The Slap: Could’ve Been A Lot Funnier
This is a show where Peter Sarsgaard does that thing where I can’t tell if he hates being on the show, or if he’s playing someone who hates being on the show. He plays a man named “Why Walter White Was Sympathetic.”
Cast your mind back, to a time when Malcolm’s dad had to deal with a disabled son, a terminal bill of health, a missed opportunity at dizzying fame and fortune, and being a public science teacher in a culture that’s increasingly three things: resentfully anti-intellectual, and bad at math. That is motherfucking pathos. That is the dharma of being cheated by the system. And that is how you make a mass murdering narcissist into someone a substantial portion of the viewing public was rooting for until the end.
Slapper’s Delight is not a show with characters to root for. It’s populated exclusively by the kinds of people who’d cut your nuts off at a Homeowner’s Association meeting for painting your shutters the wrong shade of taupe (great Annie Lennox song). Brows are furrowed at the concept of street parking, men sulk that they can’t pork underage babysitters (one who, by all appearances, is dying for middle aged honky cock), the term “1%” is thrown around by a grating prick who refers to his children as guests temporarily under his care. Spoiler: his kid gets slapped.
Middle-to-upper class white people should, typically, not be deserving of sympathy. As a child of the suburbs, I understand the ennui of simultaneously having all your needs met yet feeling like you possess nothing, the intangible and indelible rat race to a sexier car, a sexier job and a sexier partner every bit as alluring and elusive as the dragon fervently pursued by junkies. Within the immediate context of a planned community or row of upper class townhomes, one can understand how even the considerably privileged lose sight of all that they’ve been fortunate enough to acquire in life, in the name of acquiring just a little bit more. One can understand, one shouldn’t fucking sympathize. A lot’s made of how these characters supposedly pitch in pretty different socioeconomic leagues, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how that’s the case. Sarsgaard’s wife is adamant that she cannot attend a vacation to Greece paid for by her in-laws, because she must continue to be the director of a clinic. Shit gets heated over that. Some people can’t pay rent.
It’s this direness of tone that doesn’t mesh with the paltry stakes presented to the viewer. It’s the Bluths, but played straight. Who the fuck wants that? Ten seconds of genuine emotion, then someone gets slipped a Forget Me Now under an illiterately scrawled banner, that’s the winning formula for milquetoasts with disposable cash. Granted the name of the show is crazy stupid, and the logo/title card looks like an advertisement for an acupuncturist for cyborgs, but I’m still not sure enough people involved get that this show is ill-suited for sanctimony. M Night Shyamalan’s The Slappening is functionally Thirty something for the MMA generation. A crappy, bratty little kid gets popped in the mouth by Zachary Quinto, after swinging a baseball bat at other kids and kicking Sylar in the fucking shin. So, in other words, fuck that kid. A case can be made that bounds were overstepped, but fuck that kid. Not to be a cliché, stick in the mud, rabble rousing Jacobin about everything, but I wish this American remake had been set in Ferguson, MO, or Detroit, or Youngstown, Ohio. Actual consequences could have existed there. Physical abuse in the hood, apart from being more pervasive, is much more likely to carry a tangible cost. Subsequent abuse could lead the child down a short slide to a life of a revolving prison door, to deepening poverty, to something real. Here, at worst, the kid might need therapy. Quinto’s character, an exotic car dealer who is supposed to be rich as a red velvet Maybach, could pay for it. Then all these put upon princesses could get back to comparing crippling chiropractic bills incurred from copious navel gazing.
So what else can be said about Slap to the Future? There’s a narrator who sounds like he’s auditioning for a Celexa spot, using vocabulary a really annoying middle school honors English student would to describe his parents’ divorce. I forget if the word “chronicles” was used. It will be. “Transgressions” was used. Remember Chappelle’s Show? Rick James? “What did the five fingers say to the face?!” Couldn’t stop thinking about it.