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Netflix’s Baby Reindeer is a masterclass in stalking.

Vaseline 2 months ago

Warning: This article contains spoilers.

When I saw the trailer of Baby reindeer a few weeks ago I was intrigued. As someone who has been a victim of stalking and has extensively researched and written about the phenomenon, I am very interested in the way it is depicted on television and in films.

Usually it’s sensational. Femme fatales, which quickly escalate from dizzying obsession to murder plots, or unhinged and violent men, lurking in the bushes and killing anyone who comes between them and the object of their obsession.

But from the opening scene of Baby reindeer, I knew this would be different. I knew this was a story based on the truth, before me Actually knew.

Watch the trailer for Baby Reindeer here. Post continues below.

Because although Baby reindeer is as disturbing, terrifying and intense as your favorite stalker movie, this limited series felt Real. In fact, it’s one of the most authentic depictions of stalking I’ve ever seen.

What makes it even more horrifying is the fact that it is is Real. For the biggest part. Baby reindeer shows the year-long stalking ordeal endured by comedian Richard Gadd, who turned his experience into a one-man play in 2019.

We reject all common rabbit boiler styles, Baby reindeer portrays a nuanced view of the ‘dripping tap’ effect of long-term stalking, and the complex feelings of anger, fear, sympathy, frustration and confusion.

Honest and ruthless, Baby reindeer is an important story that effectively portrays not only the impact on the victim (which is not perfect, because no victim is), but also the complexity of the stalker’s motivations and mindset, and the lack of victim support and recognition by the police – a global problem when it comes to this crime.

It also addresses the impact of trauma and sexual assault in a way rarely seen on screen, including how it influences future trauma and subsequent abuse.

Which parts are true and which parts are omitted?

How Donny meets the woman who stalks him.

In Baby reindeer, Donny Dunn is a struggling comedian who works in a bar. One day, a 42-year-old woman named Martha walks into the bar and starts a conversation. Dunn feels bad for her and gives Martha, played by Jessica Gunning, a free cup of tea. Touched by his kindness, Martha’s obsession apparently begins at that moment.

According to Gadd, who is essentially playing himself, this part is true. He told The times: “At first everyone in the pub thought it was funny that I had an admirer. Then she started invading my life, following me, showing up at my gigs, waiting outside my house and sending thousands of voicemails and emails .”

His complex feelings towards the stalker (and his mistakes).

In Baby Reindeer, Gadd doesn’t shy away from the mistakes he made during the ordeal, inadvertently encouraging the stalking. This is mainly due to his own confusion about what was happening to him, which is common.

“The silly flirting. The cowardly excuses for why we couldn’t be together. Not to mention the themes of internalized prejudice and sexual shame that underlay it all,” Gadd wrote in a piece accompanying the show’s debut heard.

“It felt risky to do a ‘warts and all’ version of the story where I held my hands up against the mistakes I made with Martha.” I couldn’t avoid the truth about what happened to me. This was a messy, complicated situation, but one that needed to be told no matter what.”

Gunning shared a similar sentiment when speaking to Netflix Tudum. ‘Sometimes Donny would play on her fantasy: he would flirt back and she would be absolutely turned on. He just doesn’t know how obsessed she’s going to become.”

Martha’s personality.

This is one aspect of it Baby reindeer where, for reasons that include both protecting the stalker’s identity and the creative integrity of the show, some changes have been made.

“Obviously this is a medium where structure is so important that you have to change things to protect people… but I like to think, artistically, that it’s never too far from the truth,” he said. GQadding that he wonders if she would even recognize herself.

“I honestly couldn’t tell if she would watch it. Her reactions to things varied so much that I almost couldn’t predict how she would react to anything. We put so much effort into disguising her from the point that I think she would not recognize itself. What has been borrowed is an emotional truth, not a factual profile of someone.

But, he says, any time it would “get too much into embellishment, I would always want to pull it back.” It is extremely emotionally truthful.”

The type of stalking that took place.

Like Dunn, over a period of more than four years, Gadd received 41,071 emails, 350 hours of voicemails, 744 tweets, 46 Facebook messages, 106 pages of letters and a variety of strange gifts from the real stalker.

Chillingly, every email that appears in the series is one that Gadd actually received. The real Martha also harassed people close to Gadd, including his parents and a trans woman he was dating. In the show her name is Teri and she is played by Nava Mau.

The nature of the stalking was also true to life, ranging from creepy to frustrating to downright annoying, and the slow burn of fear escalating over time.

“If a man is being stalked, it can be portrayed in films and on television as something sexy. Like a femme fatale who gradually becomes sinister. There is not as much threat of physical violence, it is less common and can be downplayed.” Gadd told The times.

His previous trauma and sexual assault.

This part is also true. Like Dunn, Gadd was groomed, repeatedly drugged and sexually abused by a successful older man, to whom he had turned for mentorship.

In the show, his name is Darrien, played by Tom Goodman-Hill, and he offers Gadd both advice and promises to further his comedy career. The show portrays with disturbing and uncomfortable accuracy the complex and long-lasting trauma associated with such a disgusting abuse of power.

Like Dunn, the experience left Gadd struggling with self-loathing and questioning his sexuality.

Baby reindeer was (roughly) the messiness of my early twenties. I had fallen for someone who was trans, but that came with a lot of questions and all that unfortunate shame you have when you’re young. When someone like Martha came along, I saw it as a strange bend to my masculinity. You take this man’s life. He’s just experienced sexual assault, but he’s trying to become a comedian. He surrenders to this woman who buffers his heteronormativity, but he is in a relationship with a trans woman and is very secretive about it. It took this character to put him between these great extremes,” he shared GQ.

“What abuse does is it causes psychological damage as well as physical damage. There is a pattern where many people who have been abused feel like they need their abusers.”

The answer.

While parts of this are true – especially his dealings with the police, we may never know the ultimate outcome.

Just like in the show, Gadd thought his experience with the police was a farce. Despite hundreds of messages and Martha’s previous conviction for stalking, it was up to Gadd to prove that Martha was a threat, spending hours sifting through messages and listening to voice recordings.

“They look for black and white, good and evil, and it doesn’t work that way,” he said The independent. “You can really impact someone’s life within the confines of legality, and that’s kind of crazy.”

In Baby reindeer, the law catches up with Martha and she receives a nine-month prison sentence and a five-year restraining order. Gadd hasn’t revealed what actually happened, other than to say it has been “resolved,” but does admit he has mixed feelings about it.

“I can’t emphasize enough how much of a victim she is in all of this,” he said The independent. “Stalking and harassment are a form of mental illness. It would have been wrong to portray her as a monster because she is not feeling well and the system has failed her.”

Main image: Netflix.

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