E24 -

Aja Romano & Meredith Clark join the show to discuss the horror slasher film, The Purge: Election Year.

Hosts
Landry Ayres
Senior Producer
Guests

Aja is a culture staff writer for Vox reporting on internet culture. Follow them on Twitter @ajaromano.

Meredith Clark is a writer and producer. She was most recently the Senior News Producer at the Patriot Act.

Summary:

The Purge: Election Year is not a good movie, but it is ripe with social commentary. The dystopia film is set in the not so distant future where the New Founding Fathers of America are the dominant political party. But a young newcomer, Senator Charlie Roan is trying to unseat the incumbent to put a stop to government‐​sanctioned violence. The movie attempts to critique grotesque violence, but ends up being extremely hypocritical.

Transcript

[music]

00:03 Natalie Dowzicky: Welcome to Pop & Locke. I’m Natalie Dowzicky.

00:05 Landry Ayres: And I’m Landry Ayres.

00:07 Natalie Dowzicky: In our eyes, the best way to celebrate both Halloween and the upcoming election is to discuss the horror‐​slasher film, The Purge: Election Year. The dystopian film is set in the not‐​so‐​distant future, where the New Founding Fathers of America are their dominant political party, but a young newcomer, Senator Charlie Roan, is trying to unseat the incumbent to put a stop to government‐​sanctioned violence. Joining in our purge of The Purge today is culture writer at Vox, Aja Romano.

00:35 Aja Romano: Hi!

00:36 Natalie Dowzicky: And writer and producer, Meredith Clark.

00:39 Meredith Clark: Hi!

00:40 Landry Ayres: This movie is different from a lot of others that we talk about on this show, mainly because this one, to me at least, is not good. [laughter] But there’s a lot to talk about. It grossed over $118 million in its opening weekend worldwide, which is a lot, considering it was only made on $10 million. What is it about The Purge that has consistently drawn enough of an audience and profit to merit four films and two seasons of a TV show?

01:19 Meredith Clark: Don’t we all want catharsis in some way? It’s the…

[chuckle]

01:23 Landry Ayres: Sure.

01:24 Meredith Clark: And it’s most base‐​level, I think. There’s some element of that. Also, it’s so stupid, but they try so hard to do world‐​building, and I find myself compelled to watch it just because of that. [chuckle]

01:39 Aja Romano: It’s also, it’s got the baseline appeal of nihilism, glitzy nihilism dressed up with a smattering of social commentary. It’s a lot like Fight Club in the sense that it works very hard to condemn the thing that it’s glamorizing, but everybody is in on the game. Everybody knows that you’re here to watch people get killed and fuck things up. And then and I think Election Year, it’s so surreal to do this with clown music in the background because I feel like I’m in The Purge. [laughter] I don’t know if you guys can hear, but for the listeners at home, there’s an ice cream truck in my background right now. And this conjunction, this paradoxical conjunction of whimsy and gleeful mayhem outside, like carnival mayhem outside while I’m trying to discuss a very serious topic at hand is sort of an encapsulation of The Purge itself, [chuckle] because you have these very carnivalesque people who are all wearing masks, and they have any number of weapons that they’ll use, and they’re usually totally in disguise.

02:52 Aja Romano: So you have this idea of these marauders just roaming the streets throughout each of The Purge films, right? And The Purge: Election Year especially lands into that. The way it’s directed is very fever dream‐​like in terms of its street sequences and the way that the marauders are portrayed. And it seems to be leaning in more with more self‐​awareness than ever to its own nihilism and its own gleeful embrace of violence. I’m always a little torn because you know that it’s obviously capitalizing on the representation of violence and mayhem in a way that appeals to audiences. There are all these scenes in The Purge: Election Year of creative torture. [chuckle] And those scenes are definitely meant to compel audiences. I think I saw the film opening weekend with a really rowdy audience who was totally into it. And it’s just one of those things that I think audiences go to see films like this know what they’re doing, but at the same time, I think most people really keep going back to The Purge because it is also doing, like Meredith said, that slightly more complicated world‐​building, and it’s trying to layer compelling social commentary on top of that. And it builds out more as it goes along, I think, as it becomes more self‐​conscious and maybe ashamed of itself… [chuckle]

04:25 Natalie Dowzicky: Right.

04:26 Aja Romano: As a franchise, but you still also have… And we have all this world‐​building and have all this social commentary happening alongside these very gauzy dream sequences almost, of very sexualized women with baseball bats and stuff, [chuckle] like I’m just here to fuck things up, right? So you have that sort of paradoxical thing happening with Purge, which is, again, part of the commentary of the series itself.

04:53 Natalie Dowzicky: It’s interesting that you mentioned the social commentary aspect of specifically the Election Year installment of The Purge movies because I think out of all The Purge movies, this probably has the most social commentary in it. The tagline of the movie was literally, “Keep America Great,” and it did come out in 2016.

05:14 Aja Romano: Right.

05:14 Natalie Dowzicky: So I think their intention of this movie also calling it Election Year in an election year was very…

05:20 Aja Romano: Right. [chuckle]

05:23 Natalie Dowzicky: They were targeting their message about this movie very specifically.

05:26 Aja Romano: Well, they also had… The main female protagonist also is meant to be kind of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Elizabeth Warren sort of composite.

05:37 Landry Ayres: Sure.

05:38 S?: Yeah.

05:39 Aja Romano: We are definitely meant to recognize her as someone we know.

05:42 Natalie Dowzicky: Right. And I also just think it gave them more opportunities, this movie specifically, gave them more opportunities to world‐​build, like Meredith had said, but it just fell flat in a lot of instances. You could see it almost there, and you could see them poking at… Certainly poking at many political themes. But I think that was part of, and going back to what Landry said, part of the reason the movie wasn’t a good movie at the face of it because they would world‐​built just enough for the movie to make sense, but not enough to satisfy the audience, if that makes sense.

