Apr 16, 2024

"Baby Reindeer": Comedian is turned gay by a sexual predator, but manages to turn straight again. No baby reindeer.

 Baby Reindeer -- why do British tv series often have titles that sound memorable, but you actually forget instantly because they are just nonsense words?  Remember Drop the Dead Donkey?  Anyhow, it's a thriller about a male comedian being stalked by a deranged female fan, which causes problems with his girlfriend.  So far it's heterosexuals all the way down, but listen to the Episode 4 blurb: "As Donny reports Martha (his stalker) to the police, it triggers the memory of a traumatic experience he had with a man he met at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival years before."

Ulp, surely we're not going to learn that all gay men are sexual predators out to seduce or assault hapless straight guys.  I thought that myth faded into oblivion back in the 1970s.  I'd better review the episode.

Scene 1: Looking very haggard, wild-eyed, sleazy, like a drug addict in search of a fix, Donny (Richard Gad) bursts into the police station to report his stalker. He wonders why he can't tell the cop about Martha groping him and attacking his girlfriend, or about her history of arrests?  He's suddenly reliving a traumatic event that happened at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2011.

Scene 2:
Nice establishing shots of Edinburgh and the Fringe Festival, "one of the greatest celebrations of art and culture on the planet."   Donny has to perform comedy at a pub with no stage, just standing in front of three or four people who didn't know he was coming.  And his act is dreadful: he prances around in a dress and fright wig, then announces "My mother died today."  Then he explains that it's incongruous, so it's funny.  

Ok, so "I got circumcized today" -- pulling out gigantic scissors.  "See, I'm saying I have a big penis. It's funny."  Did this guy even workshop his material?

Scene 3: The pubkeeper gives him an admission card to the Luna Bar -- fell out of someone's wallet.  He goes, hoping to schmooze with the Fringe Festival elites. Still looking haggard, wild-eyed, and sleazy. Maybe he could, like, wear a nice shirt?   He latches onto a guy who was on the writing staff of the fringe movie Cottonmouth, and invites him to his show, "LOL on Cancer".  Nope, not interested.

A bearded bear, Darrien (Tom Goodman-Hill), approaches.  They diss the Cottonmouth guy and wish they could slip poison in this drink. Turns out that Darrien actually wrote the script -- the Cottonmouth snob was his assistant!  They're standing very close together.  Is this a hookup? Was Donny bi, back before he found true hetero-love?  

Scene 4: Darrien comes to his show, listens to his ridiculous jokes and performance bits, and offers to give him some pointers. 

Montage of Darrien's tips, like "Make eye contact," and the pub gradually fills up as people like the performance.  Donny tells us that he went out with Darrien every night to a private club (not gay). So, are we supposed to conclude that they're dating?  Why not just say so, or have them kiss?  

We do learn that Darrien is a "polyamorous pansexual."  Um...polyamorous means that you have more than one permanent romantic partner.

Scene 5: Darrien pushes Donny into the pub bathroom, stands kissing-close, and asks "Are you ready?" Donny: "Ready for anything." Sounds like he's up for some snogging. But it's not sex, it's cocaine.

Then Darrien returns to London, and stops contacting Donny.  "It felt strange."

Scene 6:  When the festival ends, Donny goes to acting class at Oxford. We see some of their ridiculous exercises: be a flame; mimic an ape. He gets a girlfriend, but he misses Darrien. So are you interested in him, or not?  Then out of nowhere Darrien calls and asks him to collaborate on a project.

Scene 7: Donny arrives at Darrien's elite flat, gets a tour, and shows his script: about a lawyer who decides to become a pro wrestler at age 50, and is torn between two worlds. Darrien is not impressed, but humors him. I'm guessing we're supposed to be reading them as straight buddies.  

Darrien asks if he wants to get really high, and gives him MDMA and GHB.  Hey GHB is a date rape drug!  But if you want to have sex with him, why not just ask?

