You may have heard about the very silly but also popular and also confusing violent movie franchise that consists so far of 2013’s “The Purge” and this month’s sequel, “The Purge: Anarchy.”
I and many others on the internet have tirelessly committed ourselves to knowing as little as possible about the movies while simultaneously speculating at as great a length as possible about the legal and constitutional ramifications of the premise — a near-future dystopian constitutional amendment that allows once-yearly killing sprees and other random acts of violence and mayhem (see below for full text).
The first movie was, I’m told, extremely unclear on the actual mechanism by which this was supposedly achieved, since the filmmakers were deeply committed to making a movie where everyone’s instinct in the brief absence of a legal system is to kill people instead of committing wire fraud and forging checks, and they didn’t really want to justify why this would be the case or how it came to be. (Look, I know they’re trying to tell a different story and start at a point of action; it’s just a stupid way to set it up. Even if yes, I want to watch C-SPAN tapes of ratification hearings. Moving on…)
However, the second movie — Wikipedia tells me — and the promotional materials I’ve been able to find apparently go into more detail about the backstory, to the point of, it would seem, actually revising the few meager details given in the first movie, such as the date of the titular event each year. Here’s the text of the amendment:
28th AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
SECTION 1: The Annual Purge shall begin each year on June 20 at sunset, officially starting at 7PM, and ending at sunrise, June 21, at 7AM.
SECTION 2: During the time of The Purge, any and all crime, up to and including murder, will be legal for 12 continuous hours. Police, fire and hospital aid will be unavailable until The Purge concludes.
SECTION 3: The following weapons cannot be used during The Purge: weapons of mass destruction, fragment-producing explosives higher than a hazard class HC/D 1.4 and viral contagion projectiles. Recommended weapons: A.R. rifles and handguns of caliber 6.2 and all bladed weaponry.
SECTION 4: Government officials of ranking 5 and higher have been granted immunity from The Purge and shall not be harmed.
SECTION 5: Non-compliance with any of the aforementioned rules will result in death by hanging.
Ok, first off, what kind of government tyranny b*@#$hit tells me which weapons they recommend I use during my annual unmotivated mass crime wave? If I want to hack the stock exchange, nobody can make me use a bladed weapon. I want a lawyer. I know my rights.
Second comment: Date changes from first to second movie aside, this is at least a much clearer explanation of the mechanism. The basic rule is that once a year “any and all crime, up to and including murder, will be legal for 12 continuous hours.”
This is much simpler at least than the first movie’s confusingly implied premise that all laws were suspended, which would include removing all civil law and basically formally disestablish the whole of society for a 12 hour span. Still, now we need a whole damn army of attorneys who are on call one day a year to tell you if you’re about to commit a crime (no consequence) or a civil violation (still punishable or liable).
Already these “New Founding Father” rulers are looking way less competent at establishing a system of governance than a bunch of rich slave-owning men from a time when people still thought bleeding was a legitimate form of medical treatment. It’s almost as if a bunch of Hollywood elites tried to write a constitutional amendment for a marketing campaign that would retroactively justify specific plot points of movies. I want my country back.
But beyond this: I worry that the Constitutional Amendment allowing The Purge doesn’t go far enough in extending the same right of natural persons (to commit crimes without penalty for 12 hours) to corporate persons.
Corporations are people, my friend. They should also be able to commit murder and white collar crime without consequence just like any other person for 12 hours each year. And I’m just not sure this 28th Amendment does enough to protect their right to do so.
And we won’t even get into the issues of conspiracy crimes, political corruption crimes, and any other number of complex unlawful activities that may or may not be legal under the new 28th amendment.
I can tell I'm in for another sleepless/fitful night of wondering the effects of The Purge on contract law and trust mega-mergers.
— Bill Humphrey (@BillHumphreyMA) July 20, 2014
Overall this amendment is just very poorly constructed. When they make a third movie, I hope they call me. I wrote my high school Senate’s constitution, so I know a thing or two about drafting airtight foundational governance documents, and I will work for very cheap. I don’t even care if my name isn’t in the credits or anything.