Why I Can’t Stop Watching “The Act”

I just spent my entire Friday night catching up on “The Act” because I have no self-control when I become obsessed with a new show. If you’re interested in true crime, you may be familiar with the case of Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard. If not, here’s a basic summary. Dee Dee Blanchard had a condition called Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP). MSBP is defined by Michigan Medicine as “a mental health problem in which a caregiver makes up or causes an illness or injury in a person under his or her care, such as a child, an elderly adult, or a person who has a disability.” Dee Dee made her child Gypsy Rose believe she had an excessive list of medical conditions such as leukemia, muscular dystrophy, sleep apnea, vision and hearing problems and seizures.

Dee Dee also lied to Gypsy Rose about her age and mental capacity. However, despite Dee Dee’s claims, Gypsy Rose was perfectly healthy. Her mother continued to convince her and those around her that she was not healthy and therefore needed constant care. At night, Gypsy Rose would talk to men on Facebook and Christian dating sites, hoping to find her ‘prince charming’. In 2012, she met Nicholas Godejohn online. Nicholas Godejohn suffered from severe mental health problems and in their minds, the only way they could be together would be through killing Dee Dee Blanchard. Gypsy Rose and Nicholas plotted the murder of Dee Dee over Facebook messages and in June 2015, Nicholas took a bus from Wisconsin to Missouri and bludgeoned Dee Dee to death in her own home. Shortly after the murder, the two fled the scene and left for the Greyhound station before getting caught by police a few days after the crime. If you’re interested in learning more about this case, YouTuber Kendall Rae made an excellent video about the Blanchard case that goes into greater detail.

Although this show has been dramatized for television, “The Act” is incredibly haunting. The show dives into the psyches of Dee Dee Blanchard, Gypsy Rose and Nicholas Godejohn. The characters on the show are complicated. People who lived in the same community as Dee Dee never expected her to be as abusive as she was. On the outside, she seemed like the perfect caretaker and mother but at home, she would abuse Gypsy Rose physically and mentally. The cinematography captures the aesthetic of small-town Missouri life and the shots of the Blanchard home highlights the youthful mentality Dee Dee projected onto Gypsy Rose. Walls of kitschy stuffed animals and cat figurines line the shelves of the Blanchard home, giving the house a squeaky clean Disney-esque look. However, in the opening scene in which the audience finds out that Dee Dee has been murdered, the teddy bears and porcelain dolls throughout the house makes the scene even more unsettling. Aside from stunning visuals, the show has an incredible soundtrack featuring artists such as Francoise Hardy, Brigitte Bardot & Serge Gainsbourg, Cults and even Dolly Parton.

Unfortunately, “The Act” has received backlash from the Blanchard family, particularly from Gypsy Rose Blanchard herself. In an interview with Bustle, she stated that she thought it was “unfair” that the show’s producer Michelle Dean used Gypsy Rose’s name and story without her consent, due to the fact that she was (and still is) in prison during the time of filming. Gypsy Rose stated, “There will be legal action taken against the show's creators.” The Blanchard family reported to the Springfield News-Leader that they have been working on another series about the life of Gypsy Rose entitled “By Proxy.” However, the family is waiting for their show to get picked up by a network.

Despite the controversy, I’m excited to see how the rest of the season will turn out. The last episode left fans on a cliffhanger and I’m anxious to watch the next episode. New episodes will be out every Wednesday on Hulu. In the meantime, happy binging!