Santa Clarita Diet is an American TV programme produced by Netflix and created by Victor Fresco.
It tells the story of the Hammond family who find themselves in a difficult situation when Sheila becomes a zombie.
The family (Joel, Sheila and their daughter, Abby) must find a way to reverse Sheila’s situation whilst she fights the urge to tear open everyone’s throats.
The show has been dividing critics and audiences since its release in 2017. And I totally understand why.
It’s campy and absurd but it’s also fun, fresh and unpredictable.
Some might say that those reasons are not enough to make you stick around for two seasons, but here are 5 reasons why I love Santa Clarita Diet.
1 – It brings horror veterans together
Although the cast is formed of mainly comedy actors, the two main characters, Sheila and Joel, are portrayed by horror veterans.
Sheila Hammond is played by Drew Barrymore, a high calibre actress who is no stranger to the horror genre.
In 1982, she played Gertie in Spielberg’s ET, and since she has starred in Firestarter (1984), Cat’s Eye (1985), Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992), Doppelganger (1993) to finally her most famous work in the genre, as Casey Becker in Wes Craven’s Scream (1996).
Noel Hammond is played by Timothy Olyphant who starred in Scream 2 (1997), Night Visions (2001), Dreamcatcher (2003), and The Crazies (2010).
The duo blends in completely as the couple that must go through a dramatic transformation in their lives, as Sheila becomes a zombie with a conscience.
2 – It is a metaphor for today’s boredom
As mentioned before, the programme is about a suburban, middle-class family who is confronted with the fact that Sheila, the mother and wife, becomes a zombie.
She is still herself. The only difference is that she doesn’t control herself and eats brains smoothies.
The programme constructs a metaphor for boredom as it shows the family’s life as extremely ordinary.
The Hammonds have good jobs and a nice house, but their lives are missing a zing!
It’s not until Sheila becomes undead that she starts to follow her id – the part of the brain responsible for pleasure – much like zombies do.
She refuses to do anything that she doesn’t want to, and she doesn’t waste time with unimportant things.
She starts to take better care of herself and the show portrays that as a shock, not only for the characters but for the audience as well.
Therefore, it works to point out how harshly we judge ourselves when it comes to our own happiness and enjoyment and to real how humdrum we have become.
The show takes the expression “blessings in disguise” a step further, but maybe it’s something we can adapt in our own lives.
It doesn’t matter how different our situation can be, or how bad one thing can look like, there can (almost) always be a positive side to it.
3 – It’s a portrayal of how desensitised we are with violence
Much like the previous topic, the programme treats violence and blood as something we are used to.
Of course, when the family enters the kitchen to find Sheila hunched over someone’s disassembled body, they express concern.
But as the show progresses, the characters become more and more numb with gore, much like how society reacts to violence.
The show explores this in a funny and scandalous way, forcing us to react surprised to the family’s acceptance of the horror they live in. To then open the possibility for us to place the same question on our own lives and current societal issues.
4 – It’s empowering for women
The programme is about the family and how they cope with Sheila’s change, therefore the character who drives the narrative is female.
Sheila has success in her family life as well in her career; she seems to be ticking the boxes she has drawn for herself.
From the moment she becomes undead she starts to fully live her life for herself. She treats and allows herself to be feminine and in control.
All the other characters need to change because of her. She has decided how to react with what life has thrown at her, and the others must follow.
It is a fresh contrast to the male comedies where the protagonist goes through a middle age crisis and the female characters must adjust to them.
Here, Joel is adapting to Sheila. It’s not always easy or pleasant but it’s necessary for him to evolve with her. Hence, it is an unusual and much needed perspective to a story we are aware of.
5 – It’s packed with love
Following the previous topic, Santa Clarita Diet, although it is about a zombie, it is extremely human.
It explores the changes in our lives and how we deal with them, especially when we must change and make sacrifices for the people we love.
Sometimes we don’t want to change, but it is necessary for the growth of people around us and for our personal growth, and the programme explores that in a beautiful way (sometimes packed with fake blood, too).
Joel does not necessarily want to be running around every day to deal with the problems risen from his wife’s condition, but he does so because he knows he has no other choice.
And Sheila only asks him because she knows she has no other choice.
Moreover, through Abby’s perspective, it is good to see parents being portrayed as flawed human beings, they know they are making mistakes, but they are trying their best with what they have.
And Abby knows that, and she copes with it too. It’s not ideal, but she accepts that and rises to the occasion.
Santa Clarita Diet reminds us of the importance of empathy and care regarding others, especially those you love.
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