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The celebrification of Gypsy Rose Blanchard

She was just released from prison and the internet is fascinated

On Dec. 8, 2023, Gypsy Rose Blanchard was released from prison after serving eight years for helping to facilitate the murder of her abusive mother, and very quickly after her release, Blanchard rose to internet stardom.

Paparazzi photos of Blanchard being released immediately began circulating social media, and her first Instagram post out of prison, captioned “First selfie of freedom!” received over 6.5 million likes. 

The backstory

Growing up, Gypsy’s mother Dee Dee Blanchard claimed that Gypsy had numerous illnesses such as leukemia, muscular dystrophy and epilepsy. Gypsy was wheelchair bound and her mother claimed that she had the mental capacity of a seven-year-old.

Gypsy and Dee Dee were regarded favourably and were the recipients of charity, including a house built for them by Habitat for Humanity. 

However, on June 14, 2015, Dee Dee was found stabbed to death in the house that she lived in with her daughter. Two days later, Gypsy and her then-boyfriend were arrested for murdering Dee Dee. Gypsy was sentenced to 10 years in prison for second-degree murder. 

After the murder, it was revealed that Dee Dee had been lying about many of Gypsy’s illnesses. Dee Dee had Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a psychological condition where a caregiver fabricates or exaggerates symptoms experienced by someone in their care.

Who deserves celebrity status?

Gypsy’s Instagram following has risen to over eight million, with her TikTok reaching nearly 10 million. She also embarked on a press tour where she appeared on Good Morning America, The View and Entertainment Tonight, promoting her new Lifetime special The Prison Confessions of Gypsy Rose Blanchard.

She even walked the red carpet at the première of the special. She has also written a book about her experience in prison. 

Many are thrilled to see Gypsy released and living her best life in the limelight. “You served. Now it’s time to slay,” reads one comment on Gypsy’s first Instagram post after being released from prison, with another saying, “I don’t think you understand how much the world loves and supports you.”

However, some are less supportive of Blanchard’s newfound fame, arguing that society should not be celebrating a murderer, or that Blanchard is still vulnerable and being exploited. 

In the age of social media, nearly anyone has the opportunity to become a celebrity if the interest is there. On TikTok, Gypsy posts “outfit of the day” (OOTD) and “get ready with me” (GRWM) videos which humanize her to her audience; she seems like any other person, not like a murderer.

Many are also impressed with how down-to-earth and well-spoken Gypsy is in interviews, where she admits that she regrets her actions. She says she doesn’t blame her mother, who she believes was suffering from a mental illness.

To bring even more attention to herself, Gypsy left a spicy comment on one of her Instagram posts about her sex life with her husband Ryan Scott Anderson, who she married while in prison. The combination of all these details has fans fascinated. 

The juxtaposition of half of the internet celebrating Gypsy and the other half claiming she shouldn’t have a following raises interesting questions. Who do we have an obligation to support or not support online? Is someone being interesting enough of a reason to hype them up and give them a follow? Can those who’ve committed major wrongs ever truly be redeemed? 

Black and white

To the internet, Gypsy is either a stone-cold killer or a girlboss who can do no wrong. That she could be anything in between those two poles is beyond comprehension to many commenters.

This phenomenon is not unique to Gypsy. In fact this is a recurring pattern on the internet. In the online world, people are either loved or hated. The internet seems to be only capable of viewing things as black and white, unable to view public personas as just people, with complexities and imperfections, just like everyone else. 

The black and white thinking is applied to everyone from A-list celebrities to reality TV stars. We saw it in the defamation case between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in 2022, where social media overwhelmingly backed Depp and villainized Heard, creating sympathetic edits of Depp on trial and unfavourable edits of Heard. Despite the fact that it was a complex situation, social media was determined to simplify it. 

The world’s fascination with problematic people and situations is not new, but perhaps the ability to engage so deeply with their lives is. 

Whether it’s right or wrong to uplift a convicted murderer like Gypsy is still an unanswered question. But the fact is, the interest is there, and Gypsy is catering towards our fascination with her. Her millions of followers didn’t come from nowhere. This is the age of social media.

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