So the Oscars just happened, and I have no idea who won. Mind you, I wasn’t actually able to watch it, but I will say that it’s strange that so little has been spoiled in my boxer brief scrolls across social media these ensuing days. Usually, the Meryl of it all will pop up on SOMEONE’s page, and I’ll recognize yet another glittering face getting accolades for yet another glittering performance. I have NO context for who won best director, actor, actress, screenplay, or otherwise. I don’t even know which picture won best freaking picture! That’s how much of an impact Will Smith’s hand has had on our world. If you came here for a dissection of this behavior or the behavior that provoked it… If you came here for a reflection upon the reflections our Instagram friends, water cooler coworkers, and coffee shop earshots are still inevitably having… Well, you came to the wrong place.
I have nothing to add nor do I think it is my place to comment. As intrigued by the event as I am, and as fine as I am with inspiring others to share their thoughts, I will leave it at that. THIS article is a review and my ranking of what I think are the top ten most memorable slaps on television and film. I will be ranking them based on Synergy, Landing, Application, and Power, (or S-L-A-P) and by the way, a spoiler alert is in order for the rest of this sass fest. Although I will say, if you haven’t watched the short-running Quinto show, “The Slap,” you’re fine to proceed as the show does not feature here. I do wonder if the show creators finally have the Will for a second season now…
SNAP OUT OF IT! It’s time to get crackin’. What’s a top without a good bottom, so without further meandering, rear up for number ten! Also, for the record, I would not be this flippant about real-life people. I am not glorifying violence or making light of abuse. These are fictional characters who made an impression on me in moments of power, weakness, vulnerability, etc. I am also sure that I missed more than a backhand full of some of the most iconic slaps across our shared visual mediums. I can only judge what I have watched, and there are some that got very close. My sister, my daughter, my sister, my… what? Where am I? Are we good? Proceed with caution and a sense of humor.
10. Nicole Kidman slaps Meryl Streep in “Big Little Lies”
Synergy– When you try to take a parent away from their kids by way of shame-based legal action, yeah, you’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’. We don’t condone violence here at Q2Q, but we understand how Nicole’s character was enraged by how coldly Meryl’s character disqualified her as a mother.
Landing– My Aussie Queen certainly stuck the landing! Meryl’s glasses came clean off, plummeting to the floor with a very satisfying crackle. This moment was thunder following lightning, darlings. I’ve dealt with abusive in-laws before, so I reserve the right to cheer here.
Application– It’s been a while since I’ve seen this scene and I didn’t review it for this article, you know, like a good journalist doesn’t… I will say that I think her kids are nearby, and that’s just not classy, especially for someone who exudes class like Nic. Even if they aren’t nearby, that’s still their grandmother, so I had to put this one lower on the list for the impulsiveness of it all.
Power– These women are the pinnacle of power on screen. This one’s a ten. Put Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep on the proverbial stage if you’ve got a season two but aren’t precisely sure what to do with it. Letting them play will generate that little special something we need on our screens. Another reason why this moment is so enjoyable is that both consummate professionals got their movements down slap.
9. Olivia de Havilland slaps Bette Davis in “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte”
Synergy– Bette Davis is still, and likely forever will be, the Queen of freakouts and freaking people out. In this film, she does more of the former, experiencing some pretty severe gaslighting on the part of her “fake nice” cousin, played by the glamorous Olivia de Havilland. Her character has hated and resented Bette’s character her entire life. This is synergy incarnate. If resentment is like drinking poison and then expecting those you disdain to die, then Miriam (Havilland) downed the entire bottle.
Landing– She didn’t land just once, no, no, Sweet Charlotte… Homegirl slaps Bette like five or six times, one right after the other. Her palm was as precise as her subtle acting: meaning VERY.
Application– in the heat of the moment, Bette’s character thinks she’s killed a man and is acting very irrationally. In order to stop her from incriminating herself, it did seem kind of necessary that Olivia bash her a bit here for her own safety. Oh lord, this list was a bad idea… Slapping is rarely ever justified, but if slapping someone will mean that neither of you goes to jail for something done in the heat of the moment, then maybe do it. This is part of Miriam’s elaborate bullshit scheme, so there’s still no leg to stand on.
Power– Oddly enough the most powerful thing about this scene isn’t in the slaps themselves. It’s in Havilland’s fiery fucking eyes and the acid she pours into her proceeding “Daaaaamn you… Now, will you shut your mouth!” I got chills just typing it here. Spoopy scary!
8. James Franco slaps Tobey Maguire in “Spider-Man 2”
Synergy– Franco’s character (Harry) doesn’t have a gob-limb to stand on here. His reasons for slapping Tobey (Peter Parker, duh) are thus: “you take pictures of Spider-Man and I hate Spider-Man. He killed my dad. Turn him in.” I get that you’re hurting, Harry. However, you’re operating under the assumption that Peter COULD hold Spider-Man accountable, a proven super-human if he attempted to do so. You’re assuming that he knows who Spider-Man is. You’re just… a terrible friend and communicator.
