My Thoughts on Hulu’s “The Act”

If you have not watched the show “The Act” on Hulu, I recommend watching it before reading this post! This show is based on a true story. Even if you know this story, I still recommend watching the show! (Spoiler warning.)

Like many people, I have a lot more free time right now. My family and I have been catching up on different TV shows lately, and we recently decided to watch “The Act” on Hulu. “The Act” came to Hulu in March of 2019. I remember thinking to myself that I really wanted to watch the show, but I never got around to it until now.

This show is based on a true story of a girl named Gypsy Rose Blanchard. Her mother had Munchhausen Syndrome by Proxy, which is basically the need to care for somebody who does not need it. Gypsy’s mother made her sit in a wheel chair though she could walk. She shaved Gypsy’s head and told others that her daughter had Leukemia. She even had a feeding tube inserted because her mother would tell doctors that Gypsy could not chew her food. These are just a few of the ways that her overprotective mother controlled and manipulated Gypsy and those around them.

When I first heard about this story, I was completely shocked and disturbed. I felt a mix of emotions. I felt bad for Gypsy, but at the same time, I was frustrated with her choices. I was angry that a mother could do something like this, and to her own child no less. After watching this show and watching a ton of interviews as well as the documentary, I wanted to talk about this crazy story.

While watching this show, I questioned how much of it was true. I knew that since it is based on a true story, a lot of it had to be accurate, but I also understand that some things are dramatized for television. What I have found is that most of what I saw in the show was very accurate.

I first want to talk about the actor’s portrayal of these real life people. Patricia Arquette played Dee Dee Blanchard, Gypsy’s mother. Arquette was phenomenal, to say the least. I think that she was the perfect person to play this role. She made this character extremely believable, and I got chills watching her. She even won an Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a limited series, so I know I’m not the only one who admired her performance!

Then we have Joey King, who played Gypsy. Again, I think she was the perfect choice for this role, and she did an amazing job. I grew up watching Joey King. She is my age in real life, and I remember first seeing her in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and Ramona and Beezus. While I am not too familiar with other roles she has played, I think that this one is probably one of the most challenging ones she has ever played; partly because she is portraying a real life person who is still alive today. She truly stepped into this character by shaving her head, wearing false teeth, and perfectly imitating Gypsy’s voice. King had many vulnerable scenes in this show, and I admire the way she handled them with grace and maturity. While I am unsure of who Joey was up against for the Emmy, I still think Joey should have won some award because she was incredible as Gypsy.

And then we have Nick, played by Calum Worthy. This character really creeped me out. It was very clear early on that he had mental health disorders, and since I had watched interviews and the documentary, I knew the way that each of these characters spoke. Worthy was spot on. He sounded just like Nick, and I felt that he got his mannerisms right as well. While I was not familiar with this actor before watching this show, I think he also did an amazing job, and I think that each of the actors for this show did their research.

I couldn’t believe the lengths that Dee Dee would go to manipulate and lie to her friends, family, and neighbors. She even tricked celebrities into thinking that Gypsy had all of these medical issues when in reality, she was perfectly healthy. It was really terrifying because Dee Dee had her own mental health issues, and it led to a very controlling and restrictive environment for Gypsy to grow up in. She would tell Gypsy not to speak at doctor’s appointments, and she turned Gypsy into a great liar and manipulator. It was truly an abusive home. Gypsy’s father was not exactly a part of the picture. At least from what I understand, he was really not around much, so he was fooled as well.

Because Dee Dee was able to fool everyone, she and Gypsy were given money and donations, free trips, and a house was built for them by Habitat for Humanity. I believe that Dee Dee not only loved the attention and sympathy, but she loved the fact that they were getting all of these nice things handed to them. One of the things that this show and this story has reminded me is the way that family can really shape who you are as a person, whether that is good or bad.

I found myself questioning the doctors so many times while learning about this story. I first thought to myself: how on earth did no one see that Gypsy was healthy? I then realized that even if the doctors would tell Dee Dee that Gypsy was completely fine, she would still tell Gypsy that she wasn’t.  I truly don’t know how she got away with this for so long, but it blows my mind that doctors couldn’t really do anything about it. A doctor in the documentary had said that he can report cases when he believes a child is being neglected, however Gypsy wasn’t exactly being neglected; she was being over treated. Essentially, all he could do was write down the fact that he believed Dee Dee had Munchhausen by Proxy. The way I see it, over treating someone is just as bad as neglecting them.

Since Dee Dee wanted Gypsy (and the world) to believe she was younger than she actually was, Gypsy really did have the interests of a little girl. Even into adulthood, Gypsy had a love for Disney princesses and fairy tale endings.

