There’s a new diet in town. Admittedly, it’s high risk but will save you money in the long run. Preparation requires sharp knives and a blender (flavour is best enhanced in smoothie form) and for bulk storage a deep-freeze is recommended. Meals are an acquired taste – being dead helps. But not to worry if you’re not…dead; the Santa Clara diet transmits to non-zombies through ‘aura osmosis’ – like, when the person next to you is really happy and smiley, and it rubs off on you. Right? This diet is Viagra for the soul. That said, it’s worth knowing that too much smoothiefied corpse, whilst invigorating, can be dangerous too; definitely watch out for the ‘feral stage’ and keep an eye on your limbs. Also – sex; delicious but possibly deadly. Oh, and a pink killsuit – super stylish when out on the prowl.
Santa Clara Diet, Netflix’s new black comedy/horror/satire (take your pick), is a riot of fabulous! Sure, it’s not perfect but what is perfect in this screwed up world we call home. Timothy Olyphant and Drew Barrymore play Joel and Sheila Hammond; married realtors trapped in a life of broken toasters, alarm clocks, insipid sex, neighbourhood gossip…yawn…and a bunch of other boring suburban humdrum stuff. Sound like Desperate Housewives? Add a splash of Dexter and you’ve got it! Because boring Sheila turns a whole lot less boring when she dies and comes back à la zombie – à la hungry zombie. Raw meat suffices in the beginning, until she goes and eats fellow realtor Gary, who tastes so freaking yum that dear Sheila is forced to get her serial killer on in order to satisfy her craving for human flesh. Sadly (or happily – because it leads to much hilarity) Sheila and Joel are not as skilled as dexterous Dexter. But practice makes perfect, as they say, and Joel does, quite successfully, kill Dan-the-annoying-neighbour with a shovel – albeit in broad daylight and with no plan at all, but still. Luckily Sheila has a hankering for fresh cadaver, even hairy ones.
The show is as unsubtle as it comes – which has many critics hatin’ but this is also exactly why Santa Clarita Diet headbangs its way to the front of the stage. Screw subtle. Blood, guts, gurg, gore…the occasional human hairball. The show offers the kind of satire that would show up at a Justin Bieber concert dressed like Slipknot – without apology. Victor Fresco, show creator, offers a rant against monotony and mediocrity. Rather than get a baby sitter and try out some new restaurants and dinner menus, or take a trip overseas and sign up for a Tai Kwon Do class, Fresco turns his protagonist into a self-gratifying stepford cannibal, drawing on horror’s familiar metaphoric exaggeration to tell us that indifference sucks. In fact, it’s a point so void of inference that it’s as if Fresco wants to get it out the way and get on with the show. In episode 1, Eric Bemis (Skyler Gisondo), neighbor and expert on all things zombie, quips, “But we’re the real so-called zombies aren’t we? Consuming everything we want without any regard for consequences. As we destroy the earth so too do we destroy ourselves.” Trope out the way, Sheila is free to live out her Id; after all she doesn’t feel dead or undead; quite the opposite, in fact – totally alive. Irony, smashed right into the center of our cringing faces.
It’s also ironic that it takes death and zombification for Sheila to become emboldened enough to embrace her inner woman. It’s a well-timed dig at the patriarchy, misogyny, sexism (all of it) that pervades modern society. Nice. Well done. Um…except that by using the Id (the pleasure seeking part of our brain that requires ‘instant and always’ gratification) as a metaphor for feminism, ‘womanhood repressed’ is reduced to hyperactive instinct. In other words, a woman taking control at work, sex or in conversation is not to do with character or strength of personality but rather Id unchecked. Freud is always reductive though. Drew Barrymore’s stepford cannibal might be philosophically ambivalent but it’s nothing worth burning bras over, after all; our current world is filled with distasteful irony. As we (br)exit the world of Santa Clara and its crazyass diet, and trump on into our own everyday there emerges a truth; that sometimes all you can do in life; is laugh.