Baby Reindeer: is the Netflix TV series inspired by a true story? Fact vs fiction

What true story is behind Baby Reindeer?

Image Credit: Netflix

The TV series Baby Reindeer, based on the play of the same name by Richard Gadd, debuted on Netflix on April 11th. The plot spread over seven episodes, follows the story of a comedian in difficulty, played by Gadd himself, who performs an act of kindness towards a woman, with unexpected and dangerous consequences for both. But, watching it, many users have wondered how much of the story is based on real events and how much is pure fiction.

The author of Baby Reindeer was actually the victim of stalkers and persecuted for years

The series' creator and star, Richard Gadd, told the Times that he drew inspiration from his personal experiences with sexual violence and stalking. He told of a chance meeting in a bar with a woman who turned into a stalker, stalking him for four and a half years. This event provided the basis for the plot of the series, which realistically explores the phenomenon of stalking and its devastating consequences.

“At first everyone in the pub thought it was funny that I had a fan. Then he started invading my life, following me, showing up at my concerts, waiting outside my house, and sending me thousands of voice messages and emails.”

“When a man is stalked, he can be portrayed in films and on television as sexy. Like a femme fatale who gradually becomes more sinister. It does not carry the same threat of physical violence, is less common, and can be trivialized. I was physically scared because I didn't know how far she would go, she might have a knife, but I thought how terrifying it would be if she were a tall, scary man."

The author of Baby Reindeer then continued to tell how to put an end to the affair, he had to present multiple pieces of evidence to the police before the latter intervened, despite his fear and constant harassment.

“I never want to criticize the police, because I think at the moment we all know that the police is an institution that needs improvement. I have met very good cops in the past. And, unfortunately, I've encountered some that I feel extremely disappointed by. Now, the case I based Baby Reindeer on is solved. However, I had mixed feelings about it at the time: I didn't want to throw someone in prison who was at that level of mental distress.”

The Baby Reindeer series also features a parallel plot in which the protagonist, Donny Dunn, becomes involved in a relationship with an older, more successful television writer. However, the story takes a dark turn when Donny is sexually assaulted and raped after being drugged with acid and GHB. Although these events are fictionalized for the series, they are inspired by Gadd's real experiences.

Another important aspect of the series is the authentic representation of the sexuality of the protagonist Donny, who is bisexual, just like the author Richard Gadd. The series aims to present this representation naturally and accurately, contributing to the diversity of LGBT+ characters in the television landscape.

However, not all events in the series are true to reality. For example, in real life, Gadd's stalker was sentenced to nine months in prison and a five-year restraining order, while in the series this detail was fictionalized for narrative purposes. Stories like that of Baby Reindeer highlight extremely negative aspects of today's society which, as the director underlined, can be "understood" when it comes to a man in the place of the victim.