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Lifetime’s Love You To Death questions a mother’s Munchausen syndrome by proxy

Marcia Gay Harden plays a mother forcing her daughter (Emily Skeggs) to be sick in Love You To Death. Pic credit: Lifetime

When you see Camille (Marcia Gay Harden) care for her disabled daughter Esme (Emily Skeggs), who uses a wheelchair, you might assume she was making selfless sacrifices to help her daughter. Once doctors reveal Esme is not sick, it becomes a case of Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

Based on the true story of the murder of Dee Dee Blanchard, to which her daughter Gypsy Rose confessed, Lifetime’s new movie Love You to Death asks questions that Dee Dee is not around to answer.

“I’m sure it was monstrous as she describes it, but what was Camille thinking?” Harden asked. “What was Camille doing? What was Camille justifying? That we imagined as best we could, the financials, all of the reasons why someone would do that.”

Why does Camille (Marcia Gay Harden) want her daughter to be sick? Pic credit: Lifetime.

Love You To Death presents the dramatization from two perspectives. The first half assumes Camille is caring for an ailing child until her death. The second shows Esme’s perspective.

Still, there are undeniable medical facts.

“She could walk,” Harden said. “The daughter was saying, ‘I’m okay to eat.’ She knew she didn’t need the meds. I love the scene where I say, ‘You keep that feeding tube in. Makes it easier to put the meds in.’” 

Esme (Emily Skeggs) became a prisoner of her mother’s. Pic credit: Lifetime

The feeding tube is hard for Harden to rationalize.

“That feeding tube was a channel for the sickness that she had to receive because I would feed her medications that made her feel sick,” Harden said. “And the next thing I was going to feed her was medications to make her brain go cuckoo.”

If only Marcia Gay Harden could know what Dee Dee Blanchard, the basis for Camille, was really thinking. Pic credit: Lifetime

Harden wishes Blanchard had kept a journal so that she could understand a mother’s rationalization for committing Munchausen by proxy. Without that, Harden still has questions.

“That’s what I think and my judgment is,” Harden said. “She forced her to be part of her own sickness in every way. So how aware or how badly she felt about it? That’s what we don’t know.”

Gypsy Rose has shared her side, but that too is influenced by her prison term.

Esme (Emily Skeggs) found a boy (Brennan Keel Cook) to help her kill her mother. Pic credit: Lifetime

“She’s taken responsibility for being the mastermind which is interesting,” Harden said. “She’s claiming, ‘It was my idea. I came up with it. I paid for him to come visit me.’ So she’s very definitely claiming responsibility for it.”

Even if Gypsy Rose was being abused by Dee Dee, murder is still a crime. It may have been her last resort, and her best hope is a commuted sentence.

“I think that I suspect she understands, and rightly so, the world will look at her,” Harden said. “She’s paid her dues in prison. She was trapped. She had very little choice and she’d already three times tried to escape and three times had been returned home.”

Esme (Emily Skeggs) kept up appearances for her mother (Marcia Gay Harden). Pic credit: Lifetime

Perhaps Love You to Death can encourage people to believe children before they are forced to take deadly action.

“Her mother had gotten her back home and she had been pointed out to be the liar, not the mom,” Harden said. “So the adults, the system is not helpful. Who listens to kids, you know?”

Love You To Death airs Saturday, January 26 at 8pm on Lifetime.

Fred Topel has been a journalist since 1999. Over the decades he’s written for About.com, Hollywood.com, CraveOnline, Rotten Tomatoes and Slashfilm. Fred brings Monsters and... read more

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