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Gypsy Rose Blanchard and the big change in true crime| GuyWhoKnowsThings

There is a moment near the end of 2017. documentary film “Mommy Dead and Dearest,” where Gypsy Rose Blanchard is filming her boyfriend at the time, Nicholas Godejohn, as he lies naked on a hotel room bed. A day earlier, Godejohn had stabbed Gypsy's mother, Dee Dee Blanchard, to death. The murder was part of a plot the couple hatched to free Gypsy, then 23, from the clutches of her mother so they could be together. In the short video, we hear Gypsy make a playful sexual comment amidst her distinctive, copious laughter.

Dee Dee Blanchard had abused and controlled her daughter, mentally and physically, for decades. Many believed this was a case of Munchausen syndrome by proxy (a form of child abuse in which a caregiver could induce an illness to attract public sympathy, care, concern, and material gifts) and the saga captured collective interest.

This bit is the first time we see it unfold through Gypsy's eyes, and the point of view serves as a glimpse into what would become one of the biggest shifts in true crime storytelling.

Stories like these were once conveyed through reenactments, dramatizations, and interviews with police officers, journalists, medical professionals, family, and friends. If there were primary sources, they were usually scans of photographs of happy families or grisly crime scenes backed by voice-over narration, exemplified by shows like “20/20,” “Dateline,” “Snapped,” “Forensic Files,” and “48.” hours.” Home video cameras, which became popular in the 1980s, certainly changed the true landscape of crime, but those recordings were generally scarce and complementary. On rare occasions, viewers can hear directly from perpetrators or victims in interviews that often take place years after the event.

We now have loads of first-person digital footage, meaning viewers, more than ever, are privy to the perspectives of those directly involved, often during the period in which the crimes took place, bridging the gap and making make intermediaries less essential. . The case of Gypsy Rose Blanchard summarizes the trajectory of this phenomenon. Her saga, for example, received the scripted treatment with “The Act,” a 2019 limited series on Hulu, for which Patricia Arquette won an Emmy. But those looking for a definitive, unvarnished, visceral view of events now have direct options and channels, making that series almost an afterthought.

Of course, the rise of social media has accelerated this dynamic. Blanchard and Godejohn's relationship was almost exclusively online before the murder, and prosecutors in court used Facebook posts and text messages between them to frame them. Godejohn was sentenced to life in prison; Gypsy received 10 years, of which she served about seven.

She was released December 28, 2023and the next day he published a selfie to Instagram with the caption “First Freedom Selfie,” which garnered more than 6.5 million likes. Online, she has been promoting her new Lifetime series, “The Prison Confessions of Gypsy Rose Blanchard.” “This docuseries chronicles my quest to expose the hidden parts of my life that have never been revealed until now,” we hear her say from prison.

She quickly became a social media celebrity, with more than eight million followers on Instagram and nearly 10 million on TikTok. Since her release, she has shared light-hearted videos, such as one with her husband, Ryan Anderson (they married in 2022 while she was in prison), in “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” on Broadway, and more serious ones, such as a video in which She explains Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

The influence of technology on modern criminal investigations has become fundamental in many documentaries in recent years.

In the two-part HBO documentary “I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth v. Michelle Carter” (2019), the story is told largely through the thousands of text messages exchanged between two teenagers, Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy III, from 2012 to 2014. The text messages led to the exact moment of Roy's suicide. Also shown are videos of selfies that Roy had posted online. Carter spent about a year in prison for his role in his death. The documentary (by Erin Lee Carr, who also directed “Mommy Dead and Dearest”) left me “spinning in circles, mulling over thoughts about responsibility, coercion, and the nebulous limits of technology” as I wrote. last year.

One of the most high-profile murder trials in the United States in recent years, that of disgraced lawyer Alex Murdaugh, who shot dead his wife, Maggie, and son Paul in 2021, was ultimately based on an astonishing footage captured moments before the murders. That video, on Paul's phone, placed the patriarch at the crime scene, sealing your fate: two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.

The use of that footage, along with copious smartphone videos that brought viewers into the Murdaughs' world, in documentaries like Netflix's two-season run. “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” It would have been unimaginable not long ago.

But perhaps no recent offering illustrates this shift like HBO's. docuseries “Love has won: the cult of Mother God.” Group members love has won he live-streamed his days and nights; They filmed and posted countless hours of sermons and manifestos online on YouTube and Instagram Live. Much of the three-episode series comprises this footage, and in turn, viewers watch Amy Carlson, who called herself “Mother God,” slowly deteriorate over the months from the perspective of the people who adored her. .

It's a point of view so disconcerting and disturbing that it dissolves the line between narration and voyeurism. When the group films his corpse, which they transport across numerous state lines, camping with him along the way, we also see all of this through the eyes of the devotees. Several of his followers continue to promote his teachings online.

It was clear this month in the comments on Blanchard's Instagram that many were uncomfortable with her re-emergence as a social media presence. It seemed strange to some that she participated so intensely and publicly immediately after her release. Others thought it was in poor taste for her to celebrate her freedom while Godejohn is serving a life sentence.

The biggest criticism of the true crime genre is that horrors are being repackaged as guilty pleasure entertainment, allowing viewers to get close, but not too close, to terrible things. And perhaps true crime's best defense is that it allows viewers to safely process the scariest aspects of our world. It's a strange dance between knowledge, observation and entertainment.

Either way, the fourth wall is cracking, and perhaps the discomfort it could cause has been a long time coming.

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