06:22 Landry Ayres: It totally makes sense to me the way it pans out because they sprinkle in, like you said, world‐​building, world‐​building, world‐​building. It is an amazing conceit for a film that this whole thing has been built on, 12 hours where all crime is legal, and they do a pretty good job of talking about motivations for it, social impacts and the fallout, but they never dig deep into any of those… The leads that spring off of it. It’s all like a line here, a line there, which could be taken as subtlety, but then by the end, the way the plots of the film develop, it becomes hypocritical, almost. James DeMonaco talks about how he wanted these movies, and I think specifically Election Year to be a lot about gun violence. But by the end, you have audiences, and I read this a lot in reception about the movie, is the audiences cheering on everyone killing people.

07:25 Aja Romano: Right.

07:26 Natalie Dowzicky: Right.

07:26 Landry Ayres: Specifically one that comes to mind is when Pequeña Muerte is driving the triage ambulance and runs over the purgers that are outside the convenience store, defending them, and then in a single shot, gets out of the car and grabbing a shotgun, just shoots this girl in the face with so much gore and so directly. It could have been done in a way that probably showed more conflict in her as someone who had been a part of the purge and then chose to be involved in more peaceful direct action. But instead, she shoots this girl in the face, doesn’t give her a chance to redeem herself or run away or live and learn her lesson. She violently executes her and then says, “Little death is back,” as this mark of pride. And I was kinda like, “But I thought the whole point was that it just… ” To me, it really does scream hypocrisy. It just falls back on everything that it’s trying to criticize.

08:44 Meredith Clark: I keep finding it so frustrating anytime I see… ‘Cause of course, I’ve seen them all. Anytime I watch these movies that… Look, I’m a completist, what can I say?

[chuckle]

08:54 Landry Ayres: Oh, I get it. Because the universe that it’s set in is fascinating. I get why.

09:00 Meredith Clark: Every time I find myself so much more interested in the throwaway lines or these bits and pieces of these elements. Every single character who isn’t the main character is a person I wanna see their story, why they’re purging, why they have this experience. I’m curious about how purge insurance works. All of the actual nerdy, nerdy details of this universe end up being more compelling to me than, especially in Election Year, what turns out to be a pretty lame white savior narrative.

09:35 Landry Ayres: Because you have this whole movie that is building up, talking about how the people who are actually being hunted in the purge, and the reason that it was created was to exterminate mainly poor people of color in the United States by this cabal of Christian fundamentalist Republicans. And it takes very good steps to show how they, dealing with the means that they have through direct action and without state support, actually are able to at least take care of themselves or support one another in the phase of the state‐​sanctioned violence, even if it’s not always perpetrated by the state. But spoiler alert, it absolutely is, we find out.

[chuckle]

10:23 Aja Romano: Well, one thing that’s powerful about that is that, what you just said about the communities surviving in the face of state‐​sanctioned violence, that is relatable to people in terms of extrapolating a metaphor that obviously has ramifications for the way that marginalized communities get exploited by the government and social systems. So I think you have two different impulses driving the audience reaction, I think, and the audience response, because you have… On the one hand, you have that recognition that these are the people that we’re supposed to root for. You’re supposed to root for the marginalized underdogs. But then you also have the fact that this is an action movie/​horror movie, and audiences of those films come to see their heroes fuck shit up.

11:17 Aja Romano: They come specifically to the theater on opening weekend to have that shared communal… Everybody cheering and clapping in the audience for the heroes. That’s something that the movie has to deliver on in order to be an effective example of the trope, right? So how can you do that if you’re also critiquing everything the trope is doing? That’s something that not just this franchise has wrestled with, but many other action movies and horror movies have wrestled with. And I think the fact that we… I may be making this sound like I admire the franchise more than I do, [laughter] but I do think that it’s tried… This is the problem you always get, whether you’re talking about any type of media from Elizabethan‐​like morality plays on.

12:09 Aja Romano: As you stage this and as you represent the thing is representation endorsement. And especially in something that’s semi‐​satirical like the Purges, especially Election Year specifically, which I think is the most satirical of the Purge franchises or franchise movies, you get this very, very, very thin line between satirizing itself and this moment where it could further indict the audience for enjoying it, but it doesn’t ever quite get there. I think it’s trying to, it wants… There are films that I watch that are similar to this where… Actually, I was thinking about the church annihilation scene toward [chuckle] at the end, they basically have this giant massacre happen in a church because it’s part of its commentary, unlike the rise of the NRA and the…

13:08 Aja Romano: Basically, the way the NRA essentially evolved into the Founding Fathers, which is what the Purge franchise basically predicates itself on. And you have this conflation of the NRA with religious Christianity or right‐​wing Christianity and fundamentalism that basically winds up in a church where they’re about to very religiously kill the senator, the feminist senator who wants to ruin everything in this religious rite, basically. And it’s very, very ritualistic. There’s a lot of very obvious implied commentary there. But then you have this almost like wild west shoot ‘em up [laughter] scene that happens. It’s like over‐​the‐​top thing where the heroes are in like a vestibule at the top or something, and in the top of the church, and they all get shot at by this hoard of faceless FBI people or security… I don’t know, people with guns. And…

14:07 Natalie Dowzicky: Yeah.

14:09 Aja Romano: And it’s so over‐​the‐​top. It’s staged so awkwardly, it’s just like, it really feels like an okay corral kind of shoot‐​out, like something you would see in a western. And it’s this total shift from, here is this moment where you have this really sinister religious ritual being executed around the idea of these people who essentially embedded the ideals of worship of the Second Amendment. Basically, that’s what you have, this idea that the Second Amendment has become a religious principle. And you see that embodied on screen in a way that could be effective if it weren’t immediately undermined by this. And I was thinking about what other types of films I think have done similar things more effectively, and I kept thinking about the 2014 film, Kingsman, which…

15:09 Natalie Dowzicky: Yeah.

