Mommy Dead and Dearest

Dee Dee Blancharde had had a rough go: displaced by Hurricane Katrina, she was the sole care-giver for her severely disabled daughter, Gypsy Rose. Gypsy’s diagnoses were many: epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, asthma, sleep apnea, cancer, chromosomal and developmental defects. She was confined to a wheel chair, fed by a tube, often breathing with the help of an oxygen tank. She endured frequent surgery and chronic pain. She was brain damaged and stuck at the intellectual age of 7. Dee Dee, devoted to her daughter, didn’t work. They accepted charity in the form of a house from Habitat for Humanity, met Miranda Lambert through the Make-a-Wish Foundation, got free trips to Disney World, Gypsy’s favourite. Kindly neighbours pitched in what they could; the Blanchardes were community fixtures, and well-liked. Then one day Dee Dee’s Facebook status read “That bitch is dead” and when police investigated, they found her stabbed to death in bed. Gypsy was nowhere to be found.

This case caught my eye at the time and I read about it extensively. It turns out that MV5BZGI5Nzg5YzktOGQ5NS00MGJhLWI4MWUtODQxZGE1MGQxYWMzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjA0OTQxMDQ@._V1_Gypsy was never sick, wasn’t even paralyzed. She had endured years of abuse, via ‘Munchausen by proxy,’ a condition wherein a caregiver fakes and actually induces health problems in their child in order to gain sympathy and attention for themselves. Gypsy, armed with a secret internet boyfriend, had had enough, and plotted her mother’s murder.

Mommy Dead and Dearest is a shocking documentary that explores this case in depth. People who knew them were shocked to see Gypsy Rose walking unassisted, and wondered how much she herself had been in on the deception. But even Gypsy Rose didn’t know her true age, or the extent of her health problems. Many of the medications given her to treat fake illnesses gave her real, troubling side effects. The documentary follows her trip through the justice system and asks us whether we must consider her to be a cold-hearted perpetrator, or a victim who finally fought back. Director Erin Lee Carr lets the story tell itself, giving the narrative time and space to unfold itself, deftly answering questions before we even ask them. This case is so astonishing that Carr’s guidance is particularly necessary, yet her presence is minimally felt. I was completely fascinated and absorbed by the story, and I bet you will be too.

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20 thoughts on “Mommy Dead and Dearest

  1. J.

    Good grief! Wasn’t aware of this story at all… sounds like a pretty grim but incredibly fascinating watch. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for it appearing on Netflix.

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    1. Jay Post author

      I mean, that’s the weird thing. All these people were trying to take care of this disabled girl, but no one looked closely enough to notice she wasn’t disabled. There’s A LOT of doctors who performed surgery and prescribed insane drugs for conditions that never existed…just took the word of the mother, who would move if a doctor dared question her.

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  2. Pingback: Mommy Dead and Dearest – MyAwesomesite

  3. Chris Scott

    I read a five part feature story on this and wow, what an enraging but also fascinating tale. I’m going to have to look this doc up.

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  4. Alex Withrow (@shiftingPersona)

    Great of you to review this doc. Love when bloggers shine a light on smaller films. I heard about this case via the Sword and Scale podcast a while back, but the documentary dug so much deeper. Hearing Dee Dee’s parents (or at least her stepmom) basically saying Dee Dee deserved to die was shocking. Dee Dee certainly was messed up beyond repair.

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  5. reocochran

    I will probably watch this some day since true life strange situations fascinate me. I watched the new Menendez brothers doc/fiction on Lifetime and liked it. You were right (I think it was you?!) to keep my eyes on Courtney Love. She did an excellent job of portraying a “numbed” mother who is out of touch and doesn’t do anything to stop her husband from molesting both brothers. It was well done and I felt professional, Jay. 🙂

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  6. Divorce With Me

    I’d never heard this story until your review and immediately googled to get more info! I’m horrified at her story! And will watch the documentary… because what the hell?! It’s too crazy not to!

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