I am counting down the minutes until the second installment
of NBC’s miniseries "The Slap." Coming on the heels of the finale of "Parenthood," it fills the gaping hole in my Thursday nights with a healthy dose
of family drama.
For anyone who missed
the premiere, "The Slap" is about what happens when a father slaps a child that
is not his own. Now, run along and stream
it. You will not be disappointed.
The drama raises a lot of relevant questions about modern
parenting. We may wax poetic about parenting taking a village. But, for many of us, we are little
parenting islands trying our hardest to keep the kiddos safe from whatever
dangers lie in the water. Then, when folks throw us a life-saver, we look for warning labels and sniff at the suggestion that we need help at all.
While the show is based on a novel of the same
name, "The Slap" is especially fantastic from my mom blogger point of view. The phrase I coined to describe this type of
entertainment is “relationship porn.” I
LOVE IT. There is marital discord and
intergenerational tension and taboo flirtations and fantastically drawn
parental archetypes (like the unstructured crunchy hippies and the Range Rover
driving status seekers).
The first episode felt a bit like a blog post with life
breathed into it. There is something
delicious and voyeuristic about watching how other people relate to one another
as friends and extended family—the sideway glances, the eye rolls, the
thinly veiled tolerance people have for one another. We’ve all been there, so seeing it on screen
makes us feel less alone in it.
The series, as its title clearly states, is about the slap
bestowed on the 5-year-old child of friends of family at a 40th
birthday party. Adding to the
relationship porn aspect is that each episode will be told from the POV of a
So picture this—a loud, casual gathering of family and
friends. Little kids are running around,
parents are sitting at the picnic table enjoying a beer and some gossip. Tension mounts between in-laws and
generations and taboo lovers separated by age and marital status. Off in the near distance you hear the kids
getting into a squabble over a game of whiffle ball.
It’s good television. It’s better television if it actually makes us think and consider. "The Slap" does both.
The squabble turns more serious when a decidedly bratty
little one starts swinging a full sized wooden bat when he doesn’t get his
way. Dad sees this and, half-heartedly, encourages him to put the bat down. The
boy doesn’t. Things escalate. Another dad gets up from the table to pull
the bat away. Not liking that one bit,
the little one kicks the unfamiliar adult in the shin. The slap happens. Boom. Cue the miniseries.
Many questions are raised as we debate who was in the right
and who was in the wrong. Is it ever
okay to discipline another person’s child? Is physical punishment ever warranted? Did the parents model healthy conflict resolution in front of the kids? Must we litigate every dispute? Why on earth do mothers-in-law bring so much
food to a party?
It’s good television. It’s better television if it actually makes us think and consider. "The Slap" does both. The truth is that there are no easy answers
for the questions raised. No one, child or parent, is blameless in this
scenario. Should the man have hit
another person’s child? NO. Did the child lack discipline and
manners? YES. Are we all a bit too uptight and defensive about
our parenting? PROBABLY.