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Gypsy Rose’s Life Behind Colored Bars

“You protect me and I protect you.”

This is what Dee Dee Blanchard (Patricia Arquette) says to her daughter Gypsy Rose (Joey King) in Hulu’s new series The Act. The show centers on the unusual mother-daughter relationship between Gypsy and Dee Dee that ended with the murder of her mother. This wasn’t just something that happened out the blue; for years Dee Dee’s scammed, lied to and exploited her daughter Gypsy at the expense of others. For this story, we find out what really went on behind their rosy colored life.

As the show transpires, we learn that Dee Dee and Gypsy moved to Springfield, Missouri to start a new life after their home was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. Their new house, painted a pretty pastel pink with luscious green grass, was built for them by housing non-profit Habitat for Humanity. Aside from the house, the Blanchards also get numerous donations and benefits from charities, organizations and regular people. The story of a loving single mother who is unconditionally and courageously raising a child with numerous chronic illnesses after having lost it all in the hurricane captured the hearts of many.

But it was all a lie.

Dee Dee knew it. Eventually, Gypsy catches on, and she’s angry.

We’ve all been there. Our parents do something that jeopardizes our independence, we yell at them, threaten to leave the house and start Googling, “How to Become an Emancipated Minor,” on Incognito Mode. Maybe it’s just my Aquarius sun and Sag rising combo, but bumping heads with your parents is a common trope of the teenage years. In the show, however, Gypsy Rose is depicted as having leukemia, asthma, muscular dystrophy, brain damage and other chronic illnesses. Even if this was all a lie, in the eyes of others she’s too vulnerable, too fragile for her independence.

Longing for independence

Appearances are what keep the Blanchard family secret. In the show, Gypsy Rose exclusively wears pastel colors, oversized glasses and comfy clothes you would see in a seven-year-old. On top of that, her high pitched little girl voice, the stuffed animals she always carries and meek personality added to the illusion of innocence akin to a child’s. Similarly, her shaved hair, lack of teeth and wheelchair brought everyone to believe that Gypsy was bound to a life dependent on her mother. The combinations of these factors convinced their neighbors, doctors and the entire world that Gypsy was in fact chronically ill. Not one doctor ever fully verified Gypsy’s medical records; when Dee Dee told them all their medical records were lost in the hurricane, they believed her without a hint of skepticism. In reality, aside from a lazy eye, Gypsy Rose was a perfectly healthy woman. She didn’t need her feeding tube or breathing machine, she didn’t have the mind of a child, she didn’t need her wheelchair and she didn’t actually have leukemia. In reality, Gypsy Rose was an adult that deserved to have her own thoughts, wishes and needs individual of her mother’s.

This brings the question, what would you do for independence? Do we need it or is ignorance truly bliss?

"You protect me and I protect you."

What makes this unlikely story so sinister is perhaps the stark contrast between what appears to be true and what actually transpired. The show’s costume and set design are delicate, soft and modest. In a way, it distracts you from the eerie relationship between Gypsy Rose and her mother Dee Dee. Gypsy’s appearance and demeanor make me empathize with her and perhaps even forgive her violent, cold-blooded outburst because why shouldn’t we? In the blink of an eye, her age, her illnesses, her disabilities, her entire existence was suddenly a lie. Dee Dee Blanchard didn’t just fool Gypsy Rose, she fooled the entire world. She willfully deprived her daughter of those magical moments in our childhood that shape who we are: our first love, the friends whom we so tremendously confide in, our embarrassing fashion trends. Even things we take for granted, such as our ability to walk, to run, to make memes on Facebook, to eat solid and sugary foods. It’s hard to see ourselves in that scenario, much less anticipate what we would’ve done in the end.

“You protect me and I protect you.” •

By: Divina Ceniceros Dominguez

Graphics by: Vivienne Leow

Divina Ceniceros Dominguez is a sophomore Journalism major. She’s written over fifteen issues in several Texas-based magazines focusing on lifestyle and culture. She’s very passionate about her plants, breakfast and making statements through fashion.

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