15:10 Aja Romano: Which has a very similar totally frenzied church massacre scene in it.

15:19 Meredith Clark: Oh, that’s a great bloodbath.

[laughter]

15:21 Aja Romano: It’s so great. And it’s such a… It’s almost cathartic in a way like… I remember when I was watching it in the theater, I was… The movie keeps you uncomfortable with its own love of guns, but at some point, it just basically asks you to accept that you’re this kind of [15:39] ____ and embrace it. [chuckle] It basically just asks you… It’s a movie that you can feel asking you to just give up and accept that you wanna see the heroes massacre a bunch of people in a church. And then it does it, and it does it with such gleeful mayhem that I felt like the indictment was there, and I felt like the indictment was inherently a part of the film. And I know that that’s not something everyone has had, that’s not a reaction everyone has had because I’ve read and talked to plenty of people who thought that film was just low‐​brow garbage because it’s so violent, because what’s redeeming there?

16:20 Aja Romano: And I think you always have this question, as long as you’re gonna have action films, as long as you’re gonna have this on‐​screen glorification of gun violence, you’re gonna have to have this conversation. Is there ever a way to do gun violence on screen in a blockbuster that doesn’t feel like it’s either cheapening the commentary or basically just exploiting the audience’s desire to see things blown up and desire to see blood and gore and guts on screen?

16:55 Natalie Dowzicky: Right. And I think this horror movie obviously falls into the glorification of violence, most definitely, probably all horror films. But I also think it uses a few different classic horror tropes, so like the idea of blood sacrifice, that in order for a society to be healthy, you just have to kill people sometimes or you have to get rid of the low rung. So immediately when I thought of other films, I was thinking the Hunger Games, which isn’t necessarily a horror film…

17:25 Meredith Clark: But Battle Royale is. [chuckle]

17:26 Aja Romano: Right, Battle Royale is like the trope starter, right?

17:30 Meredith Clark: Right. Yeah, yeah.

17:30 Natalie Dowzicky: And then I also was thinking of the… Oh, gosh, the famous short story, The Lottery. So it’s this idea that you have people you serve up as sacrifice. So The Purge obviously plays on this quite a bit.

17:45 Aja Romano: And it’s also that idea of the village sacrifice. [chuckle] It’s almost like a folklore narrative too. Thinking about stuff like The Wicker Man. You have the lone girl who’s basically, she’s sort of the bait for this policeman that the village has essentially chosen to be its annual sacrifice. You have that type of ritualistic killing going back to very, very far in culture. And you see it increasingly in films that are trying to put forth this really conservative narrative of, the ends justify the means. And I think we’ve been seeing a lot more of those films really pop up in the action genre over the last, I’d say, two decades, where you get this sense of, the narrative’s ultimate conclusion seems to be that it can indict every other person in the film for violence except the hero who gets to be the sole exception.

18:55 Aja Romano: Their violence is always justified. Their violence is always the thing that is good violence. You don’t really ever get a full critique of… Well, you do, but very rarely, I think, do you get a film that really commits to fully critiquing the violence and critiquing the moral toll, those sort of mental toll that it takes on all the characters, no matter who’s involved and no matter why, especially in the action genre particularly. And I couldn’t really think of any. I thought maybe Logan, the X‐​Men film, Logan, sort of got close to that. But still, it’s still an X‐​Men film. So I don’t know. I don’t know what your thoughts are on that. But I couldn’t think of any other examples off the top of my head.

19:44 Meredith Clark: Not in the blockbuster space. Something that really ends up being a problem with The Purge: Election Year is that the… I just felt like there was no weight to this idea, and people speak about there being a toll to the violence, and yet nobody actually believes it, they just go along.

20:07 Landry Ayres: Right, yeah.

20:09 Meredith Clark: And that somehow, it’s like, “Oh, no, no, no that’s fine.” Also, it’s ridiculous that a movie this silly attempts more to critique state‐​sanctioned violence than our prestige, the government has to do some really messed‐​up shit to get justice against the bad people.

20:27 Natalie Dowzicky: Right. [chuckle]

20:31 Meredith Clark: It’s like why we gave a bunch of Oscars to Zero Dark Thirty, but The Purge is really morally reprehensible. Sorry, guys, let’s step back.

[laughter]

20:40 Landry Ayres: Yeah.

20:42 Meredith Clark: But that also speaks to me of why this is an appealing… Again, to Aja’s earlier point, it’s appealing to people because there is the distrust in the systems that exist, that they’re not here to protect us, that they are actually here to do violence, and why not make it explicit? And maybe we are getting closer to a time when people will be able to make movies that actually look at the corrosive effects, but they tried it with James Bond and it didn’t work. [chuckle]

[music]

21:17 Landry Ayres: You bring up a really interesting point, which is the repercussions of The Purge within the world, and the lack of effect that seems to be exhibited outside of The Purge for things that happen during The Purge. And also, the distinction between government‐​sanctioned and enacted violence and private action. It seems odd to me in this movie and in the universe that it seems like because the government sanctioned this, is the… But the New Founding Fathers are strong enough to re‐​write enough of our regulation to establish a night where for 12 hours, everything is illegal…

[laughter]

22:06 Landry Ayres: But still allow for a second party and an election. Now, whether that is fraudulent and they have puppet candidates, that might have started that way, but it seems like from The Purge: Election Year that there are real candidates that are gaining support and people want this, and there is enough of a population that they can end The Purge and win the electoral college with over 270 votes, all thanks to Florida.

