If you haven't seen the trailer for Hulu's forthcoming The Act, drop everything and head to watch it. Seriously, we'll wait. The anthology series explores the disturbing true story of Gypsy Rose and Dee Dee Blanchard, a mother and daughter from Springfield, Missouri, whose complicated relationship eventually led to a stranger-than-fiction murder.
It also happens to have an outstanding cast that we're positive is going to do the Blanchards' story justice. Fargo's Joey King stars as Gypsy and the inimitable Patricia Arquette will play a Munchausen-syndrome-by-proxy Dee Dee. Oh and Michelle Dean, who wrote the BuzzFeed article that more or less brought attention to this case back in 2016, has co-written the show.
So how much of this show is based on the facts of Gypsy's case? Read on to find out.
The murder of Dee Dee Blanchard is the true story The Act is based on.
In June 2015, when Dee Dee was found stabbed to death inside her home, Gypsy was the most unlikely suspect. After all, she had been super "sick" all her life, confined to a wheelchair, and brought up to believe she was born with vast array of disabilities and illnesses, including parapalegia, leukemia, severe asthma, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, just to name a few.
Per Michelle Dean's description of Gypsy, she was "pale and skinny, and her teeth were crumbling and painful. She had a feeding tube. Sometimes Dee Dee had to drag an oxygen tank around with them, nasal cannula looped around Gypsy's small ears."
Except — major twist — Dee Dee had Munchausen syndrome by proxy disorder and was actually just keeping her perfectly healthy daughter (who had no idea of her age, due to Dee Dee trying to always keep her younger) sick for years. After learning about her mother's lies, Gypsy plotted to have her mother killed by her boyfriend, who she met and established a relationship with online, obviously behind the back of her helicopter mom.
These days, Gypsy Rose is serving a 10-year prison sentence at the Chillicothe Correctional Center in Missouri. And perhaps most disturbingly, she's happier than ever. "Despite everything, she still tells me that she's happier now than with her mom," her stepmother said in an interview. "And that if she had a choice to either be in jail or back with mom, she would rather be in jail."
Gypsy's mom Dee Dee had Munchausen syndrome by proxy disorder.
Up until her violent murder, friends and neighbors believed Dee Dee was an extremely loving mother who put her life on hold in order to care for her severely disabled and chronically ill daughter. Except none of that was true, and the sick one, as it were, ended up being Dee Dee herself.
Munchausen syndrome by proxy disorder (MSBP) is characterized by attention-seeking behavior from a primary caregiver, usually a mom. This should ring bells for anyone who binged HBO's Sharp Objects last fall, or is a tried-and-true fan of Law and Order: SVU, where the theme often recurs. Dee Dee would take her daughter to the doctor seeking treatment for invented symptoms and apply to charities for money to treat Gypsy.
They got their home through Habitat for Humanity, countless handouts from neighbors, free trips to Disney World, and an endowment from the Make-a-Wish Foundation. But Dee Dee also put Gypsy through countless surgeries, drug cocktails, and everything else that comes with making the world believe you're feeding-tube-and-wheelchair-sick when you're actually in fine health.
At 19, Gypsy realized something was off and at 23, she conspired to kill Dee Dee with her online boyfriend.
Mind you, Gypsy was never told her correct age because her mother wanted to age her down. In fact, on her 18th birthday, Dee Dee told Gypsy's dad not to mention her age because "she thinks she's 14." And Dee Dee also used their displacement after Hurricane Katrina as a cover when Gypsy discovered a birth certificate with her true birthdate on it and tried to emancipate herself.
But in February 2011, Gypsy (actually 19, but thinking she was 15 at the time) tried to run off with a 35-year-old man she met at a science convention. She marked this as the moment when she realized something was off with her mother, who became "furious to the point of public spectacle," smashing the family computer with a hammer, "curs[ing] the internet," and banning Gypsy from making any friends.
When they finally got another computer, Dee Dee would limit her daughter's internet access. But she managed to forge a friendship with one 24-year-old Nicholas Godejohn, who later became her boyfriend. Together, they planned Dee Dee's murder, which culminated with a shocking message on Dee Dee's own Facebook account. Though Gypsy is serving her 10 year sentence, her boyfriend was charged with first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Watch The Act on Hulu. The first two episodes come out March 20.
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