poor people who get killed during the Purge, wouldn't entire businesses likely fail catastrophically in the first few hours/days after the Purge? I'm thinking of, for example, an elder care facility where 75% of the staff is now dead.
  4. What are some of the middle class kludges people with some, but not infinite, means would do to protect themselves? Build your family a three feet thick concrete bunker in the backyard, seal yourselves in with scuba tanks and a jackhammer? Seriously. People who could not afford panic rooms would do weird shit.
  5. Would public lands near cities (like forest preserves) become dotted with people trying to hide for the night? Would leaving the city be safer or worse? If you were a decent hiker, would getting five miles or so off trail be enough? Or would sickos just specialize in tracking people The Deadliest Game style?
  6. Wouldn't the lack of emergency services mean fires could spread way way out of control? Being a firefighter the day after the Purge would be a tough job.
  7. How exorbitantly paid would private security have be to accept these jobs for the night?
  8. Wouldn't there likely be prominent female entertainment and news media who were basically attacked by armies of shitty dudes? You can't tell me that literally dozens of dudes wouldn't try to kill Zoë Quinn every single Purge.
  9. How epically, unworkably screwed would emergency rooms be in the first few hours after the Purge?
  10. Let's say an unbalanced seventeen year-old kills their parents during the Purge. Who decides if they go into the foster system or get to try and be an emancipated minor living off their dead parents' remaining resources?
  11. All crime is legal during the Purge... So, if I can document that I did so during the hours of the Purge, can I commit a bunch of identity theft from my safe room at home and keep the money? Why the fuck wouldn't you do that? Why can't you go to Canada and do that?
  12. Not a question, more a request, but I'd really like to see more scenes where people excitedly plan small scale crimes ("I'm gonna steal a year's worth of cigarettes!") only to die horrible deaths immediately upon stepping outside.
posted by DirtyOldTown (29 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Also: pretty sure my April Fool's Day prank on my kid next year is going to be waking them up at 6 a.m. with the Purge siren and audio warning.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:45 AM on June 27 [3 favorites]


There would probably be a legal specialty of Purge lawyers, as well, who existed to both: defend people who had been accused of violating rules of the Purge (start/stop time, permitted weaponry, etc.) as well as negotiate the after effects.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:49 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]


I searched high and low for this TikTok on the subject that I feel you might enjoy.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:03 PM on June 27 [6 favorites]


I'm imagining the personal-injury type commercials and bus bench ads for lawyers in the Purge area of practice.
posted by rhizome at 2:12 PM on June 27 [5 favorites]


Another Purge question: in one of them, a bunch of tourists come over to get their Purge on, but wouldn't that be illegal? Are there Purge tourist visas?? And if you were an visitor to the US, I'd look real fucking closely at when I was traveling so I wasn't there when it happened. Wait, does the Purge move around as a holiday? Or can we say, "Oh snap, August 1st is coming up and we need to GTFO for the weekend!" (You know that airlines would totally jack their prices up for Purge escape travel. Thus really hammering home who the Purge would really affect.)

DOT, thanks for making this post because I do love some Purgin' hypotheticals.
posted by Kitteh at 7:06 AM on June 28


The Purge is on March 21st every year.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:22 AM on June 28


ON MY WEDDING ANNIVERSARY!!
posted by Kitteh at 7:23 AM on June 28 [8 favorites]


My guess is that the NFFA would try to monetize people fleeing the Purge, possibly instituting some kind of fee or tax to leave/re-enter the country in the handful of days leading up to/from the Purge. Like, you can go to Canada, but you have to pay $1,500 a person exit fee.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:24 AM on June 28 [1 favorite]


Ugh, you know they would. Basically unless you're rich or close enough for horseshoes, you are participating whether you want to or not.
posted by Kitteh at 7:26 AM on June 28


Were there a fee/charge to cross the border, the most efficient survival plan might be to rent a small boat and go out past the edge of US waters into the outer limits of Mexican/Canadian waters... not to the point of needing to register the visit/landing. Just spend twelve hours huddled into a boat on the Canadian side of Lake Michigan and then turn around and come back.

From this link: Travellers who leave and re-enter Canadian waters without interruption, do not have to report to the CBSA or meet COVID-19 border and health requirements.


