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NBC’s ‘The Slap’ debates child discipline amid abuse controversy

Last fall, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson made headlines after being charged with abuse for hitting his son with a switch.

The fallout didn’t really raise as much discussion about whether or not the incident was abuse as much as it did about when, if ever, is it OK to physically reprimand a child?

To ask Pope Francis, a paddling isn’t always a bad thing. Others, like the Daily Beast’s Brandy Zadrozny, say they’ve changed their minds about spanking being an acceptable form of child discipline.

“A veritable mountain of research shows that hitting a child not only doesn’t make him suddenly do what you want, it often makes him poorer, angrier, sadder, dumber, more violent and more likely to suffer from mental illness and be incarcerated than his non-struck counterparts,” Zardrozny wrote.

Now, months later, NBC tries to tackle many sides of a multi-faceted issue with an eight-part miniseries, “The Slap.”

Despite some early mixed reviews, some critics aren’t just applauding the performances in the series, but also the unique approach that reflects different perspectives on the same incident.

The story revolves around a barbecue where friends and family have assembled for a birthday party. One of the couples’ young sons, Hugo, wreaks havoc from the onset — digging up the host’s garden, mouthing off and swinging a baseball bat close to another kid’s head.

That other kid’s dad (played by Zachary Quinto) then tries to give Hugo a talking to. When Hugo kicks him in the shin, Hugo gets smacked in the face, to the horror of his parents and the amusement of others.

The installments will explore the incident from the perspectives of different characters at the barbecue and how their own life experiences contribute to their outlook on the issue.

“What a viewer will see, immediately, is a story relevant to all cultures nowadays,” Hank Stuever wrote in the Washington Post. “When it comes to relationships and tolerance, we’re all living much too close to the powder keg.”

The appeal of the series may lie in the exploration of the gray area inherent in a long-standing American debate.

“In their dispute, neither side is in the right … but both sides turn out to be equally wrongheaded,” Alessandra Stanley wrote in the New York Times. “On this series, everybody has a point, but no one has an ironclad claim to the truth.”

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