There’s A Slap For That

Richard Nixon

...and then the new president let him get away with it. That's when the world changed. (Image by tonynetone via Flickr)

My son and I watched an old black and white television show one day when he was four or five years old. I told him that the show was on when I was his age. We watched for a while and then he asked “when did the world change?” I thought that was a little deep. It was hard to decide where to start to answer that question for him. I considered talking about the upheaval of the late 60’s, the Vietnam War and the Nixon years. I decided the best strategy was to clarify what it was he was after.

It turns out that, based on the fact that the show we were watching was in black and white and that it was on television when I was his age, he’d concluded that the world was black and white when I was a boy. Colors were something that came along later.  Shades that were not black or white, like red, yellow and blue, obviously came later in my lifetime. With the information he had at hand, I could see his logic.

Recently, I reached a conclusion in a similar manner. I’m pretty sure in the 1940’s and 1950’s people slapped each other all the time.

Whole Lotta Slappin’ Goin’ On

I wasn’t around until the 1960’s. I have no direct knowledge of what went on before that. Most of my knowledge of the culture of the ’40’s and ’50’s is based on bits and pieces of old movies I catch on television. Based on what I have seen, slapping someone was just part of life. Being slapped was also part of life. In fact, my research shows that fifty percent of people involved in a slapping incident are not the slapper.

Everyone slapped everyone. Women slapped other women. Women slapped men, and vice versa. Men slapped men. Did I leave anyone out? Cats and Dogs probably slapped one another too, but they were not doing it at the MGM Studio, so we really don’t have as much of a record of that.

Why Slap?

According to my observations, there were clearly accepted reasons to slap someone during the middle of the twentieth century. I’ve found a few clips that demonstrate reasons for slapping as well as some important slapping techniques. Let us examine our first slap, shall we?

The woman who gets slapped in this clip is, in the eyes of her slapper, too excited about something. The slapper delivers a wicked blow to her cheek that brings an end to the conversation while simultaneously establishing that there is a difference of opinion. Back in those days, a clear and passionate difference of opinion justified a slap.

Let’s also talk technique. The slapper in this clip gets a lot of power and speed into her slap by starting her swing from well behind her own hip. Superior technique allows her to hit her opponent so hard she actually slaps the taste out of the other woman’s mouth.

In this next example, we see another difference of opinion slap. I bring you this clip to point out the lightning fast double slap technique. Unfortunately for you, and the victim, this double slap is so fast it is barely visible to the human eye. The double slap is so quick that the woman who was slapped isn’t even sure she was slapped, she just knows her face hurts and the argument is over.

Our next slap justification is discipline. People slapped each other to straighten one another out. In this clip, a young boy comes off a stage to berate an elderly woman – a common problem in the ’40’s and ’50’s. She handles him by raining six slaps down on him. Observe:

It seems that the woman would like this young man to “stop it”.

It is obvious from this clip that slapping was not only socially acceptable, but expected. Note that the crowd rises to its feet, but no one comes to the aid of the boy. The woman slaps him silly, but the crowd’s only concern seems to be getting into a good position to see what is happening. This tells me that they supported the slapper’s actions, or they did not like the boy. It may be both of those things.

Now we move on to another category of slap justification – the bad nickname slap. The couple involved are clearly feeling some tension. The tension remains managed until John Wayne calls the woman “Hunky”. The woman clearly does not like being called that and whips a cranial slap on The Duke.

How powerful was the slap? Watch the clip again. After the slap, the woman asks Wayne why he came to see her. He answers with a very mechanical “I’m not sure”.  In this case, the blow knocked his short term memory out.

Our last slap again features John Wayne, this time in the role of the slapper. It seems that slapping was justified when needed to get someone to pull themselves out of a panic. In this clip, Wayne delivers some stress management to a fellow pilot.

Wayne’s double slap is significantly slower than the one shown earlier. There are two good reasons for this. First, he gets an extremely long back swing for the second  powerful slap. Perhaps of equal importance is that John turns his hand, getting palm to face contact on both blows. A lesser man would have had to deliver a back hand for one of the blows.

Thanks Mom

When I was very young my mother told me that slapping someone was “the most terrible thing you could do to a person”. I think this was very radical thinking on her part given that she was around during the slap happy ’40’s and ’50’s. She pointed out the pain and humiliation the person slapped would feel. Mom taught me that I should never be around someone who  would consider doing that to me and how upset she’d be if she ever knew I slapped someone. Mom is right. If you can’t talk to someone and settle an issue, they aren’t someone you should be around.

Some people see those old movies and wonder what it would have been like to live back then. Some are nostalgic for what they recall of that era. I see those old movies and I’m glad I didn’t live back then. I couldn’t put up with all the slapping. It’s a very clear issue for me.

It’s like black and white.


41 Comments on “There’s A Slap For That”

  1. madtante says:

    Sounds like you had a smart and caring mother.

    Slapping is a slight “wrong” in my frame of reference. I don’t mean in my opinion. I mean slapping was the least pain you endured.

    I’ve slapped nobody but I have punched out a couple people…those instances (in context) are self-defense. Point being, I don’t let people attack me anymore. I haven’t had to do anything like that in decades but I’ll defend myself again, if necessary.

    I’ve often wondered what it would be like growing up in a safe home. It’s hard to imagine.

  2. Lenore Diane says:

    This is so interesting, Oma. So interesting. I agree with your Mom. I believe slapping is one of the worst things a person can do to another person. You know why I think it bothers me so much? The eye contact. You are looking at the person – you see what you are doing – they see what you are doing. Interesting post. ~ Lenore

    • omawarisan says:

      You know, there might be something to it. It is so personal.

