Baby Reindeer: Horror and Trauma

Baby Reindeer: Horror and Trauma

By Kelly Florence & Meg Hafdahl


This article contains spoilers for the 2024 series, Baby Reindeer, streaming on Netflix.

With the title, Baby Reindeer, we weren’t sure what we were getting into when we started the seven-episode series last month. Intrigued by the seemingly innocuous name, it became clear that horror can exist in even the most innocent settings. What begins as a tale of a man offering kindness to a woman in need, the story turns out to be one of stalking, assault, trauma, and healing. Based on the true story of what happened to writer, actor, and creator, Richard Gadd, the series takes on a whole new level of horror as the audience realizes they are watching the man, himself, relive the terrible things that he went through earlier in his life.

The themes of assault and stalking are not new to the horror genre and some of our favorite recent films including Promising Young Woman (2020) and Pearl (2022) take on female rage and revenge. Baby Reindeer stands out to us because not only is it a true story, but it happened to a man. Women, statistically, are estimated to be 91% of the victims of rape and assault while 9% are male. It’s important to recognize that all victims’ experiences are valid, and no stigma should be attached to coming forward to report incidents. 

The character of Martha, played by Jessica Gunning in Baby Reindeer, has some alarming red flags as she gets closer to Donny (Richard Gadd). She seems to be a compulsive liar and gets jealous quite easily without cause. How can we tell when someone is lying? First, they may avoid eye contact or appear nervous. Fidgeting, touching their face excessively, and blinking rapidly can all be signs. Next, their stories will make less sense the further they get into them and will contain inconsistencies. Hesitations, changes in tone or pitch, and repeating phrases tend to show up when someone is not telling the truth. The scary thing is some people become so good at lying it’s hard to detect. Always make sure to trust your “gut” instinct and critically think about why they might not be telling the truth. If someone is showing jealousy quickly without cause, know that this can be the sign of a possessive or abusive person who may not know how to handle anger in a healthy manner. In episode one of Baby Reindeer, Martha clearly shows she can’t handle anger while she and Donny are on their coffee “date” as she explodes by demanding the names of people who have hurt him. By the time the series concludes, we realize how unhealthy their relationship was.

In episode four, the most disturbing of the series, it’s revealed what Donny’s past contains that has affected his mental health, judgement, self-worth, and decision making. Feeling like he needs to appease a man in the entertainment industry to accomplish his dreams, he repeatedly is assaulted by the character of Darrien, chillingly portrayed by actor Tom Goodman-Hill. The power dynamic of a professional in an industry taking advantage of a novice who is looking for a helping hand to follow their passion is frightening. This situation has become common place in headlines and court cases, particularly in the “Me Too” movement in the recent past. Unfortunately, even the most famous and prolific of abusers can still be found innocent no matter how many people have come forward to tell their stories. For example, Harvey Weinstein had a rape conviction overturned in April of this year.

While there have been internet sleuths who have postulated who the real people are in Gadd’s life, it’s come with its fair amount of backlash. While we don’t agree with hounding people in real life over speculations, we do appreciate and admire Gadd’s bravery in telling this important story to the world. What should you do if you have been the victim of abuse or sexual assault? Know that you are not alone, and you are not to blame. Abusers are notorious for being manipulative and making the victim feel as if the situation is the victim’s fault. It is not and you should seek help. What should you do if you have abusive tendencies? Know that your past and your behaviors can be explained by your own life experiences but that never excuses your actions. You, too, should seek help and take accountability for your decisions. 

We hope that this series, as difficult as it may be to watch, can be an important lesson to all that abuse and assault are never okay. It’s important to be honest and safe in all relationships and we need more whistleblowers to bring down the scumbags who think they can get away with it.

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