‘Baby Reindeer’ is so deliciously disturbing

Photo: Contributed

I just watched the Netflix limited series, ‘Baby Reindeer’, and it took me on the wildest roller coaster ride of emotions.

It is based on the true life story of its creator Richard Gadd and the woman who stalked and harassed him for nearly two years. What initially drew me in was curiosity. I had seen other media over the years chronicling stalking cases, but none quite like this. I had heard that the lead actor in the seven-episode rehashing of events was being portrayed by the writer and victim himself, and instead of it being scripted like a true crime documentary, it is dramatised with a comedic edge – I was sold.

The next emotion I moved onto as I fell deeper into the disturbing rabbit hole was frustration at everyone involved in the unravelling of the main character, Donny Dunn.

I kept asking myself why on earth he allowed a clearly deranged person into his life and why he didn’t act fast enough in alerting family, friends or the authorities that a madwoman was following him around, emailing him constantly and conjuring up an entire relationship with him.

As things got darker with each scene, I began to see what the bigger story was that was being told. I began to see things more clearly through the protagonist’s eyes and I was confronted with some horrific, but very real truths about the world we live in.

I came away from this first viewing with a greater comprehension of the grey areas that exist in situations like these. I gained a better understanding of the complexities of human emotions, trauma, fear, depression, regret, abuse, rape and obsession. I quickly discarded by initial judgement, and replaced it with morbid fascination.

Martha is the pseudonym ascribed to the woman who just could not stop herself from fixating on the man she said had the similar eyes, nose and bum as a baby reindeer stuffed toy from her childhood.

She is portrayed by a brilliant actress, Jessica Gunning, who manages to capture the madness and insanity of a woman who is not only delusional and mentally ill, but can be manic, aggressive, adoring, manipulative and cunning at any moment.

She is able to perfectly illustrate the terrifying reality of having a stalker who comes to your home and place of work, by bouncing back and forth between moments of rationality and sheer insanity.

There are some positive aspects of the show. It isn’t all doom and gloom. One great plot of the series is Donny’s growing acceptance of himself, his sexuality and his past, as well as the exploration of self sabotage and shame.

Whatever you take away from this series, prepare to be sucked in from the start. It is brilliantly written, acted and shot. And it is honestly inconceivable how someone who has gone through such trauma manages to not only articulate his pain so effortlessly in a script, but also reenact all the gory details of his life for the world to consume.

Watching this series was like sitting down in front of a gaping void and staring into it. It was funny, shocking, menacing, horrific and strangely comforting all at the same time.

It, however, leaves me a little sad when I think about consuming someone else’s pain as entertainment. But isn’t this the nature of art? Creators bleed onto whichever canvas they choose and then we stand around and examine what they’ve made and talk about it for five minutes as a brief and fleeting distraction from whatever is in our own closets.

That’s what makes ‘Baby Reindeer’ so deep, the many layers you will uncover the further into this you go, since the experience doesn’t end after episode seven. Because the series is so unlike anything that’s been on our screens before, so raw and honest, you will be engrossed in the true life version of events and a story so incredibly bizarre. Which is exactly what I want from a Netflix limited series. They’ve really managed to hit the mark with this one.

  • Anne Hambuda is a poet, writer and social commentator. Follow her online or email her annehambuda@gmail.com for more.

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