31 Days of Wicked Watching [DAY 25]: We’re Living It

The premise is brilliant. It is also real frickin’ scary because we might as well admit we are living amidst the premise. It is time for “The Purge.”

In what was billed as a unique social experiment playing out on film, led to a number of sequels and a television that are considerably some of the most reflexing in modern horror. Knowing that the only way to live in this film is to have the capabilities to protect yourself is a modern mirror. Those with are able to survive; those without are not. Behind the metal barriers, the parties and livelihoods of those with money and the privilege to survive are clear. Those participating and playing in the game because it is the one night of the year where they are able to kill without punishment are also privileged. It is in the sequels that this idea is advance significantly further. Yet, in the original, we are focused very specifically on the rich and safe land of suburbia.

What is clear in this series, and especially in the original, is that we as a society are on the verge of a purge–at least in a metaphoric sense. We are looking very specifically at a need to express our opinions, no matter how dark they may be, without reservation and punishment. We are nation that asks for forgiveness for being the worst versions of ourselves. And this is where “The Purge” builds its story. All crime is forgiven for 24 hours. What a concept. How utilitarian. Yet, what are the repercussions of that? What feelings result? Who does that impact beyond those 24 hours?

What “The Purge” does is situate its audience to ask those questions. The film isn’t resolved at its conclusion, nor are the sequels. Instead, we are asked to think about the comforts and privileges we live within, and what are we willing to do in order to maintain those and the expression of them. In this case, the most severe story emerges: murder. It becomes a game, one that people may not play willingly, but they also do not push away from it either.

Despite the depth, reception wan’t inherently positive. Many, in my opinion, pushed it away as a dystopia that cashed in on our fear of those who are unlike us. Even academics have taken to investigate and think critically about this series, but it continues to ripe for research.

(maybe I’ll even explore it myself)

But, for tonight, all crime is legal in the world of film. Enjoy it from the comfort of your privilege.

Published by Patrick R. Johnson

Patrick is a Ph.D. student and graduate instructor in the SJMC. He comes from nearly a decade of teaching high school journalism and English, and an adjunct professor of journalism and media studies at Marquette University (where he received both his bachelor's and master's degrees). He is a former Dow Jones Distinguished National Journalism Teacher of the Year. His research interests include the intersection of news literacy, journalism ethics, journalism studies, and professional boundary work. He also focuses his attention on issues of deviance within the media industry, particularly as it relates to issues of sex and issues resulting in paradigm repair. Patrick is also deeply passionate about teaching and the role of journalism schools in the professionalization of their students. He focuses a lot of his thinking on mass communication and journalism pedagogy and identifying ways for journalism courses to be both rewarding in content and enriching in skill. He currently teaches Journalistic Reporting and Writing in the SJMC and taught a number of courses at Marquette, including Media Ethics, Visual Communication, Magazine Design and Production, Digital Journalism 1-3, Strategic Communication Writing, and the Journalism Capstone course for the department. His work in curriculum, instruction, and educational leadership includes serving as the Journalism Education Association’s Mentor Program Chair, designing curriculum to accompany Pulitzer Prize winning content for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, reviewing the Praxis national journalism certification exam, and developing a number of courses at the high school and collegiate levels. Patrick served as a 2021 Public Humanities Intern through the Obermann Center where he worked specifically with University Special Collections to develop public-facing exhibits and curriculum materials related to the Tom Brokaw Collection.

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