Basically, if you don't land or interact commercially, you're good to boat in and then out.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:31 AM on June 28 [2 favorites]


Absolutely jaw-dropping how many people have apparently gone to the internet to ask "Is 'The Purge' real?"
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:33 AM on June 28 [5 favorites]


All crime is legal during the Purge. How does that work with property crime? Does it mean you can steal your neighbor's Corvette for a joyride during the Purge, or does it mean you can steal it forever during the Purge? Is he then obligated to sign paperwork confirming the transfer afterward? Or, can he like, use his spare key to take it back from your driveway and then have the locks changed? What if he still has payments left? Can the bank seek those from you? Or even from him?

You force your neighbor to sign over their Corvette under threat of torture and/or death. The coercion is not a violation as the law was suspended at the time but the paperwork is in order. Otherwise the vehicle remains their registered possession after the Purge.

Why doesn't more people just flee the country? I live in the metro Chicago area and I can absolutely promise you that my family and I would go to Canada a few days before and would not come back until a few days after. Likely, it wouldn't even just be middle class and up people in hotels, it would be poor people sleeping in their cars by the side of the road, or in bus stations.

If your home and your possessions represent how you can live for the rest of the year, letting them all go up in smoke or get stolen during your absence makes a life, esp. a family life almost impossible. The Purge would no doubt result in a massive increase in hobo and traveler lifestyles, so that people could leave for the Purge. The resultant economic destabilization would cripple local economies and move more power into the hands of the capitol class.

Given the (intentional, on the part of the government) large number of poor people who get killed during the Purge, wouldn't entire businesses likely fail catastrophically in the first few hours/days after the Purge? I'm thinking of, for example, an elder care facility where 75% of the staff is now dead.

This 'solves' the issue of Social Security insolvency, opens up new housing opportunities, and moves nursing home care into buggy-whip manufacturing territory. Although fortress-like nursing homes that hired well-trained security staff would probably have a Purge sleepover for staff and attendant families. Nursing home care would of course then be only for the wealthy.

What are some of the middle class kludges people with some, but not infinite, means would do to protect themselves? Build your family a three feet thick concrete bunker in the backyard, seal yourselves in with scuba tanks and a jackhammer? Seriously. People who could not afford panic rooms would do weird shit.

Community Watch Kill Corridors come to mind. A move from stick built to reinforced cinder and concrete home builds. And as a variation on the traveler lifestyle, living in things like this[SLYT]. Underground houses also seem like a possibility.

Would public lands near cities (like forest preserves) become dotted with people trying to hide for the night? Would leaving the city be safer or worse? If you were a decent hiker, would getting five miles or so off trail be enough? Or would sickos just specialize in tracking people The Deadliest Game style?

The first couple of years, probably. After that, the connoisseurs of violence would probably enjoy, The Most Dangerous Game style of night-hunt. As with anything in a cycle of violence like the Purgeverse, everything just becomes an excuse for more violence. The Forever Purge really puts a cherry on that cycle.

Wouldn't the lack of emergency services mean fires could spread way way out of control? Being a firefighter the day after the Purge would be a tough job.

The fires just give them perpetual urban renewal. Keeps the big developers and construction firms busy. Keeps the poors from having a safe place. And it guarantees that at least once a year the fire departments will get to fight fire instead of just being paramedics. A complaint that many firefighters have leveled in our non-Purgeverse about their jobs.

Firefighter would probably have a priority list; secure government offices and institutions first, expensive homes next (to save on a city's budget on compensation and lawsuits for post-Purge damage), and by the end of that everything else has either burned out or gets done on a first call basis.

How exorbitantly paid would private security have be to accept these jobs for the night?

Low to mid- five figures, would be my best guess. Not a whole year's worth of income, but definitely something like Christmas income for a small business.

Wouldn't there likely be prominent female entertainment and news media who were basically attacked by armies of shitty dudes? You can't tell me that literally dozens of dudes wouldn't try to kill Zoë Quinn every single Purge.

Yes. That would be the public point of the near-religious devotion to purging one's darker impulses. In a Purgeverse, a Zoë Quinn type would either leave the USA, turn into a killing machine in the name of self-defense, or get dropped on the first Purge after she came to be noticed. The Purge is basically for the shitty dudes.

How epically, unworkably screwed would emergency rooms be in the first few hours after the Purge?

Every ER doctor would become a master of triage. It would be the only way. Hospitals, funeral homes, and cemeteries would all be very different institutions than the ones we deal with currently.

