Historically, zombie filmmakers cast female characters as ancillary or antagonistic juxtapositions to white, male, protagonists. Whether depicted as easy prey or meaningless sex objects, such as the unnamed, undead, sex slave in Deadgirl
(2008), strong, female characters are purposely cast—if cast at all—as remonstrative figures, destined for death and dismay, to preserve long-established patriarchal values of male dominance and female inferiority. This article argues that Victor Fresco’s Santa Clarita Diet
(2017–19) surreptitiously confronts the female-gendered zombie status quo. By constructing a feminist, female, undead, protagonist who simultaneously and successfully lives within and transgresses patriarchal structures and conventions with ease, Santa Clarita Diet
presents an atypical zombie narrative, featuring what Elizabeth Aiossa calls a ‘fully-fledged embodiment of the monstrous-feminine’: the self-conscious, meek wife and mother, Sheila, who transforms into an impulsive, desire-oriented, flesh-eating zombie while simultaneously remaining within and promoting change to the heteronormative family unit (Aiossa 2018b: 142). Fresco departs from conventional female zombie representations, exchanging the mindless, entirely desire-centered, and uncontrollable, female zombie for an undead, woman protagonist whose unabashed sexual expression and social autonomy challenge the patriarchal family structure, yet do not implode the unit itself. Furthermore, I will argue the series also encourages women to seek autonomy within patriarchal structures and heteronormative family units, while advocating young women, undead or otherwise, to embrace their own identities, however monstrous they may be, through both Sheila and her daughter, Abby’s, individual character development throughout the three-season series.
Read ‘Netflix and Kill’: Feminist Flesh-Eaters in Santa Clarita Diet