‘Baby Reindeer’ creator issues plea over hit show
(Credits: Netflix)

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'Baby Reindeer' creator issues plea over hit show

Since its release last week, Baby Reindeer has become the newest Netflix show dominating cultural commentary. Based on a true story and acted by the man it happened to, Richard Gadd’s stark and nuanced look at trauma, sexual assault and stalking is gripping. But, of course, has come with a worrying reaction.

It’s a fascinating and incredibly brave project. Alongside a cast of actors, Richard Gadd plays a semi-fictionalised version of himself called Donnie Dunn. After offering a stranger a cup of tea while he works at a pub, that stranger, whom he calls Martha, becomes obsessed with him. 

This is a true story and a terrifying experience that Gadd went through as he was stalked by the woman. In a 2019 interview about the experience, he said that ‘Martha’ sent him 41,000 emails, 350 hours of voicemail, 744 tweets, 46 Facebook messages, 106 pages of letters, sleeping pills, a woolly hat, a pair of brand new boxer shorts and a cuddly reindeer toy. 

However, Martha isn’t the only traumatic tale told in Baby Reindeer. Gadd’s fictionalised self is also abused and sexually assaulted by a high-power TV executive called Darrien, played by Tom Goodman-Hill. Throughout the series, he considers how this experience affected and reshaped in life, looking in depth at PTSD and the aftermath of sexual abuse.

At the start of the series, viewers are reminded that this is all a true story. However, Gadd has spoken out about the response from some viewers. As the show instantly became a hit on the streaming service, it seems that some viewers have taken it upon themselves to try and hunt down the real people involved. The creator of the show has made it clear that this isn’t his wish for the season.

Writing on his Instagram story, the writer and actor said, “Hi everyone, People I love, have worked with, and admire (including Sean Foley) are unfairly caught up in speculation.” Sean Foley, the creator of Spitting Image: The Musical, reposted the message, adding, “Police have been informed and are investigating all defamatory abusive and threatening posts against me.”

Gadd continues, “Please don’t speculate on who any of the real-life people could be. That’s not the point of our show. Lots of love, Richard x X.”

In interviews since the release, Gadd has made it clear that while this is an experience he went through, he’s made steps to hide the people involved’s identity. “What’s been borrowed is an emotional truth, not a fact-by-fact profile of someone,” he told GQ. Especially when it comes to Martha and the real-life woman who stalked him, he changes details for their privacy. “We’ve gone to such great lengths to disguise her to the point that I don’t think she would recognise herself,” he said.

But despite his wishes, people online still seem hooked on the mission of discovering who Martha is. For Gadd, he’s much more focused on considering his story and how it could have been handled differently. “It does feel like we’re at a crisis point with our public services right now,” he said when considering how he was failed by the police. As Baby Reindeer unpacks and considers so many difficult issues, the creator would rather his viewers spend their energy helping in more productive ways than speculating.