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Netflix’s ‘Beef’ controversy, explained

A story told by one of 'Beef’s' stars in 2014 is again testing Netflix’s PR strategy around controversy.


Audra Schroeder


Posted on Apr 20, 2023   Updated on Apr 21, 2023, 6:57 am CDT

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Netflix and A24’s Beef, starring Ali Wong and Steven Yeun, is currently the No. 2 show on the platform (behind Love Is Blind) and received a round of positive reviews since its release on April 6. But a story told by one of Beef’s stars in 2014 is again testing Netflix’s PR strategy around controversy.  

Last week, a 2014 clip from artist David Choe’s podcast DVDASA, which he co-hosted with adult film star Asa Akira, started circulating on Twitter again. In the episode, which was initially reported by xoJane and BuzzFeed in April 2014, Choe tells a very graphic and detailed story about allegedly sexually assaulting a Black masseuse, though he later claimed it was “bad storytelling.”

Over the weekend, reporter Aura Bogado, who initially posted the tweet about Choe, as well as a clip from the podcast, said Choe filed a copyright notice to have the video taken down from Twitter. Another account, @MediumSizeMeech, was also allegedly hit with a copyright strike for a tweet that featured the 2014 clip. 

As others noted, the copyright news took the discourse from Twitter to the mainstream after outlets like Variety covered it. And then the discourse really took off, on Twitter and TikTok

While there was focus on the silence (so far) from Wong and Yeun, who are executive producers, as well as Netflix and A24, there were also discussions about how desensitized some people have become to rape culture, to the point that a vividly detailed story about an alleged rape could be writtern off as something to “shock.” 

“If it’s real, it’s awful,” said one TikToker. “If it’s fake, it’s awful.” 

Some people claimed they’re now skipping the show because of this clip, or decided to stop mid-watch. But there was also disappointment that a show that takes such care in showing a range of Asian-American representation and experience in Southern California platformed someone with a past that can be easily Googled

A 2021 New York Times article, published when Choe’s Hulu series The Choe Show debuted, references the 2014 podcast episode. In 2017, Choe issued another apology after his Bowery mural work was the scene of protests

It opened up the question of separating art from artist, though that argument hits a little different when the actual artist is abusing the copyright takedown system in an effort to separate himself from his art. (In his 2014 apology, he claimed the podcast was a “complete extension of his art.”)

As Soleil Ho wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle: “To uncritically embrace Beef for what it gives to the Asian American community shows that we’re on board with rape culture and with misogyny, especially against Black women. To embrace it shows that we’re willing to let others pay the price for our feelings of validation and belonging.” 

Why it matters

Netflix already fumbled what was supposed to be a major live event this past weekend. Its strategy here seems to be to just continue promoting Beef, which is doing Netflix no favors. 

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*First Published: Apr 20, 2023, 6:00 am CDT