Monday, February 13, 2017

Women in Horror: Santa Clarita Diet

Sheila and Joel are living the idyllic suburban life, complete with marriage, working together as real estate agents, a teenage daughter, and underlying resentment on both sides. When Sheila ruins a house walk through with extreme projectile vomit, their lives are never the same. Sheila becomes a zombie with no impulse control and an insatiable hunger for human flesh. Can their marriage survive this new change and can they keep from getting caught by the two cops that live right next to them?

Sheila and Joel have a status quo that both are unhappy with in some way at the beginning of the show. Sheila is a bland push over with no aspirations. She accepts getting literally screamed at by her boss with no complaint. Whenever Joel tries to initial sex, she shames him and compares sex to dogs humping in the grocery store parking lot. Her neighbors try to get her to go out with them to dance and drink at night or run in the morning, but she turns them down every time. Sheila seemed content with no hobbies, no sex life, no friends, and no passion. Her facade is perfectly pleasant, guaranteed to make everyone around her happy and at ease no matter how she feels inside. Sheila was close to the societal ideal of women which is quiet, complacent, and unfulfilled. Joel isn't happy either as he rarely has sex and smokes pot frequently hidden from Sheila. He wants more, but he tamps down his wants to keep the status quo.

Sheila's transformation into a zombie throws their whole status quo and relationship dynamic out the window. Sheila becomes a totally different person with a huge appetite for sex and raw meat. Her unpredictable moods make her life much more exciting as she buys a car, goes dancing and drinking with friends, yells at people who anger her, and eats odious people all because she wants to. She also feels more beautiful and confident and has much more energy. Sheila has never been more alive even though she's undead. She lets her wants and needs be known and no longer allows herself to be pushed around and bullied as she had been before.  Her boring but perfect life is not enough for her anymore. Her life is always in crisis now because of body disposal, dirty cop blackmail, and ineptly covering their tracks getting her food. Despite all of that, Sheila is truly happy for the first time and even connects with her teenage daughter Abby by eventually being honest with her about all of her craziness.

Joel, on the other hand, is still human and constantly reeling and trying to be supportive. This new Sheila isn't predictable and safe like the old one. She challenges him and doesn't tamp down what she wants for him or for their family. He goes through the whole series struggling to come to terms with his changed wife alternating between accepting and rejecting her condition. At first, he helps her with body disposal and scouting out people to eat, but then he says it's too much for him. Then he returns to helping her again. He likes that her libido is way up, but isn't enthused that she has strong opinions and doesn't allow him to make the big decisions anymore. Near the end of the season, he admits that he's been trying to cope because he thought her condition would be temporary and he had been holding onto hope that she would return to her normal self. If she stays a zombie, he reveals that he doesn't know if he would stay in the marriage. I understand his period of adjustment, but it's pretty awful to reject your wife when she finally feels happy. An element of jealousy is definitely in play. He admitted he didn't see his life going this way, but also didn't do anything to make it the way he wanted it to be.

The Santa Clarita Diet is a hilarious show that plays with the conventions of sitcoms and adds cursing, sex, and gore to make a fun amalgamation. It's kind of like a modern day version of Fido. The acting is over the top in characters Joel and Sheila while it's toned down and more realistic in Abby and the neighbor kid Eric. Throughout the season, bits and pieces of zombie lore are discovered, but they know nothing at the outset, stumbling through and figuring it out as they go. My only complaint is the unsatisfying and abrupt ending to the show. It feels like it could have gone on for at least a couple more episodes. Overall, the show is delightful and irreverent with memorable characters, twists and turns, and some nice zombie carnage.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

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