How a dramedy based on real events about the pursuit of a stalker became a hit on Netflix, and the story was continued in real life: everyone is discussing the series “Fawn”

Juliette Morgan
How a dramedy based on real events about the pursuit of a stalker became a hit on Netflix, and the story was continued in real life: everyone is discussing the series “Fawn”

On April 11, Richard Gadd's series "Fawn" was released on Netflix, in which he told his own story: how he encountered a female stalker who stalked him and caused serious psychological trauma. In just two weeks, the series collected 13 million views and took first place on the Netflix charts in 30 countries. But it didn’t end there: the woman, who is believed to be the real stalker of the author of the series, gave a loud interview, told her side of the story and promised to sue both Gadd and Netflix. Spltnk tells how the autobiographical dramedy became a new hit, how the creators managed to talk about several important issues at once in four hours, and how the story was continued in reality.

What is the series about?

The plot centers on the story of a comedian named Donnie. His career is far from brilliant so far; Donny lives in a room in the house of his ex-girlfriend’s mother and suffers one failure after another. However, he soon gains one loyal fan: one evening, a woman named Marta comes to the bar where he works. She wants to place an order, but she doesn't have money. Donnie feels sorry for Martha and treats her to a cup of tea at the expense of the establishment. This was a big mistake. After this, his life changes - Martha began to come to the bar every day. The woman received a free glass of cola and told her stories: that she is a lawyer who works exclusively with the London elite - large businessmen and politicians. Besides that, she complimented the bartender and sometimes hinted at sex. Although Donnie suspected that Martha was embellishing her stories, he listened to her. However, then the situation gradually became tense: Martha began to watch him at his house and continuously wrote letters to him. She also gave Donnie an unusual nickname - “Fawn”. Only at the very end of the series, before the credits, the viewer finds out why Martha called him that.

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Кадр из сериала "Оленёнок"/Фото: Netflix

Dunn, who begins to be very worried about Martha's persecution, gradually finds out that her whole story has nothing to do with the truth, and she had previously been convicted of stalking her former boss. However, he delays for a long time and does not want to contact the police - until Marta begins to threaten his parents and new girlfriend.

Connection with real events

In this series, Richard Gadd played himself. In 2015, he found himself in the same situation - at that time he was 20 years old. He was pursued by a persistent fan who sent him over 40,000 emails, 350 hours of voicemails, tens of thousands of social media messages and 106 pages of letters. At the same time, the young man delayed until the last minute and did not contact the police - until the stalker switched to his relatives.

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Кадр из сериала "Оленёнок"/Фото: Netflix

It is interesting that even after this he did not try to punish his pursuer: in his words, “he did not want to throw a man who was so mentally ill into prison.” However, this issue was resolved after contacting the police: he did not specify how exactly.

Healing through art

To cope with the consequences of this story, he decided to tell it: he first told the world about it in his own comedy show Monkey See Monkey Do. Later, a one-man show was created based on this story. After being shown in 2019, the play's script was released as a book.

The series "Fawn" has become a continuation of healing, a kind of art therapy, and this allows viewers to literally experience this story for themselves. Compared to the play, the series is an important difference. If the one-man show was an auto-fiction and in it Gadd plays himself, then in “The Little Reindeer” a share of fiction has already appeared. The author changed not only the names of the characters, but also significantly reworked the story and added new details to it.

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Кадр из сериала "Оленёнок"/Фото: Netflix

Viewer reaction

Unlike many other Netflix projects, “Fawn” did not become an immediate hit: at first, the series, which features little-known actors, did not attract much attention. However, already in the second week, its views rise sharply.

As critics note, the series attracts with an unusual perspective, an uncharacteristic look at the problem of stalking: the main character treats the stalker with sympathy, he is very sorry for Martha. "Little Reindeer" begins as a tragicomedy, but soon turns into a creepy psychological thriller. The characters are revealed in a new way: Martha intrigues to the last, and Donnie himself turns out to have a difficult past - experienced sexual violence, which he is afraid to talk about, and other internal demons, in comparison with which Martha turns out to be not the worst thing that happened to him. In addition, the main character not only suffers from Martha’s persecution: she adds courage to him and changes his character.

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Кадр из сериала "Оленёнок"/Фото: Netflix

The audience noted the amazing performance of the leading actors. Gadd turned out to be not only an excellent playwright, but also an excellent actor, capable of conveying his most subtle experiences. No less impressive was the performance of Jessica Gunning, who played the role of Martha. As viewers note, she made her heroine very expressive: she simultaneously evokes hostility and pity, looks repulsive, but at the same time touching, clumsy, but at the same time charming.