      I originally imagined this post just about the prevalence of slapping in the movies, but my Mom telling me that just felt like it had to go in there.

      Amazing the things that stick with you. I can’t remember last nights dinner, but I can tell you where we were when my mother told me that and what was on tv…forty something years ago.

  3. Amy says:

    What replaced the slap in modern cinema? Tossing a drink in the face? Plugging of ears and yelling “la la la la la”? Or, do we just shoot each other, now?
    Interesting post, Oma!
    Reminds me of that scene in Airplane! where the passengers all line up to slap the hysterical woman.

  4. Kim Pugliano says:

    I prefer a kick to the groin. I’m just sayin’. That’s what works in my house. Is that wrong?

  5. afrankangle says:

    First-time visitor here. Love the opening conversation with your son. Meanwhile, I learned more about slapping that I ever imagined in one day. So, here’s another twist.

  6. Nice slap analysis. I’m glad we don’t slap anymore as well. I’m also glad we did away with the pie-in-the-face. That’s a lot of clean up, and I think all that washing of my face would make it break out.

    • omawarisan says:

      Yeah, pie in the face has its benefits when it is say, banana cream. But there are a lot of problems to go with it. Much better than a slap though.

  7. Betty says:

    Slapping and no Three Stooges vid?

  8. gmomj says:

    What ever happened to dropping an ACME anvil off the roof onto someone’s head?

  9. pattypunker says:

    hmmmm i kinda like the whole “there’s a difference of opinion here slap.”

    no, kidding. i’ve never hit my daughter either. never ever would. disciplining with a violent tactic is the the most ass backward thing i’ve ever heard of.

    • omawarisan says:

      If there is a slap I could get behind it would be the difference of opinion slap with people at work. Now that I am a short timer in this career I’d be dope slapping people right and left.

      Maybe I shouldn’t though, my hands would hurt from doing it so much.

      The Omawari-son has made it to 19 years old as of tomorrow. If I hit him in the morning it would be the first time, and I’d have to reach way up to do it.

  10. Todd Pack says:

    Reminds me of that Calvin & Hobbes cartoon, where Calvin’s dad explains the world used to be black-and-what and that co-called black-and-white pictures were really color pictures of black-and-white scenes.

    Good observation about the slapping. The last slap I can remember in a movie is when Cher slapped Nic Cage in Moonlighting.

  11. As I recall they also used to push grapefruits in each other faces!

  12. Katybeth says:

    Happy birthday to Omawari son tomorrow (in case you don’t post.)
    My dearly departed described being slapped when he was around 5 and said it was like being thrown out of paradise. . .he had no idea that someone he loved could deliver such a stinging smack; he claimed it was far from abuse-he still felt loved; just wary from that point on. That made me sad. Slapping isn’t option in our house..not that I didn’t have a strong urge to take a swing at Joe from time to time, I just make a different choice like throwing eggs.

  13. omawarisan says:

    Thank you. Its nice that he is aging and I am not.

    Egg throwing. I like that idea.

  14. The Jagged Man says:

    I was going to make a witty comment on “hit her opponent so hard she actually slaps the taste out of the other woman’s mouth” but the first comment stopped me. I was raised in a safe home but it wasn’t till well after leaving it I reflected on how many of my friends didn’t have one.
    A entreating post but a very thought provoking one as well. As a side noteI wish your mom on even those I don’t like. Maybe we would have less people to dislike later… for thought.

  15. Wow, this is like the basis for a doctoral dissertation. I was around in the late 40s and the 50s. I don’t remember people going around slapping each other will nilly (that last phrase was an homage to those days), but I do remember that moms slapped their daughters on the day the daughters started menstruating. I was never sure what that was about. Anyway, after about 10 seconds of deep thought about this, I’m thinking slapstick comedy (which was actually pretty violent in a lot of ways) evolved from vaudeville, where I guess they did that. And I’ll bet the first time someone got slapped in a movie and it got a lot of press, all the movies after that had to include a slapping scene.

    • omawarisan says:

      They slapped them on that day? I don’t have a daughter and haven’t been through that myself, but I imagine getting slapped doesn’t make that first time any easier.

  16. My mom slapped me once when I was about fifteen and said something I shouldn’t have…I’ve never forgotten it…I agree with everything you’ve said, Oma! Your mom was a wise woman…


  17. spencercourt says:

    You must do a Ph.D. thesis on “the slap”; then you will be “Dr. Slap.”

  18. Greg says:

    Oma, I’ve decided that you are one of the funniest guys I’ve ever read. It’s a shame that you don’t have a weekly column in your local paper or any other. I’ve been away for awhile and haven’t been able to read your blog. I did today for the first time in a very long time. My eyes watered and my stomach hurt. I embarrassed myself. I get your humor because we think so much alike. Your sense of humor is not forced. It’s genuine. It’s just how you think and relate your observations.

    I can’t wait to get back to Charlotte.

    • omawarisan says:

      Well thank you very much! I’d love the chance to write a column like you describe. I guess at some point I’ll need to figure out how to make that happen.

      Charlotte’s nice, isn’t it. Not exciting, nice. When are you going to be in the area?

  19. What did the five fingers say to the face?


    I’d like to thank the academy (and Dave Chappelle) for that witty chuckle. Oh and everyone else for not using it. Right. Carry on then.

  20. […] There’s A Slap For That ( Hmph . . . some women just don't know how to take a compliment! […]

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