Landing– I find this slap so funny for some reason. It’s a pretty decent hit, but what truly lands is Tobey’s baffled reactions to each hit. It’s giving “what did you just fucking do, gurl?” The face that Franco makes when he slaps is just strange though. What even is happening to his expression? Did lemon juice release from Peter’s face upon impact? I guess that’s less weird than webs shooting from his, um… wrists…
Application– He slaps Peter in front of his boss, his ex-girlfriend, his ex-girlfriend’s fiance, and a room full of rich people partying while he’s technically working as a photographer. This is a bro-foul if ever there was one. Bad, Harry! Bad!
Power– You’re slapping Spider-Man. There’s no power there. The emotional punch hit harder. Peter took it out of love. “Just because you can beat him up doesn’t give you the right to.”
7. James Bond slaps his lover in “From Russia with Love”
Synergy– Oh, James… You have so many issues and so often treat women badly. This is definitely one of the least fun on this list, but I had to include it for how memorably it lingers in my mind. This is really all about Bond’s fragility manifested in one act of violence. He doesn’t trust Tanya, and when he suspects that she’s lying to him about having something to do with his friend’s death, he hits her. I was shocked. I still am. Note to everyone reading, this is not how you get someone to open up to you about the truth. Check yourself, Mister Bond. Spoiler alert, your martini is shaken.
Landing– He’s a powerful and trained assassin. Yeah, that beauty (the late Daniela Bianchi) goes flying. It’s so sad. This instrument of death has no idea how to be gentle with a person who actually doesn’t kill people. James Bond was never a cultural role model by design. Read the books. He’s a damaged soul who does not do the work of healing in order to better protect others from the reverberations of his trauma.
Application– I can’t give him any credit here either. He’s vulnerable after discovering his friend’s dead body. I get that. But, suspecting your lover of manipulating the situation doesn’t justify this kind of action. This feels like a classic projection of trust issues and paranoia. Slapping this Connery-era Bond girl accomplished nothing. She wasn’t even a proper villain and was just caught in the system. Sad.
Power– Ironically, this is about Bond’s weakness more than anything. He’s flawed, and there’s nothing empowering about someone physically skilled inflicting pain upon someone weaker. #Toxicmasculinity
6. M slaps Elektra in “The World is Not Enough”
Synergy– While we’re bonding, let’s give M (Judi Dench) a chance to deal some damage. This one really puts the “s” in synergistic slaps. Elektra (Sophie Marceau), the bonkers babe with a penchant for blowing innocent people up, has just told M she murdered M’s dear friend and set their entire agency up in a conspiracy. Oh, and she just murdered all of M’s staff in the room and, at this point, had seemingly murdered Bond. That face was GETTING IT! Good for you, M.
Landing– I love M’s landing here because Elektra really thought she was going to be doing the landing with her drippy, drippy evil monologuing. Elektra gets in a nice dig, but M takes it away from her with one brush against her cheek. It’s like she got in the last word and then some.
Application– Putting the villainess of all villainesses in their place in front of her cronies? Yeah, I think it was well-timed and well-deserved. The only M for me is Judi Dench.
Power– There’s power sure, but what comes through in Judi Dench’s performance more is her character’s sadness. She’s been dealt so much crippling loss in just a few minutes. The pain! Though it does take balls of steel to slap a multi-murderer/terrorist in the face when they can easily shoot you on a whim.
5. Teri Hatcher, for discarded women everywhere, slaps Pierce Brosnan in “Tomorrow Never Dies”
Synergy– I like Bond movies. You know what else I like: the sweet sting of, not just Paris Carver’s (Teri Hatcher) revenge, but the revenge of every “Bond girl” abandoned by this philandering secret agent branded on his perfect face. Bond gets one pickup line in and is immediately met by the harsh reality of his poor choices. Paris slapping Bond here was iconic, historic and a long time coming.
Landing– It’s hard to be noticed in a party this huge. You have to really make an effort to stand-out. Paris’ slap made such a scene that a nearby guest uttered a gasp which silenced everyone in the immediate area for a moment or two.
Application– Bond: “I always wondered how I’d feel if I saw you again.” / Paris: commences with slap / Bond: gasp “Now I know.” Yeah, message received.
Power– She gives in to Bond a few scenes later, yes. However, it’s freaking Pierce Brosnan… She’s more powerful than me. I wouldn’t know how to “hard-to-get” with all of THAT! Ooof. I think there’s power in how it made her feel. She’d likely pushed her anger into some deep, dark place, and letting it out is cathartic, even if it probably could’ve come out in a less abrasive way. We’re hurting. We need support.
4. Katie Holmes (tries to) Slap Christian Baleman in “Batman Begins”
Synergy– Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) wasn’t always the savior of Gotham City. Once upon an initial Christopher Nolan outing, this brooding billionaire planned on taking revenge for his parent’s murder by murdering the man who did it right back. A mob boss ended up killing him before Bruce could, and upon sharing this with his altruistic friend Rachel (Katie Holmes), he receives a jolt back to reality courtesy of her palm (which went to law school btw). She’d been inspired by Wayne’s death to change the city for the better, so Bruce’s selfishness likely caught her off guard here. Yep, this is some synergy.
