Race and Class in The Purge: Anarchy

Curator's Note

The Purge: Anarchy is a horror film about a 12-hour period, the purge, where all crime is legal. A prominent character is a Malcolm X type figure named Carmelo who preaches that the purge is a government tactic to eradicate the poor and minorities. In this post, I wish to focus on a clip from the film that stands out as representative of Anarchy’s counterhegemonic arguments about race and class. The film starts by introducing us to Papa Rico, a black father and grandfather to Eva and Cali who is old and ill. While Eva prepares dinner, Rico slips out of the home voluntarily to become a “martyr” for a rich white family to purge in the safety of their home. For $100,000, the film puts a price on black bodies and shows the horrors of slave auctions in a contemporary context.

In the most poignant moment of the scene, Rico is shown seated in a chair, surrounded by the white nuclear family, parents, grandfather, and son, circling Rico, wielding weapons, wearing pristine suits in their plastic-wrapped living room. Their massacre is protected as a private expression of white privilege, where they harbor no guilt and no stains for participating. After whispering a prayer, their massacre validated both politically and religiously, the family reaches for their weapons to commence their purge.

Anarchy is an exaggerated, dystopian horror film, the movie prompts us to reflect on why these bodies (the poor and people of color) are identified as the root of society’s problems. Anarchy extends racial and class hierarchies to their absurd conclusions to highlight the flaws and structural inequalities present today, where some walk the streets fearful of law enforcement, are pressured to sell their bodies to care for their families, and have little to no control over their future. While some horror films may reify separations (as detailed in my chapter on The Forest in Virtual Dark Tourism), horror films can also serve as powerful vehicles for political arguments to reflect societal anxieties, collapse hierarchies, and unabashedly show the horrors of everyday life.



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