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Culture/Reviews > Movies
Movie reviews from Proletarian Internationalist Notes—news, reviews and analysis from a global perspective
“The Purge: Election Year” leads the disillusioned back to voting
“The Purge: Election Year”
Dir. James DeMonaco
Starring Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson, Betty Gabriel, Joseph Julian Soria
R, 105 minutes, 2016
This is the third movie in the “Purge” series set in a world in which the U.S. government encourages Amerikans to kill each other as an annual event. “The Purge: Election Year” was released in July 2016 in the United $tates, the month of the nominating conventions of the Democratic and Republican Parties. “Keep America Great” appears in advertising for the movie. Trump happens to use “Make America Great Again” as a campaign slogan.
At the time of this writing, the white imperialist-patriarchal state in the united $tates has just been caught on video shooting and killing another New Afrikan male as if eir life and body were nothing. This time it was Alton Sterling outside a convenience store in Louisiana. To watch “The Purge: Election Year” in July, though, it is as though the real issue involved young New Afrikan wimmin maybe not wearing masks and murdering people for the thrill of it, but terrorizing New Afrikans like a deli owner who believes in the “American dream” and in being able to have eir slice of the “pie” – in the characters’ own words.
This reviewer was going to say “Election Year” is realistic in depicting serious conflict among New Afrikans, but actually there isn’t a whole lot of political substance to the disagreements in the movie. There is distrust of whites and disillusionment with the political process – doubt about a certain candidate’s ability to make a difference or chance of being elected – but at the end of the day a female white candidate is still worth sacrificing for (even if whites insist on deciding how that happens while doubting the reliability of non-whites). Protect your piece of the pie, or risk your life in pursuit of the greater good achieved with the crucial help of a u.$. president – that is how the movie puts it, the choice that people have. Some of those in power see an anti-Purge presidential candidate as a threat and target em for assassination. The New Afrikans whose actions get in the way of progress – defined as election of the candidate who can end the Purge – seem to be apolitical people, participate in the Purge, and appear as just depraved or mentally ill.
“Election Year” raises the idea of underground New Afrikan radicalism and institutions independent of the state, but there’s no explicit reference to New Afrikan nationalism as far as I can remember. The movie seems to raise various ideas only to take viewers back to election politics.
In one scene, the anti-Purge candidate and eir guard are called “our white” people so New Afrikans won’t kill them. The movie reminds me of individuals who talk a lot of talk and say the most anti-white or violent things, who later reveal themselves to be literally Democrats or other countries’ equivalents of U.$. Democrats. Those Amerikans who talk about racism and class and in some cases agree with some aspect of New Afrikan nationalism, but all but reject anti-Amerikanism and self-determination for the New Afrikan nation in its own territory, betray their attachment to imperialist power or their temptation to gain it.
Included in “Election Year” is a migrant character from Mexico, Marcos. Marcos is loyal to deli owner Joe. There is a theme of anti-white unity, but it is connected to Amerikanism. This shows the influence of the material benefits of living in a First World imperialist country or of being surrounded by so much wealth. The movie seems to say non-whites don’t need anti-Amerikan oppressed nation nationalism, that they really can get their own piece of the pie by working hard, with the right people in power. So there is a system that causes some unemployed people to steal and kill illegally and requires there be small store owners who have to pay insurance costs that can put them out of business, but maybe this can be overcome through an election this time – the movie suggests.
There are class and patriarchal dimensions to the treatment of people with disabilities, the elderly, children, the homeless and others who might be vulnerable in “The Purge: Election Year” and in the real world. Emphasizing class in the u.$. context or how tax money is spent on Amerikans generally leads in a wrong direction, however. People inside u.$. borders are generally exploiters. National struggle of the non-white nations inside the united $tates, not economic struggle common to whites and non-whites as exploiters, is key to progress there.
The only thing to say about an Amerikan majority in terms of class is that they are exploiters whose identification as “Americans” gets in the way socialism, which will be imposed from the outside by the international proletariat. Patriotic imagery and language such as “Founding Fathers” in “Election Year” suggests Amerikan patriotism can have bad results, but it seems in the movie that the country can redeem itself by voting for the right candidate. There is concern for Amerika’s soul and no mention of people outside the united $tates, as far as I remember, except as Purge tourists. Many in reality cling to the idea of a fair multi- “racial” Amerika despite its current imperfections and hold dearly to Amerikan identity, but Amerikans should accept being labeled as Amerikans only to take responsibility for what they have done to migrants and people outside the united $tates.
On the plus side, “Election Year” shows people of lumpen background or history as making pivotal contributions to struggle at least of the action-movie type. Joe is no “angel” ey says, and Marcos had a record before ey came to the united $tates. Unfortunately, again this is connected to election politics in the movie. Partly made necessary by the movie’s format, there is a struggle to lead or influence the lumpen or people with records stereotyped as acting without understanding intellectual things. In reality, a non-white of lumpen background could be or become a scientist and lead a party of revolutionary scientists. This could be a New-Afrika- or other nation- specific party formed because of national differences with u.$. whites while rejecting the system that buys off various groups of u.$. citizens.
Ambulance hero Laney used to take part in the Purge, has some notoriety from that, and still has an unsaintly side, but now goes around during the Purge assisting people with injuries while government emergency services are unavailable.
“Election Year” may be good as a commentary about Amerikan culture or Amerikans in general. Everyone from the ruling class, usually off-limits during the Purge, to some of the least privileged/powerful in society seem to have the same sickness. Without real religion or proletarian interests, what unites Amerikans – “Election Year” seems to ask – or what lies just beneath the surface of unity of Amerikans who belong to different groups. It may be a shared narcissism or sense of superiority to non-Amerikans, or a willingness to use violence to get one’s share of riches that is clearly more than what the average persyn would get if there were global equality. Some will say “Election Year” is about humyn nature and what everyone is capable of doing – foreigners visit to partake in the Purge as a form of tourism – but so many movies and TV shows seem to reflect a concern about what might emerge if economic crisis puts enough strain on “race” or class relations in the united $nakes.
A party of rich white people works with people who look like neo-Nazis in “Election Year.” At the moment in the non-movie world, there is a discussion in the media about the extent to which the u.$. Republican Party still represents the rich or “big business.” It is now unsurprising to hear both Democrats and Republicans talking about “ruling class,” elites, millionaires, corruption, and cronyism, and decrying perceived undesirable results of capitalism or trade agreements. The fact is both the Democratic and the Republican Parties have partly represented the interests of white workers in different ways, but recent changes in both parties indicate the influence of u.$. privileged so-called workers made up of both whites and non-whites. Having tried everything else and been told repeatedly by social-democrats and “Leftists” that they are economic victims, Amerikans now move closer to fascism. ◊