The 10-episode TV show on Netflix, “Beef,” is an outburst, capturing two Asian Americans’ years of oppression that turned into a near-war as the two entangles in road rage in a suburban area of Los Angelos. It was at the hardware store where Danny Cho (Steven Yeon) was backing his old, red pickup at a parking lot that the feud with Amy Lao (Ali Wong) first ignited as Amy interrupted Danny’s way, blatantly thrusting out her middle finger. Minutes of breathtaking pursuit –in the hope of revenge –ensued, resulting in an unsatisfying outcome; Danny failed to screw Amy up and thus chose to memorize the license plate of a fancy, white Mercedes S.U.V., pledging himself an exhilarating revenge in the future. Two protagonists with seemingly different backgrounds end up in a nasty, longtime fight back and forth: Danny, pretending to be a contractor, enters Amy's house and urinates on the floor in her bathroom while Amy —poaching her young, white female employee’s Instagram photos —unknowingly catfishes Danny’s pitiful younger brother Paul (Young Mazino). Danny, a second-generation Korean American, is financially broke, repressed by years of exceeding strains by looking after his younger brother and planning to bring his parents back to the States, who were deported for legal issues surrounding the motel they owned. The handyman is on the verge of ending his life and has already hit the hardware store three times to return the briquet, which otherwise would have been consumed to suffocating himself. The Korean blue collar is obsessed with stress-eating four Burger King chicken sandwiches in a row as if it’s the only haven allowed to this broke outcast. Amy, on the other hand, is an entrepreneur and owns a small business on her plate, which, in the episode, she’s trying to hand over a business to a multi-billionaire Jordan (Maria Bello), a charming, white lady who would frequently throw out Asian-stereotypical lines, naively saying “you have this serene, Zen Buddhist thing.”Amy is married to a prestigious Japanese art family; her husband Geroge (Joseph Lee) is a spoiled, stay-at-home guy who is seemingly committed to his daughter and his wife Amy, although the disconnection between the two underlies the tranquil atmosphere, as George says, “Anger is just a transitory state of consciousness,” when Amy confided the story of road rage, hoping nothing but the sense of embracement. On top of that, Amy’s mother-in-law Fumi is obnoxious in her way of sarcasm, subtly suggesting how unqualified Amy is to be part of the family, with constant visits to Amy’s place under an excuse of checking in on her granddaughter. Despite the loop of fouls, Amy is quick to maintain her almighty smile whatsoever, which raises even more compassion for an obvious burden she would have taken on her back in and out of her house for years. As the episode continues, the story of the two’s upbringing unfolds, which partially contributed to shaping the protagonists’ oppressed personalities. The run-of-the-mill, second-immigrant Korean guy has been bound to carry out his younger brother while constantly being bullied by other kids just because of looking different. An early realization of the necessity of independence had the boy give up on his academic journey, ending with a prolonged tie to the blue-collar occupation. The years of piled-up resentment are embodied through Steven Yeon’s detailed performance, who– as an immigrant who arrived in the United States at the age of 5– has precisely gone through the struggles Danny in “Beef” has. Lost and void, the contractor who just lost $18,000 for investing in crypto hit the Korean Church, where he released a bucket of tears and was met with a moment of liberation. Danny, in episode 10, confesses to Paul that it was him throwing Paul’s college applications away in the hope of having his only brother remain the same as he does, which is another moment of liberation, releasing the years-long burden that prevented him from getting away from the ingrained feeling of guiltiness. Raised by a reticent, Midwest Chines father and an obedient mother, Amy revolved around building up a self-oppressed personality, too, which in her words, is partially an outcome of constantly being told that “revealing an emotion is another way of being rude” by her mom. Despite being a successful entrepreneur immersed in her work, she’s robbed of a bond a perceived normal mother-daughter relationship would indeed have. The bougie, suburban career woman later confesses her affair with Danny’s brother Paul which ended up in divorce. While left with losing what she cares about the most –her family and, most importantly, her daughter – she no longer shows her grin, a legacy of an oppressive upbringing and a sign of profound depression. “Beef” is a relentless portrait of the struggles the second generation of Asian American immigrants endured. Deemed an outcast, life was a constant stage of competition one had to persevere to survive. It is also a revelation of how the conservative Asian way of family disciplines —often, we are told to prioritize others before us —may unnoticeably yet gradually fester and ruin one’s life. However, the implication of “Beef” not only resonates with Asian American society but instead calls out the emerging social issues: mental health, hypocrite, materialism, and racial stereotypes.
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