On the night of June 14, 2015, Missouri sheriffs responded to a call from neighbors that led them to find Dee Dee Blanchard face-down on her bed in a pool of blood.
That night, neighbors were worried because there was no sign of Dee Dee’s daughter, Gypsy Rose, who apparently suffered from leukemia, asthma, muscular dystrophy and several other chronic conditions and had the “mental capacity of a 7-year-old due to brain damage” she received during her premature birth.
After further investigation, police found that Gypsy was not missing or kidnapped. She instead fled with her boyfriend, Nicholas Godejohn, who killed her mother.
The details of Gypsy’s life and her story went from a trending crime story to a infamous tale of a mother’s twisted love and her daughter’s revenge when HBO released the documentary “Mommy Dead and Dearest” on May 16, 2017.
Two years later, this sparked the creation of two other television programs. Lifetime released its movie “Love You to Death” based on the incident in January this year. Later, on March 20, Hulu premiered its original true crime series “The Act,” an eight episode miniseries based on Michelle Dean’s 2016 BuzzFeed article.
Now, there is so much content about the same story that it can be hard to know what to watch and which story to trust. While the Lifetime movie and Hulu series are based on the same tale, their portrayals are vastly different.
Hulu plot structure
The Hulu show does what the name suggests: It shows the act Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard kept going for years, toward both the community and each other. In this dramatized depiction, Gypsy is shown to be suspicious and then aware of her mother’s lying, but she stays because she feels she has no way out.
Dee Dee, no matter how sinister we may think she is, seems to have an internal conflict, which would make sense due to her mental illness — Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Everytime she yells at Gypsy, we see Dee Dee either reach the brink of or actually breakdown. However, it seems she only feels bad because she does not want Gypsy to run, rather than regretting her actions.
Lifetime plot structure
One of the largest differences between these two fictional portrayals is the Lifetime picture only uses the Blanchard story as the basis for their story. In the film, the two main characters have different names, but it deals with the same situational conflict. Esme, the Lifetime Gypsy, has a tumultuous relationship with her mother, Camille, who forces her to pretend she is handicapped and fraught with multiple ailments.
An interesting difference between the two productions is the depiction of the relationship between the mother and daughter. In her description of her life, Gypsy balances a lot of internal turmoil and anger with her love for her mother.
In Lifetime’s movie, the relationship between Camille and Esme escalates quickly and seems to resemble a hostage situation. In the trailer alone, many of the scenes show Esme and her mother in verbal and sometimes physical altercations. It seems like most of the time the two are angry with each other and do not have the bond that was presented to the public.
However, the Hulu miniseries shows more of the relationship’s evolution, which is that Gypsy loved her mother and her mother started her abuse out of love too. Although the story turned dark and twisted, Gypsy trusted her mother because she truly felt they shared a loving bond.
The two interpretations have sparked a bit of controversy because the Lifetime movie sought the approval of Gypsy Rose herself. Some critics believe the Hulu interpretation took too many creative liberties in their depiction of her relationship with her boyfriend.
The Hulu series retelling of the Blanchard story is superior to the Lifetime movie because it took the time to look through the lens of multiple characters. Rather than solely displaying Gypsy’s or Dee Dee’s perspectives, the series is all-encompassing. The writers took time to show one doctor becoming suspicious of the false health claims and trying to rescue Gypsy.
If you are looking for the most thorough fictional depiction, watch Hulu’s “The Act.”
Gypsy Rose is currently serving her decade-long prison sentence for role in the murder of her abusive mother.