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How Netflix’s “Beef” Explores The Dangers Of Emotional Suppression

The importance processing your emotions no matter where you come from

By Jay KobayashiPublished 12 months ago 6 min read

A24’s latest ten part comedy drama series Beef, featuring Steven Yeun and Ali Wong is a self-destructive tale of two people who find solace in getting revenge at each other after a road rage incident gets a little out of hand. The show tells an amazing story that not only highlights common cultural and generational problems Asian Americans face, but it explicitly showcases the dangers and effects of long term emotional suppression.

Warning: This story contains mild spoilers for Beef, but it is available to watch on Netflix now.

Defining Emotional Suppression

Emotional suppression is defined as the conscious or unconscious act of inhibiting or controlling one’s emotions. It is often occurred in an effort to conform to social norms, avoid conflict or negative reactions, or cope with stressful situations and societal pressures.

By Naomi August on Unsplash

It involves suppressing or minimizing the intensity of one’s emotional experiences, and may involve ignoring, denying, or numbing one’s emotions. As a result, emotional suppression can be harmful to mental and physical health, as it can lead to feelings of distress, anxiety, and depression, and can interfere with one’s ability to form and maintain healthy relationships.

Its Place In Asian American Culture

While emotional suppression is a common coping mechanism in many cultures, it is particularly prevalent in Asian American culture due to its strong emphasis on family, respect for authority, and the importance of saving face. As a result, Asian American children are often taught to prioritize their family’s needs and reputation above their own. This can eventually lead to a sense of obligation for them to meet cultural expectations and maintain harmony within the family.

Credit: Netflix- Beef (2023)

There is also a belief in Asian American culture that expressing strong emotions is a sign of weakness, which can lead to feelings of shame or guilt for individuals who struggle to suppress their emotions. This cultural pressure to conform and maintain emotional control can make it difficult for Asian Americans to seek help when they are struggling with any stressful situations or face any societal pressures.

Credit: Netflix- Beef (2023)

On top of all that, there is also a stigma around mental health in many Asian American communities, due to it being seen as a personal failing, rather than a legitimate medical condition. This leads to many Asian Americans being told to “Suck it up” by their family and is soon to be followed up by the inevitable:

“Why can’t you be more like (Insert name of most successful relative/child of a family friend) they already have a nice job/house/marriage/X amount of kids.”

This stigma and the constant source of passive negative reinforcement is why most Asian Americans subconsciously emotionally suppress themselves to the point of depression and other severe mental health conditions.

Where’s The “Beef”?

Beef takes this concept in Asian American culture and highlights it on the dual protagonists Danny (Steven Yuen) and Amy (Ali Wong). In particular their inability to express themselves and the anti-social habits they pick up in order to cope through their financial and personal failures. The show instantly presents the audience with two characters that are emotionally damaged beyond their own recognition for a number of reasons.

“Forever wondering why people are so interested in vases that look like butts, dongs, and vomit.” | Credit: Netflix- Beef (2023)

Danny is working at a dead end freelancing job while trying to uphold and fulfill all of the financial responsibilities as the oldest son in his family (a position that traditionally holds authority and the most pressure in Korean families). Meanwhile Amy is a financially successful workaholic who is constantly stressed out by the overtly prestigious and soul-crushing cliental and does not get any meaningful emotional support by her family and friends who are just as soul-crushingly painful to deal with.

“You know its bad when the only peace you get is eating Burger King in the middle of nowhere.” | Credit: Netflix- Beef (2023)

They are both so clearly miserable and unfulfilled, they can’t even express their road rage incident in a concise and meaningful manner for their fear of losing face and causing unnecessary drama. In fact, it is only when they start getting revenge at each other that they feel excited, successful, and even cathartic. This catharsis that Danny and Amy experience is a moment where they can be weird and genuine instead of portraying themselves as the glorified persona they built up.

It is only after those revenge schemes is when they feel emotionally rejuvenated and are able to go back to their lives and do what they need to do for the sake of their family. However as the series progress, it’s only a matter of time when things don’t go their way and they resort back to attacking each other with revenge schemes for that feeling of catharsis.

How Unhealthy Venting Can Devolve

“Do not get on their bad side.” | Credit: Netflix- Beef (2023)

Throughout the course of the show, Danny and Amy’s attempts at getting revenge quickly escalates from petty to borderline criminal. Their determination to one up each other gets more chaotic and calculated with every attempt, from urinating all over one’s bathroom floor to painting hurtful messages onto the other’s car to an attempt to light each other’s car on fire to even kidnapping the other’s daughter, there is no ceiling to their spite despite their best attempts to pull back.

At one point both Danny and Amy have befriended each other’s closest loved ones, with Danny befriending Amy’s husband, George, under a fake name, and Amy catfishing Danny’s brother, Paul. While this setup was meant for some larger revenge scheme, the show highlights how Danny and Amy’s expression of their anger and frustrations is self-destructive and shows how quickly it can devolve into something worse.

Credit: Netflix- Beef (2023)

However, the only thing that reels back Amy and Danny from their feud is ironically enough, them venting to each other’s loved ones. The moment they started to vent their frustrations to these “complete strangers”, is when they felt heard and vaguely understood. Its these little moments that brings back Amy and Danny into reality and prevents their feud to escalate into something horrific.

How Having Beef Turns Into An Existential Crisis

Despite their attempts to not let their anger and their schemes get to the best of them. Danny and Amy continued this feud to the point where their family and friends are caught up in one giant mess, where lives are lost, trust is broken, and police are everywhere looking for answers. However, they don’t realize the futility of their problems until they are lost in the mountains, injured, and accidentally having an insane psychedelic trip.

Credit: Netflix- Beef (2023)

During their time tripping out of their minds and falling into an existential pit of despair, they inadvertently gave each other the one thing they needed the most… a cathartic therapy session. They both addressed their issues about how they are being seen as, who they really are, and where all of their anger comes from. Both sides eventually understand each other and realize that they can’t move on from this destructive feud by just forgiving each other. They had accept themselves as the individuals they are instead of the personas they built.

How To Avoid Beef?

While it is easy to say all of the problems that arise in Beef can be solved with a conversation, but it simply doesn’t. People who are emotionally suppressed struggle with expressing their frustrations and problems, and often takes time to vent it all out in a coherent manner.

Credit: Netflix- Beef (2023)

The feud between Amy and Danny showcases these struggles and how it can devolve into something worse. The only thing that could have saved these two was if someone was there and took the time to hear out their problems and frustrations. Because just having someone listen without judgement can mean all the world to them.

What do you think? Does Beef accurately convey the experiences of someone who is emotionally suppressed or is it just a chaotic feud between two angry people? Let me know in the comments and be sure to follow for more related content.

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About the Creator

Jay Kobayashi

A starving writer from LA who aspires to be plagiarized one day. I like to write about academic pieces that identifies philosophy and psychology in pop culture, and sometimes random fun pieces that interests me or the algorithm!

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