'Beef' Stars Defend David Choe Casting. Internet Reaction Is Not Great
More than a week ago, video footage of “Beef” actor David Choe talking about raping a woman was resurfaced online, sparking intense criticism of the decision to cast him in a key role. The controversy is now casting a long pall over a Netflix show that had won acclaim for its pitch-black comedy and deftly drawn Asian American characters.
Critics of Choe’s casting said the decision to use the artist in a Netflix show was insulting — especially to sexual assault survivors and Black women. (Choe had described the woman as “half Black, half white.”) After days of silence, the “Beef team” issued a statement Friday, initially to Vanity Fair.
About the statement
Ali Wong and Steven Yeun, the show’s stars and executive producers, along with show creator Lee Sung Jin, deplored the story Choe told in 2014 on his now-defunct podcast, DVDASA, about forcing oral sex on a massage therapist.
The trio also referred to Choe’s claim that he had made up the story — something he has said in statements that predate “Beef.”
“The story David Choe fabricated nine years ago is undeniably hurtful and extremely disturbing,” the “Beef” team wrote. “We do not condone this story in any way, and we understand why this has been so upsetting and triggering.”
In the statement, the “Beef” creators did not reveal when they knew about Choe’s rape comments but indicated they had witnessed his personal progress over an unspecified period of time.
“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.”
What Netflix says
LAist contacted Netflix about the trio’s statement. A representative for the streamer said the Vanity Fair article is accurate but would not comment further.
Initial online response to the statement was poor, with commenters expressing anger and disappointment with Wong and Yeun, whose well-received work and offbeat career choices have netted them large fan bases.
People are saying Steven Yeun and Ali Wong shouldn’t have released that statement and I disagree. I’m glad they did. Because now I know exactly how they feel (about Black women), where they stand (in terms of supporting their degenerate friend David Choe), & how we arrived here.— Clarkisha Kent (@IWriteAllDay_) April 21, 2023
Which brings me to today. I find the statement by Beef producers unsatisfying bc it comes too late and it feels like an attempt to end — not engage — the current and very necessary discourse we need to have around sexual violence and r*pe culture as it impacts the AsAm community.— Jenn | Reappropriate (@reappropriate) April 22, 2023
Choe’s comments started making the rounds last Wednesday when journalist Aura Bogado tweeted excerpts of a 2014 BuzzFeed article that recounted Choe’s discussion of a sexual assault on the podcast he co-hosted with Asa Akira, who is an adult film actor.
https://t.co/9nkDEejAfZ pic.twitter.com/h8bzN92XPR— Aura Bogado (@aurabogado) April 13, 2023
The next day Bogado posted a video on Twitter in which Choe described himself as a “successful rapist.”
Twitter users, many of them Black and Asian American women, quickly condemned Choe’s comments as misogynistic and racist and questioned the judgment of the “Beef” team to expose the cast and crew to someone with Choe’s past.
Widespread plaudits about the show’s quality, which lauded the complex Asian American characters, morphed into debates over the worthiness of representation when it came at the expense of the most marginalized members of a community.
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Earlier this week, Nguyên Lê, a film writer, recounted online how the “Beef” team’s silence led him to give up a coveted interview with Vietnamese actress Hồng Đào, who plays the mother of Wong’s character on the show,
I’ve decided to cancel this interview. A mini 🧵— I hope you’ll hear me out… https://t.co/LxJqhIpkst— Nguyên Lê 🍥 (@nle318) April 20, 2023
Lê said the statement was “disappointing.”
“This was a moment to be different and no one took it,” he wrote in a message. “Certain things the show preached and practiced, especially on the 'don’t let your bad impulses consume you' front the people involved did not apply.”
He said the statement only validated his decision to cancel the interview with Dao.
“I was honestly hurt when I couldn’t broadcast this achievement, but things have gotten to the point where there’s no avoiding the David Choe in the room when talking about 'Beef',” Lê said.
Choe’s comments drew even more attention after Bogado and fellow writer Meecham Whitson Meriweather said they had received Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notices from Choe for tweeting video of the artist making comments about rape. Their tweets are no longer available.
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