Zombies are gross. Their bodies are in decay, they have an unrelenting desire to eat human brains, and, as a FANGRRL colleague said to me the other day, zombiism seems like pretty much the worst STI one could contract from a partner.
Of course, the exact rules of what zombies are like and how they interact with humanity varies from lore to lore, but by and large, these nasty lifeless shufflers are to be considered less than sexually appealing.
Unless, of course, we’re talking about zombie Drew Barrymore. All the better that she’s not in decay, prefers viscera to brains, and doesn’t seem to pass zombiism through sexual contact. How do I know that, you ask? Well, honey, I’d like to introduce you to your new favorite TV show.
Santa Clarita Diet is the zombie series slash suburban satire you didn’t know you needed. In it, Sheila (Barrymore) and Joel Hammond (Timothy Olyphant), middle of the road realtors living in Santa Clarita, are showing a house when Sheila gets very ill. She hides in the bathroom where it sounds like something truly horrific is happening until Joel returns to check on her and finds her seemingly dead. She opens her eyes and looks around the bathroom covered floor to ceiling in vomit. Though relieved, Joel is very concerned about the volume of ralph that she’s produced.
Sheila and Joel quickly piece together the facts and realize Sheila is a zombie! Obviously, this revelation complicates things for the couple and their teenager, Abby. While Joel is hellbent on figuring out how to reverse the condition, Sheila finds she loves being undead. Her confidence is through the roof, her tolerance of sexism and other bullsh*t is completely gone, and her sex drive rivals that of Blanche Devereaux. (Yes, from Golden Girls.)
Over the three seasons of the series (which Netflix just canceled, GRRRRR), Sheila and Joel become an unstoppable team—truly the paragon of a committed relationship built on love and communication. They also find a serum that stops the decaying process, create new zombies, run from an ancient order of zombie hunters (who Joel later joins double-agent style), teach Abby how to kill zombies, fight off an evil Russian general determined to harness Sheila’s blood as a fountain of youth, and launch a new realty business independent from their chauvinist boss (played brilliantly by Andy Richter). Just another day in suburbia.
While the cliffhanging end of Season 3 has left us with a lot of questions that will probably never be answered, there’s only one that plagues me: Why am I so into Sheila Hammond?
But, I’m not just into Barrymore (though I am definitely into the actor). I dig Sheila.
Part of the reason, I’d venture, is that like Barrymore, Sheila undergoes a complete transformation. Regular ol’ Sheila was fearful, meek, unassuming, and agreeable. Undead Sheila? She’s a b*tch who doesn’t really care what anyone thinks of her. Sheila goes from being what our society tells a woman she should be to becoming exactly the woman she wants to be. She knows she’s powerful. She knows that the person she was is not the person she will be. And, she knows that men are very, very easy to manipulate.
Throughout the series, when Sheila finds herself in a bind, she uses her sexuality to disarm men, frequently right before either ripping their throats out with her teeth or punching them in the nose. Sometimes she is very successful, as when she licks the gun a Nazi is holding sensually before ripping into his forearm and neck. (BTW, Sheila loves to eat Nazis and thinks of them as her lobster tank. Talk about guilt-free calories!) Sometimes her advances don’t pay off, but luckily, she has superhuman strength and an extra-large dose of stick-to-itiveness that helps her get the job done.
How that commitment manifests in her relationship with her husband and her kid is also touching. Though Sheila and Joel want to protect Abby from the intensity of their zombie-fied life, they find that it is only by working as a family that they can really take care of everyone. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that Abby is one self-possessed young person who has exceptional zombie-killing instincts. (She only kills bad zombies, don’t worry.)
The relationship between Sheila and Joel is another wonderful aspect of the series (and, by extension, an example of Sheila’s undiminished sex appeal). They are gentle with each other, even when they disagree. They take advantage of Sheila’s libido as often as Joel can manage—and he can manage quite often, thank you very much. (OK, so it appears I’m also very attracted to Timothy Olyphant, but can you blame me?) And, when Sheila decides she wants to bite Joel so they can live together forever, they weigh questions of the human condition, commitment, and watching everyone you love die. Sheila and Joel are first and foremost a team. Honestly, they’re hashtag couple goals and their relationship makes it apparent that Sheila would be a passionate, attentive, and adventurous lover and companion.
And, finally, who doesn’t love a woman who loves to get down and dirty? From a young age, women are conditioned to be small, to repress their sexuality, to be nice and agreeable and cute to boot. Any woman who throws off that mantle of oppression and embraces her relationship to her sexuality and pleasure? Well, that’s a woman we should all want to bang.
Sheila Hammond is a mombie on a mission to make the world better and her transformation from cowering to empowered will make you feel powerful, too. She constantly makes everyone around her better…or, well, dead (and they always deserve it when they’re dead). She devotes herself to being as much a badass zombie as a realtor as a mother as a partner. She understands and embraces her sexuality, wielding it like a weapon or jumping her husband’s bones, depending on what the occasion merits. She has a libido worthy of worship and a heart full of love (and black bile).
So, yeah, maybe zombies aren’t generally considered sexy, but Santa Clarita Diet and the sexy-as-ever Barrymore will make you reconsider just how desirable the undead can be.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.