Hulu’s The Act: A Complicated Moral Dilemma

by The Cowl Editor on April 11, 2019

Film and Television

by Madeline Weaver-Nolting ’19 A&E Staff

At first glance, Hulu’s new original TV show The Act might seem like a crazy, fictitious show, but it is based on real events. The first season is based on the life of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, who plotted with her internet boyfriend to murder her mother, Dee Dee Blanchard, in 2015 in Springfield, Missouri. The series follows Gypsy as she learns the truth about her life: she is not actually sick, despite what her mother said. The show is based on a Buzzfeed news article by Michelle Dean which gave the backstory of the mother-daughter relationship and how it resulted in murder. 


Joey King stars as Gypsy Rose, who is currently serving a 10-year sentence, while her boyfriend is serving  life. Gypsy is threatening to sue Hulu for creating this TV show without her consent. King looks almost identical to Rose as she shaved her head for the role.  King said, “I think Gypsy was confused herself. I think she knew that she could walk. For a long time, that’s all she knew. And then she slowly tried to find out more things—she’s her mother’s daughter, in that she also had to use manipulation to get what she wanted. It’s not really her fault that’s the role she had to play. She was really good at manipulation because she was forced into these scenarios where she had to manipulate to survive.” The complicated character of Gypsy garners sympathy from fans as she is shown as having no freedom in her life and her own survival is at risk. 

In an interview with Dr. Phil, Gypsy said, “I believe, firmly, that, no matter what, murder is not okay. But at the same time, I don’t believe I deserve as many years as I got…. I do deserve to spend some time in prison for that crime, but  also, I understand why it happened and I don’t believe that I’m in the right place to get the help that I need.”

Dee Dee Blanchard is played by Patricia Arquette. The abusive mother was thought to have Munchausen by proxy syndrome (MBPS), which involves fabricating diseases and disabilities for sympathy or attention. Dee Dee claimed her daughter was wheelchair bound, had muscular dystrophy, leukemia, asthma, brain damage, and had to be fed through a tube. Dee Dee’s lies led to donations from the Ronald McDonald House and the Make-A-Wish Foundation and even a house from Habitat for Humanity after Hurricane Katrina. The TV show incorporates flashbacks that show how Dee Dee’s abuse escalated as Gypsy’s independence soared. 

Because of the success of The Act and despite the threat of legal action, Hulu is in the works of signing another season that might focus on other true strange true-crime stories.