When I heard about the HBO documentary Mommy Dead and Dearest a few weeks ago, I fell down the true crime rabbit hole (and pulled my co-editor Rachel down with me). We inhaled every tidbit of info we could about Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blancharde, a mother-daugther pair whose story has sent us spiraling. If you haven’t yet heard about these two, then prepare yourselves for a spine-tingling summary.
Dee Dee and Gypsy’s narrative is one that brings Munchausen Syndrome by proxy — a form of child abuse that involves a caretaker making up an illness for someone who is under their care — to light. In this particular case, Dee Dee took control over her daughter’s life; manipulating friends, family, and even doctors to believe that Gypsy was coping with several illnesses. It is later revealed, by Gypsy herself, that she felt like a bird trapped in a cage all her life.
This story does not have a happy ending, as Gypsy fell though every systemic crack imaginable, and never received the help she needed. To free herself, Gypsy felt that her only option was to kill her mother, and she did so with the help of a mentally unstable boyfriend she met online.
Now that the HBO documentary has added an extra bend to our fall down the rabbit hole, Mommy Dead and Dearest is pretty much all we talk about. Our discussions often begin, and end, with unanswered questions.
Here, we will share with you all the questions we still have after watching Mommy Dead and Dearest. In other words: If you have not seen the doc, this list gives away a lot of details.
1. Did Dee Dee name Gypsy Rose after Gypsy Rose Lee? It is bizarre to imagine, considering that Gypsy Rose Lee’s strained relationship with her mother is famously documented in the Broadway musical and film Gypsy.
2. Why did no one report Dee Dee as a suspect in her own mother’s death? And for poisoning her father’s second wife?
3. Why did Gypsy and Nicholas choose to ship the murder weapon to his parents’ house?
4. Why did Dee Dee film so many home videos? Considering that she was so secretive, this seems counterintuitive.
5. How did Gypsy become so eloquent, since her mother only allowed her to obtain a second grade-level education?
6. How was Gypsy able to have her own personal Facebook? And to get an account on a Christian dating site? Her mom was incredibly overprotective, so it’s interesting that Gypsy was able to sneak this by her.
7. Similarly, how and where did Gypsy purchase the cosplay lingerie she wore in pictures she sent to Nicholas online?
8. Since Gypsy knew she could walk, why did she keep up the act? One home video clip shows her moving her legs manually, which makes it seem like she was willingly keeping up the act along with Dee Dee.
9. At the end of the documentary, when Gypsy’s dad and stepmom meet with her in prison, she mentions that she doesn’t blame them for what happened. But she does blame herself and other people. Who are the other people she blames?
10. Why did doctors take Dee Dee’s homemade “medical record” for Gypsy as the truth?
11. How was Gypsy able to get ahold of thousands of dollars before she ran away with Nicholas?
12. Is Gypsy receiving psychiatric help in prison?
13. What did they end up doing with Dee Dee’s remains?
14. How was Gypsy able to maintain muscle mass? Did Dee Dee allow her to walk in the privacy of their home?
15. What else does Aleah Pinegar (Gypsy’s neighbor and friend) know about secrets Gypsy kept from her mother? The BuzzFeed article mentioned that Gypsy often confided in Aleah — but she only briefly appears in the documentary.
16. Gypsy tells the interviewer that it feels good to be entirely truthful about what happened — especially since she hasn’t even told her attorneys everything. What hasn’t she told her attorneys?
17. When Gypsy posted both Facebook statuses from the shared account so people would discover Dee Dee’s body, why did she choose to make the statuses so graphic and violent?
18. Why did Dee Dee put Gypsy in ballet class when she knew that Gypsy was supposed to appear paralyzed? Was this another cry for attention and sympathy?
19. Have any doctors faced repercussions for treating Gypsy, and not discovering she was not actually ill? Have any systemic changes been made in law and health care to ensure this cannot happen again?
20. We know that Gypsy had her body altered in several ways, and that Dee Dee had quite a lot of medication for her. How was Dee Dee able to keep Gypsy alive all the time without mixing medication or overdosing her daughter?
21. Considering that Dee Dee’s family knew of her fraudulent activities and knew that she was very dangerous, why didn’t anybody try to get custody of Gypsy? Or, at the very least, check in on Gypsy’s well-being?