Why I Can’t Watch Santa Clarita Diet (Spoilers)

Photo: Saeed Adyani/Netflix.
Pictured: I won't have what Drew Barrymore's having, thanks.
Admittedly, I do not have a strong stomach. My tummy lurches and the backs of my knees prickle when anyone tells me about the injury that landed them in the emergency room. I don't have a dog because even seeing other people pick up dog poop makes me gag, never mind the concept of having to do it myself. And, should I ever find myself in some sort of battle to the death, my opponent need only fry up an egg to completely obliterate me. The putrid smell will leave me doubled over, dry-heaving, and desperately crawling for the front door. (You can just imagine how fun I am at brunch.) I didn't take any of that into consideration when I accepted the assignment to watch and report back on the new Netflix series, starring Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant, Santa Clarita Diet. At the time, Netflix had yet to divulge the gruesome plot twist: The "diet" is Barrymore's character's sudden jonesing for human flesh. I suppose I was expecting some sort of Weeds-meets-Enlightened dramedy about, well, an actual diet. Something quirky and New Age-y.
I pictured celery sticks. I got cartilage. The first quarter of episode 1 starts out innocuous enough. Barrymore and Olyphant play married realtors with a teen daughter. Joel and Sheila live in a bland suburb and discuss bland topics like toaster ovens (people still own toaster ovens?). They're harmless. Or so I thought. Things take a turn during a house viewing. They're eager to secure a sale from the couple they're showing around. One second it's master bedroom this, and skylights that. The next Sheila is projectile vomiting like she's got 25 clones of that kid from The Exorcist hiding in her stomach. The couple shuffle out. I, watching from my laptop, nearly pass out from disgust. (Even just writing about it all makes me gag.) It's not just that vomit is gross and I'm the type of person who will start dry-heaving when, say, a friend gets food poisoning on the airport shuttle. It's that the level of barf was so excessive and gratuitous that it made the scenes unwatchable. This is what was running through my mind:
-Please don't puke. Please don't puke. Please don't puke.
-Someone got paid to whip up that fake spew.
-Someone got paid to clean up that fake spew.
-Just, why?
Photo: Erica Parise/Netflix.
Pictured: Olyphant and Barrymore get messy.
Still, I kept watching because, you know, work. Post-spew, Sheila no longer has a heartbeat and is probably undead. She's also highly carnivorous, and more outgoing. Her new coworker, an aggressive form of meathead named Gary (oh hi, Nathan Fillion), can't get enough. Even though Sheila is obviously married, Gary takes it upon himself to accost her at her home and propose an affair. Sheila is intellectually disgusted but physically turned on. She feels hunger, not lust. She takes his hand and begins to nibble at his willing fingers. Then, she lets her teeth sink into his flesh and devours Gary, whom we might pity if he weren't such a creep. Gary has been reduced to a bloody pile of guts and meaty flesh. Sheila feasts on the fatty tissue. I run to the bathroom and heave. I do not fire up episode 2. It's easy to write off my reaction as that of a lightweight. I am a lightweight, albeit one who's managed to make it through plenty of episodes of The Walking Dead without my gag reflex being triggered so aggressively. But when I spoke to a colleague about the show, she had a similar (sorry) beef. The gore was just too gory. She, too, felt sick watching it. Long story short, I'm now exempt from watching future episodes. I won't fault anyone who does, though. It's got a strong cast, and the premise sounds like it could be a fresh update on The Stepford Wives and other suburbia-is-not-what-it-seems themes. If you've got a cast-iron stomach and a heavy tolerance for grossness, give the show a whirl. If you don't, either spare yourself, or keep a barf bag handy.

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