Netflix’s BEEF Creative Team Responds to David Choe Rape Controversy

After what has seem liked an agonizingly long time to say anything, the creative team behind Netflix’s BEEF, including creator Lee Sung Jin and lead actors and executive producers Steven Yeun and Ali Wong, responded to the controversy stemming from a podcast of artist and BEEF actor David Choe’s podcasts from 2014 where he talks about raping a masseuse. Their statement is below:

“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. 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,”

In case you didn’t know about how Choe’s rape podcast resurfaced, journalists Meecham Whitson Meriweather and Aura Bogado tweeted the deleted podcast where he talks about raping the masseuse. David Choe (or his foundation as he claims) apparently then had their tweets taken down as copyright violations.  That action and the delayed response from the BEEF team made it look like they were trying to hide what happened, and there were many expressions of anger and disappointment and wondering how or if the BEEF team would respond during that silence. A boycott of the show was started.

It’s surprising and disappointing that the BEEF team didn’t take into consideration Choe’s past.  It’s not like his podcast wasn’t brought up before – there were complaints in 2014 when it aired, and there were protests when he did a mural in 2017. Should we really believe that there weren’t any other professional Asian American actors who could have done this role?  The initial response to the statement released seems to be largely negative. The statement ends with how Choe has suffered and recovered. In my opinion, it would have been better if it mentioned that they were taking concrete actions to help victims of rape such as donations to organizations that support rape victims.

I haven’t yet seen BEEF, and I wrestle with the following question:  do you watch good art from “bad” people? BEEF has been critically acclaimed, but as Soheil Ho points out, times have changed to the point where there are other Asian American content choices. There are other questions too – boycott all of Ali Wong’s work?  All of Steven Yeun’s work?  In any case, David Choe should be okay – he is also known for making tens of millions of dollars on his mural for Facebook.



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Joy Ride Movie to Open CAAMFest 2023 on May 11, 2023

The Center for Asian American Media recently announced that their event CAAMFest 2023 would open with with the movie Joy Ride. CAAMFest, formerly the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival, will host the movie on May 11 at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco at 6:30, followed by a gala at the Asian Art Museum.

Joy Ride will be available for theatrical general release on July 7, but here is your chance to see it before that! Ticketing information is available here at the event web page.


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The Attractive, Accomplished, and Fake Chinese Women who want to connect with me

Almost every week, I get a new LinkedIn connect request from an attractive and highly accomplished Chinese woman. When I finally got around to looking in detail at the profile of one of these requestors, it was fake. I figured that these requests were part of some ongoing scam, and it turns out that they were part of a scam called pig butchering that often (but not exclusively) targets Asian Americans.

How did I figure out that this particular profile was fake? I looked for inconsistencies in the fake woman’s profile and found that she claimed that she graduated from UCLA law school with a degree in design (see example screenshot above). Other than that, the profile was fairly consistent – her profile did show that she had the education and a track record one would expect for a design professional. I have obscured her face since the photo is probably taken from someone else’s profile.

There is a good article on these fake LinkedIn profiles in MIT’s Technology Review magazine. The scammers use fake profiles full of prestigious positions and schools to gain their victims’ trust. The author cites a time when one could find over 1000 supposed graduates of Tsinghua University (a top tier Chinese University) working at rocket company SpaceX. The scammers gain the trust of their victims and then have them invest in fraudulent investment platforms.  The term “pig-butchering” comes from the long term scam, one that takes time to develop just like time time it takes to raise a pig to then butcher it. Scammers moved to LinkedIn after dating sites began cracking down on fake profiles.  Some people have been taken for more than $1 million dollars. You can read one man’s experience with these scammers after he contacted them to see what would happen as well as others’ experiences.

If this story wasn’t bad enough, many of the people running the scams have been trafficked to places in Southeast Asia where they forced to work in hellish conditions. If you have been scammed, it is recommended that you contact law enforcement as soon as possible. The organization called the Global Anti-Scam Org, founded by scam victims, is also willing to try to help. LinkedIn, for it’s part, has recently set up a verification service to validate that members are working for the company that they say that they are from.

