HOLLY WAINWRIGHT: The Baby Reindeer aftermath is why we can't have beautiful things.

We don't deserve Baby Reindeer.

The most-watched show on Netflix right now is a spiky, darkly glittering exploration of obsession and abuse and trauma. It's also an extremely watchable, tense thriller. And a sometimes comedy. And a flawlessly performed, stylish work of art with a painfully hip soundtrack.

Baby Reindeer is actually quite close to perfect.

Watch the trailer of Netflix's Baby Reindeer below. Post continues after video.

Video via Netflix.

But it's also exposed why we — audiences in 2024 — cannot be trusted with untidy endings and complicated ideas.

Since it aired, despite its creator begging us otherwise, we have become obsessed with our own kind of stalking, of the parts of it that are true and the parts of it that are... less so. To set eyes on the "real" faces of its characters. To hunt them down and flush them out and leave this excellent show in a mess of legal threats and lost jobs and kiss and tells.

In short, we like Baby Reindeer so much that we are punishing its creator for daring to invent it.


Richard Gadd as Donny Dunn in Baby Reindeer. Image: Netflix.

Of course, Baby Reindeer is not the perfect victim. Its creators could surely have seen the chaos coming. 

At the top of Episode 1 we are told that we are watching is a true story.

Not something 'based on a true story'. Not 'inspired by true events'. But a True Story.

And it isn't, entirely. That's where the trouble started.


Of course, some pieces of fiction, like the brilliant Fargo, Noah Hawley's even darker comedy about snow-dusted murders in Minnesota, say they're a true story when they're absolutely not, just to mess with your silly little head.

But this is different. Baby Reindeer is based on two one-man shows created by its writer and performer Richard Gadd.

In real life, Gadd separated two deep traumas from his life — being stalked by a stranger and being groomed and raped by a powerful older TV writer — into two comedy shows, performed as a stand-up at the career-making Edinburgh Festival.

For Netflix's Baby Reindeer, he's braided these stories together, presenting them as intrinsically related, as they no doubt are. His character, Donny Dunn, tolerates and sometimes indulges Martha because he's grappling with the decimation of his identity and self-respect at the hands of his abuser.

These parts of the story, Netflix says, and Gadd says, are true.

But some parts are not. Gadd's stalker, in real life, didn't go to jail. Gadd's career took off after he performed his one-man show based on 'Martha's' stalking, and he's been writing and producing Hollywood-adjacent projects ever since. 

So far, so better than fiction. But the parts of this story we have been poking to death are not his, they belong to the "baddies".

Jessica Gunning as Martha in Baby Reindeer. Image: Netflix.


It took couch-side sleuths minutes to find the real-life 'Martha'. Gadd claimed she was so well-disguised she 'wouldn't recognise herself', but that's clearly not the case. Because the Daily Mail went to talk to her at her London flat. And interviewed her. And photographed her sitting on a bus-stop bench, exactly as Martha does, until a moment of good taste (or was it fear? The journalist sent to interview her now says she's stalking him) caused them to run the piece without the photos.


The woman — who, like Martha is Scottish, middle-aged, has dark curly hair, is plus-size, is qualified in law with a history of serious stalking — says she would like to sue.

"'He's using Baby Reindeer to stalk me now," she told The Mail. "I'm the victim. He's written a bloody show about me."

"It's a load of rubbish. I don't have any money but I'm a perfectly capable lawyer so I will represent myself. Any semblance of a normal life I had is gone... It's open season on me."

Neil Sears, the journalist who interviewed 'Martha' last week has written that now she is bombarding him with abusive texts and calls.

Here's one: "You have made a bitter enemy of me. You are the c*** from hell."

All of which is salacious and terrifying and, most likely, was avoidable.

Gadd says his real-life stalker is not allowed to ever contact him again, but admits that there's always a fear, in the back of his mind, that 'Martha' will return. "When it comes to stalking, you can never really escape. There's always the nugget of worry in the back of your head," he told Vanity Fair.

And then there's Darrien. The character of the TV producer who grooms, drugs and assaults Donny, is a real person, too. And some say, everyone knows who he is.

Tom Goodman-Hill as Darrien in Baby Reindeer. Image: Netflix.


British author and TV producer Richard Osman said on the BBC podcast The Rest Is Entertainment, that some strange choices were made in casting Darrien.

"There's a very, very serious thing that happens with a male comedy producer and Richard Gadd, who... did the show in Edinburgh and has been very open to people in the industry about who that person was, so people in the industry know who that person was," Osman said.


"Now it comes out… and a completely different person is identified, someone who has produced Richard Gadd before, but is definitively not the [abuser] in any way,

"But the person they've cast in that role looks like this other guy, looks like the guy who's been falsely accused. And it's such a weird, bizarre thing to do because this poor guy has had death threats and he's had to issue a statement to say it's not me. And it is not him, definitely not because people in the industry know who it is. And it's definitely not him."

Listen to Mamamia Out Loud where Mia, Jessie and I talk more about Baby Reindeer. Post continues after audio.

That person falsely identified is called Sean Foley. When Richard Gadd made a statement asking all of us obsessed viewers to back off, he name-checked him. Foley had been receiving so many threats he has involved the police and cited defamation.

"People I love, have worked with, and admire (including Sean Foley) are unfairly getting caught up in speculation," Gadd posted. "Please don't speculate on who any of the real life people could be. That's not the point of our show."

It's really not. The point of this show is to give voice to the survivors of terrible things. To alter our perception of why people do what they do. To direct sunlight on how complex abuse can be, how quickly things can go to hell, and why traumatised people make imperfect choices.


It's beautiful. It's powerful. It's ground-breaking. It's also entertainment.

But to us, watching on our lounges with our phones in our hands, it's a puzzle to be solved.

It's how we watch TV now and given that shift, there's a sound argument that more care should have been taken with this fragile, complicated story. Because the mess left around the lives of those involved will last longer than the show's number-one status.

Anything we love, we will love to death. We will squeeze it so hard we spill its insides, and then we will pick through those until we know, for certain, that there is no mystery or nuance left to be found.

Then we'll move on to the next thing. Baby Reindeer? So last week.

It's why we can't have beautiful things.

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

Mamamia is a charity partner of RizeUp Australia, a national organisation that helps women, children and families move on after the devastation of domestic and family violence. Their mission is to deliver life-changing and practical support to these families when they need it most. If you would like to support their mission you can donate here

Feature image: Netflix.