More homophobia after the break

Scene 8:
Donny is high: "Like a beam of divine light shooting down from space." Darren puts his leg on Donny's leg, and asks if it's ok. So they weren't dating before?    Whoops, Donny throws up into the cat's bowl.  Darren lies beside him and fondles his back -- closeup, with sinister music.  Then his hand goes into Donny's butt.  "Stop!" Donny cries, gagging.  Yep, gay guys are sexual predators, grooming and then...fingering...the poor innocent straight guy.  The homophobia here, it burns.

To his credit, when Donny says stop, he stops. But Donny still looks traumatized.  He curls into a fetal position and cries.  

Scene 8: Donny is too disgusted to want to pursue the friendship, but Darrien sends his lawyer-wrestler script to the channels, and they love it...so he goes back to the apartment, listens to the hype, and takes the drugs.  He moves in with his girlfriend, but is at Darrien's place doing drugs -- hard drugs, crack, meth, heroin -- every weekend.  Got it, gay people are sordid, underground, decadent, while hetero-romance is wholesome and bright. 

Donny often passes out, and awakens to find Darrien's hands and mouth on various parts of his body, "his putrid spit congealed around my genital area."  He then takes long showers and cries, but returns to the apartment because he thinks that Darrien will help his career.  Instead of clarifyng that his disgust comes from the act being non-consensual, the scene tries very hard to establish that gay sex is inherently disgusting, sick, vomit-inducing.  

The girlfriend thinks it's weird that he spend so much time with another guy.  But she doesn't suspect that he's gay and in a downlow relationship, because of course gay people are all sleazy, decadent types who seduce straight boys.

This is unnervingly retro.  Did I get caught in a time slip to the 1970s, when Anita Bryant was screaming "Homosexuals cannot reproduce, so they must recruit!"   I'll fast forward to the part where Donny is semi-conscious, and Darrien is giving him a blow job while he groans "No!"  And then apparently screws him.  He takes a shower, clutches his butt, and screams.  

Later, his girlfriend tries to give him a wholesome heterosexual blow job, but he is no longer interested in sex with women.  Remember that the same thing happened to Al Pacino in Cruising after he turned gay from hanging out at gay leather bars.  Donny, desolate, wonders why Darrien is going through all the trouble of making him gay.  "A desire to corrupt? To have fun ruining my life?" Dude, I can see being traumatized by an abusive relationship, but it's not just a gay thing.  Straight people have them, too.

Scene 9: "After months of hate and anger and confusion, I had no choice."  He goes on the XYVids website and masturbates to naked guys. Oh no, the predator succeeded!  You think I'm extrapolating from the text?  No, Donny specifically says: "My desires were shifting." 

"I started having reckless sex with people of all genders, in search of the truth."  But it doesn't work: he's disgusted by both gay and straight sex.  Ever hear of being bisexual, dude?

We see Donny at a pub: "And now I was stuck, surrounded by pilsner misogynists so heteronormative, I could do nothing but crave their approval."  How the hell do you know the word "heteronormative" in your world where gay people aren't born that way, they're seduced into it?

Sex didn't work, so he tries dating, "Dates and relationships by the dozens." We see him on a date with a girl, then a guy, then a girl, then a guy, and another guy, but he always dumps them at the restaurant. Gay and straight romance both disgust him. Maybe you're aromantic asexual?  Try making some friends.

 Then he meets the Love of his Life, who "was everything I wanted, everything I needed," and shows him the truth.  Now he knows if he can go back to being straight and normal again.

Donny is semi-nude a lot, but he has a scrawny, emaciated body, and he's usually being sexually assaulted.

Gay Characters: The predatory Darrien.

Homophobia: Endless, starting with all gay people being decadent predators who latch onto straight guys, and turn them gay for the fun of destroying their life. 

I understand that Donny's new girlfriend is trans, but it's a rocky relationship.  No kidding.

My Grade: What do you think?

Update:  I have watched the entire series, and there's never any indication that Donny misspoke: he really believes that the sexual predator may have turned him gay; now he identifies as bi, but we only see him having relationships with women.  

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