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.