SheilaHammond_SantaClaritaDiet
Tag: opinion

Not Your Shero: Sheila Hammond and suburban monstrosity

Contributed by
Aug 21, 2018

Everyone loves a hero, but we worship a good villain. Strong women come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors, and sometimes that means looking up to a character who has no interest in being your role model. All this month, we're presenting Not Your Shero, a series that celebrates antiheroes, villains, and all the women way too busy wreaking havoc to save you.

Whether she’s munching on a human heart, having wild sex with her husband, or finally standing up for herself, Sheila Hammond really loves being a zombie – or, as Tina Belcher might put it, a mombie.

Santa Clarita Diet follows the story of how Sheila got violently ill, became a zombie, and now works with her husband and teenage daughter to figure out how this contagion came to be. Sometimes it’s an adorable love story about what any reasonable person would do if their partner were turned into a zombie. (Protect and feed them. Duh.) Sometimes it’s a slapstick-filled murderfest where people find ears on the ceiling fan and fingers in the backyard. No matter what, though, it’s always a satire about the banal monstrosity of suburbia and the role white women play in it.

Santa Clarita Diet

Credit: Netflix

There’s a lot to love about Santa Clarita Diet. It both engages with and advances the zombie narrative, but with one key addition: Women get to take center stage. Not only does Drew Barrymore offer an incredible performance as Sheila, but the female characters around her are allowed to be full human beings—from Sheila’s kickass teenage daughter to her kind bisexual neighbor and her hyper-religious girlfriend to Ramona the teenager who works at Rite Aid and has a dark secret. (Ramona is one of the single greatest characters of all time. Don’t @ me.)

When Sheila becomes a zombie, her whole life changes—but not for the reasons you’d think. Instead of being meek and agreeable as she had been while alive, the undead Sheila exudes confidence, joie de vivre, and, well, horniness. Let’s just say her insatiable craving for human flesh doesn’t just extend to her culinary habits. And let’s also just say that her loving husband, Joel, who is desperately trying not to crack under the pressure of keeping his undead wife from being discovered, doesn’t mind that her zombie state comes with some provocative perks.

Sheila and Joel are realtors with a shitty, misogynist boss who constantly undermines Sheila because she has the audacity to have ideas while being a woman. She finally loses control when her boss tells her that she sounds like a know-it-all. (How many women have been called a know-it-all for… knowing some things?)

Later that night, Joel finds Sheila sitting in her car in their driveway, covered in blood. They think she must have killed her boss, but there’s no body in sight. After finding him alive and still being a total asshole, he fires Sheila before she and Joel set off on a hilarious scavenger hunt, trying to figure out what exactly fugue-state, undead Sheila has done. The only lead they have is that they need to find the witness who saw Sheila get down and dirty: a tall man in red.

The pair find themselves waiting outside a junkyard where they believe Sheila had been the night before. They wait for the coast to clear while discussing their career options. Sheila wants to move to a new company, but Joel actually really likes his job and worries about financial insecurity with a one-parent, one-zombie parent household. Two teenagers begin playing with a wacky-waving-inflatable-arm-flailing tube man, who Sheila recognizes as the tall man in red. The kids break the tube man by accident and Joel turns to Sheila saying, “Should we report them?”

Without missing a beat, Sheila responds, “Absolutely. Right after we check on my murder.”

This simple exchange is emblematic of the entire show, and the way the characters both embody and satirize white suburbia. Only white people would consider calling the cops on teenagers for breaking an advertising tool while trying to cover up their own murder. It’s truly delicious.

Sheila_Joel_SantaClaritaDiet

And that’s just one tiny moment. Sheila needs to eat people, but she also doesn’t enjoy murdering innocent people. So, what solution does she find? A Nazi softball team. I kid you not. While we’re all busy debating whether a real defender of justice should punch a Nazi, our girl Sheila eats their guts without remorse.

She may be cute, she may be relatable, she may even make you wish you could get some of that zombie-next-level-self-realization, but she’ll also eat your viscera (she prefers it to brains) and bury your undead ass in the desert if you mess with her or her family.

The entire show is hilarious satire, worthy of the greats. It’s also a good zombie story, filled with blood and guts and fear of contagion and sometimes a father and his daughter gently talking about how they hope he never has to kill his undead wife. Sheila Hammond may be the one eating hearts, but Santa Clarita Diet is the one melting them.