One of the toughest watches on Netflix is Baby Reindeer, a story about a bartender ensnared and terrorized by an insistent stalker. Netflix announces early on that the show is based on a true story. What’s astonishing about the show is that it is a softer version of the events that transpired in real life. 

Baby Reindeer is based on Richard Gaad’s experiences with stalking, sexual assault, and sexuality

When Richard Gaad decided to write the Baby Reindeer play, it had been two years since he escaped the clutches of a stalker named ‘Martha’. She’d sent him thousands of emails, waited outside his house, heckled him as he performed, and spread lies about his family. Gaad told The Guardian in 2019 that he inadvertently made the situation worse. 

“I did loads of things wrong and made the situation worse. I wasn’t a perfect person [back then], so there’s no point saying I was. And I know as I’m doing those sections that people are thinking I’m not a nice person – which make them difficult to perform,” Gaad said. He said the police didn’t help much, partly because they weren’t equipped with the right tools or provided with adequate funding. 

Despite the torment he endured courtesy of Martha, he sympathized with her. “I can’t emphasize enough how much of a victim she is in all this,” Gaad told The Independent in 2019. “Stalking and harassment is a form of mental illness. It would have been wrong to paint her as a monster, because she’s unwell, and the system’s failed her.”

Martha came into Gaad’s life as he came to terms with grooming and sexual assault, a traumatic episode in his life adressed in the show Monkey See Monkey Do and Baby Reindeer. Gaad told The Independent in a 2024 interview:

“I don’t want to speak for every person that’s been sexually abused, but one of the most common ramifications is self-blame. Why did I go there? Why did I do this?’ Why did I… blah, blah blah. I’ve lived in a prison of self-hate and self-punishment. But writing it down in a chronological way, and processing it… I guess I learned to empathize with myself a little bit more.”

Gaad’s grappling with his bisexual sexuality in real life also appears in his character’s story in Baby Reindeer. “The bisexual reality, I did want people to pick up on. I think it is unrepresented. Not just on screen but in life in general,” he added.