Sunday, February 15, 2015

TV: The Ink Blot

NBC's new mini-series The Slap is not a retelling of some of the more aggressive moments in starlet Joey Heatherton's life.  Which is too bad because that might make a lot more sense.

The basics of The Slap are that it's an eight-part mini-series with each installment focusing on one of the main characters in a richly talented cast.

Should you watch?

Absolutely.  Uma Thurman's doing a delicious walk through of her role, Zachary Quinto is amazing and anytime you have the chance to see Thandie Newton, you grab it.  (She's made a career of elevating the projects she's been in -- such as Norbit and Mission Impossible II.) Newton, Thurman and Quinto are amazing and only three members of the incredible cast.


The Slap kicks off with Hector's 40th birthday party which results in a gathering of family and friends.  During the pre-party and party,   A parents-created brat, five-year-old Hugo, attends with his terrible parents.


Let's be really clear, if you want to breast feed your five-year-old, we personally think it could qualify as child molestation.  This is not about feeding a newborn, this is about you, as a woman, needing your nipples sucked and let's not  pretend it's about anything else.

What's next?

You want to stop cutting the umbilical cord at birth?

Maybe Mommy and baby can walk around through the child's sixth or seventh year still attached?

Now we've always had that opinion.  We've never shared it.

Even around a woman who is currently nursing her four-year-old.  (And why is that these woman are never doing this with their girls?  Only with their sons?  Again, we think this is molestation.)

We;ve never shared it because it's our opinion and because she's smart enough to do the nursing privately.

After your child has a full set of teeth, if you're still nursing, you need to do it privately.

It's not longer a 'beautiful act' but something controversial.

Something that will stigmatize your child.

So when The Slap features Rosie nursing Hugo every time he throws a tantrum, nursing the five-year-old in full view of not only the adults but other children?

Rosie knows no boundaries.  If her stupid husband does, it's not apparent.


Rosie's husband Gary is supposed to be on our side, the left.  He may actually be because he's a sexist pig and certainly, as 2008's primaries revealed, there's a lot of sexism on our side.

How is he stupid and sexist?  He knows Harry (Quinto) and knows he is forever at odds with him. So why is he seeking out Quinto at the party.

That's just flat out stupid and being a bad guest.

The party's isn't about your cock wagging, it's about someone's birthday.

But please note, not only does the husband seek out Harry but he does so over a host of female guests he could have been talking to.

While seething about Harry being some sort of walking hard on of hyper-masculinity run amuk, that' who the weak willed husband rushes to converse with.

Maybe they should have added a latency sub-plot to the mini-series?

Hugo is at a birthday party.  While there, the child takes a vinyl record out of the album jacket and throws it across the room (the host's favorite record), repeatedly slams a computer tablet on a table, throws tantrums when other children do not give him his way, at two different times pulls plants out of the ground in the backyard, refuses to step aside in a game of baseball after his third strike and begins swinging the bat wildly putting the other kids at risk of being hit by the bat.

This is the point that Harry slaps Hugo.

And here's why you should watch: Harry slaps Hugo.

That's what you're told happened.

You can stream the episode at Hulu and we'd suggest you do.

We'd also suggest you read the comments left for the first episode.

They sum up the slap as we have above.

But that's not really what happened.

After yelling at Hugo to put the bat down, Harry runs over to the ballgame because he's worried his kid is about to be hit in the head with the bat as Hugo refuses to put it down and is, in fact, swinging it at the other kids.  Harry takes the bat from the kid and yells at him that he needs to learn to listen to grown ups.

Then Hugo kicks Harry.

Then Harry slaps Hugo.

That's not to defend the slap.  That's not to defend Harry.

That is to say that people who think they watched -- and are happy to leave comments -- seem to have either missed what happened or decided to short-hand it.  With Rose threatening to sue Harry over slapping her child, the order of events do matter.

So why is reality so jumbled by people commenting on the episode they watched?

Because the show's become, in a single episode, a national ink blot.

And it's revealing a lot about what people think.

That includes the critics.

We've long told you the Water Cooler Set doesn't respect women.

You need look no further than their writings on The Slap.

The Guardian's Brian Moylan is among the idiots writing about Hector's attraction to a woman  who is not his wife: "dreams of having an affair with the babysitter."

Does the woman, played by Makenzie Leigh, put "babysitter" down on her W2?

It's tax time, so let's wonder.

But we doubt it.

See the babysitting was done as a favor.  The woman actually works in the clinic that Hector's wife has started, the medical clinic.  But, by all means, let's reduce her to "babysitter" as if she were 14 and earning some change to purchase a One Direction poster.