[laughter]

22:39 Landry Ayres: It’s just weird to me. Do private actors not have any incentive to try and stop The Purge? Like insurance companies, sure, they benefit from The Purge because people need Purge Insurance and they charge super high premiums and you can think about that what you will. But no other private entities are launching campaigns to be like, “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t purge. This is bad for business.” In that world, would Amazon be like, “You know what? Purging’s actually pretty good for us. We can sell a lot of the guns and bullets and ship those.” Or would there be enough that Amazon or some other company would be like, “Maybe we shouldn’t do this.”

23:22 Meredith Clark: You know Amazon would be against it because they’d be too worried about their warehouses and they wouldn’t wanna lose their product.

23:28 Landry Ayres: Yeah.

23:31 Aja Romano: I mean, I think that this is a really interesting question because if we asked it before 2020, my answer probably would have been different. But it’s like the Jurassic Park thing, you watch Jurassic Park and you’re like, “Well, why the hell are they keeping the parks open?” And why the hell are we still in October of 2020, still trying to convince people that if they go outside, they will die? Why is that a thing that keeps having to happen? Why do we keep having… Why is there such a social resistance to actually taking fundamental change to fix the… To basically alleviate pain and harm being caused during the pandemic.

24:09 Aja Romano: Instead you have colleges re‐​opening, you have schools re‐​opening, you have everything re‐​opening, and people are just basically being told that they have to return to work and deal with it. This is the reality that we’re in. At no point has there been any major corporation or figure head of capitalism, I would say, [chuckle] that has stepped forward just to be like, “My profits are not as important as the lives of the people in my employ, so everyone will be staying home indefinitely with pay, so they’ll have what they need, so that they can all return when they’re healthy.” That’s not a thing that is happening.

24:51 Aja Romano: So having seen this play out over the last however many months, I don’t really feel like I am as worried about the, [chuckle] I guess the logistics of why people aren’t protesting the purge as much. And we’ve seen this over the last four years, like the systematic destruction of democracy in this country. At every single step of the way, you’ve had protesters in the streets, but you’ve not really had any type of sustained organized resistance from, I guess, people in power in terms of people who control sources of wealth and production of the country, if that makes sense.

25:34 Natalie Dowzicky: Like special interest groups haven’t come in the fold.

25:39 Meredith Clark: Yeah. And I think that, just jumping off what Aja said, I could see different companies having different responses. What feels weird about the movie is that there isn’t that private element to it. It’s like some places would be for it, some places would be against it. But we can’t… We’re not that far into the future in this alternate universe. Giant corporations would be working hand‐​in‐​hand with the New Founding Fathers to contract to do things. They would also have opinions just as large special interest groups have now. And it’s so odd that that feels like a missed opportunity because there’s one moment in The Purge: Anarchy where people are walking through downtown Los Angeles and they pass a bank, and there’s a man strung up with a note tied to him and it says, “Here lies blah, blah, blah. He stole our pensions.” And that’s as close as they got to, “Okay, the banks are definitely into something.”

26:50 Aja Romano: I also wonder… I wonder if there’s… Thinking about those side stories, the fact that all crime is legal, it seems like there would be so many opportunities if The Purge was really committed to… And I haven’t seen the series. So it’s possible that the series is delving into this more on the micro‐​level that I think we’re talking about. But it seems like there would be so many opportunities for a type of restorative justice and a type of look at ways the night of purging could be used to rectify imbalances. Even if it’s stuff like, I don’t know, sabotaging pipelines in Native American spaces, right? Like, things like…

27:32 Meredith Clark: A friend of mine asked me, and I said, “Well, I’d break into a drug warehouse and I’d steal a bunch of insulin to give to people.”

27:39 Aja Romano: Yeah…

27:39 Landry Ayres: Yeah.

27:39 Aja Romano: Like something like that. Right, right.

[laughter]

27:41 Landry Ayres: I was watching a YouTube video where someone was saying that the way to end the purge, to stop the purge and stop the violence is for enough people to get together and file fraudulent tax returns during the period because it falls during the tax filing season.

[laughter]

27:58 Meredith Clark: Oh, my god.

28:00 Landry Ayres: And you can file your tax returns and claim a huge amount and then you’ll just drain the New Founding Fathers’ government. You have to start over again.

[laughter]

28:09 Landry Ayres: Because the whole point of it is to save money. And I was like, “That’s actually really brilliant.” [chuckle]

28:14 Meredith Clark: Yeah. Also, it’s ridiculous that we don’t see any financial crimes, and I don’t know if that’s just because that’s… Yeah, of course, it’s not sexy. But everybody knows that the purge would be a huge bonanza for people who wanted to commit wire fraud. [chuckle]

28:29 Aja Romano: If you were really gonna do this, they should set a purge, set one of the movies at an abortion clinic. They should try and…

28:37 Meredith Clark: Oh, that would be so dark. [laughter]

28:38 Aja Romano: Right, but if they’re really gonna drill down into the effects of violence on marginalized communities and the way that that… Obviously that would never get green‐​lit in a million years, [laughter] but that idea of just taking the effects of violence to the extreme, most individualistic point that you can find in this world, and I think about like, “Oh, well, an abortion clinic obviously,” where people, individuals would be directly impacted by the social and systemic hands at work to bring them to this point of violence. And I think that’s something that The Purge keeps trying to do. I think The Purge, the first Purge, which is the sequel to Election Year, is a prequel, sorry. This only came after Election Year. It’s the prequel to the entire franchise, and it’s set on Staten Island, right?

29:38 Meredith Clark: Staten Island. Yeah.

29:39 Aja Romano: Staten Island. And it’s basically… It really centers the entire story on one character who’s trying to get to the very first purge. And you really see how he embodies the marginalized community that the purge has been hinting the entire time that is most affected. Basically poor, mainly black men who may have strong communities, but they’re directly targeted by racism and by white supremacy and by systemic violence being inflicted against them. And I think that this is the moment where The Purge could have really, really dug into all of the political ramifications that it was trying to manifest over the three previous films, and I don’t think it really got there. I think there was one moment where you find out that some of the mobilized militia that had been hired to enact the purge, the first purge, you find out that some of them have white supremacist ties and so forth. And you get that throughout the series. I think there were a couple of Nazi symbols being bandied about at various points.

