Other than being a fun dramedy (with super entertaining episode titles which shed light on the character’s emotional state), Netflix’s BEEF also has a lot of metaphorical golden eggs. In fact, I started watching it due to a bucketload of recommendations. And once I got past the randomness, it was a flow of insight that each character goes through.
Even though the cast is predominantly Asian, there’s so much uniqueness to each of them. The two protagonists, Amy and Daniel are clearly the highlights of the show - and although they’re really similar to the point that they’re almost a reflection of each other, they come from very different socioeconomic backgrounds. On the surface, Amy has everything together and has everything she worked so hard for. Daniel, on the other hand, hustles really hard - being an obvious victim of social inequality - but it still hasn’t taken him very far. However, they both have this void within themselves which gives rise to a huge chaotic cloud of anger. The secondary characters, George, Paul, Mia and Niaomi all seem to be dulled down and going through unpleasant emotions, but what makes them different is the lack of void they all seem to have.
The show starts with Amy and Daniel getting into a road rage incident, where both of them are fueled and reckless about proving a point to the other. The anger (though displaced) makes a recurrent appearance throughout the show, popping up as a character within itself. Amy and Daniel have this almost sublime pull where they are drawn to each other but what connects them is the externalisation of anger that they both get obsessed with.
As you dive into the show and the character’s evolutions, it takes you through the almost human side of the beef people have with each other. We get to know that Amy’s anger is fueled by the void of shame within her where she doesn't want anyone to see her and Daniel’s anger is fueled by his void of shame wherein he doesn’t want to be alone even though it may ruin his familial ties.
Over a ten episode arc, we see how their continuous bad decisions keep following them as they cling more and more onto their anger by clinging onto each other. Their anger is in a loop of playing fuel that is vented at others. You can literally see the consequences of their anger as the show reaches its climax, a prophetic cycle of hurt and causing havoc with everything and everyone.
The show’s eventual conclusion brings Amy to reflect on the consequences of her actions right at the beginning of the show - that ‘honking at Daniel’ was not only the start of the dominos falling, but also the pivoting point for their inner shame and sadness to manifest as beef and blame with each other.
All my spoilers for the show aside, I think it’s important to highlight how we are all prone to see ourselves with pity at times and how this unfairness often turns outward to blame everyone around us. We all have hurt, and we all carry pain. But the thing that no one ever tells you is that we all have the capacity to deal with it.
Unlike Amy and Daniel however, we don’t need ten episodes to make us reflect on the worst parts of ourselves, the ones that make us feel ashamed. We can confront the worst parts of ourselves, find our own acceptance, and take accountability for our actions by not letting the intensity of our pain drive us.
Which means we can - spoilers galore - not let all that beef control us.
How’s that for a plot twist?
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