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Crime News

From Gypsy Rose To The Menendez Brothers: All The True Crime References In The Netflix Hit 'The Politician'

While “The Politician” is mainly about an affluent California teenager's quest to become class president, it's chock full of true crime allusions.

By Gina Tron
The Politician Zoey Duetch

The new Netflix series “The Politician” follows the turbulent life of an affluent California teenager in his quest to become class president. His real dream though, which he has apparently known since age 7, is to become president of the United States. 

There is romance and betrayal and lots of secrets amongst the study body. Parts of the show even feature musical elements reminiscent of “Glee.” It calls itself a comedy. A comedy about high school politics sounds like the one of the furthest premises from true crime, right?  Wrong.

Murder plots abound in the show. To boot, aspiring president Payton Hobart, played by Ben Platt, has a life rife with true crime references. The show weaves in elements of true crime into both plotlines and characters. And since we here at Oxygen.com know a thing or two about true crime, we’ve collected all the allusions we could find. 

Warning: spoilers ahead.

The Menendez Brothers

The Menendez brothers grew up in a Beverly Hills, California mansion not unlike the one where the character of Payton lives. Payton, who was adopted, lives in an extravagant Santa Barbara home with his adoptive parents and their two biological twin sons.

Lyle Menendez was 21 and Erik was 18 when they killed their parents Jose and Kitty Menendez in 1989 inside their luxury home. The way they killed their parents was horrendous. Their father was nearly decapitated by the 12-gauge shotgun used in the attack and their mother was also rendered almost unrecognizable after being shot several times, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Their 1994 trial became one of the most sensationalized trials of the century. Both brothers were sentenced to life in prison without parole. During their trial, the siblings claimed they were retaliating against their father’s sexual abuse but the prosecutors argued that the boys were just after their parent’s money.

The notorious case and the motive appears to have a lot of influence on the creation of Payton’s twin brothers. The twins, Martin and Luther Hobart, played by real life brothers Trevor and Trey Eason, are sociopathic and cruel. Both dress like they stepped out of the country club and both are eager to float through life on their wealth and privilege alone. They’re obsessed with bloodlines and hunting. They even want to eliminate net neutrality. Their own mom calls them “borderline psychopaths.” Borderline is arguable. They try to kill their dad for money. 

The Politician Trevor And Trey Eason

“Did you listen to the Menendez 911 tapes like I  asked you to?’ one asks the other right before their attempted patricide.

“Patricide is so on brand for the twins,” Georgina Hobart, their mother, (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) says of their failed murder attempt.

College Admissions Scandal

In an operation dubbed Operation Varsity Blues, the now-notorious admissions scandals resulted in dozens of wealthy parents getting implicated for allegedly buying their kids’ acceptance into prestigious schools. 

Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were among the parents accused of paying college admissions consultant William "Rick" Singer, a college admissions consultant, thousands of dollars to alter their children's SAT scores or help them fake a sport to get their way into prestigious universities. 

Huffman served 11 days in prison after pleading guilty to paying Singer $15,000 to make her daughter's SAT scores look better while Loughlin was accused of paying Singer half a million to get her two daughters into a school as athletes, even though neither played the sport. Loughlin, if convicted could face up to 40 years behind bars. In most cases, parents allegedly paid between $250,000 and $400,000 per student to get into their desired school, National Public Radio reported.

The protagonist of “The Politician” is determined to get into Harvard because he feels that will set him on the right track to becoming president. Payton tries to convince a Harvard dean that his is destined for Harvard and, of course, the presidency in the show’s opening scene.

While the two homicidal twins did go to Harvard, Payton’s adoptive mother made it clear that it wasn’t because of their grades. Rather, it was alluded that the family paid the school off to admit them.

The school was ready for the same kind of deal in exchange for accepting Payton into the school , demanding money to fund their Slavic language department. 

“This is not the first time this sort of thing’s been done,” one of the Harvard representatives notes, adding that Payton’s family isn’t the only one with money who wants to get into their school.

Gypsy Rose Blanchard 

Probably the biggest true crime nod of all is the show’s apparent references to the Gypsy Rose Blanchard case.  It’s a case that has already been the subject of multiple TV shows and documentaries. Once thought of as a sick girl, it was soon revealed that Blanchard’s mother Dee Dee Blanchard merely just pretended she was. She forced young Gypsy to use a wheelchair, endure multiple surgeries and consume unneeded medications —  a condition often referred to as Munchausen by proxy.

The scam, which allowed Dee Dee to receive financial donations and free trips to theme parks and Disneyworld, came to a homicidal halt when Dee Dee was stabbed to death by Gypsy’s online boyfriend Nicholas Godejohn in 2015 upon Gypsy’s request. Godejohn was sentenced in February 2019 to life in prison after being convicted of first-degree murder. Gypsy Rose, meanwhile, was sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder for her role in the attack.

