The Act on Hulu has generated a lot of questions surrounding the real-life Gypsy Rose and Dee Dee Blanchard. One of the most oft-repeated questions surrounding the long-term, horrific abuse Gypsy Rose Blanchard suffered at the hands of her mother, Dee Dee is: How did Dee Dee get away with it for so long?
While there’s no clear-cut answer, and Dee Dee’s not around to give any explanation, there are some clues she’s left over the years, which I’ll break down for you here.
She Isolated Gypsy Rose, and Moved Around
While Gypsy Rose appears to have been born in/around the Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, area (which is approximately 20 miles from Cut Off, Louisiana, where her father Rod Blanchard lives, per the HBO doc Mommy Dead and Dearest) by 2005, Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose were living in Slidell, Louisiana, which is approximately 76.5 miles away from Lafourche Parish. In 2005, Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose left the state (and their extended family behind) after Hurricane Katrina, and ended up in Aurora, Missouri, per Harper’s Bazaar.
Dee Dee, once in Missouri, claimed that Gypsy Rose’s medical records were lost in Hurricane Katrina, explaining why she didn’t have proof of any of Gypsy Rose’s illnesses up until that point, per Buzzfeed.
Once in Missouri, Dee Dee no longer had contact with her family (per Mommy Dead and Dearest, her side of the family shunned all contact with her after she was caught trying to poison her step-mom, although the date is unknown) so there was no one in Gypsy Rose’s life who could member Gypsy Rose, pre-illness.
The only people who knew Gypsy Rose, and still tried to be in her life, after she and Dee Dee moved, were Rod and his wife Kristy, who were never able to see her in person, while Dee Dee was alive, again, according to Buzzfeed:
They always planned to visit, but “for one reason or another, it would never work out,” Rod said.
Dee Dee Had a Medical Background
Dee Dee always had a new idea about what was wrong with Gypsy, a new doctor, a new drug. She had once worked as a nurse’s aide; she had a knack for remembering medical terminology and spitting it back. The information overload acted as a kind of wall around mother and daughter. It always seemed that Dee Dee had things under control. She knew so much, and she was never troubled by questions — she always had an answer.
Dee Dee was able to utilize her medical knowledge to steamroll over non-medical professionals by rattling off terminology that would go over a layperson’s head. That may explain why she was able to fool some people, but how did she fool the medical community…?
She Made Sure She Had a Copy of Every Medical Report
Dee Dee made sure that she was always cc’d on any medical documentation relating to Gypsy Rose’s health, per Mommy Dead and Dearest. It’s how she was alerted in 2007 that a doctor suspected that nothing medically was wrong with Gypsy Rose, and that Dee Dee was possibly suffering from Munchausen by Proxy, which he put in his notes.
As a result, Dee Dee opted to take Gypsy Rose to another hospital, and no one appeared to follow up from the doctor’s notes.
She Hid in Plain Sight
This is, in my opinion, the number one way Dee Dee got away with her abuse. Dee Dee presented herself, for lack of a better word, as a frumpy woman—and I believe it was a calculated choice on her part to blend in and become part of the scenery.
Here is a picture of Dee Dee, when she was married, at the age of 24:
Here she is as a beauty pageant contestant, as a young woman:
This is an undated picture of Dee Dee, once she became, to the outside world, Gypsy Rose’s full-time caretaker:
That’s a pretty drastic difference in appearance between a young woman in her teens and early 20s, and a woman in her 40s. Yes, people’s looks change, bodies get older, and priorities shift in how you present yourself to the outside world, but I believe there’s something else at play, here.
Ask any woman in American society, and chances are she’ll be able to tell you the immeasurable pressure that’s put upon us to stay young, thin, and look pretty at all times. As long as you’re f*ckable, you’re noticeable and worthy of time and attention. That’s the last thing Dee Dee wanted as she carried out her methodical and systematic abuse of Gypsy Rose. Dee Dee needed to be a part of the wallpaper in a room in order not to be seen, noticed, and paid attention to—because had anyone thought to second guess her grift on Gypsy Rose’s health for even more than a few minutes, Dee Dee’s house of cards would have come tumbling down. Just ask the doctor who first indicated that Gypsy Rose didn’t have anything medically wrong with her, per Mommy Dead and Dearest. The doctor came to his conclusion by ignoring the medical history that Dee Dee put forth to him and relied on his own physical examination—which made it abundantly clear to him that Gypsy Rose was most likely a victim, not a patient.
Dee Dee played upon the dark aspect of our society that judges a woman’s worth based upon her conventional attractiveness and relative youth. Dee Dee leaned into that part of our society and used it to craft a narrative where Gypsy Rose was sick, and Dee Dee was the saintly mother solely tasked with her care. Dee Dee wasn’t worthy of attention, because the focus was always on Gypsy Rose. It’s a fairly cunning move, and one I think a life-long grifter and con artist like Dee Dee is more than capable of achieving, and goes a long way to explain how Dee Dee never got caught. It’s because no one ever thought to pay attention to the overweight, middle-aged woman with a frizzy, unflattering haircut, who never wore makeup, and never dressed ostentatiously—it’s because our society ignores women like that.
…Maybe we shouldn’t?
While there’s no clear cut explanation as to how Dee Dee never got caught, there is enough circumstantial evidence to shed some light on the situation. One thing is certain—there is no guarantee that Dee Dee’s grift would have ever been discovered, and Gypsy Rose may still be suffering under her mother’s care today had Dee Dee not been forced to stop.
Header Image Source: YouTube/HBO (all images)