Baby Reindeer Title Meaning: Why Does Martha Call Donny Baby Reindeer?

The title of Netflix’s ‘Baby Reindeer’ would make it sound like a cozy show with a Christmastime story, but only those who have seen it would know how deeply disturbing, moving, and emotionally confusing the story can be. The focus is on the struggling stand-up comedian Donny Dunn, who becomes the object of fixation for a woman named Martha after he offers her a cup of tea. Things take an unlikely turn for Donny, who subconsciously reacts to Martha’s advances in a way that doesn’t help him at all, especially when Martha not only refuses to leave his life but also becomes a constant presence through the barrage of emails she sends him daily.

One would wonder why a show that deals with trauma, crime, and an exploration of one’s sexuality is called “Baby Reindeer.” Like almost everything else in the show, the title comes from a very intimate and emotionally heavy place for its characters. SPOILERS AHEAD

Baby Reindeer Has a Deeply Personal Meaning for Martha


People bestow all sorts of nicknames to their loved ones, but what might seem like a spur-of-the-moment decision is often dictated by a person’s psyche. We associate people with the things that we have loved or hated since childhood, and Donny Dunn discovers that this is also the case for the nickname that Martha Scott gives to him. From the first day she starts emailing him, Martha calls Donny “baby reindeer.” The term of endearment appears all the time in the thousands of emails she sends him over the course of about three years. Even at the end, when Martha is punished for stalking Donny and his family, she cries and calls him his “little reindeer” again and again. But why reindeer?

The answer to this mystery lies in one of Martha’s many voicemails that she leaves for Donny after she gets his phone number. Because she sends him a ton of voicemails every day, it takes Donny a lot of time to sift through them. Eventually, he stumbles upon a voicemail that tells him why she called him baby reindeer.

By this time, Donny has been through a lot, and in processing his own trauma, he has also developed an empathy, an unshakable connection with Martha. He knows that, like him, she must have also been through difficult times, and his suspicions are confirmed in the voicemail. In it, Martha reveals that when she was little, she had a soft toy in the shape of a baby reindeer. She loved the thing and carried it everywhere with her. The toy would especially become a source of comfort for her when her parents fought with each other, and they fought a lot. In her distraught childhood, the reindeer soft toy was one of the only few good things.

Image Credit: Ed Miller/Netflix

When Martha met Donny, she was going through another bad spell, and it was his kind words and the simple act of making her a cup of tea that melted her heart. Moreover, his face reminded her of her beloved soft toy, and this led to the beginning of her obsession with Donny. She connected him to her reindeer and believed that he was the only thing that could bring back that joy and comfort that she had lost a long time ago. While she goes about it the wrong way, it is clear to Donny how deeply intimate the bestowing of the nickname was for Martha.

Apart from its sentimental value for Martha, the title ‘Baby Reindeer’ comes from the fact that Richard Gadd (the real-life Donny Dunn) was called it by his stalker, on whom Martha is based. Similar to Martha’s story on the show, the stalker also had a reindeer soft toy, and she even gifted one to Gadd, though it remains unconfirmed whether she gifted the same reindeer she had in her childhood or if it was brand new, a token of her feelings. In any case, Gadd couldn’t shake off the importance of the nickname and decided to use it as the title of the story.

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