Prepping Themes in the movie The Purge

There are TV shows with prepping themes, like the fictional drama “Revolution”. That storyline revolves around a mysterious TEOTWAWKI event that takes away all electrical power. I tried watching an episode; it doesn’t speak to me. Then there are the reality shows, in order from bad to worse: Doomsday Preppers, Doomsday Bunkers, and the awful Doomsday Castle. These shows present the fringe elements in prepping as if it were a representative sample. (I’m shaking my head with sadness right now.)

Some of the better reality shows on this topic are less focused on prepping and more on general survival, like the Bear Grylls show “Man vs. Wild” or the Alaska-based “Life Below Zero”. The former is one of the best known survival shows. The latter is a new-comer which chronicles life in remote regions of Alaska, where survival is a way of life. “Alaska breeds a resilient, self reliant sort of individual who, outside of Alaska, everyone fantasizes about being….” (Anchorage Daily News) Well, I don’t know about everyone, but preppers seek a certain degree of self-reliance. Survivalists, more so.

What interests me, though, is movies or shows that speak to prepping and survival without any blatant, or even conscious, attempt to do so. The recent “horror sci-fi thriller” movie The Purge fits into this category. It’s not deliberately about prepping or survival. But it speaks to a certain theme frequently addressed on prepping and survival blogs: the possible breakdown of law and order. What if some severe disaster causes people to panic, to be overcome by fear? What if the police are overwhelmed by a sudden increase in violent crimes? We saw such an event, briefly, during the LA riots. There were far too many law-breakers for the police to intervene. They sat and watched as the riots unfolded. The possibility of a long-lasting society-wide breakdown in law and order is remote, but conceivable.

The premise of The Purge is that the government officially sanctions one night, 12 hours from 7 pm to 7 am, when anything goes. People can commit any kind of violent crime they like, even murder. Only government officials are exempt from this law. (Isn’t that always the way?) Of course, it is beyond belief that, as the movie claims, this one night of violence reduces crime all year long and somehow lowers unemployment. But if you can suspend disbelief and consider the situation of the one family at the center of the film, there are some interesting implications.

What if you and your family were on your own for some length of time, during a violent outbreak of crime? The Ethan Hawke/Lena Headey family has a high-tech security system that lowers metal plates over all the windows. You don’t. They were armed, and you might be also. But to my mind the main issue, in this type of SHTF scenario, is: Who can you trust? The plot twists of The Purge, which I won’t give away in case you haven’t seen it, revolve around that question.

If law and order breaks down, even temporarily, there is always a danger from violent criminals. But if some severe disaster scenario strikes society as a whole with fear, some ordinarily law-abiding citizens might turn to violence out of desperation. You can’t really build a castle in the middle of the woods (as in the show Doomsday Castle) and then hole-up there until society comes to its senses. Self-reliance only goes so far. So, in my view, even a hard-core survivalist needs to remain connected to society to some extent, especially if a long-term disaster strikes. This point brings the issue of who you can trust to the forefront.

The most likely mistake that people will make, in that situation, is to suppose that you can trust the people in your life who have been trustworthy in the recent past. But when people believe their own survival is in danger, they might be willing to harm you to save themselves. You won’t really know who is trustworthy, and who is not, until the SHTF.

Something to think about. Keep safe.

– Thoreau

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