Let's say an unbalanced seventeen year-old kills their parents during the Purge. Who decides if they go into the foster system or get to try and be an emancipated minor living off their dead parents' remaining resources?

The seventeen year-old balanced themselves by killing their parents and should thus be emancipated. The NFFA would have a vast PR machine for cases like that.

All crime is legal during the Purge... So, if I can document that I did so during the hours of the Purge, can I commit a bunch of identity theft from my safe room at home and keep the money? Why the fuck wouldn't you do that? Why can't you go to Canada and do that?

You could do it the USA with US identities. Treaties would still be enforceable law during and after the Purge, thanks to the US Constitution. Criminal acts across most borders would not be obviated by the Purge.

Most folks would learn, real fast, how to freeze their credit.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 4:36 PM on June 28 [3 favorites]


Those are all very solid answers! Some of them mirror my own (deeply pessimistic) thinking, but you've got some ideas I hadn't considered as well.

On the paperwork thing in the car example, though, that just brings more questions. Would you have to kidnap a notary public, too?

I like the idea that building standards might evolve to help protect property against purges. I could see the poured concrete forms that are sometimes used in the South Pacific as being a natural choice, likely with heavy steel shutters and barricade doors.

Here's another weird hypothetical: what about paternity? Rape is legal during the Purge, but while that could easily be read as absolving the rapist from paternal responsibilities, do they also give away their rights to the child later? Or would the bastards in the NFFA strive for some kind of sick middle ground where they have rights but no responsibilities? (That would be my guess.)

Even in the case of consensual sex, if it occurred during the Purge, could a man claim he was clear from paternal obligations? Or, since consensual sex isn't a crime, would there be no purge protection?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:26 PM on July 6


FWIW, the next Purge movie is rumored to be called "World Purge" so that one is gonna get weird and less US-centric.

For my money, the "Only the fucking US would do this shit" aspect is central to its appeal. but we will see.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:29 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


Other hypotheticals I spend silly amounts of time thinking of: which crimes/acts might actually be comparatively low-risk?

I'm thinking, if you are already at some risk because you live in an apartment building, see if there is a dentist's office on the ground floor. You might as well break in and steal all of their paper records. Dentists' offices are the absolute weakest link in our personal data as they just can't stop themselves from making positively every patient provide huge chunks of their identifying data just to get a teeth cleaning. Leave your apartment early (or very late when everyone else is tied up), break through their $40 Home Depot lock, steal all of the files, go back to your place and lock yourself in. Sell the stuff on the darkweb.

Or if you live in the 'burbs, hide out in one of those sprawling, low-rent office parks for the night. There won't be enough human traffic to make them high value for spree killers, but you can go office to office stealing personal data to sell online.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:35 PM on July 6


I am also imagining the signs on people's houses.

"We have four 100 lb. dogs, nine guns, 5000 rounds of ammunition, full body armor, and have bobby trapped this house. Valuables have been secured off-site. Nothing is in here for you except death. Please choose another home to purge at."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:37 PM on July 6


I would very much enjoy a World War Z style oral history of The Purge. I don’t care for the violence at all but the world building questions you’ve raised here have me in a tizzy.
posted by emkelley at 10:07 AM on July 12


Check out this essay:
In the Purge, American Fascism Is Stupid and Boring. That Seems About Right.

The writer is up and down on the series, but makes many of the points I would about the resonance it has when it does things right.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:58 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


I just wonder, though, how much of that sort of take is lost to most people? I’m not convinced that most viewers are even minimally sophisticated enough to not see the Purge franchise as a dream come true. Violence against those they hate without consequence. I dunno. It’s like cops adopting the punisher logo, completely missing why the Punisher came to exist.

But, the philosophy aside, my main question is simply how one can find such over-the-top, graphic violence entertaining?
posted by Thorzdad at 3:39 PM on July 13


That was a question pursued with a great deal of gusto by researchers in the 1980's, when the popular belief was that the wrong music, board games, and TV shows would traumatize or corrupt people. Just as it turned out that D&D kids were mostly happy nerds, heavy metal kids were often fabulously adjusted, etc. it has also been found that horror movies not only aren't damaging generally, they're often sought out by people with anxiety issues because they represent an opportunity to deal with anxiety in a closed environment.

On this wavelength, I think many, many of the people who like The Purge because of their anxiety about [everything].
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:04 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]


Here's a decent (if breezy and not that scholarly) article on that.

