The American version of the Australian mini-series the Slap, which was a rendition of Christos Tsiolkas’ 2008 novel the Slap, ended two weeks ago. Although it is past-due a review, we’re going to write one anyway.
The novel, a 483 page multiple perspective, begins with a slimy depiction of Hector– he farts, he uses the word “cunt,” he fantasizes about his teenage prospect Connie in the solitude of his integrity. With the typical descriptive nature of a novel, Tsiolkas leaves room for a better critique than its television adaptations so Hector is also characterized as a family man. At the barbecue, family friend and nonconformist mother Rosie consoles her son’s erratic behavior by breastfeeding him in front of the other guests. Hector is partial to her as a result– “[Hector’s] mother could not take her eyes off the suckling child. He knew she was disgusted that Rosie was still breast-feeding Hugo at his age. He agreed with her. ”
Four characters later, Hector’s father Manolis is introduced. His chapter is themed with disappointment for growing old but Tsiolkas also details a closeness with his daughter-in-law Aisha that may have been missed in the show. “Aisha would listen to him. He’d be calm, reasonable. His reasons were sound. She respected him, she loved him. She would listen to him. ” Aisha doesn’t comply with Manolis. She is loyal to her childhood friend however kooky Rosie is because she believes her husband’s cousin is theoretically in the wrong. Her husband and her in-laws, on the other hand, believe that it takes a village. Manolis emigrated to Australia to make a better living. He and his family are all they have. Harry built his fortune through disciplined drive his family’s support.
In the 2011 Australian series, Anouk follows the pilot “Hector.” She is appropriately depicted as an older woman wanting to reverse time. Anouk is a stable writer for a soap opera and is dating a much younger man– a man who is not an actor on the show she writes unlike her character in the book. Nonetheless, the age difference we see in the show allows the series to make more sense if you haven’t read the book. Again, with more detail provided in the novel, Anouk’s character is left shortened and more condensed. The episode jumps right into which side she claims. She agrees that Harry is wrong for slapping Rosie’s son but she disagrees with Rosie’s legal pursuit. In the end, faced with personal dilemmas, her perspective is ambiguous. In our opinion, she could have served as a supporting character in exchange for Gary, Rosie’s husband.
Finally, in the United States, Americans rely heavily on blunt, specific, and repeated themes, which makes it less a theme and more a “tell.” Directors cannot simply have Anouk look at Manolis with trust and be certain that viewers understood she respected him. Directors had to spend more time on fundamental aspects of the story, sacrificing important details for the simplistic aesthetic of the mini-series. Naturally, the characterization was rushed and all over the place. Before reading the book, with only the series to rely on, I totally missed Aisha’s close relationship with Manolis. In the second episode, “Harry,” Harry’s relationship with his wife was explained too briefly. It was too segmented to be properly picked apart– he’s at home teaching his son the lesson of diligence, and then he’s aggressive with his wife, then he’s kissing his subordinate, then he’s running his household while being pitifully detained for his split-second decision that is the foundation to this story. His opposed, Rosie, follows five episodes later. Nearing the finale, the series started to make more sense. Those who initially disagreed with Rosie can’t help but feel sorry for her as she is a struggling soul. She adjusted to her life as a protective yet free-spirited mother after living the fast-paced life of a model. She isn’t like Harry who values laborious structure for what it’s worth because she values freedom for what it’s worth. Harry built his fortune through his family’s drive– his family’s American-dream-attaining drive.
In the end, Harry is sent to jail with a side note from the convicting judge that Gary and Rosie need to watch it. “Mr. and Mrs. Weschler, before you leave this courtroom gloating, you can expect a visit from Child Protective Services. If there is another incident of your son potentially being harmed or harming someone else, you will be held responsible.” The show’s literal symbol of justice stated that there is no side to take– they are both equally in the wrong.
Anouk’s stance on the matter is probably the most popular stance readers and viewers took but the reality is that the boy needed to be disciplined. Harry was out of line but Rosie was too aloof. So who takes the disciplinary reins? There needed to be a side. We, as Americans, can’t not take a side. We’re not down to leave things up for discussions.
In the closing scene where the characters gather round Anouk and her baby and Gary, Rosie, and Hugo unexpectantly enter, Hugo trails off to Anouk who has separated herself from all of the commotion. In our opinion, it would’ve been so clutch if the directors assumed poetic license let Hugo drop or hurt the baby. In this version, the slap would’ve come full circle.
Who do you think is or should be responsible for correcting Hugo’s uncontrollable behavior?
Anyway, it’s a work of art all around– an excruciatingly long work of fiction shortened for the fleeting attention span for television. Both mediums complemented the story.