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Netflix review: Baby Reindeer – A misunderstood masterpiece?

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Featured image: Netflix

Content warning: This article contains references to sexual assault which some readers may find disturbing.

The latest series to take Netflix by storm is the real-life story of Scottish comedian Richard Gadd. Baby Reindeer documents Gadd’s encounter with previously convicted stalker “Martha Scott”, detailing the disturbing series of events that would culminate in her eventual imprisonment. In the fourth episode of the series, Gadd makes a commendable albeit disturbing confession, revealing that he was raped in his mid-20s by an anonymous industry professional. The vivid reenactment of Gadd’s trauma is entirely accurate according to the Scotsman, with Gadd going so far as to portray himself in the seven episode series. Despite the courage and raw authenticity of Baby Reindeer, the fallout from the show may suggest that the Netflix exclusive is a misunderstood masterpiece.

Gadd recalls his harrowing experiences with Martha Scott (real name not disclosed for legal purposes) who harassed and stalked the comedian for over four years. Martha would frequently visit Gadd at his place of work in pursuit of a romantic endeavour. An ensuing 41,071 emails, 744 tweets, 46 Facebook messages, 106 pages of letters, and 350 hours of voicemail were left by Martha. As Gadd made many attempts at rejecting Martha’s deluded love affair, her behaviour became increasingly threatening and sporadic, targeting Gadd’s family and close friends. In a violent flashpoint, Martha physically assaults Gadd’s then-partner during an altercation at a pub.

When put on trial in the season finale, Martha pleads guilty to counts of harassment and stalking, receiving a nine-month prison sentence as well as a five-year restraining order. Although Gadd himself has confirmed that the situation has been resolved, fans of the show are keen to uncover the truth behind the real Martha.

For the sake of confidentiality, it was deemed necessary to keep the details of Martha’s identity masked by a fictitious character based on Gadd’s stalker. Despite this, self-proclaimed internet sleuths have taken the liberty of attempting to uncover further details of the enigmatic personas who make appearances in Baby Reindeer. In the wake of the show’s reception, Gadd took to social media to plead with fans to stop speculating about the real-life identities of the characters in an attempt to maintain their anonymity. It’s an ironic and cruel twist that Gadd’s terrifying reality of stalking has inadvertently unearthed a micro-culture of internet skulks, prying ever further into the comedian’s private life.

Amongst an online obsession with uncovering the true identities of the people involved in the series, it feels as though Gadd’s intentions for Baby Reindeer have been harshly misunderstood. Despite the spine of the plot being firmly rooted in his obsessive encounters with Martha, Gadd develops his story to share his conflicts about his sexuality.

In a courageous self-portrayal, the audience bares witness to Gadd being repeatedly groomed and raped throughout his mid-20s. As a consequence of this experience, Gadd develops a conflict with his sexual identity which he communicates bluntly and bravely to viewers. Baby Reindeer is a raw, white knuckle confessional, an overcoming of Gadd’s traumatic past through the medium of cinema.

Plaudits for Gadd have been washed out by a frantic online manhunt for the real-life convicts, an insensitive response that has blindsided viewers and critics alike to the message of Gadd’s life story. Made with the bravest intentions and executed to the finest degree of sensitivity, it feels as though the key themes of Baby Reindeer have been lost in translation. 

About the author / 

George Wainwright

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