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Baby Reindeer's Mounting Controversy & Alleged Victims, Explained

This article includes discussions of sexual assault and stalking.

Netflix's new original miniseries "Baby Reindeer" may be based on a true story, but fans might be going a bit too far as they try to find the real figures upon which its characters are based.

Controversy has sprung up around the series — a fictionalized retelling of intense trauma endured by Richard Gadd, who plays a different "version" of himself named Donny Dunn — as viewers seek to figure out who actually stalked Gadd in real life. In the show, a character named Martha Scott, played by Jessica Dunning, intensely stalks Donny and irreparably damages his life and psyche as he tries to make it as a stand-up comedian in London. Amidst the stalking, Donny is forced to grapple with repeated past sexual assaults committed by his mentor, Darrien O'Connor (Tom Goodman-Hill), a comedy writer Donny once trusted.

The problem, as outlined in The Guardian, is that would-be internet sleuths are desperately trying to figure out who stalked and abused Gadd. "Any show that openly states it is based on a true story will always invite internet detectives," the outlet states. "And if the result of that is that innocent people are now being wrongly accused of being abusers online, that's a problem." Apparently, that's exactly what's happening; a woman who has been "identified" as Martha says she's receiving horrifying messages, and a man accused of being Gadd's real abuser contacted police for help.

Real people are being harassed over the Netflix series Baby Reindeer

A Scottish woman who remains unnamed spoke to The Daily Record about people "identifying" her as the real Martha, claiming it's causing the same kind of pain depicted in the show. "I'm the victim here, not Richard Gadd," she told the outlet. "I've had death threats as a result of his show despite the fact that a lot of the things he claimed are just not true." She went on to say that she's barely sleeping due to the stress brought on by people harassing her, and that she's received death threats from American fans of the show, which dropped on Netflix on April 11. She clarified that she has not watched the show but knows about it as well as Gadd's Edinburgh Fringe Festival show "Monkey See, Monkey Do," which details his sexual abuse. "I was in Richard Gadd's company on occasions but I didn't stalk him like he claims," the anonymous woman said. "His story is that this is a gross intrusion into my privacy. I haven't seen him for 12 years."

Then, there's Sean Foley, a director, writer, and actor who filed a police report over harmful accusations that he's the real version of Darrien O'Connor (Tom Goodman-Hill), the fictional Donny Dunn's abuser (via the Daily Mail). In a post on X (formerly known as Twitter), Foley wrote, "Police have been informed and are investigating all defamatory abusive and threatening posts against me." 

The stars of Baby Reindeer want internet sleuths to put down their microscopes

It's vital to note that Richard Gadd and Jessica Gunning have both unequivocally asked fans to stop looking for the "real" versions of Martha and Darrien. On X, Sean Foley reposted an image of a note Gadd put on his Instagram stories, which reads, "People I love, have worked with, and admire (including Sean Foley) are unfairly 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. Lots of love, Richard x X."

Gunning also did an interview with Glamour about playing Martha — a frightening, obsessive woman who was previously charged with stalking before even meeting Donny Dunn — and she seemed appalled by the fact that people were trying to find the identities of the very real people who hurt Gadd. "I didn't know that was happening," Dunning said. "I would urge people not to be doing that. I think if that is happening, I think it's a real, real shame, because it shows that they haven't watched the show properly." She went on to say that the point of the show is not to discover these people, but to understand how sexual abuse and trauma can lead to deep psychological wounds — and furthermore, she's not playing a "real person" in her interpretation of Martha, but a character.

At the end of the day, Gadd and Gunning are right; it's not the point of "Baby Reindeer" to try and unmask the real abusers. The series is available on Netflix now.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).