In the new Hulu television series “The Act,” a horrifying mother-daughter dynamic is examined — and the most disturbing part is the fact that it's based on a true story. It follows the events leading up to the murder of Clauddine “Dee Dee” Blanchard, who was killed by her own daughter Gypsy Rose and her online boyfriend after Dee Dee allegedly forced Gypsy to pretend to be sick and disabled in a suspected case of Munchausen by proxy.
Instead of getting to live the life of a healthy girl and teen (which she technically was), Gypsy used a feeding tube and a wheelchair at the instructions of her mother, and got multiple unnecessary surgeries. The whole ruse was allegedly just a way for the mother to gain sympathy, donations, attention, and even free trips to Disney World.
But the series shows that as Gypsy blossomed from a child to a teenager, the mother-daughter relationship became strained — especially when romantic prospects entered the picture.
“Dee Dee was trying to clamp down on something that ultimately is impossible to tell somebody to turn off. You can’t do that, and women have traditionally been told to turn it off as if they don’t have sexual desires and it’s warping,” Michelle Dean, whose article for BuzzFeed News served as the basis for "The Act,” told Oxygen.com. “In this case because of the additional sheltered-ness and because of how isolated she was that warped-ness got even larger.”
In "The Act," Gypsy tries to run off with a man, which does in fact have basis in reality.
Dee Dee was allegedly irate when she found out Gypsy had an interest in dating. She didn’t want her daughter to date, most likely because it would contradict their scam. In addition to physical ailments, she also faked that Gypsy was developmentally slow and pretended that Gypsy was years younger than she actually was. Gypsy claimed she wasn’t allowed to have her own Facebook account or even identity, and this pushed her to sneak around, reported BuzzFeed.
In the show, Gypsy meets a man named Scott, played by Joe Tippett, at a comics convention. He's dressed up as Wolverine, and she's smitten.
Robin Veith, who wrote two episodes of “The Act,” including the episode about Scott, told Oxygen.com that she attended a small convention in Sacramento, an experience she called “fascinating," to prepare to write this episode.
“I was charmed by the amount of love people put into making their own costumes,” she told Oxygen.com. “There’s a lot of Wolverines at conventions and there’s many facets of Wolverine.”
She said Wolverine has a lot of different disguises as do the subjects of “The Act," so it made sense to make the character dress as Wolverine.
“There are many different Dee Dees and many different Gypsies.”
In the show, Scott and Gypsy exchange numbers and text, and one night, Gypsy puts on a wig and takes a cab to visit him. She writes her mother a note stating that she's running away to marry Scott, but Dee Dee arrives to take her back. She even yells at him, claiming that her daughter is underage.
“I don’t know what she told you but she’s 14 years old,” the mother told Scott.
Show Gypsy was actually 19.
In real life, it played out slightly differently.
In 2011, Gypsy met a 35-year-old man at a science fiction convention where they struck up some form of relationship, according to Inside Edition. (It’s unclear if he ever dressed up as Wolverine.) Gypsy ran away from home to be with him and even hitchhiked, reported Rolling Stone. She met up with the man, who hasn't been publicly named, in Arkansas and they went to a hotel together.
But because Dee Dee had convinced everyone that Gypsy was just 15 at the time, the community helped track her down at the hotel. Dee Dee showed up at there with papers that wrongly showed Gypsy was underage, according to BuzzFeed News. Just as in the show, Gypsy was technically an adult at the time — she was 19.
“People looked at Gypsy as a disabled child and didn’t think she had a sexuality,” Dean told Oxygen.com. "They weren't paying attention when she was communicating that she was longing for a man."
Gypsy later claimed that after Dee Dee picked her up at the motel she destroyed Gypsy's phone and computer with a hammer and threatened to hurt her before restraining her to a bed with handcuffs for weeks.
However, this moment marked a pivotal point in Gypsy and Dee Dee's relationship, according to ELLE. Gypsy said she realized that something was wrong with her mother, and that she was trying to keep her from having her own life and friends — and Gypsy knew she needed to escape.
Veith told Oxygen.com that this particular episode tackles the following questions: Why didn’t Gypsy just run away?
“And the answer with this episode is, well, she tried,” she said.
Gypsy is currently serving prison time for masterminding her mother's 2015 murder.
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