If you've seen a manipulative mother or two in a thriller movie or show lately, chances are they might have Munchausen syndrome by proxy. This condition has become salient in the pop culture sphere, depicted in everything from Hulu's The Act to the comedy-horror Ma. Now, we see the twisted illness once again in Ryan Murphy's debut Netflix project, The Politician.
By definition, Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a mental disorder and form of abuse in which a caregiver makes up the illness of a person under their care in order to garner attention. Sometimes it means putting the person under risky procedures, and other times, it means poisoning them. In the high school drama series, the person with Munchausen syndrome by proxy is Dusty Jackson. Dusty, portrayed by the one-and-only Jessica Lange, is the nana of Infinity Jackson, the Ben Platt character's running mate in the high school election. Played by Set It Up's Zoey Deutch, Infinity has a "mysterious ailment and an even more mysterious background," according to Entertainment Weekly.
We can infer that Dusty is involved with Infinity's sickness somehow — either sickening her or forcing her to fake her illness. In a recent clip, we see Infinity's nana taking advantage of her illness (identified as cancer) to snag a spot at a ritzy Olive Garden. The trailer also shows Platt's aggressively ambitious Payton Hobart taking advantage of his classmate's illness during his campaign. In one scene, Infinity lies in a hospital bed wearing a knit cap, which makes her look like the spitting image of Gypsy Rose Blanchard in The Act.
So how will Infinity's story unfold? Munchausen syndrome by proxy has escalated, in many fictional portrayals, to retaliation through violence. We'll have to see how this storyline goes in The Politician, but it certainly can't end with a neat bow tie. In fact, we hear talks of assassinating Payton all throughout the teaser.
Lange has been a dynamic cast member for many a Murphy project, including the TV showrunner's Feud and American Horror Story. No matter her fate or how twisted she becomes, Lange's character will definitely become one of our favourites.