I be a good righter.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Third installment. This one's going to be weird, because I've only seen the episode once. And that was when it was rerun on TNT, back when I was writing a LAW & ORDER spec. So, 2002 - ish. During that time, I watched the show three times a day -- or, you know, every time it aired. Which means that most of the plot has vanished into a weird amalgamation of a million L&O plotlines. Yet, it was the biggest revelation of my not-yet illustrious writing career.

LAW & ORDER -- "Blood"
Written by Craig Tepper and René Balcer

I've been looking around for a synopsis of it, because I barely remember the story. I can't find a detailed one anywhere. The best I can find is from tv.com:

"The paternity of a black baby given up for adoption by a white mother who later fell from an apartment balcony might provide a clue to her murderer, but it also unearths some long buried family secrets that it seems more than one person would kill to keep hidden."

What I vaguely remember about it is the at the get-go, we think the white victim was having an affair -- as evidenced by her giving birth to a black baby (both she and her husband are white). Perhaps tried to hide it from her husband. I believe the victim was an extremely wealthy, upper-crust white woman. What I do know is that she came from racism. And held racist beliefs. I believe that her husband killed her because she found out his secret. And was going to divorce him. And that would leave him penniless. I think.

Here's what I do remember of the episode: The husband was black. He just looked white. He passed as white. And he kept his history a complete secret. I know it was well-written. I know that I was thinking at the time that this was the writing level I needed to achieve if I was going to get anywhere in TV writing.

I also remember thinking: Fuck. This should be my story.

See. I'm half-Indian. But I don't look it. I look as though I just leapt out of a Guinness ad. All pale skin, freckles, red hair. And yet, my mother is from India. I grew up Indian; lived in India when I was younger (don't even get me started on the arguments my mother and I had over American clothes v. Indian clothes). I've also enjoyed the benefits of being ethnic, I got switched to a grade school that was closer to our house because of my ethnicity. And for the diversity programs, well, I'm diverse.

There was a time before the election when tensions were getting heated that I got embroiled in a fierce racial debate with an online group. At one point a person mentioned that I was "passing" as white. I've always thought of the term "passing" as a derogatory term. As though one's ashamed of their ethnicity and makes the conscious choice to go with the group that looks most like them and the group they're not ashamed of.

Basically, I was offended by the notion. Even though it's clear that's what I wanted to do when I was younger.

But, that is what this guy in this episode was doing. I think being black, for him, was some secret shame. And I understood the character's feeling. Because, when I was younger, and I was trying to fit in, I dressed American. And I "passed."

I can't imagine marrying someone who was a racist. But this character did. I think, on some level, he was as racist as his wife. He hated black people just as much as she did.

I thought about this character a lot. And I was reminded of him when I got that "passing" comment. I was reminded of him when I interviewed at CBS for their mentorship program and the woman asked me about three times if I was sure I was Indian (I am). There was even an awkward moment where the woman asked me if my mother, perhaps, was English and moved to India and... she isn't. And she didn't. (I didn't get into the program. It wasn't a huge surprise).

But, I get it. I don't look Indian. I don't have a dot on my head. Nor am I wearing a sari. Oh, and I don't have dark skin.

The "passing" comment. My experience with CBS. Growing up in a white neighborhood, being embarrassed of my heritage. The looks on people's faces when I tell them I'm Indian. All of this is fodder for some interesting stories, I think. But I never thought about it. Because to me, it's just normal that I'm a mixed chick who ended up white. It seems completely mundane and boring to me.

Or it did.

Until I saw "Blood." And saw my story. A mixed-race person who looked white. And all the potential secrets that could come out of it when a baby comes out black (based on the Punnett square, my hubby and I have a one-in-four chance of having little brown babies).

It was like that damned window in "The Friendly Skies." Because I'd lived it (or seen it a million times), it didn't occur to me that there was something interesting about it.

"They" say "write what you know." This is the episode that taught me how to do it.


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