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Monday
Feb062017

« In Which Drew Barrymore Surprises A Man »

A Divorce Coming On

by ETHAN PETERSON

Santa Clarita Diet
creator Victor Fresco
Netflix

Drew Barrymore is at an awkward stage right now. She has transcended her third divorce, having wasted one marriage on the very temporary zeitgeist of former MTV "star" Tom Green. Tom Green now looks like an IT professional working at the CBC and Drew Barrymore has suffered greatly for this. She attempted to wait a full decade before pursuing the institution of marriage again. "I so wanted to raise kids in this ultra-traditional way and do everything so the polar opposite of my experience," she explained at one point of her marriage to the son of longtime Chanel CEO Arnie, Will Kopelman.

Now we have to suspend our skepticism and believe that Barrymore is carrying on a sexual relationship with Timothy Olyphant. What a happy marriage it is! we are led to believe at all times, except when Olyphant (Deadwood, The Grinder) finds out that his wife Sheila Hammond has eaten another admirer, a fellow real-estate agent named Gary (Nathan Fillion). When she bites off Gary's fingers it is one of the more graphic moments in the show. Despite the fact that cannibalism and murder figure prominently in Santa Clarita Diet, we don't get to see any of the intercourse between Olyphant and Barrymore. You see, they wanted to make sure the consuming of human flesh was the grossest thing on the show.

The exciting increase in libido of a woman in middle age (Barrymore is now 41) would probably be enough for a series to thrive on its own. Santa Clarita Diet is instead so completely amused by its more sordid aspects the show believes the mere concept of a zombie will amuse us for ten straight episodes.

After your first divorce, you can feel the next one coming on. It is like the early stages of a cold, where there is the slighest chance your illness will be arrested with zinc or echinacea, but most likely you are not going to be feeling very good soonsies. This sad sensation permeates every activity you do with your significant other. It begins for Drew Barrymore when she is at a bar having fun with her friends. Her husband is so upset by this that he goes out to the bar and demands she return home immediately. After being challenged, he retreats home. The next morning he wakes up in their bed alone.

At that moment he should probably know things are over, but he and Barrymore have a teenage daughter who looks nothing like either of them, Abby (Liv Hewson). Despite being almost certainly beyond high school age, Abby is so distraught by her mother's cannibalism that she sleeps in bed with her parents. In order to make this 21-year-old actress seem less mature, the producers put her in this ridiculous costume:

It is supposed to be lighthearted and funny that the Hammonds bond around murder. This basic conceit is quickly overcome — after all, what is Drew Barrymore supposed to do if human flesh is the only nutrition that will sustain her life? But the greater cynicism possessed by these people is more difficult to accept. Their police officer neighbor Dan (Ricardo Chavira) is rightly suspicious of their activities, and yet he is depicted as a nosy busybody with contempt for his family.

Cannibalism or not, these are distressing cynical white suburbanites. The most important thing in their life is tricking unsuspecting families into buying overpriced residential houses built on top of one another. Disregarding any financial responsibility whatsoever, Barrymore rushes out and purchases a Range Rover in the show's first episode. "Sometimes you just want something!" she explains to her daughter.

Victor Fresco's last comedy show in this vein, Better Off Ted, was also extremely dated, satirizing a corporate America which was mostly a reflection of Dilbert comics as late as 2009. Much as Dilbert today has become a mean-spirited depiction of a white professional's lack of desire to adapt to the changing world around him, the basic portrait of whiteness at work in Santa Clarita Diet is ripped completely out of time. Even tony WASPs are no longer this callous when it comes to the trappings of the world around them.

This naivete is reflective of Barrymore herself, who keeps attempting to have the kind of marriage she was never able to experience except in her consumption of media. It is understandable that a character who has the central flaw in the series would want to otherwise seem like a loving mother and wife. But this is all a bit too pat — we are more than willing to accept Drew's specific dietary needs. The fact that, fresh off her third divorce, all her other problems are glossed over is too fucking Hollywood.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.

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