The Wisecrack Guide to The Purge TV Series – Wisecrack Quick Take
Welcome to this Quick Take on the Must-Know Philosophy of USA Network’s The Purge!
Written by: Alec Opperman
Directed by: Michael Luxemburg
Narrated by: Jared Bauer
Edited by: Mark Potts
Motion Graphics by: Drew Levin
Produced by: Emily Dunbar
The Wisecrack Guide to The Purge TV Series – Wisecrack Quick Take
This video was sponsored by The Purge on USA Network. Hey Wisecrack, Jared here. As you all know, we’re pretty big fans of the Purge, so we were pretty stoked when USA came to us and gave us a sneak peak of the first two episodes of the new Purge TV series a ten episode television event that premieres on September 4th. We’ve already discussed the socioeconomic themes prevalent in the Purge films, but the show has already shown some promise in extending these themes in some interesting ways.
So for those of you excited for the for the show’s launch, we’re going to go through a couple key philosophical and sociological concepts to frame the way you watch the show. So without further adieu, welcome to this Wisecrack Quicktake on what you need to know before you watch the Purge on USA. As we’ve discussed in our Philosophy of video, the Purge largely functions as an extended metaphor for the way entire groups of people become disposable in our current economic environment.
In this case, the New Founding Fathers literally specify one day out of the year so that the rich can eradicate the superfluous poor, who are deemed economic burdens. As the revolutionary Dante Bishop says, it’s a lot easier to just kill the poor than to provide them with healthcare, welfare, housing etc. We also see how the Purge can promote the interests of the well-to-do in society, who actively profit off the chaos. In the first film, the upper-middle class Sandin family makes bank selling home security systems to everyone in their gated community.
In the Purge TV show, all of this is still front and center – the rich and well connected throw parties from secured houses while everyone else is forced to fend for themselves- especially the inner city folk. But one of the things that’s really interesting about the TV series is that is explores how order emerges in anarchy. Now if that sounds confusing, just stick with me. Considers how The Purge is basically the temporary suspension of society its laws, norms, and institutions all go out the window once the clock strikes 7. But in the TV show, we see how even in anarchy, different kinds of social bonds will arise amidst an anarchic murder-athon.
One of those seedlings of order is a market: a means for people to exchange goods and services. This one just exists for 12 hours. The Purge has always been lucrative, don’t get me wrong, but so far we’ve mostly seen profit that happens before of after the purge -home security systems, guns, insurance, you get the idea. In the show, we see how people coordinate actions by skipping the brute force and using good ol’ fashioned cash.
For example, we learn many cab drivers work on purge night to take advantage of the surge pricing. “You’re not working all night are you?” “Some guys do. Driving around crazies for that purge surge.” Elsewhere an assassin takes contracts to kill people, but only during the hours in which its legal. Is conspiracy to commit murder still a crime if the murder happens on the purge? And do you declare that as a 1099? I digress. With all the poor people the purge has gotten rid of, there’s a lot more capital just sitting in the pockets of the New Founding Fathers bigwigs. Thus we follow a couple going to an NFFA Purge party for the sole purpose of stomaching the brutal indifference of the elite in order to shmooze a NFFA party member to invest in their new project.
And no doubt, we’ll probably see a fair amount of insider trading happening at these 1% Purge parties. So money is one way to organize things – instead of beating people to get what you want, markets can facilitate exchange. But there’s one other way the tv show explores order amidst the anarchy: social contracts. At its core, the idea of a social contract is that we sacrifice certain rights to enjoy living in a society. So even if I want to steal candy from children as a hobby, I have to give up this passtime to enjoy not living in the Purge for 365 days a year. The Purge films have largely emphasized the way humanity acts when the law is suspended, when the social contract ceases.
When the clock strikes 7, and without threat of legal retribution, people revert to their primal selves as they release the beast.
It’s a specific narrative of human nature proposed by philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who theorized that before governments came along, life was basically the beta version of the Purge. But it’s a narrative The Purge franchise has been challenging, even in the First Purge, where the government first needed to sow discord to get people hyped about murder night. While the show certainly has strong elements of a Hobbesian “war of all against all,” it’s not quite so cynical. Rather than everyone reverting to their allegedly “natural” and violent selves without the threat of the lawman, we see that most people want to just get along. Many avoid the purge altogether, and even within the purge, we see a kind of social contract starting to emerge.
For instance, paramedics are left alone, not because of some law, but rather as a social norm. “You’re safe with us, we’re off limits. Unwritten purge law.” Others sign literal contracts that forfeit their right to purge, as they attend parties or pull all-nights in locked down office buildings. “Once the purge begins this floor will be locked down as a safe zone. You and all other workers have signed waivers giving up their rights to purge on this floor for the entire evening.”
However, we see a bar that suspends all purging privileges based only out of mutual respect/fear for the owner of the bar, somewhat like Hobbes’ Leviathan. But unwritten laws in the form of social norms aren’t always so rosey. The show looks at the darker side as a woman, having worked her ass off for years, is teased with the opportunity to make partner and her prestigious firm. But the unspoken rule that thwarts her progress is her unwillingness to reciprocate her boss’s creepy propositions. Although he hasn’t come out and said it, she knows the only thing standing between her and her dream, is her unwillingness to put out.
We’re only two episodes in, but seeing as the whole 10 episode series focuses on Purge night, we can definitely expect to see more commentaries on human nature in the face of chaos. Also, a list of things I would do in a purge: Import exotic pets. Cut the tag off my mattress. Arrange large purchases with no sales tax. File my taxes fraudulently. Get like, a thousand dollars with of fireworks. Not pick up my dog’s poop from the sidewalk. Just a ton of copyright infringement. File patents for things I didn’t invent. Reverse engineer a popular game and sell it for cheaper. And I’m definitely double parking. Be sure to watch The Purge, Tuesdays on USA Network.