What's worse than billing the woman as "a babysitter"?  Knowing she's not and doing so otherwise which Tim Goodman (Hollywood Reporter) does in one sentence before adding, four sentences later, "Thanks to the narrator, we know that Hector has been having some dirty thoughts about Connie, the babysitter, who also happens to work at wife Aisha's clinic."

Is that really reality, Goodman?

A grown woman who is a babysitter by trade and, for spare change to purchase some as-seen-on-TV Hot Buns, works at a clinic on the side?

Then there's Uma Thurman's character Anouk who works on a soap opera and is having an affair with a new actor on the soap played by Penn Badgley.

David Sims (The Atlantic) writes, "Thurman plays a director who swans around in a beret with a boytoy actor (Penn Badgley) on her arm, sneaking a cigarette case full of joints to Hector with a wink."

How sad.

While there have been some truly talented directors in daytime TV -- Marlene Laird and Francesca James among them -- it really is a shame that Uma wasn't playing a headwriter of a soap.  Because, on TV, writers and show runners have more power than directors.  And on daytime TV, headwriters run everything -- whether they're Irma Phillips or Agnes Nixon.

So how sad that Uma's not playing a headwriter.

Oh, wait, what about that scene in the first episode, that exchange between Aisha (Thandie Newton) and Anouk (Uma Thurman).

Anouk: Something's off.

Aisha: Something's always off.  What?  You think he's shagging the head writer to get more scenes?

Anouk: Well that's how it started.

Oh, so Uma's character is the person in charge on the soap opera.  It's just that David Sims, in his sexism and stupidity, downgraded her to a soap opera director.

And when the Water Cooler Set isn't downgrading the work lives of the women, they're whining like the most selfish little piggies in the world.

Take Tim Goodman who offers this, "So we need to see that Aisha might be a little overwhelmed with her new job and thus is not putting out."  He's arguing this is done to make Harry sympathetic.


That doesn't even happen.

It happens in Tim Goodman's mind -- causing us to feel sorry for anyone he ever sleeps with.

What the first episode shows is Hector waking up and wanting to have sex with his wife who agrees.  At which point Hector goes off to the bathroom.  When he's finally out, Aisha's no longer in bed and the kids can be heard screaming (they're fighting over a game).  When he finds Aisha in the kitchen and says he thought they were going to have sex, she reminds him that they have 20 people arriving in a few hours and she's got to get the food ready and the place ready.

How is that "not putting out"?

The two will have sex -- in the kitchen -- as soon as the guests leave.

And does Tim Goodman realize he's promoting a man's 'right' to sex on demand?

Or what a sexist pig he is?

Aisha's "overwhelmed" by her "new job"?

And it means she won't 'put out'?

That drama's only going on in Goodman's head.

It has nothing to do with what's actually in the first episode.

It's really illuminating to read The Water Cooler Set and grasp that they're seeing something but it's not really what's on the screen.

Nor, as David Sims demonstrates, is it what's in the real world.  In a parenthetical, he feels the need to offer, "Okay, so Harry's a right-winger, but it barely makes sense. He thinks America should invade Iraq again?"

If Harry does think that -- was he being sarcastic possibly? -- a thought that never enters Sim's overly literal mind -- how would that make him different President Barack Obama who, last time we checked, had been ordering air bombings of Iraq since August 8th and had also sent in thousands of US troops into Iraq since June?  Who last week asked Congress for an Authorization of the Use of Military Force on Iraq and Syria?

The Water Cooler Set isn't just confused by events on the screen, they're lost in the real world as well.

The Slap is an interesting mini-series.  We need to especially note Peter Sarsgaard who's been stuck with less of a character and more of the glue holding the plots together role.  In a weaker actor's hands, Hector would cause the whole project to collapse.

And we need to be clear that Hugo's hideous behavior is a reflection on his parents.

Some commentators have offered that Hugo may have a condition that causes his poor behavior.  If so, that's something two parents should have explored with a medical team long ago.

We really don't blame Rosie.  She's too caught up in her devotion for Hugo to realize how inappropriate she's behaving in terms of the nursing.  It was really up to Gary to speak up and tell his wife, "Look, no boy wants to be called a 'titty baby' by his peers.  It's past time you stopped breast feeding our child.  If you aren't ready to stop yet, at least don't do it around others so our child is not taunted at school as the 'little baby' who still breast feeds."

NBC's The Slap is a worthy mini-series that will make you think.  Like the Water Cooler Set, you may end up thinking poorly. Or it may make you gather real insight.  For example, the slap wasn't the crime of the party.  The crime was that two parents brought along their brat and allowed him to run wild making everyone uncomfortable and ultimately the reaction to his behavior (the slap) ended the birthday party.  The Slap is less about a physical altercation and more about bad manners.

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