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From Melancholia to Anger: (De)Racialization of Asian American Affects in Beef

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2023, 36(3), pp.57-90
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama
  • Received : November 26, 2023
  • Accepted : December 7, 2023
  • Published : December 31, 2023

Yujin Kim 1

1이화여자대학교 아시아여성학센터

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Released on Netflix in 2023, Beef stands out among drama series produced by the Asian diaspora cast and crew, as it does not solely focus on racial consciousness about Asians. The writer and director Lee Sung Jin explains that the racial identity of Asians is just a part of the authenticity of the contemporary experience he aims to portray through Beef, not the entirety. In other words, rather than making the racial identity of Asians a central theme, it is a part of the portrayal of today’s shared experiences that he seeks to capture in the drama. To achieve this, Beef emphasizes the affect of anger. This paper aims to discuss the meaning of the affects presented in Beef, as a representation of contemporary experiences, including those of Asian diasporas. Prior to delving into the anger, it is necessary to understand melancholia as another underlying affect flowing at the forefront of the piece. Melancholia is derived from the ideological effects of neoliberalism, arising from the intersection of race and class, essentially representing the zeitgeist of late capitalism. Anger, as another major affect in the work, not only originates from melancholia but also serves as a crucial driving force in the development of the narrative. As an affective surplus, anger drives the narrative to the extreme and opens a structural excess, making the transition of the formal mode from realism to non-realism plausible. Consequently, in the final episode, which is a sort of coda, Beef employs a surrealistic aesthetic to criticize the reality that produces racial and class-based others while simultaneously aesthetically implementing a political vision that transcends it.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.