In a 2010 episode of the college sitcom Community, right-on series regular Britta Perry, played by Gillian Jacobs,
accidentally offends another character’s conservative grandmother (Fran Bennett), and is told to go cut a switch. She does so and brings it back for the old lady to see, smugly congratulating herself on her cultural inclusiveness.
Other emotions take over when she’s told to drop her pants and get over Nana’s knee, and the switch is put to thorough use:
So now she’s showing off in a different sense: though the target area stays out of shot, we have heard her pants zipper being undone, which means she must be getting it on the seat of her panties. (At least, let’s hope she hasn’t been unwise enough to opt for a thong!)
Cut me a switch? Not everybody stops at just one…
If you’re out in the country, switches are readily to hand, and may even come pre-cut:
If not, there may be a handy piece of wood just lying around.
This was also the fate of Bunny Bartlett, the heroine of Anne Ferring Weatherly’s comedy A Mind of Her Own (1943), which was popular in high school productions for ten years or so (and then pretty much vanished without trace). The title tells us what she needs to learn she has: a mind of her own. She spends much of the play imitating other people’s opinions and behavior rather than thinking for herself, causing her family manifold troubles which explain and justify what her boyfriend Steve Henderson does: lays her across his knee and lays a board across her bottom, hard! A significant minority of productions eschewed such severity and opted for his hand instead,
but most kept firmly to the script:
As you can see, the size and shape of the board varied from production to production. And to show that size doesn’t matter, take a comedy moment from early in the Hal Roach movie Niagara Falls (1941), in which Margy Blake (Marjorie Woodworth) is trying to fix a blowout, and goes rooting around in the trunk of a nearby car in hopes of finding a pump.
The owner, traveling salesman Tom Brown (Tom Wilson), is a less than perfect Good Samaritan:
He explains that he took her for a thief, and the upshot is that she spends the rest of the scene, and beyond, nursing a smarting bottom.
Even the slightest brush with a passing car makes her wince:
It may not properly be a spanking scene, but it does produce a good five minutes’ worth of gags about her inability to sit down, far more than you generally get even after the full OTK treatment. (You can watch the movie here.)
What we are seeing is one of the typical activities of homo sapiens. No, I don’t mean whacking pretty girls on the bottom. Humanity is a tool-making species, and the transformation of a natural object, such as a tree branch, into an artefact that can be wielded, such as a board or plank of wood, leads on to the manufacture of a tool such as a stick, one of whose applications could be…
But not necessarily the only one: sticks are among the most basic of tools, and have many different uses. For the most part, spanking with an implement entails taking something that has been made for one purpose and using it to do something else: it is, in effect, an act of improvisation, in some cases more original than others. It follows that what you use will be determined where you are at the time the need arises. Next week we’ll see some rather peculiar examples.