Netflix's newest drama, Gypsy, is trumpeted by the streaming giant as a 10-part psychological thriller — a description that seems to boast an engrossing tale of mystery and intrigue. It falls in line with the company's growing penchant for elaborate suspense stories (The OA, 13 Reasons Why), including a wealth of true crime retellings (The Keepers, Making A Murderer), so as you dive into the new series, you may be curious if Gypsy is based on a true story.
Creator Lisa Rubin has yet to speak in depth about the show's concept in the press, but more than likely, the narrative is fictional. It stars Naomi Watts as Jean Holloway, a Manhattan therapist whose work is driven by addiction and obsession. But as she helps her patients overcome their personal vices, her own compulsions bubble to the surface: Bored with her seemingly picture perfect world, she immerses herself in the lives of her clients, pushing beyond the limits of her moral and professional boundaries until the line between reality and fantasy is irreparably blurred. It's certainly compelling, but it sounds much more like an imaginative soap than anything ripped from the headlines.
It does, however, flip a well-known issue. There are numerous accounts that deal with a patient growing too attached to their psychologist. In 2014, Emily Maloney wrote an extensive essay for The Atlantic about what happened when she began stalking her therapist, and according to the American Psychological Association, at least 7 to 11 percent of mental health care professionals are stalked by a patient or client during their careers. In fact, Psychology Today reported that one Australian study showed the incidence as high as 19.5 percent.
This has occasionally been explored on screen — including as recently as Netflix movie Clinical — but Gypsy inverts the roles. Here, it's Jean that veers into obsessive territory, not the other way around. Her motives are hard to read, but seem to stem from some nagging yearning for danger and an insatiable need for control. Psychology Today notes that there's a long history of such behavior turning violent, but there are times when Jean seems to be acting out of genuine concern, not malicious intent — even if it is in part to give her some delusional sense of validation, to affirm a job well done.
So, while Gypsy doesn't appear to be rooted in any truth, it does take at least a little inspiration from real ideas, making a longstanding film and TV trope feel fresh.