True crime shows are a secret indulgence of many, including myself. It's hard to believe what people are capable of — especially when the crime revolves around family matters. One of the latest seasonal crime anthologies — The Act — is headed to Hulu. The series follows a story so bizarre, you can't help but Google the heck out of it to untangle the twisted web. I can't tell you that knowing beforehand if The Act is based on a true story will change your perception or not, but it's one of the darker, more hyped crime sagas and worth checking out.
The sad, but shocking truth is, yep, The Act is going to be a tough one to watch because it's based on the true story of Gypsy Rose and Dee Dee Blanchard. If you're not familiar, they're the mother-daughter pair with an incredibly dysfunctional lifestyle. Gypsy was convicted of killing her mother in 2015 because, according to Gypsy, she'd been forced to pretend to be sick her whole life, including staying in a wheelchair and being fed through a feeding tube. Her mom apparently suffered from Munchausen Syndrome proxy, which is a mental illness, as described by The Cleveland Clinic. It's when a guardian gains attention through a "sick" child. It's considered child abuse when a caregiver fakes disease or illness — or even helps it manifest in the child — for said attention because, obviously, they're inflicting pain on an otherwise healthy child.
Hulu's description said The Act is about "a girl trying to escape the toxic relationship she has with her overprotective mother," but you can be the judge after watching how this all plays out.
On the surface, Dee Dee appeared as any caring parent would with a child who suffered from painful, debilitating diseases like Gypsy seemed to. Dee Dee controlled who Gypsy could see (or not), she told Gypsy she had the mental capacity of a 7-year-old, and claimed she suffered from muscular dystrophy, leukemia, and asthma from a premature birth.
When Gypsy learned all she thought she knew about herself had been lies, she plotted to kill her mother to escape her. She listed mental and physical abuse, with Dee Dee going so far as to put Gypsy through unnecessary testing and procedures to cure ailments Gypsy never really had. But Dee Dee convinced everyone, receiving donations from various charities to help Gypsy "get well." In a 2016 with Buzzfeed, Gypsy said of Dee Dee: "She would have been the perfect mom for someone that actually was sick."
Eventually, Gypsy met Nicholas Godejohn online, and the two struck up a relationship that ended with Godejohn stabbing Dee Dee to death. Gypsy Rose is serving a 10-year sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree murder while Godejohn was found guilty of first-degree murder.
The Act is one of the more disturbing stories, for sure. It's hard to think of any parent doing as Dee Dee what did to Gypsy. If you're intrigued, it'd also be worth checking out the 2017 HBO documentary, Mommy Dead and Dearest for all the gritty details on this tragic mother-daughter relationship gone wrong. Then, wash it down with a good comedy (to balance things out).
The Act hits Hulu March 20.