Will the brilliance of Netflix’s ‘Beef’ be lost in the shadow of a sexual assault controversy?

April 30, 2023 - 3:05 PM
In ‘Beef,’ two L.A. strangers (played by Steven Yeun and Ali Wong) end up in an escalating feud after a road rage incident. The identity of the characters is both incidental and central to the story, blasting through stereotypes. (Andrew Cooper/Netflix)

Beef premiered on Netflix this month to rave reviews and quickly became the top watched series on the platform in the U.S. In Canada, it took the No. 2 spot.

Beef is a dark comedy series created by Lee Sung Jin. It follows two L.A. strangers, courageously played by Ali Wong and Steven Yeun, who get into a road rage incident — and end up in an escalating feud.

The show is a beautiful meditation on life and survival and highlights universal issues of alienation and loneliness as well as class and race and gender. Critics have praised Beef for its performances and also for its revolutionary representation of Asian Americans. The identity of the characters is both incidental and central to the story, blasting through stereotypes.

But over the weekend, a Twitter storm erupted after a podcast episode featuring supporting actor David Choe resurfaced. In the 2014 podcast, Choe vividly relays a sexual assault story where he is the perpetrator. Choe has apologized since and has also said the story was made up.

The David Choe Foundation has filed a copyright infringement claim to get the podcast taken offline. There has been no response from the producers of Beef.

This week on Don’t Call Me Resilient, we explore the advances Beef has made in television. As the controversy continues to swirl, we also explore the limits of those advancements and ask whether the brilliance of Beef will be overshadowed by Choe’s controversial history.

Joining us to discuss this is Michelle Cho, an assistant professor of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto, specializing in Korean film, media and popular culture. Also with us is Bianca Mabute-Louie, a PhD student in Sociology at Rice University in Houston with a background in Asian American studies and racial justice work.

[Beef provides] “a really compelling portrayal of Asian American women’s experience of female rage and the nuances of living in a world, in a society that expects a certain type of docility and a placid surface.”
— Michelle Cho, assistant professor of East Asian Studies, University of Toronto

Unedited transcript

Transcript for S5 EP 4, ‘Beef’The Conversation

Vinita Srivastava, Host + Producer, Don’t Call Me Resilient | Senior Editor, Culture + Society, The Conversation. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.