The intersection of mental illness with standard and more widely accepted physical illnesses can be a messy one, especially when the extrapolation of said deficiencies are foisted upon the individual onto their innocent offspring. Thus we are brought to HBO’s recent documentary “Mommy Dead And Dearest”, the chilling and bizarre account of a deeply troubled woman named Dee Dee Blanchard and the lifetime of abuse subjected to her daughter Gypsy Rose.
Dee Dee orchestrated an entire mythology of sickness for Gypsy, all completely fabricated, claiming her daughter suffered from epilepsy, paralysis and leukemia among other afflictions and reaping the benefits of said tragedies not just in the form of attention and concern but money, vacations and even houses donated from various charitable entities. Cracks began to appear in Dee Dee’s facade when Gypsy got old enough to understand what was going on, the catastrophic nature of her anything but typical teenage rebellion resulting in the pre-meditated murder of her mother at the hands of Gypsy’s autistic Internet boyfriend Nicholas Godejohn.
HBO’s account of this grisly true crime anomaly is almost too breezy, flying past the various aspects of a fascinating story that could’ve easily filled an entire docu-series like Netflix’s Making A Murderer. Dee Dee’s curious upbringing, filled with similar grifting chicanery, the experiences of her grandparents and Gypsy’s strangely absentee father and stepmother, could’ve all been expounded upon in more detail, and certainly still could be if HBO wanted to spin this into a deeper investigation, especially given Ruby’s own sociopathy and her pending release from jail. As it stands though Mommy Dead And Dearest is grim and alarming, but fails to take much of a journalistic stance for or against it’s cadre of questionable characters.