When the least shocking thing about a murder case is the actual murder, you know have the material for an intriguing documentary and HBO's masterful Mommy Dead and Dearest doesn't disappoint. By plunging us into the claustrophobic world of Munchausen Syndrome and manipulation that led Gypsy Rose to orchestrate the murder of her own mother, Dee Dee Blanchard, director Erin Lee Carr uncovers a plethora of chilling revelations about the bizarre murder.
For the uninitiated, I suggest you read Michelle Dean's comprehensive Buzzfeed News story before you proceed, but if you're already up to speed on the crime, let's analyze the most shocking #MommyDeadAndDearest moments below:
1. Gypsy's Ordeal Started At Birth
According to Gypsy's father, Rod Blanchard, Dee Dee began fabricating phantom illnesses for his daughter from almost the moment she was born:
"Right from birth, three months old, Dee Dee was telling me she had sleep aponeia and that she needed a breathing machine or breathing monitor machine, which to this day i don't know if it was real or not. It escalated from then."
Like the rest of the world, he remained none the wiser about Dee Dee's Munchausen by proxy until after the murder.
2. The Abuse Was So Normalized, Gypsy Didn't Know It Was Happening
A life of medicalized abuse and extreme control was the only thing that Gypsy knew and she didn't realize there was anything wrong with what her mom was doing to her until she was a lot older. In her own words:
"I really didn't think any abuse was going on. Its like when you're abused and you've lived that way your whole life, you don't know you are being abused. You don't know any different."
3. Dee Dee Fabricated So Many Illnesses For Her Daughter That Gypsy Can't Remember Them
Dee Dee Blanchard's list of fabricated medical conditions for Gypsy was so long she used to type it out and print it whenever she came into contact with new doctors.
Even Gypsy herself, whose entire life was controlled and shaped by the "illnesses," can't remember them all:
"asthma, epilepsy, hearing impaired, visual impaired, fed with a feeding tube, paralyzed from the waist down, ummm slow, so retardation and among other things. I just can't remember them."
4. There Was A Shocking Level Of Unnecessary Surgery
Along with the huge quantities of medication that Gypsy was given every day, she was also subjected to multiple unnecessary invasive surgeries, some of which are listed below:
- Having a feeding tube inserted. According to Gypsy, this was changed once every six months in an excruciating procedure with no anesthetic.
- Salivary gland removal. Dee reportedly claimed Gypsy drooled too much.
- Tubes inserted into her ear canals. Supposedly to combat repeated infections.
- According to her father, Gypsy had the lining of her stomach removed and wrapped around her oesophagus when her feeding tube was put in.
5. Gypsy Was Deliberately Kept In The Dark
Although Gypsy knew that she could walk, she had no idea that the other illnesses her mother claimed she had — such as leukemia — weren't real.
Dee Dee pushed the deception even further by putting her hands over Gypsy's ears in some doctors meetings. She told medical professionals this was so she wouldn't embarrass or scare her daughter, but in retrospect she was simply trying to keep her as ignorant as possible.
6. The Doctors Suspected Something Was Going On
Doctors who treated Gypsy Rose noticed that Dee Dee was "not a good historian" and discrepancies about Gypsy's medical history were noted.
Dr. Bernardo Flasterstein explained he did not pursue Dee Dee because he was certain the huge support network that Dee Dee built up in both medical and charitable circles would fight back against him if he accused this "loving" mother of Munchausens:
"Knowing the history, knowing what she was going through, knowing what she went through I would have been rejected on the spot, so all I could do was put it in my note."
7. Gypsy Was Also Directly Physically Abused By Dee Dee
Along with being hurt through medical procedures, Gypsy was also physically abused by Dee Dee if she stepped out of line. According to Gypsy, punishments included being hit with coat hangers and being slapped multiple times in accordance with the severity of the crime.
When Gypsy made her first escape, Dee smashed her computer and mobile phone with a hammer and threatened to do the same to her daughter's fingers if she ever tried again.
8. Dee Dee Used 'Affection' As A Method Of Control
In almost every picture you see of Dee Dee and Gypsy Blanchard together, Dee is clutching her daughter of holding her hand; there's a reason for that.
According to Gypsy, Dee Dee would hold her hand when she interacted with groups of friends as a method of control:
"If I said something I wasn't supposed to, she'd squeeze my hand and I'd know, zip it."
An expert in Munchausen by proxy confirmed that this behavior is common in the condition:
"The hand-holding and the tight hugs is a way of asserting mastery over another person and saying "you're not free. you are under my control at all times."
9. Gypsy Rose Always Had A Loving Father Who Dee Dee Deliberately Tried To Hide
Although Dee Dee presented Rod Blanchard as an absent and abusive father, Rod loved his daughter and visited her throughout her childhood. He was in contact with Gypsy well into adulthood and called her for her eighteenth birthday.
