Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Slap for The Slap

I'm on a local media fast, just so I don't have to hear commentary on The Slap, an eight parter starting tonight on the ABC based on Christos Tsiolkas' novel of the same name.

For those who have somehow missed The Slap, firstly, give thanks. Secondly, listen up. Breastfed four year old ( apparently the writer's master stroke ) unleashes his inner brat at a suburban barbeque. Friend of family gets fed up with permissive and ineffectual parents and gives him the titular slap. Mother takes him to court for assault (not so ineffectual then), friendships fracture...

Leaving aside the master stroke and any quibbles you may have about whether this scenario truly represents the concerns of 21st century Australia, if I hear one more person share the idea that a little bit of physical discipline is just what our modern darlings need or another parent laugh self-deprecatingly, knowingly - oh yes, I smack sometimes, aren't I naughty! - I will have to go and slap myself until senseless.

In a post-Dickens world, hitting children - yep, even the humble slap - is all kinds of wrong. Having a special category of humans we can physically assault at will ? Wrong. Sure, there are annoying kids. Sometimes they may even be your own. Deal with it. Use your words, as we are so fond of pointing out to our little ones.

When it comes to parenting, there's a lot of ideas in the mainstream I disagree with. Breastfed four year olds as rampaging monsters would be one of them. Very little actually shocks me. Even an adult who hits, in the depths of frustration, fear and helplessness, is explicable. An adult, however, who hits and goes on to justify their action, shocks me almost into silence.

Watch if you like - I've heard the production values are terrific - but the argument is done and dusted. Hitting a kid ? That slap ? That smack on the hand or the butt or back of the legs ? The hurt you administer for their own good or blame on the child - he drove me to it ? Just wrong.


  1. Definitely wrong and absolutely no reason for it when a 4-year-old can be told, "You need to sit down there and cool off. If you don't calm down, then we are going home/you are going to your room." End of story! No need to slap a child ever (unless medically necessary, i.e. on the back to dislodge food from their throat).

  2. For me the book was more about the disconnect between what people think and what they do. (And showed men are boys with money and muscle - but really, no-one is portrayed as having their stuff together - the adults are most childish). Extended breastfeeding - not a masterstroke but an easy and lazy target - the story would not have been any worse if he'd left it out. The other parents seem to have no philosophy about parenting at all.
    The 'he drove me to it' argument reminds me of a Theatre Studies lecturer who tried to argue that Blanche drove Stanley to rape her in Streetcar. Just wrong.
    The way the media has been harping on about The Slap makes me think about what an insular and predictable media we have. Doesn't any body else have anything else interesting to talk about? Really? Will this be covered in any media inquiry?

  3. Sounds intriguing, and you really disagree with slapping. It seems to me that if it prevents the kid from doing something again, then it might be worth it.