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Harvard Asian American Admissions Up in 2023 as Supreme Court Decision Looms

Harvard’s Asian American admissions, subject of a lawsuit that accuses of Harvard of suppressing Asian American admissions, rose to 29.1% for the incoming class for 2023.  This is an increase from 2022’s 27.1% of the admitted class, a absolute percentage rise of 2% and a proportional rise of more than 6% year to year. Black and Latino admissions fell over the same period.

Why did it rise?  Some say that it is a natural increase as the population of Asian American young adults and high school graduates increases. I can’t help but wonder if the lawsuit had some influence. I also wonder how much a factor is it that test score submissions were optional. Harvard contents that the increase is part of a natural trend.

After losing in lower courts, the case has been elevated to the Supreme Court. I am personally amazed that since writing about this almost nine years ago, the case is still ongoing. A decision is expected this summer.

(image credit:  Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license)

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A24’s Netflix Series BEEF with Ali Wong and Steven Yeun Premiering on April 6

After a clean sweep at the Oscars for the major acting categories, A24 will release a new series on Netflix called BEEF, starring Ali Wong and Steven Yeun, on April 6.  The series is about how a road rage incident (video above) spirals into an out of control feud.  After premiering at SXSW (like so many other A24 features), it has garnered a number of excellent reviews.

Part of the plot is that Ali Wong and Steven Yeun’s characters come from much different parts of the economic spectrum. I welcome this portrayal, as we may hear much about Asian American accomplishment (especially in affirmative action debates) but don’t hear as much about the fact that Asian Americans have the highest levels of income inequality of American racial groups. It’s also great to see more well reviewed content with Asian Americans in them to counter the movements to ban that some books and other content .

Other notable cast cast members of BEEF include Justin Min and Ashley Park. You can see the official trailer for BEEF here.

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‘Joy Ride’ Coming to a Theater Near You on July 7th!

I’ve never been to South by Southwest (“SXSW”) in Austin, Texas, where part of the overall set of conferences and art festivals is a film festival. Literally one year after ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once” premiered at SXSW, Joy Ride premiered. I’m only aware of this because of social media, and I watched one of *the* most hilarious, IMHO, Asian Amerian film trailer ever to be released:

“From the producers of Neighbors and the co-screenwriter of Crazy Rich Asians, JOY RIDE stars Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Oscar® nominee Stephanie Hsu, and Sabrina Wu. The hilarious and unapologetically explicit story of identity and self-discovery centers on four unlikely friends who embark on a once-in-a-lifetime international adventure. When Audrey’s (Ashley Park) business trip to Asia goes sideways, she enlists the aid of Lolo (Sherry Cola), her irreverent, childhood best friend who also happens to be a hot mess; Kat (Stephanie Hsu), her college friend turned Chinese soap star; and Deadeye (Sabrina Wu), Lolo’s eccentric cousin. Their no-holds-barred, epic experience becomes a journey of bonding, friendship, belonging, and wild debauchery that reveals the universal truth of what it means to know and love who you are. Also starring Ronny Chieng (Crazy Rich Asians), Lori Tan Chinn (Awkwafina is Nora From Queens), David Denman (Greenland), Annie Mumolo (Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar), Desmond Chiam (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier), Alexander Hodge (Insecure), and Chris Pang (Crazy Rich Asians).”

Based on the trailer and the reviews published from the SXSW screening, I am going to predict that this will be the biggest Asian American box office and mainstream hit since Crazy Rich Asians. That’s not exactly going to be a surprise considering that the film was co-written by co-writer of Crazy Rich Asians, Adele Lim, who is making her directorial debut with ‘Joy Ride.’ I’d say my favorite review/quote is this:

““Joy Ride” is a prime example of how important representation is on screen and proves that Asian American comedians can be just as funny, raunchy, and successful as their white male counterparts.”

and this review/quote:

“And of course the trip turns out to be as chaotic as you can imagine. Things go wrong, shenanigans ensue, and our four Asian friends are at the center of it all. Joy Ride is quite a ride indeed. It is every vulgar, nasty, boundary-pushing R-rated comedy you’ve ever seen, except it is put together on the screen with honesty, heart, and Asian pride. The result is one big Joy Fuck Club.”

