(Content warning: The Act is a graphic true crime series. Mommy Dead and Dearest features additional graphic content about the murder and the circumstances leading up to it: rape, medical abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, poisoning, manipulation.)
As a messy bitch who lives for drama, I love watching crazy and complex stories unfold, whether it’s onstage, onscreen, or in a book. But as an archivist and pedant (they do tend to go together), I also love facts. So the second I finished The Act, I researched as much as I possibly could. Luckily for your intrepid researcher, there’s a fantastic documentary called Mommy Dead and Dearest directed and produced by Erin Lee Carr, which was a great place to start. From there, I delved into local news articles, home videos, and Facebook posts (including the Facebook post — “THAT BITCH IS DEAD”). Frankly, I was expecting to find far more dramatic license. If anything, the show left out some of the more horrifying details. Toward the beginning of the limited series run, a statement from Gypsy herself surfaced saying that liberties taken by the show were “unprofessional,” but further, more specific information is still forthcoming.
Here’s your basic primer on what’s true, what’s not … and what was too wild even for Hulu.
— Gypsy Rose Blanchard and Nicholas Godejohn
- Gypsy met Nick on a Christian dating site. Their relationship escalated into BDSM roleplay, although she admits that initially “I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this!'” but eventually rationalized that “I was taught that a woman’s role is to be submissive, so [BDSM] didn’t seem that outlandish.”
- Nick claimed to have multiple personalities, including a murderous vampire. Gypsy “made up other personalities to match” including “slutty Candy” and “sweet Kitty.”
- Nick and Gypsy staged a meeting in real life to introduce him to Dee Dee, which did not go well. They went to see the live action Cinderella and had sex in a movie theater bathroom.
- Nick said he wanted to rape Dee Dee before killing her. Gypsy objected to this, saying, “I made a deal with him. I would let him rape me and then he wouldn’t do that to my mom.”
- Nick raped Gypsy on other occasions: she says, “I screamed for him to stop and he didn’t, so I wouldn’t say it was consensual” (Nick says that every time it was “100% consensual”).
- Although Nick faces more legal responsibility for the murder (life in prison without possibility for parole), when he was asked during interrogation whether he would have killed Dee Dee without Gypsy asking him to do so, he answered a resounding “No.”
— Dee Dee’s abuse
- Dee Dee had complete control of Gypsy’s medical history and confidently related falsehoods to doctors. In MD&D, neurologist Dr. Flasterstein scrawls “MOTHER IS NOT A GOOD HISTORIAN” in his notes. Pediatrician Dr. Feldman observes that, due to Dee Dee’s manipulation, “Gypsy fell through every crack in the system.”
- Gypsy describes her mom as “unique” and says, “I didn’t think any abuse was going on … I went on blind faith that mother knows best.”
- In addition to the MSBP, Dee Dee was more “traditionally” violent toward Gypsy as well. Gypsy relates, “she hit me with her coat hanger. I never tried to hit back … The first time I ran away from home, my mother smashed my cell phone and computer and said if I ever did it again, she would smash my fingers.”
- Their neighbor Aleah says Dee Dee was “a filter” and wouldn’t give Gypsy any privacy. Corresponding character Mel tries to establish a deeper friendship with Gypsy and is shut down by Dee Dee every time.
- Gypsy maintained that she did not kill her mom, answering “no sir” to “Did you kill your mom? Did you help Nick kill your mom? Did you have knowledge that Nick was going to kill your mom?”
- In The Act, Gypsy makes a friend at a convention who doesn’t know anything about her abusive household. In real life, she hitchhiked all the way to Arkansas, where he encouraged her to pack and leave after she revealed her situation.
- Gypsy recalls that “I didn’t have a thought in my brain. I was on a lot of medication, and I know it’s no excuse, but on Xanax, I felt like I had no emotion.” Dr. Flasterstein corroborates that MSBP victims “have limited capacity for reality testing.”
— Dee Dee’s family background
- Aside from a few flashbacks establishing Dee Dee’s mother as overbearing, little time in The Act is devoted to Dee Dee’s extended family.
- According to MD&D, Dee Dee’s family suspects that she had something to do with her mother Emma’s death, and they confirm that she was poisoning her stepmother Laura Pitre with Roundup. Laura observed that “if it didn’t go [Dee Dee’s] way, she would see that it would go her way. And you would pay a lot … there was nothing she couldn’t get away with”
- Dee Dee’s family had a cold reaction to her ultimate death. Her stepson Bobby Pitre immediately suspected that Gypsy had something to do with Dee Dee’s death: “I wasn’t thinking ‘oh my god, my aunt’s dead,’ I was thinking ‘who did she piss off now?’ And I was thinking it would probably be Gypsy.”
- Dee Dee’s father and stepmother felt that “she got what she deserved.” Nobody wanted Dee Dee’s ashes; they were flushed down the toilet.
— Rod and Kristy Blanchard
- Dee Dee got pregnant fairly suddenly and ended up married to Rod Blanchard out of obligation. In MD&D, he says, “being from the south, I guess, I was raised that you got a girl pregnant and then you got married. I was 17. I woke up on my 18th birthday and was like ‘what am I doing here?’ She started talking about dark things, witchcraft and weird dark stuff like that.”
- Rod Blanchard was kept at a distance, and Gypsy was told all manner of falsehoods about him, such as that he was not sending child support or that he was not around for certain childhood events.
- He has begun to (re)build his relationship with her while she is in prison.
- The Act has a brief scene of Rod visiting Gypsy in prison and providing her medical records, which help establish her as a victim. MD&D delves deeper into the rebuilding of their relationship.
- In MD&D, Gypsy ponders that “the only thing that I could have done differently was to reach out to my dad; he could have came and got me.”
- Rod says, “I blame myself … It is what it is. I’m not a blame yourself type of guy, but who else is there to look at? If I did anything wrong, I’m sorry.” Gypsy responds, “I take blame on myself, and I blame other people, but I’ve never once blamed y’all.”
The Act is really hard to watch at times, in the best way possible. It’s a brutal story, and I’m sincerely hoping that Gypsy Rose is able to have a fresh start after her prison sentence.