31:01 Meredith Clark: Yeah.

31:02 Aja Romano: But you don’t really… It’s just sort of like window dressing. And considering where we are…

31:08 Natalie Dowzicky: Definitely.

31:09 Aja Romano: In the culture right now, I don’t know that that’s responsible. [chuckle] I don’t know that you can really just hand‐​wave of that.

31:16 Natalie Dowzicky: I also think it’s interesting that throughout this discussion that we’re talking about like, “Okay, everything’s legal for an evening,” but they never really discuss or it’s never really brought up the idea of this, the morality of law. Even if something is legal during a time period, or if there’s a law, why isn’t there any, like this discussion of like, “Okay, why… If this is legal, oh, yeah, let’s all go into it because it’s legal now.” I think more people would be like, at least I would hope that your morality steps in and you’re like, “Okay, maybe I shouldn’t do this.”

31:52 Landry Ayres: Yeah. Well, don’t they say that… Isn’t there a throwaway line that Roan says in the Election Year where she says… I don’t know if she’s hyperbolizing, but she says, “I’m gonna stay home and lock my door,” it’s like 99% of the population. Is it true that…

32:08 Meredith Clark: Oh, I just thought that was a Bernie line, like a… [chuckle]

32:10 Landry Ayres: I wasn’t sure. I mean, that makes sense. I mean, I get that and that would be a good sort of reference. But I wonder, is… And because, true confessions, I have not seen any of the other Purge movies, though I’m fascinated by the world that they have built. I have read a lot about them online and this is the first time I have watched one. [chuckle]

32:31 Aja Romano: But I think this… Again, it gets into the satire question, because the point of The Purge’s satire is to characterize the excesses of Americans and to imply that every American has this excess within them. And you haven’t seen the very first movie, but the first movie ends with the wife of Ethan Hawk who’s played by Lena Headey, sort of like, she’s got all of her neighbors corralled in her house after this night of terror, and basically she’s keeping them hostage [chuckle] for a little bit. It’s a long story, but she… One of them… She has a gun that she’s been using to keep them at bay with, and one of them reaches for the gun when her head is turned, and she body slams this woman on the table, [laughter] and gives her an instant massive nose… Like basically breaks her nose and she screams, “I told you, no more violence!” [laughter] It’s just so obviously over‐​the‐​top, and so obviously meant to be an indictment of this idea that every single human, when pressed to the breaking point, is gonna turn violent.

33:45 Meredith Clark: And in the second one, in The Purge: Anarchy, which is my personal favorite, the guy… Like Matt Landry from Friday Night Lights is in it, it’s wonderful.

33:53 Landry Ayres: Great name, phenomenal name.

33:56 Meredith Clark: But… [laughter] Or Matt Saracen, sorry, not Matt Landry. But they’ve just lay it out and that it does seem like almost everyone, the sort of “normals”, it does seem like the morality of The Purge is, everyone agrees that it’s wrong, and then it’s just the rich people. They have all of these lines throughout the movie where at one point, the grandfather of the two female, like this mother and daughter pair that start as the main characters of the movie, he writes them a letter and he gets into a limo, and the letter, it says, “Oh, you know, I’m making myself a martyr to a wealthy family,” so they would like to say explicitly the rich people decide to purge by hiring people that they can just kill in their homes where they’re safe, and there’s an auction for people, like wealthy people who all have these garishly lit, very reminiscent of the Black Hole Sun video by Soundgarden in some ways, and they’re desperate, they’re bidding on the chance to join in this last hunt of the purge.

35:07 Meredith Clark: And it seems to make it the point that the people who are most invested in this are the people for whom the laws were invented in the first place, that the purge is so that rich people can get their yah‐​yahs out because they can’t have drop‐​down fights at the country club like they did in Dynasty. And it’s sort of a weird… It doesn’t make any sense, and they carry it over to The Purge mass, but that would be something I would be much more interested in seeing, like what are the social consequences within the groups of people that actually decide to purge? Because it’s just assumed that it happens.

35:53 Aja Romano: But it’s also assumed that there are no long‐​lasting repercussions like, “Oh, well, it was the purge, you can’t help it.” But in reality, obviously there would be… If you really hated your neighbor, so you killed your neighbor, that might have ramifications for the way the rest of your block treats you the rest of the year, right?

36:09 Landry Ayres: Right.

36:10 Aja Romano: We don’t really see any of that. It’s the idea that there’s just some… Yeah, and this might be an implied part of the commentary because as we know from American history, we have a society‐​wide ability to draw a tidy blank over our own memories of institutional trauma, right? And it seems like at the micro‐​level, The Purge is implying that that happens every year.

36:38 Landry Ayres: Yeah, ’cause it’s like there’s this social acceptance of The Purge that’s like… Well, it’s like what happens in Vegas, it’s like what happens on purge night, everyone just waves their hand at it. Whereas, I wonder in a job interview, or if you apply to a job, and then you post a bunch of pictures on Facebook or on Twitter of you like, “Can’t wait for purge,” or “Just purged last night,” because it’s legal and you don’t have to worry about it, would employers not be like, “Well, we don’t want a purger in our office,” or would the New Founding Fathers codify that into something that you can’t discriminate based on? It’s…

37:19 Meredith Clark: Well, that’s actually a part of the television show. I think I remember from…

37:23 Landry Ayres: What?

37:23 Meredith Clark: One of the episodes where the… There’s some young couple and they’re struggling to make it to be accepted, to get this job, you have to purge to be accepted into this exclusive service.

