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HBO’s “Mommy Dead and Dearest” is a Bizarre and Haunting Documentary

Provocative documentarian Erin Lee Carr (HBO’s “Thought Crimes: The Case of the Cannibal Cop”) returns to HBO to explore another twisted true-crime story in the age of social media. Truth is stranger than fiction and what starts out as a grisly tale of matricide morphs into a rabbit hole of deception and abuse.

As we learn, Dee Dee and her wheelchair-bound daughter, Gypsy Rose, were beloved residents of Springfield, MO, but the tight-knit community was rocked when Dee Dee was found murdered in her home, with Gypsy reported missing. After investigators tracked a graphic Facebook status post stating “that Bitch is Dead” to Wisconsin, a disturbing sequence of events ensued in which Gypsy Rose was implicated in her mother’s murder – and it was discovered that Gypsy Rose had been the victim of her mother’s abuse via Munchausen by proxy syndrome since early childhood.

Featuring exclusive interviews with Gypsy Rose, MOMMY DEAD AND DEAREST unravels a tangled web of lies, child abuse, mental illness and forbidden love. It’s a real-life mystery about a mother and daughter who everybody thought were living a fairytale life, but who turned out to be sharing a living nightmare.

MOMMY DEAD AND DEAREST premieres on HBO May 15th at 10:00 PM on HBO.

Director Erin Lee Carr Discusses Her Documentary and Why She Took It On:

What would you do if your mother told you that your legs simply don’t work? She might lean in close and promise it would be easier to get used to the wheelchair now. You might believe her. Of course you believe her. You are 8, and she is your mother. Your whole life happens from the vantage point of a wheelchair.

This is the tragic story of Gypsy Rose Blanchard. Gypsy and her mom Dee Dee were always together, mutually-proclaimed best friends. Neighbors saw Dee Dee caring for ailing Gypsy tirelessly and wondered how she did it. The relationship, like any, changed as Gypsy grew older, causing tension. It started small. Gypsy would ask her Mama if she could have a play-date? A friend? Perhaps a cell phone? No, no and certainly not. Dee Dee told her now teenage daughter that she didn’t trust anyone. There were bad people out there. Gypsy, excused from school due to her limited mental capabilities and muscular dystrophy, escaped online. It was there that she met Nick, who would eventually be charged with murdering Dee Dee – at Gypsy’s request.

I wrote to Gypsy in prison. I contacted her defense attorney and any person connected to the story. The family was wary. There had been some press attention that had caused some deep pain. Former friends accused them of deceit and fraud. Gypsy was facing life in prison and couldn’t agree to an interview. I persisted and slowly, she trusted me enough to sit across from me in a small blue room, bulletproof glass between us. It was off the record at first. Gypsy told me a story that became more disturbing by the minute, with her own narrative emerging from the one Dee Dee had confined her in for so many years. Gypsy wrote to me, signing her letters with a rose.

I sought inspiration in Room, Every F—-ing Day of My Life and Heavenly Creatures. Abuse, mental illness, and the internet coincide in this baffling story. For our film, we gained exclusive access to Gypsy, in addition to numerous home movies seen by no one besides Gypsy and her mother. It paints an unsettling picture of a mother trying to keep her child young, forever. I grapple with questions Gypsy’s story creates. What blame did I assign Gypsy? How could I pretend to understand what she had gone through in order to make that decision? Can there be a crime when we only see victims?

Why did no one in the community know Gypsy could walk? How could Dee Dee hide that truth even from Gypsy’s dad, Rod? Didn’t that require Gypsy’s complicity? And why murder? Why didn’t Gypsy just run away with Nick? When my co-producer Alison Byrne discovered and shared this bizarre story with Andrew Rossi (our producer) and me, I was instantly hooked.