The tragic and haunting true story of Dee Dee Blanchard and her daughter, Gypsy Rose, have been the subject of an HBO documentary by Erin Lee Carr, Mommy Dead and Dearest, and the first season of Hulu's latest series, The Act, available to stream today. The Act is a dramatized version of the complicated relationship between Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose that ended with Dee Dee's murder and Gypsy Rose behind bars. To fully grasp the horror of The Act, pictures of the real Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard will show you things aren't always what they appear. If anything, they're much more sinister.
The Act backtracks the life of Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard after their move from Louisiana to Missouri in 2007. Gypsy and online love interest, Nichoal Godejohn, plotted to kill Dee Dee after Gypsy discovered she wasn't as sick as her mother made her believe she was. Gypsy wasn't sick at all — but Dee Dee was. She suffered from a mental illness called Munchausen syndrome by proxy that manifests through a parent or guardian fabricating the illness of a child to gain sympathy and attention. Gypsy Rose endured years of abuse with Dee Dee telling her (and everyone else) she had leukemia, muscular dystrophy, and other ailments she didn't actually have. Dee Dee forced Gypsy to take medications she didn't need, have procedures that weren't necessary, and forced her into a wheelchair when Gypsy could actually walk just fine. All of this gained them not just sympathy and attention, but financial donations from different charities such as Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
"I [thought I] was paralyzed from the waist down," Gypsy said in a special on Discovery ID. "She also said I had cancer and she would shave off my hair and tell me, 'It's going to fall out anyway so let’s keep it nice and neat.' She said I couldn’t eat and needed a feeding tube, so I had formula through a feeding tube and also received my medication through a feeding tube."
Once Gypsy unearthed the truths about those conditions, as shown in The Act, she rebelled against Dee Dee, met Godejohn online, and they conspired to kill Dee Dee in exchange for Gypsy's freedom from that life. "I’ve had my salivary glands removed because my mother said that I drooled. I had the feeing tube placement in my tummy, I had multiple eye surgeries on right and left eye," Gypsy added in that same special. "Ear surgeries, muscle biopsy to find out why my legs didn’t work, a surgery to make me not throw up anymore. I believed I had all these illnesses, except I knew that I could walk and I knew that I could eat."
After the murder, the pair hid out in Godejohn's Wisconsin home until authorities were alerted to suspicious Facebook posts that ultimately led them to Gypsy and Godejohn. She pleaded guilty to second degree murder and is serving a 10-year sentence in a correctional facility in Missouri, while Godejohn is serving a life sentence for first degree murder after Gypsy testified against him.
The Act was inspired by an in-depth article written by journalist Michelle Dean for Buzzfeed News that garnered Dee Dee and Gypsy national attention. Lifetime also aired a fictionalized version of their story in January, Love You to Death. Gypsy Rose’s cousin, Bobby Pitre, told Radar Online Dee Dee's family is upset about The Act on Hulu. "They hate all of it," Pitre said. "They don’t know why people keep making stories about it. … [It’s] time to leave it alone."