Warning: This review contains mild spoilers for “The Act.”
There are so many guilty pleasure shows out there. You know the ones — you don’t want to admit you enjoy the cheesiness or bad one-liners out of fear of being judged. On a slightly different note, Hulu’s “The Act” introduces a whole new type of guilty pleasure — one where you not only like the heart-breaking and downright messed up storyline, but you’re increasingly intrigued by it. The series is set to be an anthology, meaning each season will focus on a different story. This first season follows the story of Gypsy Rose Blanchard (Joey King) and her mother Clauddine “Dee Dee” Blanchard (Patricia Arquette). Based on a true story, “The Act” chronicles how Dee Dee’s Munchausen syndrome by proxy leader to a painfully abusive situation, where Dee Dee constantly claimed that Gypsy suffered from fake illnesses, leading to unnecessary surgeries and treatments. Munchausen is a mental illness where a caretaker convinces the person under their care that they are gravely ill in some way. In short, it’s a wicked twist on a god complex and the need to have another person completely dependent on you.
Throughout the series, we see Gypsy struggle through the abuse and her attempts to rebel in spite of her fear. Perhaps that is why the ending of the series is not all too shocking. The resulting effects of Dee Dee’s abuse of Gypsy culminate all at once. The show is authentic because it includes testimonies from people who were really in the lives of the mother-daughter duo, including Gypsy’s love interests and friends. The story behind “The Act” is familiar to many because of how recent it is, but the show only increases this popularity. Since the world is obsessed with this story, all you need to do to find further information about it — from the family background to the court proceedings to everything in between — is a simple Google search.
To Binge or Not to Binge?
This show is extremely disturbing and hard to watch at times. Yet, it’s real. While it’s hard to see Gypsy’s reality, it’s important to raise awareness about Munchausen disease. Is this binge-worthy though? My conclusion is yes, but in moderation. You may feel pretty disturbed if you don’t alternate these episodes with something a little more light-hearted. Granted, the creators of the show admit they do a bit of dramatizing, but if you look up the real history of Gypsy and watch the documentary about the case, you will be amazed and intrigued by the show’s accuracy. All in all, it’s best to take a show like this in small doses.
Both the acting and direction of the show are phenomenal. The actors chosen to portray these real people are truly gifted and do a wonderful job telling the story. King is able to morph into this disturbed character whose life is unimaginable. She works alongside actors such as AnnaSophia Robb, Calum Worthy and others who dedicated their talents to ensuring that this important story was told respectfully and correctly.
Best Episode: Season 1, Episode 2: “Teeth”
Similar Shows:”“Mommy Dead and Dearest,” “The Ted Bundy Tapes,” “Criminal Minds” and “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” “American Crime Story,” “True Detective” and “Lorena”
Trigger Warnings: “The Act” is extremely graphic. There is strong sexual content, and Gypsy’s relationships, her efforts to escape from her mother and other various situations bring forth a lot of disturbing scenes. The imagery of Gypsy’s fake medical issues are explicit and difficult to watch.
5 out of 5 stars
Available to stream on Hulu
8 episodes, averaging around 50 minutes each