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May 29, 2017 | by  | in TV |
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Mommy Dead and Dearest

On Monday, June 15, 2015, at 7.32am, a Facebook account belonging to Dee Dee Blancharde and her daughter Gypsy posted an update that seemed extremely out of character: “That Bitch is dead!” On checking the family’s Springfield, Missouri home with no response, neighbours called the police who found Dee Dee’s body inside, stabbed to death. There was no sign of Gypsy, who was paralysed from the waist down and required a wheelchair, and she was presumed missing. She was found safe the next day in Wisconsin, staying with the family of a man she had met online. She didn’t have her wheelchair.

Upon arrest it was discovered that Gypsy could walk just fine, and that ever since she could remember her mother had told her she could not use her legs and was not allowed to. In fact, the entirety of her medical history, from breathing difficulties to cancer, had been fabricated and forced upon her — over 20 years of extreme abuse — and she saw no opportunity for freedom other than to murder her own mother.

Mommy Dead and Dearest is an amazing documentary from director Erin Lee Carr, sure to feature on every true crime recommendations list for the next ten years. It is equal parts sad, frustrating, and unbelievable. With full access to Gypsy’s medical and court records, Dee Dee’s family members, Gypsy’s father, and interviews with Gypsy herself from prison, the film lays out a story thick with twists and complex layers.

For her entire life, Gypsy Rose Blancharde was her mother’s prisoner. She was force-fed, excessively medicated, and never alone. Among the list of ailments Dee Dee claimed Gypsy to have had were: leukemia, muscular dystrophy, asthma, epilepsy, and limited mental capacity due to brain damage. Her mother shaved her head, claiming the “chemotherapy would make [her] hair fall out anyway.” Many of the medications Gypsy was prescribed induced the symptoms she was claimed to have. Seizure medication caused her teeth to fall out. Dee Dee convinced doctors to approve numerous surgeries, inserting feeding tubes and removing Gypsy’s salivary glands. It can only be assumed that the combination of Dee Dee’s doctor shopping to collect the perfect records, Gypsy’s outward appearance, and the massive support group the two had acquired online, portrayed a situation that seemed too extraordinary for doctors to doubt. Gypsy did not know the year she was born; while assumed to be in her late teens, it was discovered she was in her mid twenties.

Dee Dee used her daughter’s sickness for attention, sympathy from strangers, and simple monetary gain; through Gypsy, she received thousands in donations, free trips to events and theme parks, and praise for the perceived unconditional devotion she had for her child. As for Dee Dee’s family, there was little love; her step-mother alleges Dee Dee once tried to poison her food, while her father jokes about throwing her ashes in a toilet. Dee Dee’s nephew says he always expected his aunt to piss someone off and get herself killed, as if that’s not a big deal. Not once did they suspect Gypsy wasn’t really sick. The only person who has anything nice to say about Dee Dee is Gypsy, in handcuffs.

Throughout the documentary the legitimacy of Gypsy’s current statements are called into question, but personally I never found myself doubting her. She has no reason to lie anymore. Ironically, prison is the freest Gypsy has ever been; she can walk, engage with others, she has access to an education, her system is clear of drugs, and her feeding tube has been removed. When asked which version of her life she prefers, Gypsy replies affirmative to being incarcerated with no hesitation. It’s shocking how normal Gypsy could have been had she ever been exposed to anything resembling “normal” in her life, and it’s that normal life she hopes to attain when she is eligible for parole in 2024, just before her 33rd birthday.

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