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We Need To Talk About David Choe, His Past, and His Connection To 'Beef'

By Brian Richards | Celebrity | April 20, 2023 |

By Brian Richards | Celebrity | April 20, 2023 |

WARNING: This article contains discussion about sexual assault against women. If you believe that reading this will trigger you in any way, please do not proceed any further. We suggest reading something more pleasant instead, like this recent article by Allyson about how The Twilight Saga is going to be turned into a television series, which will just leave you wondering when The Hunger Games will be the next series of books to be needlessly adapted for the small screen.

For the past few days, Netflix has been wishing that the biggest headache they’ve had to deal with is because of the failed livestream of the Love Is Blind reunion, or the exposé about how horribly Love Is Blind contestants have been treated, or even the backlash to their inexplicable need to crack down on password-sharing.

Last week on Twitter, @FilmUpdates, the account that is best known for aggregating content from entertainment news articles (and is certainly not the only Twitter account that has gained a wide following for doing so), shared a tweet that stated that the paintings seen in the title cards for the Netflix series Beef were provided by artist/actor David Choe, who appears on the show as Isaac, whose cousin, Danny (played by Steven Yeun) finds his life increasingly turned upside down after a road rage incident with a businesswoman named Amy (played by Ali Wong) results in the two of them seeking revenge on each other. As expected, many tweets praised Choe for his performance, and for how impressive his featured paintings were. But there was one tweet from reporter/producer Aura Bogado that got plenty of attention, and caused a lot of dominoes to begin falling, and it wasn’t because Bogado wanted to tell the world about how awesome David Choe is.

In March of 2014, Choe released an episode of his DVDASA podcast, which he co-hosted with adult film actress Asa Akira. In that episode, he shared an anecdote about what he described as “rapey” behavior towards a Black female masseuse named “Rose,” who was providing him with a massage. Starting with the fact that upon realizing that he had an erection during the massage, Choe began masturbating in Rose’s presence without asking her or telling her. From Buzzfeed News:

It’s dangerous and it’s super self-destructive. I’m at a place and there’s potential for a lawsuit… and she has given me no signs that she’s into me or that this is appropriate behavior. In my head I go, Do you care if I jerk off right now? and it sounds so creepy in my head that I go I can’t say that out loud … So I go back to the chill method of you never ask first, you just do it, get in trouble and then pay the price later.

…So I just start jerking off. So then her hands gets off my leg and she just stops … I go ‘Look I’m sorry I can’t help myself — can you just pretend like I’m not doing this and you continue with the massage?’ And she’s like ‘All right’ and she does … I’m like ‘Can I touch your butt?’ and I reach out and touch her butt and she pulls away. She doesn’t want me to touch her butt.

Rose continued the massage. He asked for oil, and she poured it on him. On the podcast, he then admits that he grabbed her hand and placed it on his penis. He asked if she would spit on it, and she said no. He asked her to kiss it, and she said no.

She’s definitely not into it, but she’s not stopping it either. I say, ‘Kiss it a little,’ she says, ‘No, all the massage oil is on it,’ and I take the back of her head and I push it down on my dick and she doesn’t do it. And I say, ‘Open your mouth, open your mouth,’ and she does it and I start facef-cking her.

Choe says that he continued with the act until he ejaculated into the masseuse’s mouth. Rose refused to have sex with him, and allegedly asked him to lie back down so she could continue with the massage.

After Choe told the story, his co-host Akira said, “You raped… allegedly.” And he responded “Well… encouraged.” Akira further pushed the question of whether or not Choe raped.

“I just want to make it clear that I admit that that’s rapey behavior,” said Choe. “But I am not a rapist.” He continued:

“With the rape stuff… I mean, I would have been in a lot of trouble right now if I put her hand on my dick and she’s like, ‘F-cking stop I’m gonna go call security.’ That would have been a much different story. But the thrill of possibly going to jail, that’s what achieved the erection quest.”

After that Akira exclaimed: “You’re basically telling us that you’re a rapist right now, and the only way to get your dick hard is rape.” His response was simply “Yeah.”

The definition of rape under California law is an “act of sexual intercourse… where it is accomplished against a person’s will by means of force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the person or another.”

Shortly after this podcast episode aired, Choe dealt with many people commenting on his DVDASA website and telling him that he was a rapist. Choe responded to these comments and allegations by stating that he was not a rapist, and that the stories he tells on his podcast are not true, are not facts, and that his show “is not a representation of [his] reality.”

I never thought I’d wake up one late afternoon and hear myself called a rapist. It sucks. Especially because I am not one. I am not a rapist. I hate rapists, I think rapists should be raped and murdered.

I am an artist and a storyteller and I view my show DVDASA as a complete extension of my art.

If I am guilty of anything, it’s bad storytelling in the style of douche. Just like many of my paintings are often misinterpreted, the same goes with my show. The main objective of all of my podcasts is to challenge and provoke my friends and the co-stars on the show. We fuck with each other, entertain ourselves and laugh at each other. It’s a dark, tasteless, completely irreverent show where we f-ck with everyone listening, but mostly ourselves. We create stories and tell tales. It’s not a news show. It’s not a representation of my reality. It’s not the place to come for reliable information about me or my life. It’s my version of reality, it’s art that sometimes offends people. I’m sorry if anyone believed that the stories were fact. They were not!

