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Ariana Vazquez

Profesor Granillo

English 103

15 May 2019

The Purge For A Bigger Insight

What happens when laws of society are annually broken down for twelve straight hours

by the very institution that created them? Every four years in American history, presidential

elections happen to choose a new leader to take place in the white house. Elections and politics

have been utilized to form to “make America great again”, however most have yet to seeked a

deeper insight to what the government really is in America. The film The Purge: Election Year

emphasizes many categories in American politics today. However, theories like deconstruction

and semiotic have been introduced to help one know and understand the insight in movies like

The Purge: Election Year; therefore, with these theories, it gives one a deeper meaning in what

the government looks like today.

The Purge: Election Year is a horror movie which was released on July 1, 2016 and is

about the American tradition of renewing a president every four years; however, the film has a

yearly tradition where they celebrate “The Annual Purge”. This celebration is not so much of a

celebration to all; it’s a twelve-hour night field with reckless people killing and breaking every

single law there is in America. In this period of time in the movie all crime is legal; indeed, even

people from different countries pay a visit at this time in the year. However, the main idea in the

film is the presidential elections. Senator Charlie Roan is a character in the film running for

president to end the annual purge; nevertheless, she has an enemy who is one of the founding

fathers trying to keep the annual purge.


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Throughout time this country has evolved in a way where the government and politics are

difficult to understand; however, deconstruction is a theory defined by French philosopher

Jacques Derrida that helps one deconstruct a human identity. It has been noted, “We don’t really

have an identity because the word identity implies that we consist of one, singular self, but in fact

we are multiple and fragmented, consisting at any moment of any number of conflicting beliefs,

desires, fears, anxieties, and intentions” (Tyson 243). Senator Charlie Roan is a very important

character to analyze in the movie because she represents a very important role by expressing and

identifying her fears, desires, and intensions. The main reason why her fears are intact are

because in the beginning of the movie she had witnessed her whole family’s death due to the

purge night. (01:16-02:45). Charlie Roan is an American citizen represented as a victim of the

annual purge and grows to have intentions to get rid of it; however, she also has a self-image that

utilizes the people of America as being victims of the purge.

Senator Charlie Roan also emphasizes her character by her beliefs. Beliefs can be more

than just a word; therefore, using deconstructive theory Charlie Roan’s belief can have many

meanings to how she came to be and represent as a figure. One can take the meaning of belief

and say that it is trust and believe; however, the character Roan shows and constructs her own

meaning of belief throughout the movie. “However, as we grow up, we internalize through

language the ideological conflicts and contradictions of our culture, each finding a way to “fit in”

by finding a way to deny…” (Tyson 243). Roan did not have the ideal home growing because

she had lost her parents and after losing her parents her belief got stronger; however, she gained

something more than belief, she gained knowledge to what the purge was really about. Her

debate speech in the movie she said, “The purge kills those who don’t have a place in social

class” (06:02-07:40). Belief is not just trust, believe but hope and achievement; therefore, Charlie
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Roan is a perfect example to show that deconstructing human identity can be used to see deeper

insight. Senator Roan became a believer and is now representing the underclass who does not fit

in society; therefore, through the annual purge is being represented by eliminating all those who

are poor.

The annual purge is an event in the film that allows anyone to kill and commit any crime

without being punished; however, diving deeper allows one to know what the annual purge

really explains-- the social class conflict between the rich and the poor. Theorist said, “To put the

matter in philophical terms, for deconstruction, language is our “ground of being,” or the

foundation from which our experience and knowledge of the world are generated” (Tyson 241).

By deconstructing the annual purge event, one clearly sees the many reasons why the purge

happens and what it relates to in the real world. “Purge and Purify” is used in a certain scene

where a man who is underprivileged is being killed by the founding fathers; indeed, many don’t

know the power and meaning to what it’s trying to say (1:25:14-1:26:01). In the film “Purge and

Purify is used by all white, wealthy women and men. Indeed, this saying is deconstructed to

many meanings like in the movie it means the urge to clean those who don’t belong in the high

society. All poor, non-prosperous people have to be cleaned out, nevertheless; in the real world it

deconstructs to the government getting rid of the people that take their money like communities

that use welfare or food stamps. It’s important to know and analyze what this film is telling the

audience because over powered governments can have enough power to eliminate those who

don’t belong; therefore, start to “purge and purify”.

