Spoilers ahead. If you haven't already marathoned Drew Barrymore's Netflix series like a hungry zombie craving human flesh, you'll probably already know from browsing websites like this one that the show is about what happens when a totally normal real-estate mom suddenly transforms into a member of the undead. But in the weirdest twist of all, Santa Clarita Diet is surprisingly relatable. At least, when you look at it from the perspective of Santa Clarita Diet's creator, Victor Fresco, who spoke about the new show to Entertainment Weekly.
Fresco argues that protagonist Sheila's newfound lust for flesh is a good thing for her husband. He told EW,
“It’s the best thing that’s happened to them in years. It’s asked him to rethink his marriage, his life, what he wants, what he’s been up to. To some degree, it’s creating a midlife crisis of sorts in the best way.”
On reading this quote, it clarified something for me: It's not just Joel who goes through something comparable to a mid-life crisis. Arguably Sheila's metamorphosis could just as easily be interpreted as a mid-life crisis. Sure, she's eating flesh instead of splashing out cash on a new sports car. But it's basically the inverse of that friend you know who hit 40 and suddenly started following a strict vegan diet overnight.
And it doesn't stop there. With regards to Abby attempting to stop her mom's symptoms getting worse, Fresco observed:
“She was also living kind of a boring, suburban life, and now this has been handed to her, this situation which she was appalled by. Kids are affected in ways you can never anticipate. She’s an alpha girl. She can take control, and she’s smart, and she’s fearless, and she wants to save her mom. She’s going to step up in a big way.”
While Fresco never explicitly uses the term "helicopter parenting," that's what I'm inferring from "boring, suburban life." In the very first episode, while Sheila apologizes to Abby for the lack of time they spend together, her invitation to take her to a tea garden and fussing about whether she has everything in her bag implies she's definitely present in her daughter's life. When a kid grows up with two well-to-do, responsible parents in the suburb, that can often mean they're subject to close monitoring and a ton of assistance, which is stressful if you're an "alpha girl."
Given that Sheila's now overbooked trying to juggle her working life with her need to find new victims, it's Abby's moment to become an adult — to "step up," be "fearless," and "save her mom." Which, when you think about it, is also what happens when you're the kid of someone going through a mid-life crisis. You're required to step up, do some emotional handholding, and put your parents' well-being before your own — sometimes skipping the odd night partying with your friends to stay home and watch TV with your parents. So while Abby attempts to make a bid for adulthood via asking her parents for a car in the debut episode, she gets the real version of adulthood by the end of Season 1 by taking on genuine responsibility.
So, who knew? Santa Clarita Diet isn't half as wacky as it seems. On one level, it's a comedy about a real estate zombie. On another: It's the truest thing on the small screen right now.