37:36 Landry Ayres: Oh, so they flip it, it’s like you have to purge to get the job.

37:40 Meredith Clark: Yeah, you’re not the right kind of person unless you’re willing to do this. And it’s…

37:46 Landry Ayres: Great idea. I have no idea if the show is great.

37:47 Natalie Dowzicky: I just think this is so ridiculous. I mean this movie is not good, right? And the fact that there’s been four of them and there’s like more in the works, it’s just like mind‐​blowing to me. But the other thing I was thinking of like, if we’re getting into the nerdier aspects of the movie, why didn’t they build out… Like how do you get a job after you purge? Like Landry said, they very briefly mention this idea of murder tourism, and the fact that people would travel from other countries to come in just to kill Americans. And I think I…

[laughter]

38:19 Landry Ayres: Do you think they sell packages for that? They sell like, you bundle your flight and your hotel and we throw in a gun…

38:24 Aja Romano: I’m sure they have like entire like safari retreat phase.

38:27 Meredith Clark: Oh, 100%

38:27 Landry Ayres: Yes.

38:28 Aja Romano: And they probably have like…

38:29 Landry Ayres: Oh, my gosh!

38:29 Aja Romano: Purge hotels. I’m sure that they probably have like haunted house attractions, except that you get like… I don’t know, you pay $5000 or $10,000, I don’t know however many thousands of dollars to be in the… Like to have like a most dangerous game night or something. You know?

38:45 Meredith Clark: Right.

38:46 Landry Ayres: Yeah, or you stay at the hotel, it’s like, stay at your own risk ’cause everyone is gonna be hunting everyone else in this hotel. Give me my money, James DeMonaco.

38:54 Aja Romano: This is when you think of like…

38:56 Landry Ayres: Give me my money.

38:57 Aja Romano: Like doing a version of The Purge where it’s sleep no more but like it’s sleep no more in Purge night, you don’t like secrets.

[chuckle]

39:03 Meredith Clark: Oh, my gosh!

39:06 Natalie Dowzicky: Oh, it’s terrible.

39:06 Landry Ayres: We gotta write this. We gotta write this down, guys.

39:10 Natalie Dowzicky: Yeah. Yeah.

[music]

39:15 Aja Romano: Going back to what you guys said about the kind of like business side of this, I keep thinking about how The Purge as a theme has at its core, the basic marketing need to make Americans fear and be afraid so that they’ll buy stuff, so that they’ll consume stuff to help keep them comfortable, keep them safe. And to some extent, you obviously need to have the most expensive security system and whatever, in order to survive Purge Night. And so the very first Purge movie really emphasizes that Ethan Hawke is living in this probably gated community, in this very, very secure house that is still not secure enough to keep the purgers from getting inside.

40:02 Aja Romano: But I keep thinking about how expensive that entire home security must have been and thinking like, “So what do people do if they’re living in apartments? How does that look for? How does the average New Yorker protect themselves from the purge if they’re wealthy and they can afford it, but they’re living in an apartment or a condo?” And I also wonder how that system sustains itself. ‘Cause once you’ve outfitted everybody, once you’ve given everybody the security system, what else can you sell them? What are the other accoutrements of capitalism that coalesce around purges, if that makes sense?

40:40 Natalie Dowzicky: Yeah, and I just think there are so many good stories you could tell as offshoots of this story. [chuckle] And by good, I mean absolutely terrible, like they turned out to be absolutely terrible films. But I just think this whole… There are so many one‐​liners they throw in. And whether it’s murder tourism or purge insurance, and I’m sure the show goes into more detail… I’m gonna admit too, I’ve never seen the show. And after this conversation, I probably still won’t go and see the show, but I just like… There’s so much opportunity here to really expand on the universe, ’cause apparently, there’s a big enough audience to do so. But I think another thing that came up while you guys were talking is this idea that… So obviously, they’re rich, and like we were saying, the big businesses are capitalizing on this purge night, whether they’re selling security, or they’re selling guns, or what have you.

41:41 Natalie Dowzicky: And then the rich participate because it’s a way to, for lack of better terms, get out their need to be violent. And that was very similar to the conversation we had about Westworld, was this idea that because the rich are ready and willing to pay money to go into this alternate world where they can be not judged, and they can go live in the wild west and shoot people if they want, or cheat on their wives with robot‐​esque almost… Well, Westworld is a whole another story, but it’s the same idea as the rich have these access points where they can express all their sins, and they can go and do as they please. And it just got me thinking of that same conversation that came up and it’s another conversation that’s eminent in Jurassic World as well. But I just thought it was interesting that yet again, we have a story that it revolves around this idea that the rich are paying to do these terrible things in order to… I don’t know if it’s like… To get the… Is it like stress relief, or is it like, I don’t know, they’re living out their violent dreams, what have you? But I just think it’s another element to make you think whether or not throughout The Purge movies if they’re speaking to a larger critique of capitalism or if they’re just speaking to a larger critique of democracy, or democracy run amok.

43:17 Meredith Clark: I’ve always thought it was an attempt to critique capitalism, not necessarily successful in almost every way.

[laughter]

43:32 Meredith Clark: But it is smart to connect it to other films that have been made recently that lay out explicitly that we have created a system by which the richest people among us function and operate under a completely different system of rules. Whether it’s for the way they make money, the way they spend their time, the way they can get away with… The way they operate through the justice system, the way that they get a special Uber VIP space in LAX. And everybody wants to understand that because it’s so foreign. And this just happens to use explicit gory violence because, don’t we all… I certainly think that somebody that rich would probably kill me for sport if they could. It just doesn’t seem that far‐​fetched.

44:28 Natalie Dowzicky: For sure. Definitely.

