Stupid name aside, the premise of the new NBC series The Slap sounded promising – an adult man slaps another’s couple’s child, evoking a huge uproar including a legal battle and emotional turmoil. The show’s cast is also strong. It stars Peter Sarsgaard, Thandie Newton, Zachary Quinto (as Harry, the Slapper), Uma Thurman, and Melissa George (as Rosie, the boy’s mother).
So why am I telling you not to watch? Because I watched the premiere, and not only did you want the boy to be slapped but you wanted to slap most of the adults too. Call me crazy but if I’m supposed to be rooting for or against someone in a movie or television show, I actually have to want to.
After one episode, it became clear that The Slap was going to follow Harry as he is persecuted for what he did by Rosie and Gary, the boy’s father (played by Thomas Sadoski). In order to watch this, you should probably be rooting for them to do the persecuting. Or at the least, understand their need for justice.
(SPOILER ALERT) So why does the boy get slapped? Because he is being a “little monster” (to quote the characters), which means he is being a total jerk, throwing and breaking things, and being an obstinate, misbehaving, problem child. Right before the incident, he is swinging around a baseball bat threateningly with other children at arms length. You definitely want him to get penalized, and as someone who grew up getting spanked, I’m not so phased by corporal punishment. But as Uma Thurman’s character says, it should have been done by one of his parents. (She is the most likable character).
So why don’t you root for his parents or feel for him or them? Because the parents are the biggest jerks of all. As an experienced clinical play behavioral therapist, I have all the right in the world to say that Rosie and Gary provided not the slightest bit of discipline or insight into how to react to their son’s frequent misbehaving. The father is nowhere and says nothing and the mother is even worse. Not only does she not regulate, tell him to stop doing what he is doing, or punish him in any appropriate way, but she actually positively reinforces the bad behaviors. How? By breast-feeding him every chance she gets! And he is at least five years old! Rosie sees him misbehaving or getting a talking to from another adult and then grabs him and cradles him and gives him her breast. Seriously?! That is actually REINFORCING the bad behaviors. And she keeps doing it right in the open and with no coverings or nothing. And he’s five!! Gross and totally inappropriate and unacceptable! How is she even still making breast milk?! And it is disgusting that everyone else has to discipline your own child.
When Harry does the slapping, you are appalled but also kinda psyched, because you’ve been wanting to slap not only the boy but his parents. Yes, Harry is a pompous asshole, and should never have done it. But I don’t want Rosie and Gary to win either. They need to be given court-mandated parental training instead. And the little boy needs play therapy yesterday.
I’m not going to spend hours of my life dedicated to finding out what happens to any of these people. Why watch a show in which no one is likable or about two battling sides when you can’t root for either one? Channel changed.