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9 questions you were too embarrassed to ask about The Slap

The Slap
The Slap
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

There's an lack of adult-on-child violence on television. And NBC is determined to change that with The Slap.



The network has assembled a cast of stars to tell the story of an adult man slapping a child. You might have some questions. Here's our best attempt to answer them.

1) What is The Slap?

The Slap is based on an Australian miniseries of the same name that debuted in 2011. The Australian version was based on a 2008 novel by author Christos Tsiolkas. It was highly acclaimed, winning several awards in its native land, then earning general critical acclaim from American critics when it aired here on DirecTV's Audience Network.

All three of these stories have one thing in common: an adult slaps a child (who is not his child) -- and is misbehaving -- and then familial fallout ensues.

The American version is grounded in New York City. It retains touches of the original, like the Apostolou family's Greek descent and the general traits of most of the characters. Actress Melissa George reprises her role as Rosie from the Australian version.

But the show has been Americanized somewhat. There are references to things like Brooklyn hippies and the 1 percent that will make more sense to Americans (specifically East Coasters).

2) Who gets slapped?

A child named Hugo (Dylan Schombing) is the victim of the slap, which comes at the hand of Harry (Zachary Quinto), a man who constantly reminds us that he's in the 1 percent.

This is the actual slap of The Slap:


Harry isn't just slapping Hugo because Harry gets kicks from harming children. Hugo is swinging a baseball bat at some other kids (one of them is Harry's son), and depending on how you discipline undisciplined kids with baseball bats, you will either choose Harry's side or Hugo's parents' side.

Hugo's parents, Rosie (George) and Gary (Thomas Sadoski), are portrayed as Brooklyn hippies. We know this because Gary is an artist, and Rosie wears dowdy outfits like this:


There are also concerns about why Hugo is being breastfed when he is old enough to operate an iPad and speak in full sentences.

3) Is this about the anti-vaxxer movement? Is Hugo vaccinated? Did Hugo get slapped because he was not vaccinated?

While vaccination (and Hugo's status in that respect) never comes up, you're on the right track. The slap is meant to act as a stand-in for lots of divisive political, cultural, and economic topics. People often get heated when these actual topics surface, and, thus, TV networks are reticent to depict them (lest they scare off viewers). The titular slap, then, offers a kind of loophole or backdoor entrance to getting to talk about them.

Basically, the show wants to push buttons and get a rise out of people.

A man slapping a child is shocking. But a crass, self-described 1-percenter slapping a hippie, moonchild who is still being breastfed after four-years old, is going get people talking. The Slap is effective because it plays on people's preconceived notions about divergent ideologies, then pumps them up exponentially.

4) Is The Slap really from Australia? It seems Danish.

Yes. This is really from Australia. (But congratulations on your knowledge of Denmark's crucial place within the international TV drama community. We're not kidding. Watch Borgen sometime.)

What's interesting about The Slap's country of origin is that if you look at a 2005 document from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN actually voiced its concern with Australia's position on corporal punishment:

The Committee notes with concern that corporal punishment in the home is lawful throughout Australia under the label "reasonable chastisement" and other similar provisions in states’ legislation. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned that while corporal punishment has been prohibited in government schools and some private ones in most states and territories, it is still lawful in many private education institutions and in both government and private schools in South Australia and the Northern Territory

5) Can I go to jail for slapping someone else's child?

Yes. In January of last year, a man named Joe Rickey Hundley, a former aerospace executive, was sentenced to eight months in prison for slapping a 19-month-old child on the plane and using a racial slur.

The law does not smile upon humans hitting other humans. And surprised as anybody sitting next to a squalling child on a plane may be, children are tiny humans so don't harm them.

That's not to say there are some strange exceptions to hitting other people's children. In 2012, the AP reported on a Texas district that voted to expand the definition of corporal punishment and allow teachers to paddle students of the opposite sex so long as they made sure a "same-gender school official" witnessed the swats.

But, again, swats on a person's behind are different from a slap to the face.

6) On the next season of The Slap, will a different child be slapped?

No. There is no second season. This is a self-contained miniseries that will run for eight episodes, so there is no second season or any other children being slapped. There's just the one slap in the title.

7) Is The Slap any good?

Not really. The story is a bit too clunky and ham-fisted. There's no nuance to the main characters — each one is over-salted to the point where they become caricatures and tokens, rather than actual humans with human feelings. Quinto and George have a particularly caustic and watchable chemistry, but it quickly (and unintentionally) disintegrates into comedic camp that's fit for a murderous dining scene in Westeros.

The show does deserve credit for being something that people will want to talk about, assuming anybody tunes in. If that's the ultimate goal of the show, it makes perfect sense that the characters are very one-dimensional and put in situations where that one-dimensionality is spotlighted.

8) Uma Thurman is in this?

Yes. Thurman, along with Peter Sarsgaard and Thandie Newton, star in the show. All three might be more well-known for movies, rather than what they've done on television. But this is where The Slap being a self-contained, eight-episode affair works in its favor — it can woo actors and actresses like Thurman without the constrains of a long-term contract. It's similar to how True Detective lured Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, or how Fargo convinced Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman to star.

9) How do I watch The Slap?

The Slap airs on NBC Thursdays at 8 pm Eastern. You can also find episodes on Hulu the day after they air.

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