The Catholic church has always been around ever since mankind; indeed, one learns

about it in history class. In American history, the catholic church was always hand in hand with

the government; nevertheless, both church and government have extended their own friendship
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to their own wellbeing. In the movie The Purge: Election Year has deemed a meaning of the real

catholic church throughout the movie. “… that statement would be that historic comprehension,

and extrication from the ideologies that obstruct that comprehension, would follow from a fully

articulated understanding of the ways literary and linguistic structures have made history by

making our understanding of it” (Loesberg 123). History ideologies have been understood for

many years like knowing about the church and all its well doings; however, this new film created

a scene to show the audience another side of the catholic church. “He wants to serve his god and

his government…God bless America, A Nation Reborn… let his light in and you are baptized,

you are reborn again, he’s light entered your heart, the power of purging” (1:22:12-1:26:20).

Deconstructing this scene had many implications to the catholic church like killing others to

relieve themselves which in this case is an actual priest. Church is supposed to be good but as

shown in the movie the church is only trying to gain themselves money. The church being in

contact with the government makes the church powerful over any community; therefore, the

church has a strong influence in the community.

As much as how deconstruction has guided and exposed the true meanings of the movie,

semiotics also supports and helps uncover the more meanings through signs. Semiotics is the

study of signs and symbols; indeed, one of the most known semiotician is Ferdinand de

Saussure. “By definition, strong classification formulates well-defined boundaries, whereas weak

classification results in blurred or more permeable boundaries between such categories. In other

words, strong classification is predicated on the rule ̳things must be kept apart while weak

classification on the rule ̳things must be put together” (Hamel 10). Semiotics can be used to

explain a symbol that occurs throughout the whole movie like the powerful men trying to kill the

senator in the film. These men in the film have American army uniforms with a stamp in the
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back saying, “White Power” (30:11-33:14). This symbolizes the power that “white” people have

in America; indeed, simple words like white power can represent many things. This movie was

released before the presidential elections between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton; however,

what the audience don’t reanalyze is the fact that writer compares the movie to the real election.

“White Power” is representing the desire of what Donald Trump was fighting for before the

election, which is to put those who are categorized as the weak in America. In the film, “White

Power” is being exhibited by white male figures who have way more “power” than others in the

movie. In today’s society it is called “White Privilege”. Therefore, the government in the movie

shows the audience examples that symbolize “White Power” in America.

Despite the horrible fact of “White Power” in America shown in the movie, there is a

more sustainable content that most viewers don’t catch in the movie. However, through the study

of signs and symbols one can identify the main siren in the movie and what it symbolizes.

“Semiotic has never been a simple matter of codes. Any debate or comparison with alternative

film theories on that basis would be a sterile exercise. Semiotic in its fullest sense bespeaks many

hidden ‘metaphysical’ assumptions of current film theories” (Ehrat 115). Semiotics are not

exactly simple to understand; however, can be broken down to the essential meaning. The siren

that goes off indicating the annual purge is a symbol of destruction and hate between each

American (19:35-20:35). In American history that can be called a civil war if it comes down to

that. The movie shows an aggressive description of the government and unworthy citizens in a

somewhat war to show what this country has come to. The siren indicates the start of a battle

between two separate societies; nevertheless, the siren also is like no other siren because it

causes fear and disturbance. The siren is loud, fearful and an indicator to panic: the siren can

symbolize numerus of things but war is diffidently one of them. The time this film was released,
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Donald Trump was in the run to be the next president and his biggest model was to build a wall

to stop immigration. He was also strongly about kicking all immigrants out the country,

nevertheless, that caused chaos between people in the united states. The siren isn’t the thing that

had a strong impact in the film but also the sign of the American Dream.

A very important character shown in the movie was an immigrant who symbolized to be

the American Dream. Marcos symbolizes throughout the movie of what the American Dream is

all about. Using semiotic the American Dream is clear to see what it really means. “To date signs

have been treated merely as codes and equivalents… the possible is already sign and thus creates

a type of reality, it is no longer feasible to take different system as an explanting of sign

behavior” (Ehrat 12). The American Dream has been known since the new world was

discovered; however, overtime the new world as in America has been fully adequate with many

kinds of race around the world. Immigrants come to America to fulfill a new life and have a new

opportunity for greater achievement. “Marcos Dali, Mexico City but I been an American Citizen

for two years…” (46:20-48-19). Marcos has a strong essence to represent the American Dream

because his past was in Mexico City where every day he had to fight for his life but when he

came to the United States, he came to dream for a better life. Marcos started to work and now

lives better than what he had in the first place. A huge impact that Marcos has in the film is that

even if he was born in Mexico he still fights and cares for his country which is America. The

film uses Marcos to symbolize the American Dream and create an agreement that even if the

government doesn’t tend to support immigrants, people like Marcos make changes in America

for the better.