All three key players in the Gypsy Rose case seem to inspire three characters in “The Politician.”

Infinity Jackson (Zoey Deutch) has clear parallels to Gypsy Rose  — Infinity and Gypsy Rose could share a closet. Infinity wears infantilized kitten sweatshirts and lots of pink, mimicking the little-girl clothing that Gypsy Rose wore during her mother’s schemes.

Like Gypsy Rose, Infinity’s relative (in this case, grandmother) Dusty Jackson, played by Jessica Lange (who also starred in the spooky show “American Horror Story”) claims the teen has cancer (though even Infinity doesn’t know what kind), a rare allergy and a host of other illnesses. Infinity wears head pieces to cover a presumably bald head, and she had to endure a feeding tube, just like Gypsy did.

Her grandma loves getting attention and free stuff, and they get plenty of it in the show. The grandma-daughter duo get free trips to Disney World, where they got to skip to the front of the line for rides. They also get free meals, free front row tickets to a concert and plenty of sympathetic press in the local media.

“It’s all a big scam” one of the characters tells the show’s protagonist. ‘She’s not sick. She’s faking it.”

The Politician Zoey Duetch

By episode 2, the term Munchausen by proxy is being tossed around and from there forward, it’s used quite generously.

Former southern belle Dusty has more in common with former southern belle Dee Dee than just the Munchausen by proxy. Dusty actually poisoned Infinity’s mother in the show, killing her. Dee Dee’s family has accused her of neglecting her own mom toward the end of her life and have speculated that Dee Dee may have killed her.

Then, there’s the character of Ricardo, played by Benjamin Barrett. (He’s got another tangential true crime tie: he played serial killer Richard Ramirez in the 2016 film “The Night Stalker.”)

His inability to grasp some basic fundamentals of life and his devotion for his girlfriend draw parallels to Nicholas Godejohn, who killed Dee Dee in real life. He and Gypsy had met on a Christian dating site and, as Dee Dee “did not approve of Gypsy being romantically involved with anyone,” according to court documents obtained by Oxygen.com, the couple unsuccessfully tried to convince Dee Dee that they should be together. Before Godejohn stabbed his girlfriend’s mom to death in 2015, resulting in his life sentence earlier this year, the pair would exchange sexualyl-charged video chats with one another. After the killing of Dee Dee, they filmed a post-sex video together. Ricardo and Infinity film a few tapes of their own in the show.

Godejohn, like Ricardo, was often treated as not very bright. 

“From the very first day when I was in kindergarten all the way to twelfth grade, every single one of those days I was in special education,” Nick Godejohn said on “Killer Couples: Gypsy Rose & Nick: A Love to Kill For.” He went on to say “the weird thing, though, is that even though I was in special education throughout that entire time, I was considered one of the smartest children in the classrooms that I was in, just because of my high-functioning autism, Asperger syndrome.”

Psychologist Kent Franks testified at a 2016 hearing that he has more the mind of a child than an adult, according to a 2016 report by KY3 in Springfield, Missouri. He said that after two mental evaluations on Godejohn, he determined that the killer is on the autism spectrum with an IQ of 82 and the functionality equivalent to that of a 10-year-old.

The Politician Benjamin Barrett

In “The Politician,” Dusty does allow Infinity to date and Ricardo is often at their home. And, while Ricardo does allude to wanting to kill Dusty, he eventually works in cahoots with her in an attempt to kill Payton. Then, Dusty actually shoots him, before he is sentenced to life in prison.

After Dusty’s Munchausen by proxy is exposed, Infinity got famous, even earning herself a book deal. Gypsy has received her fair amount of fame, despite the fact that she remains, for now, behind bars.

Manson family

Ricardo, Infinity and Payton also all star in their school’s musical “The Assassins,” which is a real play about all the real people who either assassinated or tried to assassinate presidents. The play’s characters include Lee Harvey Oswald who infamously assassinated President John F. Kennedy and John Wilkes Booth who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. It also includes, among others, Samuel Byck who tried to kill President Richard Nixon and John Hinckley, Jr. who shot, but didn’t kill President Ronald Reagan.

Infinity plays Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme who tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford. 

“It’s the best part of the show,” Infinity exclaimed about her role in the play.

Fromme wasn’t just a failed assassin. She was also part of the Manson Family, one of America’s most famous cults. The group, led by Charles Manson, was made up of mostly female followers including Fromme. 

The group was behind a series of murders in California in 1969. They brutally killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate along with four of her friends a day before killing a another couple. Several of the victims were stabbed dozens of times.

While Fromme didn’t actively participate in any of the murders she spent 34 years in prison for her 1975 assasination attempt when she pointed a gun at the president. She was stopped by Secret Service agents before any shots were fired.