beef premiered on Netflix on April 6 to near-universal acclaim (98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). Critics and viewers alike raved about the dark comedy series’ bold but nuanced story about two strangers caught up in an escalating blood feud and the magnetic performances of stars Steven Yeun and Ali Wong.
But less than two weeks later, the show is losing some of its luster thanks to a resurfaced controversy surrounding costar David Choe and a lack of response from the companies and creative team behind the A24-produced series.
In 2014, Choe, a visual artist then best known as a muralist who painted Facebook headquarters for stock (which reportedly earned him $200 million), co-hosted a podcast with adult film actress Asa Akira . In one episode he says he once forced a masseuse to perform oral sex on him. At one point he calls himself a “successful rapist,” but at another he says, “I just want to be clear that I’ll admit that this is rape behavior, but I’m not a rapist.”
The anecdote was picked up first by writer Melissa Stetten on the now-defunct website XO Jane and continued to gain traction To buzz feed Write down. Shortly thereafter, Choe claimed his story about the masseuse was art. “I’m sorry if anyone believed the stories to be fact,” he wrote. “They weren’t!” The controversy surfaced again in 2017 after Choe was commissioned to paint a mural on The Bowery in downtown Manhattan. Other artists joined in protest: “Our goal is to provoke widespread rejection of the continued normalization of rape culture by making the issue visible,” said organizer Jasmine Wahi at that time.
Choe then apologized more thoroughly on his Instagram account: “How do you apologize for a lifetime of doing something wrong? Over the past three years of recovery and rehabilitation, I have tried to answer that question through action and understanding.” he wrote. “In a 2014 episode of DVDASA, I shared a story solely for shock value that made it appear that I had sexually abused a woman. Although I said those words, I did not commit those actions. It did not happen. I have ZERO history of sexual assault. I am deeply sorry for any pain I have caused anyone through my past words. Non-consensual sex is rape, and it’s never funny or appropriate to joke about. I was a sick person at the peak of my mental illness and have spent the last 3 years in psychiatric institutions healing myself and dedicating my life to helping and healing others through love and action. I don’t believe in the things I’ve said, although I take full responsibility for saying them… I’m truly sorry for the negative words and dark messages I’ve put out into the world.”
Since then, Choe has slowly transitioned into the pop culture mainstream – in 2021 he was profiles a The New York Times on the eve of his limited FX and Hulu interview series The Choe Show, where he admitted to being a “recovering liar” and revisited his infamous 2014 podcast story. “By that time in my life I was done with life and chasing a bottom. The wanted outs. I’ve never raped anyone,” he said, explaining that he told the story out of “morbid curiosity, to feel an outer reaction to the inner shame I felt.”
But the rhapsodic reception too beef — the show, at least in its first week of release, won early Emmys hype — introduced Choe to a new and widespread audience. In the series, Choe plays a character not dissimilar to his real-life, defiant dirtbag persona (which until at least a decade ago was shaped in part by a fixation on sexually violent fantasies and language) – as Isaac, the ex-con cousin of Yeun’s protagonist. Isaac is a crude, easygoing gun who poses the greatest threat of actual danger in the ensemble. Choe also contributed the artwork for the title cards that precede each episode and his friendships with Yeun and Wong, who are also executive producers beefare well documented.
Amidst the glowing press mentions and rave reviews for beefAura Bogado, a senior reporter at the Center for Investigative Reporting, tweeted on April 12: “David Choe, like that guy who detailed how he raped a woman? And then came back and said it was just a misunderstood version of his reality?” and included screenshots from 2014 buzz feed Article summarizing his podcast history. Her tweets and clips from the podcast quickly went viral and gained traction throughout the weekend, with dismayed viewers reporting their regret at having seen them already beef or declare their intention to boycott it in protest of Choe’s involvement.
Social media users have also called out beef Creators Lee Sung Jin, Yeun, Wong, Netflix and A24 for their alleged knowledge of the 2014 incident and their decision to hire Choe anyway. As of press time, neither party has directly commented or responded to the situation The Hollywood Reporter‘s requests for comments.
On Sunday, Choe appeared to be responding to the controversy, as Belgado and cultural strategist Meecham Whitson Meriweather both tweeted that her posts embedding the podcast clip were removed in response to a DMCA copyright claim. Both included screenshots of an email from Twitter support that contained the original text of the complaint:
“Several Twitter users – @MediumSizeMeech and @aurabogado re-uploaded a clip from Episode 106 ‘Erection Quest’ of our DVDASA live podcast and video series originally released on March 10, 2014 without our permission,” the statement reads the report is signed “Sincerely, David Choe, The David Young Choe Foundation”.
Twitter couldn’t be reached for confirmation without a communications team, but the Lumen database, a research project at Harvard University that collects takedown notices from around the web, has records the David Young Choe Foundation, which filed a DMCA complaint with Google on April 13, requesting the removal of the episode from Google Drive and YouTube:
“On behalf of the David Young Choe Foundation (also known as the Meleka Foundation) and Igloo Hong, Inc., the owner of all original DVDASA content, I would like to submit the information needed to remove copyright infringing media stored on your platform.” Request specified. “Our organization’s original media content from the live podcast and video series DVDASA (since 2013) producing, owning and featuring artist and performer David Choe was illegally downloaded and uploaded and shared publicly on Google Drive…. The original material sources are from our DVDASA YouTube account and website, which have since been privatized to prevent more of these illegal re-uploads.”
To date, this is the only action taken since the controversy flared up again.
J.Clara Chan contributed to this report.