Given the reviews, it is not too surprising to learn that Seth Rogen and his production company is one of the producers of the film. I’m hoping great things for Joy Ride and am thinking I should reach out to Lionsgate to watch a screener for this film!

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PBS NewsHour: Randall Park on his directorial debut and Asian American representation in Hollywood

I’ve been following Randall Park ever since I first noticed him in a Wells Fargo television ad back in July of 2008. So I was really happy to see a recent segment on PBS NewsHour about his directorial debut and on Asian American representation:

“Since starring in the hit sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat,” Randall Park has become a familiar face on television and in some of Hollywood’s biggest movies. Now the Korean American actor can also be found behind the camera with his directorial debut “Shortcomings.” Amna Nawaz spoke with Park about the film, his long career and the power of authentic storytelling for our arts and culture series, CANVAS.”

I’ve never met Randall, but I hope to do so one day. My closest connection to him is knowing his fellow actor and star of ‘Fresh Off the Boat,’ Hudson Yang, who I had the pleasure to interview back in 2015. I also have known Hudson’s father, Jeff Yang, since the mid-90s! 

Several weeks ago, it was announced that Sony Pictures Classics acquired worldwide rights to Shortcomings, so I am hoping that we’ll get a release date announced in the near future. A summary about the film:

“Justin H. Min, Sherry Cola and Ally Maki star in the coming-of-age story, which follows Ben (Min), a struggling filmmaker, and his girlfriend, Miko (Maki), who works for a local Asian American film festival. When he’s not managing an arthouse movie theater in the Bay Area as his day job, Ben spends his time obsessing over unavailable blonde women, watching Criterion Collection DVDs and eating in diners with his best friend Alice (Cola), a queer grad student with a serial dating habit. When Miko moves to New York for an internship, Ben is left to his own devices, and begins to explore what he thinks he might want.”

Hope I get to see this sooner rather than later!


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EEAAO Cast is Back: American Born Chinese Premiering on May 24 on Disney+

After seeing Everything Everywhere all at Once (EEAAO) win a slew of Academy Awards, are you wondering where you can see the cast together again? Disney+ recently announced that American Born Chinese, a series based on the graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang, starts on May 24 on Disney+ and features Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan in the cast, with appearances by Stephanie Hsu and James Hong. Disney+ describes the story as:

Based on the graphic novel of the same name by Gene Luen Yang, “American Born Chinese” tells the story of Jin Wang, an average teenager juggling his high school social life with his home life. When he meets a new foreign student on the first day of the school year, even more worlds collide as Jin is unwittingly entangled in a battle of Chinese mythological gods.

Jin Wang is portrayed by Ben Wang and is shown below with Jimmy Liu, who plays his friend Wei-Chen. I was somewhat worried about how Disney+ would adapt the book, but the fact that the author is an executive producer and that people like Destin Daniel Cretton (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings director) is one of the directors and is an executive producer gives me some reassurance. The show will be full of well known Asian and Asian American actors in addition to the ones mentioned, such as Jimmy O. Yang and Ronny Chieng.

The series will debut with a showing on March 15 at South by Southwest.


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Asian American Civic Involvement: A California Study

Although we have talked about Asian American voter apathy for years now, recent elections in places like Georgia are said to have swung based on increased Asian American voter turnout.  Does that mean that Asian American civic involvement, which more than just voter turnout, is increasing?  The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace looked at Asian American Civic Involvement in California. At a high level, it showed that Asian American civic involvement by surveyed Californians is “relatively muted,” but there is a lot of variation and nuance in that large generalization. Despite some methodological challenges that it acknowledges, the study is worth checking out if you are interested in looking at how Asian Americans are interacting with American civic life.

