Tristan Johnson, Archivist
In a tale that one wishes were not true, Hulu’s groundbreaking miniseries “The Act” sheds light on a horrifying story that occurred not too far from St. Louis. The eight-episode event attempts to capture the essence of a mother and daughter duo that has gone down in history as one of the most complicated murders of all time.
On June 14, 2015, the body of Dee Dee Blanchard was found stabbed in her home in Springfield, Missouri. Neighbors and members of the community were concerned when Dee Dee’s daughter Gypsy had gone missing, due to the fact that she would be unable to survive without her wheelchair and feeding tube. When Gypsy was found with her boyfriend in perfect health in Wisconsin, neighbors and members of the community were confused.
As details emerged about the relationship between the mother and daughter duo, it was revealed that the persona they had performed for the public was just a mirage. Gypsy was thought to have an extensive list of medical problems including leukemia, asthma and muscular dystrophy. She also claimed to have the mind of a 7-year-old.
When Gypsy was found in Wisconsin, she had none of these conditions. She was able to walk, eat and communicate like a normal girl her age. It was discovered that her mother had forced Gypsy to act disabled and younger than she was. She forced medications down Gypsy’s throat, made her endure unnecessary surgeries, and ripped any chance of having a normal life away from her daughter. Driven to insanity, Gypsy asked her boyfriend, Nicholas to kill her mother.
The series itself is wonderfully cast, with Patricia Arquette as the overbearing Dee Dee, and Joey King as the mistreated Gypsy. The slow transformation of King’s acting from passive to more assertive is exciting to watch, as we unfortunately already know what is coming. With well-placed flashbacks and various filming techniques, the creative team behind this series truly captures the painful authenticity of this unfortunate event. With four episodes already available for viewing on the streaming service, and four more to air within the next few weeks, Hulu has effortlessly captured this alarming and intriguing story.
While the series may be difficult for some to watch, it is important for people to see that the world is not all sunshine. Many media outlets tend to focus on a hero overcoming some type of adversity in a triumphant way, while less light is shown on ordinary people who become stuck in extraordinary situations. Todd VanderWerff, a Critic at large for Vox, stated that some people “couldn’t stomach spending so much time watching a mother slowly suffocate her daughter’s spirit.” It is gut wrenching to watch some of the events that unfold within this series; a daughter’s chance at life being ripped away by a mother who lost her chance to redeem herself long ago.
It also is important to point out that these events did indeed happen, making the drama found within “The Act” all too real. Gypsy Rose Blanchard, a girl who was tormented by her mother and forced to undergo unneeded medical treatments that ultimately lead to a life of pain, is currently serving 10 years in prison for second-degree murder. In an interview with 20/20 in 2018, Gypsy claimed that “I feel like I’m freer in prison, that with living with my mom. Because now, I’m allowed to… just live like a normal woman.”
Hulu wonderfully captures the essence of a mother who suffers from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a psychiatric disorder in which a person imposes a factitious disease on another in order to gain some type of attention. While the story is painful to watch, it unfolds right before our very eyes and instantly draws us in. Hulu has embodied the story of Gypsy Rose and Dee Dee Blanchard in a way that makes this unbelievable story a little more understandable.