In a world full of horrible people, thank god for us.

There is also video footage of this podcast episode, and of the conversation between Choe and Akira, as seen here courtesy of Bogado, who originally posted this on TikTok.

After Choe’s past statements got pulled out from under the rug where he originally swept them, Choe decided that since the video footage was of his own podcast, and he was the host who was largely responsible for that podcast, he could use copyright takedowns to have the video be removed if anyone on social media attempted to show that video on their pages.

Anyone on Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok who attempted to show the video footage of David Choe saying what he did to “Rose” would be flagged and have the video removed from whichever account posted it. (So far, Bogado has managed to be one of the few exceptions to this rule.) If Choe believed that this move would work in his favor, and make people talk less about what he said in 2014, he was sorely mistaken, and only ended up learning about the power of the Streisand Effect.

Choe has said nothing so far about the continued backlash against him and his representing-a-reality-that-isn’t-his comments. And while Choe remains silent for the time being, it has caused a lot of Beef fans to be furious about this entire situation, and question how and why Choe ever became involved with this series in the first place. Much of the responsibility for this has been placed at the feet of actors Steven Yeun and Ali Wong, who not only star as the leads on Beef, but are also two of the show’s executive producers, and their known friendship with Choe is how he was able to secure a role on the show. Neither Yeun nor Wong has said anything about this, with Wong’s Instagram page limiting comments on each post, and her Twitter page is now private. (There have been a couple of Twitter users who claimed that Ali Wong’s Twitter page has always been private, even before this, but it also seems very likely that her page is locked to ensure that fans continue buying tickets for her upcoming stand-up tour.)

The continued silence from Steven Yeun and Ali Wong has not only resulted in their fans stating how utterly disappointed they are to see two celebs whose work they love and support act like this, but also making clear that any interest they may have had in watching Beef is now completely gone, and they now refuse to watch any of it.

Since it premiered on Netflix earlier this month, Beef has been acclaimed by critics, and also held up as a stellar and much-needed example of Asian representation in the media. Though it is understandable to defend the show and its stars from the dark cloud that is now hovering over it, and from all of the negative and merciless commentary that’s been happening online, it’s important to remember that no work of art is more important than someone else’s safety and well-being, no matter how much we love and appreciate it, no matter how much we love and appreciate the people in front of and behind the cameras who are responsible for its creation. Especially when someone connected to that work of art has a history that not only involves alleged sexual assault but bragging about it for millions of people to see and hear. There are fans of Yeun and Wong who are upset and defensive on their behalf, and have stated that any anger we’re feeling about this should be directed at David Choe, and only David Choe, since he is the one who said and did everything that has us feeling angry in the first place.

A couple of years ago, I discovered that one of my best friends had physically and verbally abused his longtime girlfriend, and this was something that no one else, including myself, became aware of until long after the relationship ended. Not everyone is fully aware of what their friends and family members are truly capable of behind closed doors, and it’s easy to imagine that both Yeun and Wong are shocked about what’s come to light about Choe, and are slowly figuring out what to say or do next. The problem with that scenario is that Choe’s words about what he did to “Rose” have been public knowledge for almost a decade. Those words became public knowledge because Choe felt comfortable enough to speak about what he did, while passing it all off as a joke, and as a failed attempt at being edgy. It’s why Yeun and Wong have some explaining to do as to why they were even friends with Choe, and why they ever thought it was a good idea to offer him a major role in a television series they were part of as both actors and as executive producers. It’s why Yeun and Wong can’t pull the “I’m just an unpaid volunteer, and I had nothing to do with how and why this project suddenly turned into a massive catastrof-ck” card. Not when their names are first on the call sheet, and not when they’ve been permitted to help make important decisions behind the scenes about Beef during its production.

The history of racial hostility between African-Americans and Asian-Americans has been a long and painful one in this country, with the murder of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins being one of the worst examples of said history. Fortunately, there has been significant progress made in recent years to alleviate those tensions, and to strengthen solidarity between both communities. However, there continue to be allegations of anti-Blackness directed towards African-Americans from the Asian-American community, and Choe’s alleged sexual assault of a Black female masseuse, his public boasting about the alleged assault, his decision to lock all video evidence of his public boasting in a vault so that no one else can see it, and the lack of response from Steven Yeun or Ali Wong (both of whom have gained much support for their work from Black Twitter), or any of the Powers That Be over at Netflix? All of this is being seen as another reminder of how Black women really are the most disrespected and unprotected people in America. (Save your Whataboutisms for your Twitter or your group chat, because I’m not interested.)

Sooner or later, Steven Yeun and Ali Wong will eventually realize that their silence about David Choe and his past tells us everything we need to know about them, in that they care more about themselves, their careers, and their problematic friends than they do about speaking out against sexual assault or anti-Blackness, and those who feel comfortable inflicting them on others without fear of consequence. If they don’t, they’ll end up realizing that no matter how many more seasons of Beef they plan on serving to the public, a lot of their fans no longer have an appetite for what they have to offer.