Supposed real-life Baby Reindeer inspiration challenges events, considers lawsuit

Richard Gadd's alleged actual stalker now claims to be the victim of his Netflix series Baby Reindeer

Supposed real-life Baby Reindeer inspiration challenges events, considers lawsuit
Richard Gadd and Jessica Gunning Photo: Ed Miller/Netflix

Richard Gadd’s real stalker, who was the inspiration for the comedian’s hit Netflix series Baby Reindeer, is considering legal action against him, according to The Daily Mail. The unnamed woman claimed to the outlet that Gadd didn’t do enough to obscure her true identity in the show, leading to online “death threats and abuse from Richard Gadd supporters.” She accused him of “bullying an older woman on television for fame and fortune,” and said, “He’s using Baby Reindeer to stalk me now. I’m the victim. He’s written a bloody show about me.”

Baby Reindeer is a fictionalized account of a real-life experience Gadd had, in which lending an older woman sympathetic kindness led to a complete disruption of his life. Gadd’s stalker reportedly sent him 41,071 emails, 46 Facebook messages, 744 tweets, and 106 pages of letters. The anonymous woman who spoke to The Daily Mail denied being a stalker, but observed many similarities between herself and the fictionalized version, a character named Martha. According to the outlet, “both women are Scottish, both studied law at university, both are around 20 years older than Gadd and both use highly sexualised language in their speech and writing.” The headline about Martha’s previous stalking conviction was similar to one about this anonymous woman, and she said that she had a similar exchange with him about moisturizer. The actor who played Martha “sort of looks like me after I put on four stone during lockdown but I’m not actually unattractive,” the woman added.

(One difference she noted is that “I’ve never owned a toy baby reindeer and I wouldn’t have had any conversation with Richard Gadd about a childhood toy either.”)

Despite Gadd’s attempt to make his characters less identifiable, fans have still done their own investigating. That includes attempting to hunt down another abuser of Gadd’s depicted in the show; some believed that the man who groomed and raped Gadd (a character called Darien O’Connor in the series) could have been theater director Sean Foley. However, Gadd posted on his Instagram story (via The Hollywood Reporter), “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.”

Gadd told Variety that his show was “emotionally 100% true” but that “you can’t do the exact truth, for both legal and artistic reasons.” He explained that “obviously, we were very aware that some characters in it are vulnerable people, so you don’t want to make their lives more difficult. So you have to change things to protect yourself and protect other people.”

Baby Reindeer is empathetic to all its characters, including Martha, the stalker. Jessica Gunning’s performance “leaves you gasping with fear yet invokes a disconcerting sensitivity to Martha’s plight,” The A.V. Club’s Saloni Gajjar writes in her recommendation of the series. “It makes us question why she didn’t get the help she needed, and who she could’ve turned to and asked for it. So against all odds, why are we feeling bad for Martha, who is completely in the wrong here?”

“I felt like there was a vulnerable person who genuinely couldn’t stop, who for whatever reason had believed the reality that was inside her head and no matter what couldn’t change from that,” Gadd previously said of writing a character who, in real life, caused him harm. “I mean, it is a mental illness and I wanted to portray that. I did see someone who I felt sorry for.”

The writer told Variety that “due to where things ended in real life, it’s not a concern for me” that his actual stalker might get back in contact. However, that obviously doesn’t include her speaking to the press independently. No matter how empathetically she may have been portrayed, she nevertheless accused Gadd of having “main character syndrome.” She said, “He always thinks he’s at the centre of things. I’m not writing shows about him or promoting them in the media, am I? If he wanted me to be properly anonymous, he could have done so. Gadd should leave me alone.”

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