Ali Wong, ‘Beef’: A Stark Reminder of the Violence of Silence

Apr 21, 2023

By Tamryn Spruill

TRIGGER WARNING: This article discusses rape, sexual assault, complicity, silence, and other forms of violence in frank and unflinching terms.


Beef forced art-loving viewers to engage with works potentially unfamiliar to them, and it nudged the uninitiated into taking notice. Show creator Lee Sung Jin accomplished this by slamming an art piece into the viewer’s face at the start of each episode and using it as the title card background. As a lover of art, who also has a side hustle as a painter and collagist, the images piqued my interest and I vowed to look up the artist after the show. Like others, I Googled the words Beef and “art,” and was delivered to a rash of articles about the “rapey” behavior of costar David Choe, who inhabits the role of Isaac Cho, the criminal-minded cousin of Danny.


If viewers were disappointed after leaping from blissful, artistic intrigue into a quagmire of moral turpitude, they would have been rightful in their sentiments. For people, like myself, who have lived to see the other side of sexual assault, controversy over Beef triggers flashbacks and flash floods of survival hormones. It throws one off-kilter, forcing unexpected immersion in the waters of one’s scariest waking nightmares.


In 2017, vandals destroyed one of Choe’s murals in an act of apparent displeasure over his continued public presence and sorry handling of the situation three years prior. Now, the issue has bubbled up from the cloisters of the LA art community, from the city’s Korean-American enclaves. Now, the world knows that nepotism powered the deals that brought the brutish Isaac, and Choe’s paintings, to the cultural forefront.

This article originally appeared in ZORA mag.