Editorial, Opinion

The internet’s unfortunate idolization of Gypsy Rose Blanchard | Editorial

If you had told people 50 years ago that a woman charged with second-degree murder would be met with praise upon her release from prison, they wouldn’t have believed you for a second. But for many members of Generation Z, Gypsy Rose Blanchard is a beloved celebrity.

Blanchard was released from prison on Dec. 28 after completing 85% of her original 10-year sentence. She is infamous for conspiring with her then-boyfriend to murder her abusive mother, Clauddine “Dee Dee” Blanchard.

Annika Morris | Graphic Artist

As Blanchard’s release from prison approached, her case blew up again on social media. Generation Z took hold of the tragic story, turning it — as the internet often does nowadays — into a joke.

Blanchard was a victim of child abuse on account of her mother’s Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another, formerly known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy. FDIA is a psychological disorder in which a caregiver “fabricates or exaggerates medical conditions in a dependent, often for personal gratification or attention,” according to Everyday Health.

Dee Dee Blanchard claimed that her daughter suffered from several chronic ailments including epilepsy, leukemia, muscular dystrophy and seizures. Blanchard also was forced to use a wheelchair, had an unnecessary feeding tube inserted and was infantilized by her mother, who lied that she was far younger than she was.

The cruelty Blanchard faced at the hands of her mother, the one person she should be able to trust with her life, is undeniable. FDIA may be Dee Dee Blanchard’s diagnosis, but in no way should it be an excuse.

In a last-ditch effort to escape her mother’s control, Blanchard conspired with her then-boyfriend Nicholas Godejohn to murder Dee Dee Blanchard. In 2015, Godejohn fatally stabbed Dee Dee Blanchard in her home, and the two were soon arrested and convicted for their respective roles: Blanchard was sentenced to 10 years, and Godejohn to life.

The unusual case garnered national attention, inspiring several documentaries and adaptations of the story. For example, The Act (2019) on Hulu is a fictionalized series based on Blanchard’s life that imagines some of the interactions between Blanchard and her mother that happened behind closed doors.

Today, thousands of TikTok users posted videos planning hypothetical “release parties” and proposing various things to introduce to Blanchard after she is freed. Noah Miller, a popular creator known as @nmilz on the platform, suggested Blanchard be introduced to rapper Ice Spice, AI platform ChatGPT and UCLA frat parties.

Blanchard posted her first video on TikTok on Dec. 31, saying “I’m finally free!” The video received over 33 million views and was flooded with comments from Blanchard’s admirers calling her a “queen” and an “icon.”

The sensationalized trend of Blanchard’s release, as well as Blanchard’s quick rise to fame, calls into question the growing “unseriousness” of Gen Z’s presence on the internet. 

Blanchard endured years of abuse at her mother’s hands, abuse which she believed was only escapable through murdering her mother. Regardless of whether you agree with the internet’s collective moral absolution of Blanchard’s crime, it’s undeniable that this is a delicate situation that should be met with care.

Should Blanchard be met with overwhelming fame upon her reentry into society? What effects could her quick induction into the social media sphere have on Blanchard, who had been living as a child under her mother’s care and now is experiencing adulthood for the first time?

It’s heartwarming to see the former abuse victim showered with online support. She’s been allowed to share her personality with the world and detract attention from the terrible circumstances of her initial infamy.

However, this entire situation sheds an uncomfortable light on our generation’s inability to take even the most grave things seriously.

The internet is a concerning place for Blanchard to exist while working through her trauma. The TikTok climate is an unpredictable one where almost anything is at risk of becoming a meme or a trend. Will the “Gypsy Rose” trend dissipate, and Blanchard along with it?

Is Blanchard ready for the internet to drop her as swiftly as it lifted her up?

It’s difficult to predict when her story may fade, but Blanchard seems to be enjoying her newfound fame and connection with Gen Z. She told HuffPost that she believes Gen Z finds her relatable because, like them, she is learning about her identity for the first time.

She even made several television appearances to promote The Prison Confessions of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, a six-hour Lifetime docuseries in which Blanchard shares her side of the story. 

Despite Blanchard’s embrace of her internet fame, there still is a longing for a world in which Blanchard could have had time to acclimate to society and adulthood in private.

It’s difficult to say, in the ever-changing temperament of the internet, whether Blanchard will ever be able to live a truly normal life.

This Editorial was written by Opinion Co-Editor Lauren Albano.

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