“Santa Clarita Diet” explores how crisis can unite a family in unexpected ways

Santa+Clarita+Diet+is+through-provoking%2C+yet+comedic.+Photo+Courtesy+of+Google.com

Santa Clarita Diet is through-provoking, yet comedic. Photo Courtesy of Google.com

Julia Owens

“Santa Clarita Diet” is a sitcom with a bite–think “Pleasantville (1998)”–about a town that appears to be a utopia, but soon turns out to be much darker.

The Netflix show follows the lives of two suburban realtors, Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and Joel (Timothy Olyphant) in Santa Clarita, California. Their lives change dramatically when Sheila dies and comes back to life, full of sexual energy and hungry for human flesh.

Sheila and Joel spend the series struggling to find a cure for Sheila’s new and inexplicable cannibalistic diet. With the aid of their teenage daughter, Abby (Liv Hewson), and the resident nerd, Eric (Skyler Gisondo), who conveniently lives next door, season one follows a whirlwind of adventures in the family’s attempt to find sinful victims they would feel the least guilt about murdering, while simultaneously trying to live a normal life.

While there is plenty of intermittent comic relief to juxtapose the show’s inherently dark theme and immense gore, Netflix has still run into plenty of marketing issues due to a plethora of graphic scenes in some of the ads.

In fact, according to Variety Magazine, Netflix had to pull an ad from Germany due to how “the German marketing materials for the show feature a sliced-up finger coated in blood-colored ketchup and sprinkled with curry powder, an image evocative of the popular German sausage dish currywurst.”

While on the surface “Santa Clarita Diet” may appear to be a brainless zombie show, it also addresses some important coming-of-age themes, such as Abby’s struggle to attend school while her family lives in crisis-mode at home. To Abby, everything seems meaningless, but when she starts to have a negative influence on Eric, the two have a humorous run-in with the school principal.

The show’s creative staff is apparently hyperaware of everyday struggles. While on the surface the show appears absurd, it also weighs various moral questions, such as how to respond to bullying from family members, if it’s OK to lie to protect those you care about and how to deal with teen relationships, unreciprocated love and revenge.

The show’s creator, showrunner and executive producer Victor Fresco also goes even deeper to examine what it means to love and whether a new personality changes the actual person. In her undead state, Sheila’s personality changes entirely. Once a neurotic mom obsessed with SATs, Sheila finds herself much more carefree in her undead state, even encouraging her daughter to drop out of school.

Barrymore and Olyphant clearly work well together, as their on-screen chemistry continues to blossom despite the obstacles their characters’ marriage faces.