After all the hype, I just had to give THE UNDOING a look. HBO’s most recent lavish miniseries about the trials and tribulations of rich, privileged white people (or RPWP, for short) was just too provocative to ignore. Nicole Kidman! Hugh Grant! Really big houses! 20-room duplex Upper East Side (UES) apartments! The clothes! The servants! The exclusive schools! The unlimited credit! To say nothing of adultery, insanity, bad manners, lower-class gatecrashers, and…MURDER! As a writer of mysteries and thrillers, how could I resist?
Well, I couldn’t. I jumped right in, and I’m now 4 episodes into it. Even though we’re only halfway through the talky, convoluted murder mystery, I’ve already collected a few valuable tips about writing in the genre I call RPWP Noir. Here are my Top 10 takeaways:
- UES matrons own a different $25K coat for every day of the week and spend several hours every morning having their hair teased into perfect Medusa curls. They join committees to “diversify” their local RPWP-UES schools with scholarships for a (very) small handful of underprivileged children. Then they have lunch and dash off to their token jobs as marriage counsellors for other RPWPs and UES types. They even treat mixed-race same-sex couples, which gives them street cred and unlimited bragging rights. In the evening, they attend exclusive fundraisers where they bid thousands on a glass of tap water. This gives them even more street cred and bragging rights.
- Lower-class women trying to socialize with RPWPs and UES types should dress provocatively, glare at everyone, frequently burst into tears, flirt with all the husbands, and breast-feed their babies in crowded meetings. This is a good way to blend in.
- The cuckolded husband of the lower-class murder victim thinks stalking and menacing the UES matron-marriage counsellor (the daughter of one of the world’s most powerful billionaires) all over NYC is a good idea.
- One of the world’s most brilliant pediatric oncologists, out on bail for the murder of his lower-class mistress, thinks going to the dead woman’s home and menacing her cuckolded husband and traumatized child is a good idea.
- One of the world’s most powerful billionaires, whose daughter and son-in-law are prime suspects in a murder investigation, thinks going to his grandson’s school and threatening the principal is a good idea.
- One of the world’s most brilliant defense attorneys, on learning that her client has broken the conditions of his bail and jeopardized her case, doesn’t resign and walk away from the loser. Instead, she slaps his wrist and tells him to behave.
- UES children are escorted to and from school every day, even when they’re apparently about 15 years old and in need of a shave.
- NYPD detectives constantly show up at the homes of witnesses to ask questions that the witnesses have already refused to answer because they have nothing better to do.
- The UES matron-marriage counsellor, on finding the NYPD detectives in her home for the umpteenth time, flashes her eyes and flares her nostrils and gnashes her teeth and curses at them and finally storms out of the room because that’s a really good way to deflect suspicion. Really. Ask any marriage counsellor.
- When in doubt, RPWPs and UES types should always lie to the authorities regarding their actions and whereabouts because nobody will ever think of checking CCTV cameras, GPS trackers, DNA samples, police records, and cellphone histories.
I’ve noticed other things, but this list will suffice. Now I’m going to sit right down and write my own RPWP Noir thriller. And I can’t wait for the next episode of THE UNDOING—I’m loving every minute of it!