Beef is full of anger, catharsis, and our anti-heroism in our own lives

Karishma Jangid
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In Netflix's comedy-drama 'Beef', anger and destiny intertwine the lives of Danny and Amy after a road rage incident.

Every waking day, I feel angry- at the fluctuating weather, slow walkers, patriarchy, crowded local trains, and myself. If anger is a constant, why do we dislike it so much? Perhaps because most of our anger is the pain that has accumulated over the years with nowhere to go. We walk through life maintaining composure when, on most days, we want to scream in frustration. Over time, the anger within spills from the cracks seeping into our decisions and affecting what we become. This anger, this beef is what Netflix's "Beef" explores. 

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Danny Cho (Steven Yeun), a small-time constructor and Amy Lau (Ali Wong), a small business owner, have an altercation in a parking lot that escalates into road rage. Danny is struggling financially and emotionally along with his younger brother Paul (Young Mazino), who says some of the weirdest and the most thoughtful things, and cousin Isaac (David Choe), who has just left prison. Meanwhile, Amy is selling her business while trying to save her futile marriage with her husband George Nakai (Joseph Lee). As fate brings them all together, it reveals ugly truths. 

Beef starts on a sluggish note meandering till episode six. It is being termed a comedy-drama but is not too heavy on humour. The humour is clever but limited. It finally picks up pace in episode seven, when Lee Sung Jin's name starts appearing as the writer. The symbolic usage of fade, interchanging voices and breaking the fourth wall towards the end are especially impressive. Yeun and Wong's terrific acting runs the show. They make you despise them in some scenes and pity them in others. You don't want to relate to them, but they make you accept that you are the anti-hero of your life. A powerful cast, namely Mazino, Choe, and Lee, support the leads. Patti Yasutake as Fumi Nakai, George's mother, Maria Bello as Jordan Forester, a businesswoman, Ashley Park as Naomi, Amy's neighbour, and Justin H. Min as Edwin, a church leader also give strong performances. 

Beef's highlight is the presentation of its characters. The series explores how humans are too complex to fit into labelled boxes and the hopelessness of it all. Danny and Amy are of South Asian descent and living in the USA, but they are separated by class. Danny believes that Amy must have it easy as she is elite. But can we really judge someone by knowing only one aspect? Sure, the judgement that elitism brings privileges is valid. But is it enough to fully gauge a person? The series explores Amy and Danny's shared pain and anger. Both of them hurt themselves and others, both are egoistic but in denial that they are mediocre and are losing in life. The reversal of gender roles is interesting too. Apart from Danny being poorer, George is a stay-at-home husband. In one scene, Danny suggests that Paul can mess around with white women but has to marry a Korean, reflecting his misogyny. In another, he says, "White women- they act like they got no power, but they got all of it." Perhaps not all, but he is right. Amy constantly feels inferior to her white employee, Mia. So much of life is about being different as well as identical and we are all standing on various steps of the ladder with similarly heavy hearts. 

In one scene, Amy says, "I am a bad person," while Paul struggles with similar emotions. Both want unconditional love but don't understand how to give or receive it. Some people keep giving, some keep taking, and sometimes, we are both people. Perhaps these matching emotions and idiocies make us repeat our patterns and pass them down through generations. As they say, hurt people hurt people. The pain never really ends, does it? Our future materialises by the confluence of fate and actions continually swayed by suppressed anger and pain. We live a lifetime of wanting love and making mistakes. So many times, when we are angry, our immediate reaction is to act like it isn't bothering us. "I'm fine," we fake. Beef tells you that perhaps the point is to acknowledge it, and even let it out to make space for what truly matters.

Beef is currently streaming on Netflix.

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