Landing– I gotta say, this is the worst slap execution on this list. It kind of fits with her character, who is by far the sweetest soul in Gotham, but omg… that was some weak sauce. She does a little better by the second slap, but it still has the effect of a gentle breeze. Even the sound effects feel insignificant.
Application– This slap alone might’ve been what’s responsible for Batman becoming Batman, and more importantly, it solidified his no-gun rule. Bruce may never have been shaken out of his self-serving spiral without this act. On behalf of the people of Gotham, I thank you, Rachel.
Power– As mentioned above, there’s not so much power here physically, but there’s a ton of power in Rachel’s moral resolve. She’d reasoned with him and only after getting annoyed with Bruce’s petulant moodiness did she resort to a slap, which she later regretted. Note to everyone reading, breathe first.
3. Susan Sarandon slaps her co stars on “Friends”
Synergy– Susan plays a soap opera star who is iconic BECAUSE she slaps all of her costars on the show. She’s actually slapping them in real-life apparently, as we see one fellow actor promptly request ice for her face upon completion of their scene. I don’t know if there’s any synergy here, mostly just premeditation. The girl just wants to hit people and the script celebrates this desire. Actually, this is a chicken and the egg thing? Did they amp up the slaps BECAUSE she did them well? Hard slaps and hard to say.
Landing– This celebrity doesn’t just land her slaps. She rides the wave of whatever effect the act had on her prey. Often after a slap, she will draw focus and reposition other performers’ faces so that the camera sees her better. This diva is no scene petty thief; she’s a professional scene cat burglar.
Application– She’s on a soap opera (have I mentioned that yet). The people who tune into her show are craving the elevated drama and wild emotional arcs. She’s truthfully doing her job. Now, that doesn’t mean she has to actually slap other actors, but this is really the fault of whoever is directing the show. You don’t let actors dictate the staging and fight choreography. There’s a way to make fake slaps look real, and shame on the production for not finding a way. Hire an intimacy coordinator! They’re heaven-sent.
Power– It’s Susan Sarandon. Yes. Also, if she’s giving them out, then I’m signing up.
It should be stated that there’s nothing wrong with enjoying getting slapped or slapping other adults who consent to it. For many people, it’s a vital part of their sex life and a crucial kink in their expression. Now that I’ve set the table, try it sometime. Be careful, it’s a gateway to some glorious spanking. 😉
2. Cruella De Vil slaps Horace and Jasper in “101 Dalmations”
Synergy– Cruella is a special case. The world is one giant inconvenience she’d rather slap away. This wild woman nearly slaps Roger because he respectfully declined to forfeit his puppies to her excessive will. Horace and Jasper, her hired hands, receive the brunt of her abuse. She slaps them for hesitating to murder NINETY ADORABLE PUPPIES! You are your own synergy at that point. Synergy = psychosis.
Landing– I have to say she’s the gold star lander of slaps. Watching her bounce these two brutes around was satisfying in a bizarre way to my baby brain when I first watched it occur. She was so empowered, violent antisocial behavior notwithstanding, and it was just entertaining to watch someone so theatrically unhinged. So rarely do you see someone so unabashedly unashamed of their shameful acts.
Application– I guess if you want a disgusting coat and you want it fast, then yes, this slap was used at the appropriate time. But rest assured, there is nothing appropriate about her actions.
Power– She’s a quintessential Disney villainess with mile-long hands, yes. No magic needed. I think Cruella offers a healthy escape from our generally (hopefully) polite existence. Projecting onto a fantasy, even a dark one with questionable taste in fashion can be a fun exploration.
1. Betty Draper (January Jones) slaps Helen Bishop on “Mad Men”
Synergy– This slap doesn’t come out of nowhere, as Betty’s neighbor does suggest that she’s a pervert for giving a piece of her hair to her son when he harmlessly asked for it. This slap disturbs the Stepford-esce peace of the supermarket, and Helen stands in shock with her mouth agape until Betty rushes out of the store. There’s hidden magic to this moment’s synergy though, as Betty is really lashing out because she resents her neighbor’s freedom as a freshly divorced woman. Leave Don! Leave Don! (She does)
Landing– The placement here is so simultaneously concerning and hilarious. Helen digs with “what is wrong with you,” cutting Betty down in one fell swoop. The veneer of Betty’s beauty and poise comes crashing down, and the venom underneath all that honey is unleashed. We see an important side to Betty that she’s been masking all along. The birdie has landed, and she’s a full-on hawk.
Application– If your purpose is to humiliate someone, then slapping them in a market alongside their peers, most of whom are already judging her for being an outsider in their cookie-cutter domestic world, will get the job done. We do see how it makes Betty uncomfortably aware of her own flaws though. It’s a risk she didn’t realize she’d taken. That’s the thing about slaps. You can’t take them back.
Power– I can’t give it to Betty here. She’s weakened herself for so long in order to conform to the sexist rules of her patriarchal society. This slap is a cry for help above all things, and the lengths she goes to in order to hide this vulnerable side makes me sad for the repressed voices of her world and ours.