Netflix addresses Baby Reindeer controversy - and explains why they 'didn't want to anonymize' stalker

Netflix series Baby Reindeer has been a huge success for the streaming service, but the story – based on writer and star Richard Gadd’s experiences – has sparked a viral guessing game in which viewers have been attempting to work out who are the real life inspirations for characters in the series.

Deadline has reported that Netflix senior public policy director Benjamin King told a parliament hearing in the UK that the company, and producer Clerkenwell Films “took every reasonable precaution in disguising the real-life identities of the people involved in that story.” However, John Nicolson, an MP for the Scottish National Party, pointed out Netflix’s duty of care had not been able to prevent the true identity of character Martha from being revealed online.

Baby Reindeer
Baby Reindeer -Credit:Netflix
Jessica Gunning as Martha
Jessica Gunning in Baby Reindeer -Credit:Ed Miller/Netflix

Baby Reindeer was described as a “true story” by Netflix, and is based on the experiences of comedian Richard Gadd, who originally told the story of his life – and his relationship with a stalker named Martha – as part of a one-man stage routine before it was turned into a TV series. In the series he stars as the fictionalised version of himself, Donny, while Martha is played by actress Jessica Gunning.

Benjamin King has stated that Netflix aimed to balance protecting the identities of the real people with upholding the “veracity and authenticity” of Baby Reindeer. “We didn’t want to anonymize that or make it generic to the point where it was no longer his story because that would undermine the intent behind the show,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s obviously very difficult to control what viewers do, particularly in a world where everything is amplified by social media. I personally wouldn’t be comfortable with a world in which we decided it was better that Richard was silenced and not allowed to tell the story.” He also said Netflix had worked with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, the British charity that provides support for stalking victims.

Richard Gadd in Baby Reindeer
Richard Gadd in Baby Reindeer -Credit:Netflix

Richard and his co-star Jessica have both asked fans not to speculate on the real identity of Martha, or of any other characters in the series that follows Donny’s experiences with Martha, who he first meets when she comes into the pub where he is working.

On Instagram, Richard wrote: “Please don’t speculate on who the real life people could be. That’s not the point of our show. Lots of love,” while Jessica said in an interview with Glamour Magazine: “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. That’s not the point of it in any way. Netflix and Richard [Gadd] went to extreme lengths to try and make sure that the identities were kept private for a reason.”