Patricia Arquette and Joey King bring to life a shocking mother-daughter duo inspired by real-life mother Dee Dee and daughter Gypsy Rose Blanchard. Dee Dee suffers from Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy, which is a mental disorder causing her to act as if her daughter Gypsy is severely ill while in actuality she is in perfect health. Dee Dee obsesses over every detail when it comes to Gypsy, creating a fictional reality in which she lives and is able to trap Gypsy inside of by being her sole caretaker.
So, do parents really know best? No, not always. Becoming a parent doesn’t really have any qualifiers. Anyone that is able to procreate can, which means someone with a mental illness can care for and control a child even if they know worst. In Gypsy’s case, that involved more than twenty years of psychological and physical abuse.
We’re taught from a young age to do as our parents do, but the fact of the matter is that parents are not absolved of imperfections. In all actuality, you can be bred from someone that can be the worst thing for you.
Many levels to this fall before the extreme of Dee Dee Blanchard. Even growing up in a chaotic household where irrational behavior becomes the standard, it can be tough to tell between right and wrong. There’s a toxic cycle passed down when someone who hasn’t taken care of themselves has children, passing their demons down. We have parents who cannot and have not taken care of themselves transitioning into guardianship. Without monitoring, they can take care of someone helpless to the poison pushed onto them. It’s a startling reality with not much of a solution.
If you watch The Act, naturally you’ll want to scream at Gypsy through the screen, telling her to just run away. It seems so easy looking in from the outside. But the repetition and consistency of Dee Dee’s delusions pushed onto Gypsy made it difficult for her to understand what was real and what wasn’t. She was brainwashed into thinking that she couldn’t leave.
Dee Dee needed Gypsy to be sick to fit into her narrative, providing her with shelter, money, and unlimited charitable donations. If Gypsy stopped being sick, Dee Dee would have to face her mental illness and she’d have to pay for her actions. As long as she was breathing, she would do anything to make sure that didn’t happen. That meant that Gypsy had to regularly shave her head, all of her teeth were extracted, she was forced to take several medications that she didn’t need, she was fed through a feeding tube, and she used a wheelchair. All of these extremes were 100% unneeded, but that was Gypsy’s life up until her early twenties, which happened to be what she thought was her teens as her mother lied to her about what year she was born so she would always think she was younger. Horror movies have nothing on the terror that lives inside some homes.
If you follow the real-life story, you’ll know that Gypsy Rose finally figured it all out. She started walking around at night when her mother would sleep and began online dating after getting access to a phone and a shared laptop. She entered a relationship and was able to convince her online boyfriend to murder her mother. For Gypsy, that was her way out. Was it her only way out? I don’t think that’s for us to judge. No one other than Dee Dee or Gypsy will know the level of abuse that took place for 24 years.
But now after being a prisoner her entire life at home, she’s a prisoner behind bars. She was psychologically tricked into thinking she was trapped all those years with her mother after being fed both delusions and medication she didn’t need, paired with physical abuse that conditioned her to stay fearful. I don’t know what Gypsy’s fate should be, but after watching The Act and researching the surplus of information on this story, it doesn’t seem right that Gypsy’s entire life has involved imprisonment. And now, her father and stepmother, who weren’t in the picture until now mainly due to Dee Dee, have planted themselves in her narrative and begun speaking on her behalf as she’s trapped in a cell.
I think more than anything, Gypsy Rose Blanchard, as a human being, deserves to speak for herself and deserves to not be a prisoner. She deserves to understand freedom. This doesn’t condone her behavior or her part in a murder, but it’s clear she’s never really had the opportunity to speak and act for herself without fear. She was dealt with an exceptionally devastating hand and hasn’t had the chance to start a life of her own. It’s a travesty for a human being to not even have the chance. It’s a tragedy that imprisonment has been her entire experience.
I’m not sure what a second chance looks like for Gypsy, but I hope she gets it. She deserves to have a say in something instead of nothing.
For adults struggling with mental illness, think about the impact it has on your children if it applies. Whether mental illness is passed down or not, if it goes untreated and you have children, it will impact their lives for the worse. So if not for yourself, do it for them.