What exactly is civic involvement?  As mentioned above, it is more than just voter turnout. Civic involvement includes activities like volunteering in community and other organizations, attending protests, and donating to candidates and political parties. While the overall conclusion was “muted” participation, there is notable variation between Asian Americans born in the US and those foreign born, as one example of nuance within the larger conclusion. The study also says that anecdotal evidence shows that Asian Americans are increasingly donating to political parties and candidates.  I have seen this myself with Asian American political fund raisers in my neighborhood.

While this study has other interesting data points like participation in ethnic organizations, it acknowledges some methodological weaknesses. It gathered results through a survey that was only in English – missing the views and actions of those Asian Americans who do not speak English.  It also points out, as we have mentioned, that while political parties are starting to court Asian Americans, a large number of Asian Americans have never been contacted by an organization. Is that the major cause of lower participation rates? I also wondered how specific aspects of Asian American civic involvement compared to that of the larger population.

This study is the fourth part of a five part study on Asian Americans political choices and social preferences in California.  I didn’t know about this series until this article and will most likely summarize and comment on other parts of the series.

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Where Increasing Asian and Asian American Media Representation has its Limits

It’s impossible to miss the increase in Asian and Asian American representation. This year, Everything Everywhere all at Once and its actors won a number of Golden Globe awards and received several Oscar award nominations.  In the past few years, movies such as Minari and Parasite have won numerous awards including Parasite’s Best Picture Academy award. The 2021 book Crying in H-Mart was a best seller, and Kyla Zhao, who wrote The Fraud Squad when she was a junior at Stanford, scored a six figure advance for the story about a social climber in Singapore. Asian and Asian American representation in mainstream media has clearly increased, with many other movies, TV shows, and books that I could have mentioned, but what are the limitations of this apparent success?

Before talking about any limitations, it should be clear that this is a beneficial trend. One clear benefit is to simply get Asian American stories out there. I rarely saw any movies about Asian Americans when I was growing up, and the ones that I did see were usually full of stereotypes. Each Asian American movie, book, and TV show success is a demonstration that a movie, book, or TV show with Asian Americans in them can be profitable and garner wide, not just Asian audiences, thus increasing the opportunities for Asian American actors, writers, and directors.

Still, as this Mercury News article points out, there are limits to the increased representation that is often touted.  It cites a PEN study that says that writers of color are still published at a lower rate. Zhao received suggestions from publishers, which she successfully resisted, to put in a white character into her book to make it more “relatable.” Other writers suggest that with the success of Crazy Rich Asians, there might be an emphasis on old money Chinese elites.  Zhao acknowledges this. While her book is also set in Singapore, she put in characters from different social classes.

Izzy Ampil writes in Buzzfeed that touting the numbers of awards and nominations by Asians and Americans reduces the significance and individual accomplishments of every the actors, writers, and directors that are nominated.  I think that this is very true.  While an emphasis on the numbers, I feel that we forget the individual work.  For example, it seems to me the fact that Turning Red is nominated for an academy award seems to have been gone relatively unnoticed.

A final limitation is knowing how much of this increase helps the Asian Asian community at large. I hope that the steadily appearing amount of Asian American representation in movies, TV, and books erodes the perpetual foreigner stereotype of Asian Americans, but if it having an affect, it is hard to measure. In the face of violence, both from anti-Asian sentiment that grew during the pandemic and from within Asian American communities, it’s not at all clear how representation helps in that area.

The 2023 Academy Awards air on March 12. Even more Asian American content with Asian American representation is coming this year, including American Born Chinese series on coming to Disney+, which has many of the same cast as Everything Everywhere all at Once.

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NYC Theater Review: Wolf Play by Hansol Jung

Esco Jouléy and Mitchell Winter in the 2023 Production of WOLF PLAY at MCC Theater – Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Wolf Play by Hansol Jung is an enthralling play about an off-the-record adoption, about children and parents and family, about a wolf and his pack. Presented by MCC Theater in collaboration with Ma-Yi Theater Company, Wolf Play just opened and is playing through March 19.