What seemed to be the breaking point for Dee Dee was when Gypsy got older. Gypsy began questioning a lot of things that I feel many people at her age would wonder about. Her neighbor in the show, Lacey (played by Annasophia Robb), was speaking to her about a Christian dating site. She told Gypsy about a guy she met on the site, and Gypsy was certainly intrigued. Their conversation was very quickly interrupted by Dee Dee, however Gypsy had already come up with a plan.

On this dating site, she met a guy named Nicholas Godejohn. They spoke for a few years before ever meeting in person. At night while Gypsy’s mother was asleep, she would walk around, eat sugary foods (that she was apparently “allergic” to), and she would Skype Nick.

The more Gypsy pushed for independence, the more controlling Dee Dee would get. She did not want Gypsy to grow up and start disobeying her. Plus, the older Gypsy got, the more likely she was to ruin what her mother had created.

Leading up to the murder scene in the last episode, I truly was on the edge of my seat. I was actually scared to watch the scene. When Nick texted Gypsy that he was at her house, she seemed a bit hesitant to let him in. She handed him the knife, and as he walked to Dee Dee’s room, Gypsy locked herself in the bathroom. I was completely freaked out at this point. Soon, Nick murders Dee Dee, and watching Gypsy cover her ears as she tries to block out her mother’s screaming, was chilling.

At first, I wondered how on earth they believed they could get away with doing something like this. Then I was reminded that they were both very childlike. When Gypsy posted on her and her mother’s shared Facebook page that Dee Dee was dead, Nick reminded her to turn off the location, though he was a little too late. This is ultimately how they were caught.

Since I knew how this story ended in real life, I knew what to expect while watching the show. Gypsy got 10 years in prison, while Nick got life. I am sure that the opinions differ widely, but for me personally, I think that 10 years is somewhat fair for Gypsy, however life for Nick seems a bit extreme to me. I do think that he should’ve spent more time in prison than Gypsy because he is the one who actually murdered Dee Dee, but it was honestly heartbreaking watching his interrogation. Nick’s behavior was very childlike and I think he truly did not understand the severity of what he had done. I felt like the fact that he had mental health disorders was not necessarily taken into account (though I am not exactly sure). As for Gypsy, it is hard to say what she really deserved because although she is the one that planned out the murder and in some ways, manipulated Nick into doing it, she went through so many years of abuse. I honestly don’t have a solid conclusion for this because there is so much that needs to be taken into account. It’s all very complex.

I do feel, however, that Gypsy and Nick need therapy and mental health counseling.  What she went through will affect her for life. If she wants to live a more productive and healthy life, mental health counseling or therapy could be very helpful for her. As for Nick, he may not be getting the help he needs in prison, which is sad. I think that he really should be in a hospital setting so he can get the help he needs while still taking responsibility for what he did. The same could be said for Dee Dee. She needed help, and if someone would have been more proactive in looking into this situation further, things could have ended differently for all of them.

It was very clear that Dee Dee had mental health issues. If you are unfamiliar with Munchhausen by Proxy, like I was at first, you may not understand what could cause a person to do such horrible things to her own daughter. Since her mother had this mental illness, one would think that it would drive her own child to go crazy. While I do think that Gypsy was mentally affected by the abuse, she seems to be very smart and she is much more aware of the world than even her mother realized. When it comes to Nick, his mother said that he was diagnosed with Autism and Asperger’s. Nick himself mentioned that he has multiple personalities, and as an audience, we were introduced to Victor, his darker side (the side that murdered Dee Dee).

Something I questioned while watching the show was the relationship between Dee Dee and her own mother. In the flashbacks, we would see Dee Dee taking care of Gypsy, and then Dee Dee’s mother would interfere, telling her that she isn’t doing something right. Understandably, Dee Dee would get frustrated with her mother. She felt like she could handle it on her own. The relationship was obviously strained, but I was curious to know if this was what their relationship was really like in real life. I did not hear much about this in the documentary or other interviews I watched.

I also questioned the relationship between Gypsy and her father. In the show, it seemed that Gypsy was not very close to her father. When he came to visit her in prison, they almost seemed like strangers. It seemed as if she didn’t want to see him. In the documentary, Gypsy gave her father a hug, and she cried in his arms. They seemed to be a bit closer than what was portrayed in the show. I don’t think that Gypsy got to see her father very much, if at all once they moved out of Louisiana. (Also, can we talk about how much the actor who played Gypsy’s father looked like her real life father? That blew my mind!)

Of course, children are going to rely on and trust the adults in their lives, specifically their parents. This story shows what happens when the one person you think you should trust the most, does the unthinkable to you.

Though the story is a bit dark, I really enjoyed this show. The actors were phenomenal and as a viewer, I could see the amount of work that was put into the research behind the real life story.

I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts about this show! Let me know what you thought of “The Act” in a comment below. Thank you so much for reading (and send some Netflix/Hulu recommendations my way)!