“Beef” on Netflix: A Fresh Perspective on the American Dream

From left to right: Beef costars Ali Wong (as Amy Lau) and Steven Yeun (as Danny Cho). Image from Men’sHealth.

Beef on Netflix stars Ali Wong as Amy Lau and Steven Yeun as Danny Cho. Both having bad days that turn out to be bad lives, the main characters Amy and Danny collide in a road rage incident. Although no one is harmed, the incident leads to a culmination of sabotage between the two. This show may be about the implications of road rage, but it is also an examination of the overworked, stressed out person looking to secure the elusive American dream.

From the eyes of Danny Cho who’s a contractor, Amy Lau, an artist, is some entitled rich damsel living in mansion. Danny doesn’t see the awkward nuances of her marriage or the stress she’s under to sell her company.

Amy wants to be financially secure and free.

On his side, Danny is trying to get his parents back in good financial standing after they have lost their hotel business. His relationship with his little brother his is littered with arguments and disagreements, and his little brother blames him for their parents’ losing their business. Because of these things, Danny smiles as little as Amy. Though they have different socioeconomic backgrounds, they have similar problems manifesting in different ways.

Amy has a money problem. She wants more. Having come from a less comfortable background than her husband whose father was a notable artist, she wants to be financially secure and free. The biggest obstacles to her goals are her complicated relationship with her husband and with herself.

Beef offers viewers a chance to see both sides of the story.

Similarly, Danny loses sleep over making ends meet. He and his brother are family, but their views on how to solve their problems don’t align. This creates friction within their brotherhood and erodes away the trust they formally held for one another. Even alone, Danny makes decisions that won’t help him. So, just like Amy, Danny has money, family and self-generated problems. But doesn’t everyone?

When we drive, especially alone, we turn on the music and reflect on life. In our mind’s eye, we replay situations that made us laugh, recall the last words someone said that caused us to cringe or just sizzle over one thing or another. In that car in those quiet moments, sometimes that vehicle becomes an airless chamber clogged with our own unresolved problems. And when that reckless driver cuts us off, they invite us to unleash the week’s worth of anger we’ve been bottling up — or so we behave.

In driving school, the instructors always say, “Be the defensive driver.” You know what you’re going through, but you don’t know what that other driver is going through. Beef offers viewers a chance to see both sides of the story. Danny and Amy are not so different from each other. They both have convoluted ties to their jobs, loved ones and ambitions. Equally, they are under stress and taking on more than they feel prepared for. If this show can teach anything, it is, when that driver flips you off in broad daylight on the expressway, maybe let it go. Whatever they’re dealing with, it has nothing to do with you.

Thanks for reading. J. Reed is a writer and self-proclaimed savant from Chicago. Follow his blog.

Published by Professor J

Professor J is a professor, author, poet and screenwriter.

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