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Gypsy Rose Blanchard is a Victim, Not a Celebrity

Disturbance. Photo courtesy of Horseshoe Magazine/Monica Dobson
Disturbance. Photo courtesy of Horseshoe Magazine/Monica Dobson

A woman imprisoned for the murder of her mother was praised upon her December release on parole from the Chillicothe, Mo. prison that held her for eight years. Gypsy Rose Blanchard, a victim of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, has been chosen as society’s next person to become a fierce fan of, but how long will it last and what consequences can occur because of this.


Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, according to Medline Plus, is a disease that impacts the caregiver of the child where parents look for some form of pity by making up illnesses for one of their relatives. Munchausen Syndrome rarely occurs, as showcased by a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. In Blanchard’s case, her mother was the caregiver experiencing Munchausen’s. This, which Al Jazeera claims was the disease Clauddine Blanchard suffered from. Clauddine Blanchard claimed her daughter had “muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, leukemia and vision impairment.” 


She also lied about her daughter’s age. 


The deception resulted in Blanchard convincing her boyfriend to murder her mother for her. This case drew a lot of attention, and was eventually turned into the limited series “The Act” on Hulu. Blanchard was charged with second-degree murder and was released after finishing “85 percent of her original sentence,” Al Jazeera said. 


Her reentry into society did not go unnoticed, as people online turned this 32-year-old woman into an influencer.


To understand how this could happen, there was a discussion with Taylor Pigott, a school counselor who specializes in mental health at Ryerson Elementary School in Madison, Connecticut as well as an interview with Shantae Fyffe-Simpson, another school counselor.


Fyffe-Simpson did not know much about Blachard’s case but said the situation mirrored other, similar cases. Pigott said she studied Blanchard’s case in college, mainly from a mental health perspective. Both counselors agreed that shows tend to glamorize or romanticize the story. Pigott said casting actors such as Zac Efron as Ted Bundy in “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” on Netflix, can lead viewers to make excuses for certain behaviors. 


“When you come back to it, people’s lives are really affected by the things that they did,” said Fyffe-Simpson.


Both women agreed that people latch onto individuals like Blanchard  because they feel sorry for them. Fyffe-Simpson said when people learn what Blanchard went through, they may feel she was justified in persuading her boyfriend to kill her mother. 


“People held captive tend to hit a developmental age and don’t go past it,” Piggot said. “She looks really innocent and sounds really young.” 


Blanchard still talks with a baby voice, and that could make people believe that she couldn’t possibly be devious enough to orchestrate a violent crime. 


Media exposure, said Piggot, can muddy the waters. She said the people who cover such crimes are rarely experts in mental health, and they report only Blanchard’s side of the story. 


“The media can bring light to things that are not right,” said Fyffe-Simpson. She said that media exposure can help audiences be more aware, but coverage can also glamorize a topic and obscure the fact that Blanchard broke the law.


While critiquing the way that the media made this victim into a meme or viral moment, people can still hold empathy for her, though too much empathy for someone you do not personally know can be unhealthy. Piggot said that people should not become fangirls or fanboys of crime victims with mental health issues. There needs to be boundaries. 


“We shouldn’t be making this person a role model for kids,” Piggot said.


Fyffe-Simpson said she questions if the media response to Blanchard is born of empathy. She said people make outlandish posts to jump on the bandwagon and make the situation about themselves instead of caring about the victim. 


“True empathy can’t cross a line,” she said.


People might like Blanchard for a while, but then that support can change. Overexposure can be damaging, the counselors said. Fyffe-Simpson said that Gypsy Blanchard might act like a child because of her stunt in cognitive growth from her upbringing. She said she believed that the woman had an “insecure attachment” created from the trauma with her mother. People switching their views on her could have a profound effect on her. 


“She could go into a crisis,” Fyffe-Simpson said.


Pigott predicted there would be backlash.


“I always felt like instead of prison, she should have gone to a mental health facility,” she said. 


Right now, Gypsy Blanchard is getting a lot of attention that she is not used to and was never allowed to have. In one interview, said Piggot, Gypsy Blanchard spoke about receiving letters from “hundreds” of men while in prison. The counselor said there could be a regression if the public changes their minds about her, which is common in internet culture.


Gypsy Rose Blanchard is not a trend. She is a person who suffered years of abuse, which was then publicized by the media. 


She is a victim who also committed a crime. Viewers of true crime shows should do the diligence of remembering these people and their stories are real. Although empathy may never cross a line, the same cannot be said for media exposure.

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