After being fooled by Dee Dee himself, Rod is trying to build a father/daughter relationship with Gypsy and he is in contact with his daughter while she serves her sentence in prison.
Gypsy harbors no blame for her father not noticing the abuse and stepping in to save her. In her own words:
"I don't think you did anything wrong. I think mom was very good at what she was doing and I think you were completely in the dark. I want you to know I don't blame you for any of it"
10. Dee Dee Used To Cultivate A Very Different Image
In contrast to the cuddly maternal look that Dee Dee cultivated in order to pose as the perfect mother to her "disabled" daughter, Blanchard once had a much edgier look.
According to Gypsy's father, she used to be into "dark stuff" and talk about witchcraft, she also had a pet tarantula. Dee Dee's uncle described her as an evil person, and speculated she might have been bipolar.
11. Dee Dee Had Harmed Those Closest To Her Before
Dee Dee Blanchard allegedly harmed other family members before she started to abuse Gypsy. According to her stepmother, Laura, Dee Dee might have successfully killed her own mother, Emma, through neglect and starvation.
Dee Dee's father Claude also claims that Dee Dee poisoned Laura by putting the weedkiller Roundup into her food, which left her bedridden for nine months afterwards.
12. Dee Dee's Family Think 'She Got What She Deserved'
In perhaps one of the most shocking moments of the documentary, Dee Dee's family make it pretty clear that they are glad she is dead.
Her father thinks she "got what she deserved" and, according to Laura, Dee Dee's own sister said they should flush Dee Dee's ashes down the toilet.
13. Disney's 'Tangled' Helped Inspire Gypsy To Escape
Gypsy always felt an affinity with Disney princesses, probably because they featured heavily in the viewing material that was deemed "appropriate" for her.
The now 25-year-old explained how hearing the story of how Rapunzel escaped her forced imprisonment at the hands of her mom, the evil Mother Gothel, helped her formulate her own plan.
14. Gypsy's Prince Charming Soon Turned Dark
Gypsy met Nicholas Godejohn — the man who actually stabbed Dee Dee Blanchard to death — on a Christian dating site. Although their relationship started out with a "prince charming" narrative thanks to Disney-loving Gypsy's immature notions of what a relationship was meant to look like, things soon turned dark.
Nicholas revealed he had an interest in BDSM and persuaded Gypsy to play along. The pair exchanged Disney fan art images depicting characters engaged in BDSM behaviors.
15. Nicholas Godejohn Claimed He Had Multiple Personalities And Gypsy Made Girlfriends For Each Of Them
These personalities included:
- Kitty (little girl side)
- Candy (slut side)
- Ruby (evil side)
Gypsy posed for various photos as each of these personas as part of the role playing games she took part in with Nicholas.
16. Dee Dee Actually Met Nicholas Before He Murdered Her
Dee Dee actually met Nicholas before he murdered her in a situation manipulated by Gypsy Rose so she could meet her online boyfriend.
Gypsy messaged Nicholas and told him to be at a screening of the Disney live-action Cinderella that her mom had arranged to take her to. Nicholas and Gypsy also spoke to each other on the night, right under her mother's nose, but Dee Dee thought he was "weird" and "creepy" for being at a kid's movie alone.
According to Nicholas, he and Gypsy managed to sneak off and have sex in the men's toilet's during the movie.
17. The Murder Was Referred To As 'Plan B'
The murder was referred to as "Plan B" and, according to Gypsy, it was purely a fantasy until she decided she had no other way to escape her mother's controlling clutches.
18. The Shocking Story Behind That Facebook Post
The shocking Facebook posts that alerted the local community to Dee Dee's death were actually penned by Gypsy herself.
This might be shocking in its own right, but Gypsy revealed that there is actually truth behind the comment that Nicholas raped her. According to Gypsy Rose, Nicholas wanted to rape her mother, but she offered to let him rape her instead to spare Dee Dee.
19. Some People Believe Gypsy Might Be Dangerous Thanks To Her Upbringing
Although it is impossible not to feel for Gypsy Rose Blanchard, the documentary makes it clear that Gypsy Rose has been raised in an extreme environment of manipulation and many of the talking heads involved believe she could be dangerous.
In the words of Gypsy Rose Blanchard's attorney:
"Gypsy grew up in what is essentially an alternate reality to the one the rest of us live. By her mother isolating her from the outside world, she doesn't know or understand what normal really is."
20. Gypsy Will Be Eligible For Parole In 2024
Gypsy is serving a 10-year sentence after a retrial that examined her culpability for the crime due to the exceptional circumstances. She is eligible for parole in 2024. She will be 32 years old.
What do you think was the most shocking moment of Mommy, Dead and Dearest?