The film is very specific when casting a woman as the main character to represent Hilary

Clinton and as well in casting a white male figure to represent Donald trump. However, both
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characters symbolize more than just national figures to the world like how Senator Roan

represents a figure that women are more than what men think to be. Senator Roan character

symbolizes the feminist power starting in America; nevertheless, shows the audience the

revolution between woman getting more capacity in society. “However, semiology is not even a

classification of signs; rather, it is a taxonomy that assigns differences and identities to units

called signifiers and signified. As pure difference, signs are exactly what is left over from what

they are not” (Ehrat 112). Using semiotics helps one examine what the character Roan really

identifies in society; therefore, Senator Roan symbolizes the overcoming power that women are

gaining throughout these past years. “The senator has also taken Florida which puts her well over

the 270 electoral votes for the win, so that is it, it is now official that the next president of the

United States is Charlie Roan” (1:42:03-1:42:30). Many women gained their rights by fighting

for what they believed in; nevertheless, Senator Roan is an explicit example of a strong

independent women fighting for what she believes in. She fought hard and fair to become the

president: to become the first women in history to do so. Indeed, that sets an example to all the

audience, that women are strong and have been evolved by hard work to gain rights in America.

Using semiotics and deconstruction combined can help one see the meaning of what the

“masks” in The Purge: Election Year represent. The “mask” throughout the movie can be seen as

just an object; however, the “mask” symbolizes identity. By using deconstruction, the mask hides

or exposes the identity of someone. “Usually thus object is taken as ‘feeling’ which need not be

the psychological state normally referred to by this term… quite appropriately one can speak of

qualities of feeling, since chance in a concept makes that concept less an instance of a rule”

(Ehrat 117). The “masks” in the film symbolizes the true identity of someone or the fake identity.

Nevertheless, identity can be broken down too many things like mental health and wanting to be
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something. For instance, in the film we see people from different counties come to the United

States to participate in the annual purge; however, when they purge at night they wear mask of

like Uncle Sam and Abraham Lincoln. Wearing those masks symbolizes the people they want to

be when they go out to kill others. On one of the scenes these foreign comers gather up to kill the

Senator and say, “We love you America, America is the greatest country in the world… we will

now purge we will torcher and validate your flesh remove your skin and share your blood this is

the American world” (42:56-43:22). These foreign figures want to be Americans and have the

wrong ideas to what being an American really is. This comes to show the multiple way America

wears a mask to show it’s a great country; however, America is something else underneath the

mask. The mask symbolizes a true identity to the audience; nevertheless, helps covey the

argument that America is underneath a mask.

America has been evolving for many years now; therefore, overtime it has gotten difficult to

analyze movies and the massage behind them. Theories or in other words lenses have been

created to help one have a superior perspective in what it means in the real world. In The Purge:

Election Year there are many scenes where the audience fail to understand the actual message in

comparison to the film and society. Furthermore, when the laws of society are annually shut

down for twelve straight hours by the institution that created them, disorder occurs. However,

theories like deconstruction and semiotics help convey the message behind the film in order to

highly understand why the author composed the film in the first place. As an audience it is

important to understand the multiple choices one has to change from what is fiction to reality.

Therefore, with these theories one can see how important it is to understand the connotations of

race and social diversity in society. There are several effects that come through film over time
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and when shown to the audience, it causes one to decide weather or not their reality is societies

reality.
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Works Cited

Ehrat, Johannes. Cinema and Semiotic: Peirce and Film Aesthetics, Narration, and

Representation. University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division,

2005. EBSCOhost,

search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=682340&site=eds-live.

Hamel, Steven C. Semiotics: Theory and Applications. Nova Science Publishers, Inc,

2011. EBSCOhost,

search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=362398&site=eds-live.

Loesberg, Jonathan. Aestheticism and Deconstruction: Pater, Derrida, and De Man.

mPrinceton University Press, 2014. EBSCOhost,

search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=791046&site=eds-live.

Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: a User-Friendly Guide. 3rd ed., Routledge, 2015, pp. 241-

243.
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