44:29 Landry Ayres: Yeah. Oh, it’s like that Parks and Rec bit with Jason Mantzoukas where Aziz Ansari says like, “I think that dude wants to hunt me.”

[laughter]

44:41 Meredith Clark: I love these movies and I’m so ashamed that I can’t stop loving them. I’m excited for whatever comes next, but I will save more of my commentary for whatever poor [44:51] ____ has to go to see the Purge 5 with me.

[laughter]

44:55 Landry Ayres: I just looked it up. The Forever Purge is apparently what it’s called.

[laughter]

45:00 Aja Romano: Oh, my gosh.

[laughter]

45:02 Meredith Clark: Oh, I’m so excited for that.

45:06 Aja Romano: Oh, god.

45:06 Natalie Dowzicky: Is that also coming out on July 4th or what are we moving it to now?

45:08 Landry Ayres: Probably. I think it was supposed to come out this year, and then the world happened.

45:13 Meredith Clark: Oh, yeah, because they really want… They love putting them out during election years.

45:19 Landry Ayres: Yeah.

45:20 Aja Romano: I think a purge during the pandemic would be something that this series is probably inevitably gonna do, so we just brace for that now.

45:29 Landry Ayres: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I was thinking when somebody mentioned everybody wearing masks, I was like, “The Purge COVID would be terrible.”

[laughter]

45:37 Landry Ayres: Oh, gosh, it’s too real. And they’re gonna do it. I know they’re gonna do it.

45:44 Meredith Clark: Purgedemic. No, no, no.

45:45 Aja Romano: Yeah, Purgedemic. It’s coming.

45:47 Natalie Dowzicky: We should save all of these ideas, by the way. We said them first.

[laughter]

45:52 Meredith Clark: We should destroy all of these ideas. We should just, I don’t know, destroy this cursed podcast episode.

[laughter]

[music]

46:01 Landry Ayres: And now for the portion of the show where we get to share all of the other pieces of media that we’ve been enjoying during the pandemic, this is Locked In. So Aja, Meredith, what else have you been enjoying with your time at home?

46:17 Aja Romano: I’ve been enjoying a lot of Chinese drama throughout the year because I got really into this drama called The Untamed, which I actually wrote about for Vox, and which is, you’ve probably seen on your social media timelines here and there because it’s been wildly popular. And I started watching that in January, and I’ve just fallen down the rabbit hole of watching all kinds of entertainment related to the actors and also watching more Chinese drama and more adaptations by the author who wrote the book that The Untamed is based on. So there’s a lot of different threads that I’ve been following. One of them that I’m watching right now that I’m really enjoying is this drama called Winter Begonia, which is set in the ‘30s in the Peking opera house. So one of its main characters is the star of the Peking opera, and he befriends this man who basically is the son of a really wealthy family that gets drawn into interpersonal and political conflict. And it follows them and their friendship over the years, and it’s really fascinating and really engrossing, and I really am enjoying it. And the other thing that I’ve been really enjoying lately is this animated series, it’s… Well, in China, they would call it Donghua, of this book called The Scum Villain’s Self‐​Saving System, which is this really funny series where the main character gets transported into a terrible harem novel.

[chuckle]

48:00 Aja Romano: And he finds himself… He’s basically been a fan of this harem novel, he’s been reading it online and he knows all of the plot from start to finish ’cause he’s a super fan. And he gets transported into the novel after he dies in real life, so he finds himself basically occupying the role of the worst villain in the show, or in the novel. And he knows that he has to change the plot because his character winds up getting all of his arms and limbs chopped off. So he has to find a way to befriend the hero who ultimately will amputate all of his limbs if he doesn’t figure out how to change the plot of the story. So he does that by trying to subtly shift the narrative, but he can’t shift it too far because he’s basically stuck within the constraints of the harem novel as if he were a non‐​playable character in a game. So he can’t be out of character or he’ll get points deducted, and if he gets too many points, he dies. But if he doesn’t change the story, then he dies anyway. So it’s really intricate and satirical and funny. And so I’ve just been watching this and seeing where it’s gonna go, and it’s been a delight. So I guess those are my two obscure recs for you guys, Winter Begonia and The Scum Villain’s Self‐​Saving System.

49:17 Meredith Clark: Cool. My thoughts are a little bit… They’re less obscure, I guess. But I just finished a couple of books; one is currently an audio book, and it’s coming out in physical paper edition on December 1st. It’s called A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers. And it is a memoir by a woman in her early 50s who was a food critic, a magazine writer during the boon years of media industry, who’s also a sociopath that murders and eats her lovers.

[chuckle]

50:02 Natalie Dowzicky: Yes, there it is.

50:03 Meredith Clark: And…

50:04 Natalie Dowzicky: The Purge.

50:06 Meredith Clark: It is delightful. I…

50:08 Natalie Dowzicky: Isn’t every food critic a sociopath who murders and eats their lovers?

[laughter]

50:17 Meredith Clark: I certainly hope so. But it is just so much fun. I had a great time, I actually listened to it while driving from New York to Wisconsin. And so, that was a wonderful way to spend the time. And I just think the heroine, the main character is unique and different. And we rarely get to stand up for the sisterhood when it comes to being a complete and total [50:45] ____ psychopath. So that one really does it for me.

[chuckle]

50:50 Aja Romano: Excellent.

50:51 Meredith Clark: And also a book called I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, an Icelandic writer. And it’s a ghost story that…

51:00 Aja Romano: Cool.

51:00 Meredith Clark: Absolutely creeped the hell out of me, but I was unable to put down and read in about 12 hours.

51:08 Aja Romano: What’s it called?

51:09 Meredith Clark: I Remember You. It’s from 2010, I think. And other than that, I’ve been really enjoying watching basically everything on the channel Shudder, the horror app, because they have great selections. So I’ve just been telling everyone that if they need something creepy to watch, they should try on the free subscription and then just get hooked because I need people to talk about these things with. [chuckle]

51:38 Natalie Dowzicky: For me, in true Halloween fashion, I have committed to watching Hocus Pocus at least three or four more times in the month of October.

