Why Is Richard Gadd’s Netflix Show Called ‘Baby Reindeer’?

What starts as a cute nickname takes on a sinister meaning in this chart-topping U.K. import

Baby Reindeer
Donny (Richard Gadd) in "Baby Reindeer" (Photo Credit: Netflix)

Spoilers ahead for the ending of “Baby Reindeer.”

Ever since “Baby Reindeer” dropped on April 11, Richard Gadd’s limited series has overtaken Netflix. According to Netflix, the project has racked up 13.3 million views during its second week in the Top 10.

We’ve already broken down how this miniseries came to an end as well as the true story behind this project. Here is exactly what its curious title means.

Almost as soon as Martha (Jessica Gunning) starts to cozy up to Donny (Richard Gadd), she gives him the series’ titular name: Baby Reindeer. Initially, Donny sees the pet name as a silly nickname from a very devoted customer. But as his enjoyment of Martha’s flattery fades and her emails start to pile up, the nickname morphs from cute to sinister.

Martha never directly tells Donny why she calls him Baby Reindeer, but she does leave him a voicemail about it. Interestingly, it’s not one of the messages that Donny listens to while trying to find proof that she’s a threat to the police. Instead, it’s one he listens to for the first time after Martha has already been arrested, pled guilty and has been sentenced for nine months.

In “Episode 7,” Donny puts the voicemail on while recovering from his last encounter with his rapist, Darrien (Tom Goodman-Hill). While he sits alone in a pub, Martha explains the now emotionally complex nickname.

“Basically, I had this wee, cuddly toy when I was young. Went with me everywhere. Earliest memory I have, I think, was Christmastime. This old photo of me, sitting with this paper hat on my head and this baby reindeer beside me,” Martha says in the voicemail to Donny. “Anyway, this reindeer was this cuddly, fluffy thing. It had big lips, huge eyes and the cutest wee bum. I still have it to this day. It was the only good thing about my childhood. I’d hug it when they fought. And they fought a lot, you know?”

Martha then says that Donny is the “spit” of that childhood toy, detailing that he has the same nose, eyes and “cute wee bum.” “It means so much to me. You mean so much to me,” Martha says, holding back tears. At the same time, Donny blinks away tears of his own.

So in short, the nickname “Baby Reindeer” is a bit to Martha what “Rosebud” is to Charles Foster Kane in Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane.” It’s a reminder of one character’s childhood, a simpler time and an object of comfort for a person plagued by their own demons.

Whether or not Gadd’s real stalker used the nickname “Baby Reindeer” is unclear. It also doesn’t necessarily matter. The Netflix series is based on Gadd’s autobiographical one-man show about being stalked and sexually assaulted in his 20s. The creator has asked fans of his series to stop looking so deeply into the project. “Please don’t speculate on who any of the real-life people could be. That’s not the point of our show,” Gadd said on Instagram.

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