One of the things that drove me crazy about The Act, was how Gypsy Rose’s father, Rod Blanchard, was wiped from the narrative of the season until the last episode in a shock twist reveal. The Act portrayed Rod as having nothing to do with Gypsy Rose for all of her life and Gypsy Rose not having any idea that Rod cared about her until she called him from prison and he showed up. The reality of the situation is much different, and I believe, far more interesting. Below, I’ll break down the real story of The Act, and how it differed from the reality of the situation.
Real Life Gypsy Rose Had a Relationship with Rod
Rod, his second wife, Kristy, and their children were involved in Gypsy Rose’s life up until at least 2004, when she was approximately 13 years old. Rod provided proof of their relationship, via pictures of family outings, to Buzzfeed:
Rod eventually remarried and had two other children. He and his new wife, Kristy, saw Gypsy often over the first 10 years of her life, and can share pictures from various happy family outings right up until 2004. They remember going to the Special Olympics, too, but have good memories of it. “All smiles,” Kristy said.
It’s noted that Rod called Gypsy Rose on her 18th birthday to wish her a happy birthday, and was directed by Dee Dee to not mention Gypsy Rose’s real age.
Per the same Buzzfeed article:
There were, occasionally, small signs of deception. When Rod called Gypsy to talk on her 18th birthday, he said, he was excited to make all the jokes dads make to their daughters about becoming an adult. But Dee Dee intercepted the call, he said, to remind him that Gypsy didn’t know her true age. “She thinks she’s 14,” Dee Dee said. She asked that he not upset Gypsy by claiming otherwise. Rod heeded the instruction.
Rod Continued to Send Dee Dee Money After Gypsy Rose was an Adult
The Act was correct in this assertion. Rod continued to send Dee Dee money, well after Gypsy Rose was an adult, due to her medical care (that Rod believed was medically necessary.)
Rod continued to send, as he always had, $1,200 a month in child support to a New Orleans bank account. He also sent the occasional gifts Dee Dee asked for, television sets, and a Nintendo Wii. He continued to send these things even after Gypsy turned 18, because Dee Dee said Gypsy still required full-time care. “There was never a question whether or not I was going to stop paying,” he said.
Others thought Rod must have been a neglectful father who didn’t financially support his own child. “They don’t understand that I’ve always been supportive,” he said. “In every way,” Kristy chimed in. In fact, if anything, Dee Dee may have had so much money — Gypsy and Nick had escaped with about $4,000 from Dee Dee’s safe — because they were receiving his support checks.
Rod was a Teenager when Gypsy Rose was Born
This is covered in Mommy Dead and Dearest: Rod Married Dee Dee when he was 18 (and she was pregnant), and left her quickly after when he realized he didn’t love her. Dee Dee was approximately 24 when they married and Gypsy Rose was born. Rod was a teenager, who accepted what his ex-wife (who had some medical training) said about Gypsy Rose’s health at face value. While this doesn’t absolve him from responsibility as a parent towards what Dee Dee did to Gypsy Rose, it may explain why he took everything Dee Dee said at face value.
Rod Thought Gypsy Rose was Truly Sick
This is accurate—just like in The Act, Rod didn’t know Gypsy Rose could walk until he saw her do so at her arraignment, on TV.
The first time Rod saw his daughter walk was in a news report on Gypsy’s arraignment hearing in Wisconsin. No one had prepared them; Kristy had spotted the video on Facebook. Rod was so confused when he saw it that he said his first reaction was, “I was really happy that she was walking.”
In the HBO doc, Mommy Dead and Dearest, Rod recalled being told by Dee Dee that Gypsy Rose needed a breathing machine as a baby, because she wasn’t breathing right. Since Dee Dee trained to be a nurse’s assistant, Rod never questioned her medical knowledge, and took everything she said at face value.
As soon as the world knew that Gypsy Rose was missing, Rod was alerted to the situation. Per Buzzfeed:
That all changed last June when Rod called Kristy, sobbing in the middle of a workday. Dee Dee’s sister had called him; Dee Dee was dead and Gypsy was missing. “I was in hysterics thinking she got brought somewhere and was left to die,” Kristy said. And if Gypsy was found, she continued, “how could I take care of her when Dee Dee knew everything on how to take care of her?”
Gypsy Rose Called Rod When She Was Arrested
Unlike in The Act, Rod spoke to Gypsy Rose after she was arrested. Gypsy Rose told him, on the phone, that she was innocent and had no part in her mother’s murder. This is covered in Mommy Dead and Dearest.
Dee Dee Lied About Rod (A Lot)
This is absolutely true, and is demonstrated, in passing, in The Act. While Gypsy Rose was allowed to have a relationship with her father in real life, Dee Dee lied about Rod and who he was, to people outside of her home. Per Buzzfeed:
Dee Dee kept Rod updated on his daughter’s whereabouts and medical circumstances. She did this even as she told doctors and new friends in Missouri that he was a drug addict who had abandoned his daughter. Meanwhile, Rod and Kristy spoke to Gypsy pretty often. They always planned to visit, but “for one reason or another, it would never work out,” Rod said.
Dee Dee Used Rod to Hide Her Abuse of Gypsy Rose
One of the most infuriating parts of The Act (and the real life story that inspired it) is how Dee Dee was able to hide her medical-induced abuse of Gypsy Rose in plain sight. It turns out that she was partly able to do that because she lied about Rod. Below, Buzzfeed explains how Dee Dee was able to hide Gypsy Rose’s real age from her, and other medical professionals, partly due to the lies she told about Rod:
She told them that the reason she sometimes used inconsistent birth dates and spellings of her name was to hide from an abusive husband. No one called Rod Blanchard, or checked on these claims. The police accepted the explanation. Gypsy “does suffer from some type of mental handicap,” they wrote in their report. The file was closed.
As you can see, there’s a lot The Act got wrong about Gypsy Rose’s dad, Rod Blanchard.
Ultimately, I think The Act would have been more interesting if it had included Gypsy Rose’s dad in the narrative from the beginning. Here was a parent, who tried to be involved (the best he could) in his daughter’s life, but believed he was wildly incapable of doing so due to his daughter’s perceived medical conditions. It would have added an additional layer of deceit on Dee Dee’s part, and more importantly, would have been truer to life.
If you’re wondering what Rod is doing now, he has a change.org petition to urge the Governor of Missouri, where Gypsy Rose is incarcerated, to free her from prison.
Header Image Source: HBO/YouTube