These days there's no shortage of zombies. Whether it's in film or TV the walking dead are everywhere and they're after your brains. Most of these shows follow a certain formula, utilizing stereotypes and a certain set of genre tropes, to bring the undead to live on screen. One show that's destroying and rebirthing zombie stereotypes is the Netflix family comedy Santa Clarita Diet.
Starring Drew Barrymore and fellow Scream alum Timothy Olyphant, the show follows a middle-class couple, working together in real estate and trying to raise their spunky sixteen-year-old daughter. Things get a little messy when Barrymore's Sheila wake one morning with a serious hunger for human flesh. Yes, she's a zombie, but she's a zombie of her own. Here are ten stereotypical zombie traits which the show has torn to shred.
10 DISHEVELED APPEARANCE
Zombies are undead and it would be fair to say traditionally most of them look as if they've just crawled out of the grave. Their clothes are old, torn and dirty. Their hair is matted. It's not a pretty site.
Sheila, on the other hand, has never looked better. It's true, being undead really agrees with the real estate broker. Her skin is radiant, her hair is immaculately styled. She's radiant. The zombies from The Walking Dead need to get a new stylist.
9 DECOMPOSING SKIN
This one goes hand in hand with number 10, not that you'd want to hold hands with traditional zombies. Most are in serious need of a good moisturizer and a visit to the dermatologist. Their flesh is usually seen rotting, falling off the bone, dry and deteriorated. Not Sheila though. Sheila is completely intact, looking dewy fresh, like the day she died. Her 'dead-ness' may have stopped her heart but nothing can stop that skincare regime.
8 UNRESPONSIVE TO COMMUNICATION
If you're hanging out in a graveyard or down a dark alley during the zom-pocalypse there's no more frightening sound than the incoherent groans of a zombie swarm. Most of these rotting creatures can't muster more than a moan or a monosyllabic vocabulary let alone the quick-witted one-liners and social commentary offered up by Sheila.
Yes, SCD is a comedy and without her gift of gab, the show would be pretty one-note. Sheila's zombie is well spoken and communicative. She needs to be to wrestle her family life and the life of a flesh-eating monster. She's also got incredible comedic timing. Something most other groaning goons would kill for.
7 NO CONCEPT OF BOUNDARIES
Yes, it's true becoming a zombie did things for Sheila's confidence. Suddenly she was assertive, bordering on bossy, now that she has fresh meat on the mind, but she still retained a concept of socially acceptable behaviour, and along with that a proper sense of personal space and boundaries. This differs from pretty much all of the zombies we've seen before. Think about it. How many times has an entire horde of the undead closed in on their victim, leaving little space to breathe, let alone escape. Sheila is unlike these zombies. She might be undead but she isn't rude.
6 LIMITED MOBILITY (THE ZOMBIE WALK)
With perhaps the exception of moaning the word 'brains' over and over, nothing is more synonymous with zombies than their peculiar gait. The zombie walk is a time-honored tradition. That wobbly, unstable waddle, usually with both arms straight out in front is instantly recognizable and practiced the world over. There is, however, none of that here.
There is no difference in Sheila's mobility from the day she died and then became undead. If anything the change has only made her more spritely! And horny. Which requires a certain amount of coordination which traditionally is beyond the capabilities of garden variety zombies.
5 MOTIVATED TO EAT BRAINS
Yes, Sheila is hungry for blood. She basically devoured Nathan Fillion's 'Gary' in one sitting but unlike her old school companions, her hunger goes beyond a simple yearning for brains.
This one is less often adhered to, especially in recent cinema. Zombies have wanted all kinds of human appendages and body parts for a while now. But, the brain-hungry stereotype is classic. It's looked over here for messier delights, like intestines and feet.
4 NO CONSCIOUSNESS
In the good old days of zombie flicks, these undead beasts were usually completely brain dead. Sometimes their propensity for being brain dead was the motivating factor behind their hunger for brains. In other instances, zombies have been brainless because they're the puppet army of some other supernatural ruler, like a witch or voodoo practitioner.
Not so here. Sheila is whip-smart while she's alive and even more so now that she's a zombie. Her smarts aren't just visible in her humor but in the careful planning and strategic approach in the quest for flesh. As she attempts to live a life as close to normal she has to be cunning in order to find and devour her meals without being caught by nosey neighbors.
3 PRONE TO VIOLENCE
Zombies are stereotypically not that friendly. Meaning that more often than not their hunger for brains usually makes them indiscriminately violent. They have no consciousness and therefore no remorse and no hesitation. They'll tear you limb from limb just for an afternoon snack.
Sheila is less violent than that. Sure, she bit off a couple of Gary's fingers in a rather spontaneous act of violence but since then she's been more calculating. Any kind of attack or brutality is the result of a botched attempt to retain some of her humanity.
Just like traditionally zombies are without consciousness, they are also devoid of human emotion. Essentially, zombies are most often portrayed as no longer being human. Some fun has been had with the addition of emotion into the zombie story, such as in the book/film Warm Bodies, which added a romantic storyline to a standard zombie story.
Here, Sheila retains her emotions. She continues to love her husband and her daughter. Becoming a zombie even tightens her emotions. Her desire for fun and spontaneity a symptom of that.
1 THE STENCH
That's right. Just imagine how bad a zombie, with rotting flesh and an outfit fresh from the grave, would smell. Gross. Well, as far as it's possible to tell without actually smelling her, Sheila seems to have retained her human aroma. Probably for the best as she still shares a room with her husband. It appears as if the Hammond family are safe on the stench front. Just one of the many zombie stereotypes the show destroys.