Warning: mild spoilers lay ahead
BY NIC CROSARA, IMAGE BY NETFLIX
For a while now, I have been fascinated by the portrayal of rage onscreen. Specifically when unleashed fury comes from those who are marginalised by society. As a queer, Black and non-binary individual, who is also often read as a woman, I know all too well what it is like to feel pressure to repress emotions such as rage, in order to be more palatable. Perhaps this is why I have been hungry to devour more films and shows that explore the emotion.
I knew nothing about Netflix’s instant-hit, Beef before pressing play, other than it featured some amazing actors and I highly recommend going into it with the same ignorance, if possible. So, you have my permission to close this article and start your Netflix marathon and then circle back for these thoughts.
Beef is brought to you by A24, the entertainment company behind queer favourite Everything Everywhere All At Once, which recently made lesbian history at the Oscars. Many A24 films brilliantly explore existentialism and anger and so, maybe it’s not surprising that as the final credits rolled on Beef, I was reeling with emotions and questioning many different facets of life.
The 10-episode series follows Danny Cho (Steven Yeun) and Amy Lau (Ali Wong), two strangers who impulsively start a road rage incident which sparks an unexpected chain reaction of events. The two live polar opposite lives, but they have lots in common: they’re both full of pain and anger. Danny is a construction worker living with his younger brother Paul (Young Mazino) trying to find a way to get his parents who are now living in Korea back to the US. Amy lives in a lavish home with her husband George (Joseph Lee) and their young daughter Junie (Remy Holt), however she’s not home much as she’s busy running a successful fancy plant store, which she’s hoping Jordana (Maria Bello), an evil billionaire lesbian, will buy her out from, making Amy even more filthy rich.
Over the course of the episodes Amy and Danny’s rivalry escalates to unhinged levels, and bit by bit impacts the lives of those around them. While the road rage moment was merely the inciting incident, it unlocks something in our two leads – two individuals drowning in their repressed rage, anger and pain, who are chasing the pursuit of happiness – and leads them down a path of revenge, manipulation, violence and betrayal.
The cast that makes up this must-watch sensation are all captivating in their craft. The show ensures everyone is multidimensional and their screen time is not wasted. All but perhaps one character are intensely selfish, but we learn that they are also desperate, searching for things that feel unattainable.
I never knew what was coming next, and everything caught me off-guard. Some of the most memorable unexpected twists I can mention (without giving too much away) are: Jordana’s surprise engagement after the eight-month time jump, Amy and Danny’s back story and of course, that horrific panic room scene that will forever haunt me.
Through its explorations of rage, motherhood, class, sex, shame, power and the apparent non-existence of happiness, Beef presents a layered, gripping and thought-provoking story that sparks many questions in the minds of the viewers. What is a good or bad person? Is happiness something one should strive for? Can you ever really have it all? And most importantly, for me, in my current headspace: who gets to be angry?
While you definitely don’t have to belong to a marginalised community to appreciate how much of a masterpiece this series is, I think it’s not surprising that the friends of mine who have sent me the most emotive and in-depth reactions are people of colour and/or queer. I finished it last night, and ever since I have been channelling my too-often-repressed Black queer rage.
Beef is available to stream on Netflix now.
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