51:46 Landry Ayres: Of course, as you do.

51:47 Natalie Dowzicky: I do have the movie on DVD. Unfortunately, we will not be covering it on Pop & Locke, but maybe at some point in the future.

[laughter]

51:55 Landry Ayres: We, not for lack of trying, I will say.

51:56 Natalie Dowzicky: We tried, we really did. And then I have finally, finally, finally gotten the new Hunger Games book, which is the prequel to the original books. I was on hold for the library for 15 weeks because the book is new. So, I’ve only just started that. And I have also joined the Schitt’s Creek bandwagon. I am already through the first season and I started this week. So I would say that’s a win for me. And it’s one of those shows similar to New Girl that you can have it on the background, if you miss a few parts, it’s okay, it’s funny. There are lots of good one‐​liners, and it also recently won a ton of awards. So I’m hopeful that the next few seasons will get even better as I’ve been told. Other than that, not a whole lot in the book space besides Hunger Games. Oh, I did finish Stephen King’s, I guess his most recent novel, which is The Institute, which is excellent. And I would not be surprised if it gets turned into a TV show and/​or movie just like his book, The Outsiders, did.

53:09 Landry Ayres: A Stephen King thing? Probably it won’t happen.

[laughter]

53:11 Landry Ayres: It doesn’t happen a lot.

53:13 Natalie Dowzicky: Right, right, ’cause his stuff is just totally not famous at all. Right.

53:16 Aja Romano: I also have been watching lots of Shudder. So, Meredith, if you need a Shudder pal, I will be your Shudder pal.

53:21 Meredith Clark: Oh.

53:22 Landry Ayres: Shudder buddy.

53:24 Aja Romano: Yay. [laughter]

53:25 Meredith Clark: I would love nothing more, Aja. That sounds fantastic.

53:29 Landry Ayres: In the book realm, I just re‐​read a book. I read actually a few years ago, it’s been out for several years now, but it is called Intimations by Alexandra Kleeman. It’s a book of short stories. There’s a lot of very different styles, and the writing is just very beautiful and very personal. But if you want to get a taste of it, there’s one story in there that is what actually made me wanna read the book that I read before, that you can read online on the online magazine, Guernica Magazine. It is called “You, Disappearing.” You, Disappearing. It’s basically about an apocalypse style event, where instead of a fireball coming down and destroying a planet, or a massive flood, or anything, things randomly just blink out of existence one at a time. And it’ll be like, one day, there aren’t any shoes, and everybody’s shoes disappear. Or magazines disappear one day and there’s no… In a sort of magical realism way, there’s no description of why it happens. They don’t understand how or can’t predict it at all. But things just start blinking out of existence, and it not only affects people and objects, but also thoughts and memories and feelings.

54:54 Landry Ayres: And it was all told from the perspective of a woman who her relationship with someone is basically… It has fallen apart somehow. And it’s just this beautiful, subtle story about an apocalypse that no one else has written about in a similar way that I think really gives a good example of what the book is about, and I think it’s great and easy to read. So, that’s You, Disappearing by Alexandra Kleeman.

55:24 Aja Romano: Cool.

55:26 Landry Ayres: I have also talked about on the show a lot before, I’m a big fan of people streaming tabletop role‐​playing games online. I’ve talked about the big names, Critical Role, Dimension 20, etcetera. But there are two that have recently just started that I would really, really like for a lot of people to get behind, which are ND&D, which stands for Native Dungeons & Dragons. It is an all native, indigenous peoples cast in an entirely new world, and it’s really, really interesting. And I think they bring an interesting perspective to a very, very, generally white male field and colonial even game with Dungeons & Dragons. It’s rooted in that. So, ND&D, I’m hoping really gets a large following as it gets started. As well as Into the Mother Lands, which is an all person of color cast, which isn’t actually Dungeons & Dragons, it’s a different system of gameplay. But it’s about a civilization that was founded when the people following Mansa Musa ventured and found a new dimension. Who is Mansa Musa? For those who don’t know is apparently, historically, one of the richest people that has ever lived, if not the richest.

56:49 Landry Ayres: And it’s about this sci‐​fi adventure that these characters go on in this entirely different world where the trappings of colonialism and imperialism apparently do not exist, and they get to explore this world in a way that they really get to control and set their own path for. So, I think it could be really, really cool, and I like all of the people that are playing on it. So check out Into the Mother Lands on twitch​.tv. I’ve also watched the Halloweentown quadrilogy…

57:19 Aja Romano: Ah, yes.

57:20 Landry Ayres: In honor of spooky season.

57:22 Aja Romano: Nice.

57:23 Landry Ayres: And I am hard into the game Genshin Impact, which is like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but it’s Anime and it’s a gacha game. So, you’re collecting all of these characters and casting spells and fighting animals and stuff. And it’s free to play. It’s just a lot of fun and it’s fun to… Like with Fortnite or anything, there’s micro‐​transactions, but you get free ones and get bulls and earn weapons and characters and stuff. If that’s the kind of thing you’re into, I think you’d like Genshin Impact.

[music]

58:01 Landry Ayres: Thanks for listening. If you think you have a way to solve or at least survive The Purge more effectively than tax fraud, make sure to tweet at us on Twitter. You can find us at the handle @PopnLockePod. That’s Pop, the letter N, Locke with an E, like the philosopher, Pod. Make sure to subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. We look forward to unravelling your favorite show or movie next time. Pop & Locke is produced by me, Landry Ayres, as a project of lib​er​tar​i​an​ism​.org. To learn more, visit us on the web at www​.lib​er​tar​i​an​ism​.org.