Martha in Netflix's Baby Reindeer

Internet Sleuths Are Missing the Whole Point of ‘Baby Reindeer’

Some viewers are missing the whole point of the new Netflix miniseries, Baby Reindeer, by using it as an opportunity to inappropriately begin internet sleuthing.

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Baby Reindeer is created by Richard Gadd and tells the story of his own real-life experiences with stalking and abuse. The show follows Donny Dunn (Gadd), a bartender and aspiring comedian, whose life changes one day when Martha Scott (Jessica Gunning) enters the bar where he’s working. Martha comes in crying, moving Donny to offer some kindness to the woman. However, the woman takes advantage of his kindness in ways he never expected and begins stalking him. As Donny deals with her stalking for years, it begins to stir repressed memories of past trauma he experienced.

The miniseries is very hard to watch, but also very important. Gadd does the unimaginable in reliving his trauma with hopes of being freed from the memories of his experiences and raising awareness for the realities of stalking and abuse. His accurate and empathetic portrayal of stalking emphasizes how his stalker was also, in a way, a victim of a system and society that refused to help her despite her mental health issues.

Viewers would hopefully come away from the series with a new sense of understanding for victims, the complexity of trauma, and how there’s not one definition of a victim or one way to deal with trauma appropriately. Unfortunately, though, many viewers are walking away with the entirely wrong idea.

Richard Gadd asks viewers to stop speculating about Baby Reindeer‘s real-life counterparts

In interviews, Gadd has been open about how he didn’t want to portray his stalker as a monster in Baby Reindeer and didn’t feel jail was the best option for her. He was careful to change names in the show to hide her identity and avoid making it seem as if he wanted to expose her or get vengeance on her. Additionally, he confirmed the situation with the stalker was resolved years ago. Despite his statements, some viewers have still been tirelessly searching for the true identity of Martha, as well as the identity of Darrien O’Connor (Tom Goodman-Hill), who is based on Gadd’s real-life abuser.

On TikTok, several videos have gone viral with self-proclaimed sleuths claiming they’ve found the identity of Darrien or Martha. They’ve gone as far as to include full names, photos, and social media handles of the people they’re accusing of being Gadd’s stalker or abuser. In fact, practically every video about Baby Reindeer, even those not about sleuthing, is being inundated with users commenting with the names of the supposed real-life Martha and Darrien. It has gotten so out of hand that Gadd was forced to take to social media on April 22, posting on his Instagram Story:

Hi Everyone, 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.

Many social media users somehow came to the conclusion that writer and director Sean Foley is the real-life Darrien. The allegations were getting so out of hand that Gadd himself had to confirm they were false. Foley also revealed that there’s a police investigation into the false accusations against him.

There are so many obvious reasons why people should not be internet sleuthing. One wrong accusation can ruin or endanger an innocent person’s life. Additionally, they are endangering Gadd’s life by desperately trying to get the attention of his abuser and stalker, even though he changed the details for the show, specifically so that those people wouldn’t recognize it was about them. There’s also the fact that, as Gadd pointed out, the purpose of the show was never to find Martha and Darrien. It was about Gadd telling his story in a way that many viewers could relate to. It was about putting a spotlight on trauma, abuse, and mental health in a way that would make people feel seen.

Those who are speculating are doing the exact opposite of what Gadd wanted by declaring that his stalker is a monster who must be found and harassed. Gadd has also chosen not to name or take legal action against his abuser. While viewers may not be able to understand that decision, they absolutely must respect how a survivor has chosen to personally handle the situation.

Sadly, it’s not just viewers missing the point. Numerous news articles have arisen about how Gadd and Netflix should’ve foreseen the speculation and tried to prevent it. The Guardian published an article stating that Gadd should’ve “fudged” the details even further or completely left out the “true story” disclaimer. It’s hard to miss that these media outlets are getting very close to saying Gadd just shouldn’t have told his story.

Why would Gadd leave out that Baby Reindeer is a true story? It is a true story. Those are his experiences. The show is all the more powerful by confirming it’s not some unbelievable stalker thriller but something that someone, and likely many others, has actually lived through. Now, media outlets are saying that the element that makes the story so poignant should be erased because people don’t know how to behave themselves online.

It’s true that Baby Reindeer has sparked some unacceptable and dangerous speculation, but it’s absurd that we think an appropriate solution is Gadd just not telling his whole story, rather than expecting and pushing people to be better in response to hearing such stories.

(featured story: Netflix)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.