Everyone Involved in ‘Beef’ Needs To Be Held Accountable for David Choe’s Casting
**Update 4/1: Beef’s executive producers—creator Lee Sung Jin, and lead actors Ali Wong and Steven Yeun—have finally broken their silence, issuing the following statement to Vanity Fair:
“‘The story David Choe fabricated nine years ago is undeniably hurtful and extremely disturbing. We do not condone this story in any way, and we understand why this has been so upsetting and triggering,’ they said. ‘We’re aware David has apologized in the past for making up this horrific story, and we’ve seen him put in the work to get the mental health support he needed over the last decade to better himself and learn from his mistakes.'”
Original story below:
The term “silence speaks volumes” is a phrase used to call out someone who refuses to acknowledge or understand the harm their actions/words have caused others. It’s something we’re all guilty of in one way or another—maybe it’s because we’re ashamed to be associated with something we did or we don’t want to face the consequences of our actions. Either way, refusing to talk about something or someone who has caused harm, can make you just as guilty in the long run.
**Content warning: discussion of sexual assault.**
And that’s unfortunately what’s happening with the cast and crew of BEEF, a new Netflix comedy/drama series starring Steven Yeun and Ali Wong. Currently, BEEF is the second most watched show on the site and is being praised for its commentary on class division and complex Asian American representation. However, for as much as the show does right, it does have one glaring issue going for it—the presence of artist/actor David Choe.
Choe, a Los Angeles artist who is best known for painting murals for the Meta (then Facebook) offices, plays the manipulative and violent Issac in BEEF. Issac is Danny’s (Yeun) cousin who continuously gets him into dangerous and sketchy situations. The character was praised at first for being a breath of fresh air, as Asian men in media are usually depicted as docile and weak. However, due to newly resurfaced clips of Choe’s past comments, the entire show has become tainted.
The clips come from Choe’s podcast DVDASA (Double Vag, Double Anal, Sensitive Artist), which he hosts with adult film actress Asa Akira. In one of the podcast’s episodes, Choe can be heard bragging about the rape of a Black female massage therapist and, in another, he strongly defends a hypothetical situation in which Akira would rape a 13-year-old boy. When discussing the assault of the child, Choe stated that “no one would see it as abuse” and everyone would think the kid was “so lucky” to have been with Akira.
These clips are absolutely disgusting and disturbing, but Choe defended himself saying he “is not a rapist” and that the stories he tells on the show are not facts and the show is “not a representation of my reality’,” per BuzzFeed News. He went on to explain the stories he tells on his podcast are “an extension of [his] art” and that “if [he’s] am guilty of anything, it’s bad storytelling in the style of douche.”
Whether or not Choe is guilty of any crime is not for me to say, but I can judge every person involved with BEEF and their decision to attach Choe to the project. Choe never truly apologized for his statements—the statement he made on his podcast’s site skirts around the issue and tries to lessen the impact of the harm he’s caused. That’s not apologizing; it’s deflecting, and it doesn’t help that Choe and his team now seem to be removing the clips from the podcast on Twitter using copyright strikes.
That alone shows that he doesn’t feel about what he said—he just wants it to go away. And those involved with BEEF, including Yeun and Wong, seem to feel the same way, as they’ve been completely silent about the situation since it broke a few days ago.
Yeun and Wong, who are both executive producers for BEEF, are close friends with Choe. During an interview with TODAY.com, BEEF creator Lee Sung Jin recalled how he decided to cast Choe in the role, saying, “He (Choe) was talking about being abandoned by his family, and I was like, ‘The way he’s talking about it just feels so Isaac.” He also admitted that Choe happens to be good friends with Yeun and Wong. Jin went on to text Yeun and Wong about wanting Choe to be involved in the show, and the rest is history.
Choe being included in a major project on Netflix with his history of rape stories and defense of child abuse is astonishing because, according to a New York Times article, Choe was in negotiations with different networks to broadcast his show, The Choe Show, where Choe would interview famous guests from his childhood home, but wasn’t getting any takers because they were “afraid he was getting canceled” because of his past actions. However, Yeun, Wong, Jin, and the BEEF team seemed to have no issue with Choe’s disgusting and harmful rhetoric because he had an in with the show’s leads. Truly nepotism at its finest.
Having someone like Choe attached to a groundbreaking show like BEEF is heartbreaking, not just for the victim—if his story wasn’t fabricated as he claims—and those hurt by his words, but for Asian Americans who saw themselves in the characters on this show. The representation, on and off camera, was a huge step for their community and now it’s completely tainted due to one man. It’s incredibly sad to see as Yeun, Wong, Jin, and the entire BEEF team should have known and wanted better for their show.
(featured image: Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix)
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]