Richard Gadd as Donny Dunn in Baby Reindeer
(Netflix)

The ‘Baby Reindeer’ Controversies Continue

Baby Reindeer is a cathartic experience for many fans of the series. Previously a one-man show detailing an alleged stalking and purported sexual abuse, Richard Gadd’s series has brought out the worst in some viewers, who have taken it upon themselves to find the real people who inspired the series.

Recommended Videos

Gadd plays Donny in the series, which presents a fictionalized version of events that happened to Gadd in real life. Baby Reindeer has become such a phenomenon that the woman who claims to have inspired Donny’s stalker, Martha, is giving interviews and the Scottish National Party Member of Parliament (SNP MP) wrote to Netflix about the series. Just because the series is based on a true story doesn’t mean that every single thing within the show happened the way that it’s depicted. But the confusion comes from how Netflix presents the series, with a title card at the beginning of every episode that states “This is a true story.”

That Baby Reindeer is a fictionalized version of a true story is a fact that bears repeating, and one that some viewers seem to be forgetting in the weeks since the series premiered. Speaking before a Scottish committee, Netflix executive Benjamin King said that Baby Reindeer is “obviously a true story of the horrific abuse that the writer and protagonist Richard Gadd suffered at the hands of a convicted stalker.” King also made it clear that Netflix had taken “every reasonable precaution in disguising the real-life identities of the people involved in that story”.

Scottish MP John Nicolson is taking issue with the fact that there is no evidence that Gadd’s real-life stalker was ever charged with a crime, like Martha (Jessica Gunning) is in the series. “It’s clear that the evidence given by Netflix to the select committee is disputed,” Nicolson said, adding, “The charge made—of a conviction—is very important. Journalists can find no evidence to back up the Netflix claim.”

The UK government has a dangerous reaction to Baby Reindeer

According to Deadline, the UK’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) warned Netflix that under a proposed media bill, they can hand the series to regulatory body Ofcom, which would be given the power to police the content on streaming platforms. Under this bill, people like Gadd’s alleged stalker (who was not named in the series) would be able to make fairness and privacy complaints against Netflix because she was identified online by viewers.

The reaction to Baby Reindeer gets tricky because it is one man’s journey through healing and how he perceives the situation. Obviously parts of it were dramatized for television and entertainment, like what happens with Martha at the end. At no point while watching the series did I think that Richard Gadd, who plays Donny, was getting every single detail correct. It is a work of art.

This new bill makes it dangerous for artists to tell their stories in their own creative ways. It is not Gadd’s fault that people went out of their way to find the real Martha and give her a platform. To then turn around and attack the series is a bit disingenuous given what Gadd has shared.

“UK broadcasters are subject to appropriate rules to ensure protections for audiences, contributors and other affected individuals,” a government spokesperson told Deadline. “Our Media Bill will make mainstream video-on-demand services subject to similar high standards.”

Plenty of artists draw on real-life experiences, this is dangerous

The issue with what is happening with Baby Reindeer is twofold. One part is the viewers seeking out the real Martha after watching the show. The second part involves The Daily Mail (which published the first interview with the alleged real-life stalker), Piers Morgan (who interviewed her for his TV show), and other media entities that continue to give the alleged real-life Martha a platform.

That isn’t necessarily on Netflix or Gadd, and while the so-called “real Martha” stated that Netflix did not inform her of the series, it wouldn’t have to if Gadd went even further and gave no name to the person who allegedly did this to him. Gadd himself has stated that he changed the story “slightly to create dramatic climaxes,” in an interview with The Guardian. So the problem really stems from the title card at the top of each episode that states, definitively, “This is a true story.”

At the end of the day, Baby Reindeer presents itself as a true story, and that is where the confusion seemingly lies. If it had said “based on” or “inspired by,” things may have landed a little differently.


The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
related content
Read Article The Way the Lady Whistledown Reveal Worked in Season 3 Is Great, Actually
L-R: Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton), Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan)
L-R: Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton), Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan)
L-R: Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton), Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan)
Read Article Are Ser Criston’s Motivations for His Heinous Acts as Petty as They Seem?
Ser Criston Cole stands in his armor in "House of the Dragon"
Ser Criston Cole stands in his armor in "House of the Dragon"
Ser Criston Cole stands in his armor in "House of the Dragon"
Read Article The Origins Behind Jake Gyllenhaal’s New Crime Drama ‘Presumed Innocent’
Jake Gyllenhaal and Renate Reinsve in a still from 'Presumed Innocent'
Jake Gyllenhaal and Renate Reinsve in a still from 'Presumed Innocent'
Jake Gyllenhaal and Renate Reinsve in a still from 'Presumed Innocent'
Read Article Why Aren’t You Watching the Best Horror Series Since ‘Hannibal’?
Armand (Assad Zaman) and Louis (Jacob Anderson) sit together in 'Interview With the Vampire' season 2
Armand (Assad Zaman) and Louis (Jacob Anderson) sit together in 'Interview With the Vampire' season 2
Armand (Assad Zaman) and Louis (Jacob Anderson) sit together in 'Interview With the Vampire' season 2
Read Article Breaking Down ‘House of the Dragon’s Stunning Laenor Velaryon Plot Twist
John Macmillan as Laenor Velaryon in 'House of the Dragon'
John Macmillan as Laenor Velaryon in 'House of the Dragon'
John Macmillan as Laenor Velaryon in 'House of the Dragon'
Related Content
Read Article The Way the Lady Whistledown Reveal Worked in Season 3 Is Great, Actually
L-R: Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton), Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan)
Read Article Are Ser Criston’s Motivations for His Heinous Acts as Petty as They Seem?
Ser Criston Cole stands in his armor in "House of the Dragon"
Read Article The Origins Behind Jake Gyllenhaal’s New Crime Drama ‘Presumed Innocent’
Jake Gyllenhaal and Renate Reinsve in a still from 'Presumed Innocent'
Read Article Why Aren’t You Watching the Best Horror Series Since ‘Hannibal’?
Armand (Assad Zaman) and Louis (Jacob Anderson) sit together in 'Interview With the Vampire' season 2
Read Article Breaking Down ‘House of the Dragon’s Stunning Laenor Velaryon Plot Twist
John Macmillan as Laenor Velaryon in 'House of the Dragon'
Author
Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.