“The truth is a wobbly thing.”

In the opening monologue, before the lights have gone off, the eponymous wolf speaks directly to the audience. There is eye contact. People wriggle in their seats, or laugh, or stare back, whatever their natures be. The intimate space of the black box theater is used to its best advantage.

The wolf is our narrator who is also a young Korean boy, physically represented by a puppet and inventively animated. As the play begins, the boy, Peter Jr., is being dropped off by his adoptive father Peter at the house of a queer couple in San Francisco. This is a story of secondhand adoption. Peter Jr.’s first adoptive family had decided to give him up after giving birth to a biological child. Robin found their listing on a Yahoo! chat room and leaped at the chance. She awaits Peter Jr. with her brother Ryan. Her partner Ash, who is less than excited, arrives after the Peters.

The play has a frenzied pace as truths unfold. The boy is 6, not 3. Robin struggles with motherhood, Ash trains for their pro boxing debut, overlapping phone calls unfold simultaneously. Then Ash and the boy eat cereal together and we learn that his name is actually Jeenu. Quiet moments punctuate in breathtaking ways. And that is just the beginning.

The end is the end, and I won’t tell you what, but to say that Hansol Jung has a wonderful echo built in. It’s a way of writing that I often find to be unsuccessful and trite, but here, I found to be oh so beautiful.

Soho Rep’s Wolf Play is playing at MCC Theater (511 West 52nd St., New York, NY 10019) until March 19. Performances are Tues.-Sun. at 7:30pm and Sat.-Sun. at 2:30pm. Tickets begin at $49 and are currently available at

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California Shootings Highlight the Struggles of Asian American Seniors

(photo credit: Ray Mueller)

After the initial shock about hearing about the Half Moon Bay shootings, my next reaction to hearing that Chunli Zhao actions were related to his work on a farm was “why is a 66-year-old working on a farm?” This shooting and the Monterey Park New Year shootings highlights some of the challenges that many Asian American seniors face and that seem to receive comparatively little attention:  economic struggles, social isolation, and lack of mental health care.

Chunli Zhao lived with his wife in a shack covered by a blue tarp (pictured above) in what has been described as “deplorable conditions” on one of the farms where he worked. One of the shooting locations had recent history of violence. Other migrant Asian farm workers live in similar conditions to Zhao and his wife, and he killed two of Asian American farm workers who were even older than him, aged 73 and 74. While we may hear and read much about Asian American professionals with high incomes, but Asian Americans have high income disparity and many are impoverished. While this of course doesn’t excuse Zhao, there are many Asians Americans and particularly older Asian Americans who are impoverished, working as farm workers or even riding buses to make ends meet.  Historically, Asian Americans came to the United States to work as farm workers or laborers – this is not new, ongoing, but often forgotten.

Social isolation is another problem.  The Monterey Park shooter, Huu Can Tran, lived in Hemet, far away from his former home in heavily Asian San Gabriel in an area with few other Asians. He was divorced, lived alone, and his neighbors said that no one ever visited him there. Chunli Zhao didn’t speak English or Spanish, yet another form of isolation.

Some say with these shootings, Asian Americans have assimilated into American society in the worst possible way. One way that they haven’t assimilated is in getting mental health treatment. Zhao had worked before as a restaurant worker, and he once tried to choke a coworker, who then filed a restraining order against him.  Chunli Zhao had anger issues, and in an interview thought he had some mental illness. A few weeks before the Monterey Park shootings, Huu Can Tran reported to police and accused his family of fraud and of trying to poison him 10 to 20 years ago, but produced no evidence.

If anything positive were to come out of these sad shooting incidents, attention could increase on Asian American issues like senior poverty, mental health, and the huge disparaties in Asian American income. I don’t think that is likely, but I remain hopeful.

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