I particularly like the Wes Craven quote: "Horror movies don't create fear, they release it."

And yeah, The Purge movies can be argued to be action/whatever, but they're horror. Hell yes, they're horror.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:24 PM on July 15 [3 favorites]


But, the philosophy aside, my main question is simply how one can find such over-the-top, graphic violence entertaining?

You know what I don't get? Why people like jazz. I just don't get it. But I accept that other people do like it. Because that's how "liking" works. Some people don't like ice cream. Some people like insects crawling all over them.
posted by Etrigan at 5:51 AM on July 16 [3 favorites]


Here's my new Purge thought:

It's easy to say that rich people barricaded into their own homes would not really be safe from being Purged, because their own families might kill them.

Except they couldn't. Wealthy people could write codicils into their wills to protect them from their family members purging them.

Let's say you're Phil Smith, wealthy owner of a chain of Chevrolet dealerships. You not only make your house impenetrable to protect you during the Purge, you also write the following into your will:

"If Phil Smith dies on March 21st [aka Purge Night] or from injuries sustained on March 21st, his entire estate shall be donated to [charity of choice]. Otherwise, it will be divided between [family members he bunkers down with during The Purge] as follows..."

You've now not only created a financial disincentive for your family members to Purge you (no matter how big an asshole you might be), you've created a strong incentive for the people in the house to protect you in case someone does go rogue.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:27 PM on July 26 [4 favorites]


Another hypothetical... (I do not know why I love these... sort of a thought exercise I guess)

Let's say someone wants to kill their boss, but he goes to Aruba for Purge. If they were to break in during Purge and rig his house with explosives timed to go off in two weeks and kill him in his sleep, are they guilty of murder? They did nothing criminal after the end of Purge. They could even make time-stamped videos of when they planted the explosives to prove it was all done during the "all crime is legal" window.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:09 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


About the hypothetical Chevrolet dealer: you've created an incentive for a rival Chevrolet dealer, or, say, a Ford dealer, to kill you during the Purge. It's a twofer: remove an opposing person from the board, and a rival empire just shrugs, and ceases to be a concern. So I don't think that would work.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:38 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


Maaaaaaybe. I'm not sure I see a convincing reason why one Chevy dealer would know the terms of another's will.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:08 PM on July 29


This is sort of like how when I start questioning we can't even keep species alive that we destroyed in human history how do dinosaurs not only come back but thrive in Jurassic Park? Is there enough of a sustainable population of herbivores to sustain a viable population of what seems to be a lot of carnivores on the Jurassic Park islands (this is a bigger question after we stop feeding them in the first one)? In any case it all comes down to good storytelling, because "no crime for a day" is itself as realistic as calming dinosaurs by putting your hand up.

That said in the Purge universe I believe there was one movie where Mexico opened borders after a Purge went wrong indicating there was tight border control. This also raised a lot of questions about how migrant labor works in the Purge universe, etc. You can't just shut down the northern and southern borders and expect our economies to function. Also if someone enters here legally during the Purge, then stays, are they still not legal citizens? What are they?

I think if we were to create a realistic Purge world it would be taboo to Purge anyone who isn't poor or a minority. And it would be such a cultural taboo there would be repercussions socially similar to being communist in the 1950s. It would also get rid of complex legal questions because poor people tend to not have complex legal problems. It might create some really boring, complicated non-violent thrillers where people do things like change contract terms during the Purge and detectives need to find out if it happened during the Purge or before.

So I think it helps to think of the Purge movies as fantasy versions of the Purge universe. Otherwise it'd be one day of Purge and then 364 days of cleaning up after the Purge. What's to stop someone from running a plane into a nuclear power plant? Or probably even worse since it is less protected, running a plane into an oil refinery? Really the Purge warning would probably be incredibly long list of things you can and cannot do. It has already been established not all crime is legal since there's weapon restrictions and government official exceptions.
posted by geoff. at 5:24 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


I feel like Macavity's crimes are also fun to transpose into the Purge universe. Importing produce without declaring it to Customs! Donation to political campaigns beyond SEC limits! Sending unsolicited commercial email and not including a physical mailing address and a clear unsubscribe link!
posted by brainwane at 10:59 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]


I also kind of figure that some rich people wouldn't want to kill people, just eat them.

There would definitely be super expensive Purge-night-only fine dining restaurants for cannibals.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:00 PM on August 3


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