I was fascinated by this article in 2016. Journalist Michelle Dean wrote a gripping report exploring the unbelievably extraordinary lives of Dee Dee Blanchard and her daughter Gypsy Rose. Living in a pink bungalow in Springfield, Missouri, Dee Dee was deeply devoted to caring for teenager Gypsy who was wheelchair-bound and fighting cancer.
“Ask about her daughter’s diagnoses, and Dee Dee would reel off a list as long as her arm: chromosomal defects, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, severe asthma, sleep apnea, eye problems,” wrote Dean. Gypsy was thin, pale, bald, her teeth were crumbling and she had a feeding tube. Her voice was high-pitched and infantilised because, according to Dee Dee, Gypsy also had brain-damage and the mental capacity of seven-year-old. As a result, she had to be home-schooled. The thing was, Gypsy didn’t actually have any of these ailments; she wasn’t sick at all.
Her mother had a very serious mental illness called Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a factious disorder where one feigns another’s disease because they become addicted to the attention and sympathy they receive. Dee Dee would take Gypsy to multiple doctors – so as not to leave a paper trail or be found out – and would force her daughter to take medication she didn’t need. She would shave Dee Dee’s head so people would believe she had leukaemia. Some people raised eyebrows – a neighbour, a doctor, Gypsy’s father – but none investigated the situation further. I’ll say it again, you truly have to read this account.
When Gypsy met a boy online, Dee Dee’s lie began to unravel. Running away with him, she realised she could walk and her hair began growing back. Gypsy was really, really angry her mother had robbed her of her life and one night in 2015, she and her boyfriend stabbed Dee Dee to death. Today, Gypsy is serving out a 10-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.
Now, Academy Award-winning actress Patricia Arquette and Joey King are playing Dee Dee and Gypsy in television series The Act coming to Hulu in March. Not to be confused with HBO’s 2017 documentary about the Blanchards, Mommy Dead and Dearest, critics believe both actresses will sweep next year’s awards season for these respective roles. Chloe Sevigny and AnnaSophia Rob star as the Blanchard’s curious neighbours.
In a bitter sweet twist, Gypsy is actually thriving in prison for it is a better existence than the one she led as a victim of her own mother “There has been no long-term side effects from all the medication her mom had given her. She has a clean bill of health, thank god — and I really only think what it has done was stunt her growth,” her step-mother Kristy Blanchard told the Springfield News Leader. “Despite everything, she still tells me that she’s happier now than with her mom. And that if she had a choice to either be in jail, or back with her mom, she would rather be in jail.”
The first two episodes of The Act arrives on March 20.