The First Purge (2018)
While I would maintain that The Purge was an extremely well made film, the rest of this series has gotten on more based on thematic potency than on filmmaking quality. The series is reducio ad absurdum in the best way, highlighting real race and class divides by taking them to violent extremes. In going backwards from the other entries to create an origin story for The Purge, it hits on a few things that resonate.
The first was timely for me in that this morning Matt Yglesias of Vox published a piece about the hack gap, a system in which right-wing media that is more propaganda than journalism is able to drive the mainstream narratives. Thinking about the attempt portrayed here of a test of The Purge, I think of how Fox News et al would cover such an event, and I could see them ready to sell the New Founding Fathers' lines and arguments to a gullible audience. In the buildup we see how their stereotypes are at play, expecting this African-American heavy population to let loose on each other if given the chance, conceiving them as less human. We get this all the time when the All Lives Matter crowd shouts about "black on black crime." And if the community proves more resilient, distort the truth.
While there are certainly moments where I fear aspects of this film are less metaphor and more prognostication, that of a literal armed resistance having to stand up against fascists, I fear the metaphoric strength is undersold. No, the government will probably not install a system that is tantamount to genocide of poor, disproportionately non-white people. But the Republican Party is very keen on ripping apart what little safety net we have. This would have the effect of drastically increasing deaths among poor, disproportionately non-white people. It is a party that pulls environmental regs so that poor areas in particular are polluted. It is a party that puts barriers around food and housing benefits so that people are malnourished and exposed to the conditions. It is a party that seeks to put barriers around health care. Our fears of a literal purge maybe leave us insufficiently alarmed to the technocratic genocide that is represented by Republican politics.
If these are the two threads that went through my head watching the movie, that might be me doing the heavy lifting, not the film. While it is never a subtle franchise, nor is it blunt in a precise, intelligent way. Still, I forgive the series many of its weak points because it does at least engender in me such contemplation. The one thing I have difficulty with is its portrayal of Staten Island, which is 65% white and only 9% black, as overwhelmingly non-white and in need of importing its racists.