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Netflix’s Baby Reindeer Is a Hit, but Audiences Are Missing the Point


Netflix's Baby Reindeer Is a Hit, but Audiences Are Missing the Point


Summary

  • The
    Baby Reindeer
    fans who harassed alleged real-life counterparts of characters missed the show’s message of empathy and understanding mental illness.
  • Richard Gadd and the cast urge fans to stop detective work, emphasizing the show’s intentions were not to speculate on real-life inspirations.
  • It’s important to separate fact from fiction while engaging with media –
    Baby Reindeer
    aims to shed light on mental health issues, not malign individuals.



Baby Reindeer enthusiasts have, in a move so ironic, you couldn’t make it up if you tried, tracked down, and begun to harass who they believe to be the real-life counterparts of some of the characters on the show. Baby Reindeer is a Netflix series by Scottish comedian Richard Gadd that tells the true story of his traumatic experience of being stalked and harassed by a customer at the bar where he used to work. It’s a show that is relentlessly sympathetic to this antagonist, Martha, even after she invades his home, gropes him, and drags his family and past/present partners into the mix (to name just a few things).


Still, the show is committed to displaying the situation’s nuances—like Gadd’s character Donny refusing to set or stick to boundaries with Martha or her mental illness at the root of her actions. Crucially, though, the visceral claustrophobia and fear that the stalking causes remains, something that clearly went over the heads of the fans engaging in this very behavior.

Online discussions about TV series, films, and other media have the potential to be quite additive to the viewing experience. Whether someone is compiling and breaking down the best fan theories, exposing either an over-reliance on certain tropes or usage of problematic ones or simply applauding a particularly gripping scene, engagement with a given program is as fun for the fan as it is beneficial to those involved behind-the-scenes. In a sense, it’s free press!—That is, until some people take it too far. Let’s discuss what exactly has gotten these Baby Reindeer fans into some hot water and what the response has been like.



Fans Found (Who They Believe to Be) Martha and Darrien From Baby Reindeer

Baby Reindeer poster

Baby Reindeer (2024)

4.5/5

Release Date
April 11, 2024

Cast
Richard Gadd , Jessica Gunning , Danny Kirrane , Nava Mau

Seasons
1

Fans have found what they believe are the online profiles of the real people who inspired these characters. However, the first of these witch hunts has already been stopped in its tracks… but not before the situation could escalate out of control. Based on little more than a vague resemblance to the character Darrien’s actor, fans wrongly accused Sean Foley, theater director and friend of Gadd, of being the real-life abuser that Darrien is based on. Foley was subject to defamatory and threatening posts before deciding to go to the police. According to Metro, there is currently an investigation being conducted, though it has done little to stop the rumor mill from targeting anyone else.


Fans also found tweets that they believe belong to the real-life Martha—tweets alluding to Diet Coke and other niche references made on the show, a bio professing herself to be a lawyer from Scotland, and everything featuring, of course, a “distintc writin style!!” The evidence here is, at the very least, more compelling.

However, if this woman is Richard Gadd’s former stalker, he hasn’t done nearly the amount of work he claims to have of altering details to protect people’s identities. In an interview with GQ, Gadd discussed the changes he made from the true story in the hopes that people would never find his actual stalker.

We’ve gone to such great lengths to disguise her to the point that I don’t think she would recognize herself. What’s been borrowed is an emotional truth, not a fact-by-fact profile of someone


It’s possible he made a good faith effort but underestimated how unhinged people can be online. Or perhaps Gadd wasn’t expecting Baby Reindeer to climb to and lead the Netflix charts to begin with. Regardless, showrunners everywhere need to be taking notes because it is exactly someone as mentally unwell as a “Martha” who is least equipped to cope with any strays she catches from trolls online.

Related

The Wild True Story Behind Netflix’s Baby Reindeer and Martha Scott

For Baby Reindeer creator Richard Gadd, reality truly is stranger than fiction.

How Have Gadd and Co. Responded to the Baby Reindeer Controversy?


Multiple Baby Reindeer stars have urged fans to stop doing detective work. Recently, Richard Gadd took to Instagram stories with a message for the internet sleuths. He wrote a text post saying, “People I love, have worked with, and admire (including Sean Foley) are unfairly getting caught up in speculation. Please don’t speculate on who any of the real life people could be. That’s not the point of our show.”

In an interview with Glamour, Jessica Gunning chimed in. “I would urge people not to be doing that…I think it’s a real, real shame, because it shows that they haven’t watched the show properly. That’s not the point of it in any way.” She added, “I deliberately didn’t want to do an impersonation of somebody, I wanted to do an interpretation of this character.”


Related

Why Do Audiences Care if Something Is Based on a True Story?

What does it mean for a movie or show to be based on a true story, and why do we care? What’s the relationship between fiction and reality?

It’s clear not just in the cast and creator’s discussions about Baby Reindeer but also in the show’s subtext that the intentions were never to malign his stalker. Instead, the intentions were to demonstrate how the system fails people who have a mental illness or are victims in some way and how easily we could find ourselves in circumstances like Martha’s but just be better equipped to handle it.

Perhaps the final scene of the show embodies this best. Donny is sitting in a pub, having just confronted Darrien after years of no contact. The interaction went unexpectedly, with Darrien calling Donny “brave” for having shared his story of abuse and even offering him work. Still reeling, he turns to old voicemails from Martha for comfort. The voicemails trigger a wave of emotions, and he begins to cry. The bartender asks him if he’s okay, and then Donny orders. When he gets his drink, though, Donny realizes he’s forgotten his wallet. The bartender gently says that the drink is on the house, a parallel to the opening scene with Martha. Baby Reindeer is streaming now on Netflix.


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