Corporal punishment is an issue that brings out an opinion in everyone.
This issue gets a comedic look in the episode “Crime and Punishment” of ABC's black-ish. For Jack (Miles Brown), the youngest of the Johnson clan, it divides his family as he awaits his spanking.
The episode starts with Dr. Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross) and Jack shopping. Jack wanders off, hiding in a rack of clothes like many children do. Bow panics and loses it while asking for help as the world around her falls apart.
Jack jumps out of the clothing rack, impressed at his prank, only for his mom to scream at him. Relief turns to anger for Bow, while laughter turns to fear in her son.
Bow utters the scariest words to come out of a parent: “Your father is gonna spank you!”
Jack gets it; he’s in for a whooping. The countdown begins to when his father, Dre (Anthony Anderson), will carry out the threat.
This starts a whirlwind of discussion from everyone in Dre and Bow's lives.
Dre isn’t happy that his wife put him in the position be the one to punish their son. He agrees Jack needs to learn a lesson but doesn't know what means to use.
Dre ponders spanking Jack at work the next day. He asks his colleagues what they think on the issue during a meeting.
The hilarious debate that results highlights exactly what’s wrong with this issue. Everyone has an opinion, and the opinions contradict one another. Although everyone in the meeting agrees that they are better off for having been spanked themselves, they turn on Dre when he says he is going to do the same for his child.
As Dre contemplates what to do, so does the rest of the family. Dre’s father, Pops (Laurence Fishburne), is wholly in favor of a whooping, the kids are staunchly against it, and mom Bow, who began all this, wavers back and forth as she goes from anger to being coerced with cuteness by a wheedling Jack.
Pops tells all the kids that they’re in the “whooping window." Even though the older kids might think they're too old to be whooped, according to Pops they are not. That sends the older kids into a panic.
Older siblings Andre (Marcus Scribner) and Zoey (Yara Shahidi) and Jack's twin sister Diane (Marsal Martin) struggle with protecting Jack while not bringing paternal wrath down on themselves.
Pops confronts Dre about the differences between how Dre was brought up and how kids are raised today. Pops even offers up the switch he used on Dre growing up, a section of Hot Wheels track, passing the tradition of corporal punishment from father to son.
Finally, Jack accepts that he will be punished and prepares by putting on layers of clothing for padding.
As he heads into his parents' bedroom, the father is as nervous as the son. At the last minute, Dre realizes that he cannot go through with it.
He sits Jack down (not an easy feat with all that padding), and they begin talking about what happened that led to this moment.
A few minutes later, Jack runs out of the room into Pops’s arms, crying. He tells him that his dad said he’s disappointed in him. Jack idolizes his dad. At that moment, he finally gets why he’s in trouble.
Pops, while comforting his grandson, looks at Dre and tells him what he did is worse than spanking.
At that moment, Dre realizes that this verbal punishment worked better than spanking ever would. And his children understand that now, too.
In 30 minutes of TV, “Crime and Punishment” highlights why corporal punishment isn't easy for anyone involved, and also the highly personal nature of the discussion.
It asks a simple question. What is the most effective way to discipline a child in the 21st century? As the episode comes to a close, we discover that question has no easy answer.
For highlighting the American family’s struggle with the fine line of corporal punishment in today’s world with humor, honesty, and insight, black-ish is a recipient of 2015 Television Academy Honors.
Produced by ABC Studios
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