The network notes that the series’ plot is reminiscent of Stephen King’s novel “Misery” and its film adaptation. According to the plot of "Misery", a fan forcibly restrains and cripples a famous writer. Richard Gadd in one of his interviews commented on the comparison of his story with “Misery” and stated that it is completely different. "Misery" and other famous stalking stories portray stalkers as cunning and calculating femme fatales, he said. Martha, or rather her prototype, is a woman who cannot control her own life and herself.

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Кадр из сериала "Оленёнок"/Фото: Netflix

It’s interesting that Stephen King himself, who enjoys a well-deserved reputation as the “king of horror films,” also watched the series and praised it highly: “Little Fawn” he called an exceptional thing.”

How the real "Martha" found the author of the series again

Gadd himself asked not to look for real prototypes of the heroes of this story. He stated that the creators of the series did everything to make the heroine as different from the original as possible. “We went to great lengths to disguise her; I don’t think the real Martha would recognize herself,” he said. However, netizens, of course, did not listen - after the series became a hit, Western tabloids began writing about the woman who allegedly served as the prototype for Martha. A woman named Fiona Harvey said she was not the villain in this situation, but the real victim: after the series aired, she faced online harassment and death threats. "Now he's using Fawn to stalk me," she said. "I'm the victim. He wrote a bloody show about me."

According to Fiona, who hasn't watched the show but claims to be the inspiration for Martha, she didn't do half the things Gadd accused her of. And to prove this, she gave an interview to Piers Morgan.

In a conversation with a journalist, Fiona stated that she really knew Gadd. According to her, even when Richard released the play, she realized that it was about her.

They actually met in the London pub The Hawley Arms, and Fiona actually called him “fawn” after he shaved his head. She also admitted that the history of the origin of this nickname, which was mentioned in the series, is also a real fact. At the pub, it was Gadd who took the initiative and started a conversation with Fiona, who at that time was talking to someone else. And it was he who was passionate about her, and not the other way around. “I think he was obsessed with me from that moment on,” says Fiona.

According to Fiona, she did not write Gadd as many letters as he claims. Morgan clarified who wrote them then, and Fiona suggested that he came up with them himself, and even recorded her voice in a bar. “I think he has a mental disorder,” she said. "That's just not true. If someone sent someone 41,000 emails or something like that, how much would they get done in a day? A lot? Definitely not." However, after the journalist asked her several times about the letters, she admitted that she did write him “several letters.” She also added that she has four phones to communicate with people.

At first she said she didn't remember how many tweets she sent him. But then she said: “I probably did this many years ago. There weren’t many of them - there were about 18 tweets or 14 tweets.” She added that they were close friends and were just making fun of each other.

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Кадр из сериала "Оленёнок"/Фото: Netflix

In the interview, Fiona also talks about her affair with a certain famous lawyer, with whom she has been in a relationship for five years. However, Harvey refuses to talk more about him or name him.

She also denies that she persuaded Gadd to have sex: according to her, it was he who offered her to sleep with him, and she rejected his offer.

Fiona also didn’t like the fact that Martha, in the story, never paid for anything at the bar, although she pretended to be a successful lawyer. According to her, this is “an attempt to make her look like a beggar.”

Finally, when Piers Morgan asked Fiona what she would like to say to Gadd now, she said: "Leave me alone, please. Start living, get a normal job. I'm horrified by what you did." Fiona said "internet sleuths" forced her to tell her story and now she plans to take legal action to defend herself. “This story discredits me and is very harmful to my career. I came to refute everything that was said in this series: I am not a stalker, I have not been in prison, I do not have restraining orders - this is complete nonsense.”

Фиона Харви/Фото: скриншот видео
Фиона Харви/Фото: скриншот видео

Netizens are actively discussing the interview and joking that Piers Morgan made a big mistake by offering her a bottle of water in the studio.

Many users did not like Fiona’s interview at all - it was considered unethical, and its creators were accused of using a woman who definitely has problems for the sake of hype and PR. "It is deeply disturbing to see her obvious mental health problems being exploited for sensationalism." "Fiona Harvey's long-held beliefs and misconceptions are clear indicators of serious mental health problems for anyone working in this field. It is clear that she is being exploited for financial gain." ,” users write.

Gadd himself and Netflix representatives have not yet commented on Fiona’s interview. The creator of the series “Fawn” obviously won’t like this story: after the show’s release, he wrote a post on Instagram* asking not to look for or persecute real people who became the prototypes of the heroes. "People I love, have worked with, and admire... are being unfairly drawn into speculation. Please don't speculate about who the real people in the show might be. That's not the point of this show."

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