On July 4, the first-ever Purge commenced in movie theaters nationwide, with the release of The First Purge. Since Jezebel is the official blog of The Purge franchise, a few staff members contemplated what we would do in the event of an actual purge—a situation in which crime is legal for the night and allowed to be committed for 12 hours. The thing is, why murder when there’s logically bigger, more effective vigilante crime work to be done? (Also, we would never reveal our murder plans.) We outlined our COMPLETELY FAKE* strategies below.
Cast of Characters: Rich Juzwiak, Megan Reynolds, Clover Hope, Harron Walker, Katie McDonough, Frida Garza, Prachi Gupta
The Setting: Just before dusk on a humid, summer night. A soothing breeze fills the air.
The Event: This is an announcement of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is the beginning of the annual purge approved by the U.S. Government. For the next 12 hours all crime, including murder is legal. All emergency services are suspended until tomorrow morning at 7 a.m., when the purge is over. God Bless.
*These scenarios are entirely hypothetical unless a real Purge goes into effect.
During a Sirius broadcast once, I sat next to someone who claimed that upon meeting a new person, she knew exactly how she’d kill them. I vaguely remember her claiming this to be an unspoken principle of the human condition—everyone thinks this way, but nobody’s saying it. Well, I’m generally not creative enough to spend much time mulling over hypotheticals and I wouldn’t want to murder anyone anyway because it seems hard and gross. Just imagine the sounds, alone. I don’t like looking at dead things, why would I want to make more?
So on Purge night, I’d do a lot of piracy from the security of my home. I’d be downloading all sorts of shit—full artists’ discographies, popular and obscure Joan Crawford flicks, old magazines, new bestsellers that will sit on my iPad, simultaneously reminding me of my readerly ambition and failure. Eschewing torrents of bullets for torent files, I would push my ISP’s bandwidth to the limit like a sadist, and fill up hard drives like they were funeral plots. And, since it was Purge night, I could download it all, thrillingly, without a VPN, piracy’s equivalent of condomless sex.
The idea of Purge Day has stuck with me ever since I first learned the concept of the Purge; as a result, I have been thinking over how I would survive. The key to making it out alive seems to be strategy, combined with a healthy amount of capital. I’m very bad at strategy, and I don’t have that much money, but what I do have is moxie. Is that enough to survive the Purge? I have no idea.
During the actual events, I would refrain from causing any grievous bodily harm to anyone, because the emotional consequences after the fact would be too much to bear. Ideally, I would be not in my apartment with my roommates when the Purge klaxon sounds, but in the basement bunker I’ve prepared at my father’s house, which is upstate and relatively isolated. I would have supplies, food, plentiful water, the cat, things for the cat, a book, and a weapon made of a 2x4 studded with nails, just in case. If all goes according to plan, I will not have to use the weapon, but you never know.
Once armed with all of my survival necessities, I would wait it out, ordering things from the internet (powered by my generator), armed with the small amount of money I’ve saved specifically for Purge day. If I am incapable of making it out of the city and am forced to stay at my apartment, I will hide in the basement (coward!), or quietly walk to the new bookstore down the street from my house and take some stuff. Also, I’ll hack the ATMs so they spew money, but only to me. I’ll definitely survive!
In the event of a Purge, my target is not a person or persons but the SYSTEM. Specifically, the systems that control money. In the style of Ocean’s 8, leading up to the Purge, I would gather eight of my most beautiful friends, including myself, and devise a plan to hack banking systems so that all student loan debt in America is cleared for myself and all mankind. I would do this during every Purge, should I survive.
I would then rig the system somehow so that money from Elon Musk’s bank account gets deposited into my bank account monthly (just a few thousand or some number he wouldn’t notice or miss). Alternately, he’d probably see the money was being deposited and be like, I am making someone’s life better! And he’d be okay with it and leave me alone and mail me a Tesla.
The thing I’ve never understood about The Purge, my favorite film series I’ve never seen, is that people still have to live with what happened once the film ends and they return to their non-Purging lives for the next 364 and a half days. Sure, I could murder my roommate whose dishes I had to do two weeks ago, but then all of our mutual friends would be like, “Girl... what the fuck?”
I could walk into Ansel Elgort’s Bed-Stuy home and tell him to get out, but the lease would still be his, signed in crayon on the dotted line. I could track down the woman who wouldn’t stop head-swivel staring at me on the sidewalk the other day and force-feed her poison-laced avocado toast, but then her husband would be like, “She was a mother…” and I’d feel bad. The things I want to do most aren’t even illegal. They’re just full of potential for humiliation—like leaving a hot, kind bartender your number when you sign the check and then avoiding that bar for the rest of your life—and the shame stemming from that humiliation would continue to linger long after Purge law fell out of effect.
That said, I would love a stockpile of hormones. I’d probably end up trying to raid the Callen-Lorde pharmacy only to encounter the worst line the Callen-Lorde pharmacy has ever known and die in the inevitable thousand-body pile-up of people who had the same idea.
This is honestly such an exciting exercise. I would spend most of my Purge day trying to do credit card fraud from the safety of my own home, though maybe my fraudulent purchases would be canceled after Purge day? Not sure. Failing that, and since I do not want to do any kind of murder, I would get myself locked inside a Whole Foods, which would probably be very secure because Jeff Bezos is basically a real life Purge villain. Once inside, I would gorge myself on rotisserie chicken and face products until Purge time ends. I would bring a book and some close friends. Someone could bring a weed vape. It would be fine.
If for one day I could break any laws, I would think small. Forget money-laundering and/or eradicating student loans and credit card debt through a kind of Mr. Robot scenario. Sounds great, but maybe some other time. Murder? No thanks, not interested. No, if all illegal activity were allowed, I would content myself with the simple, ordinary pleasure of trespassing, as someone who has long delighted in sticking my nose where it does not belong.
I would find an appropriately rich person in possession of an appropriately lavish house—preferably stocked with an infinity pool and plenty of snacks—and just hang the fuck out while the owners are out of town. (Or you know, out doing murder stuff in the streets; that’s what happens in the movie, no?) How I find this person, I know not—but if the Purge happens once a year, I theoretically have a lot of time to prepare. I’d turn my phone off—it’s not illegal not to answer texts today! There: a victimless crime, except for all of the people who don’t get invited to my pool party. Sucks to suck.
Like Clover, my target would definitely be a system, with the intention of using the Purge to unleash several irreversible plans that would course-correct, or offer reparations, for centuries of colonization and institutional misogyny and shift the balance of power to women and people of color. I get that this is an insufferably self-righteous fantasy scenario, but it’s probably the only idea that could get me semi-hyped about a Purge rather than terrified of one, because in any other Purge scenario, I am certain I would die.
That said, my first action would be to deport all the white supremacists and Nazis to some penal colony... maybe on the moon, or perhaps blast them into space, or simply revoke their citizenship overnight and see how they deal with that. Or, assuming that in the universe of the Purge anything else is also possible, I would work with a team of scientists to unleash a chemical that can detect racism and sexism and transphobia that makes other people see bigots as the thing they fear most. The chemical only leaves their body once their hatred and fear has diminished. In the meantime, myself and worldwide network of activists would hack into racist white institutions like country clubs and the Trump Organization and steal their money, depositing into the bank accounts of people of color in local low-income communities.