Netflix’s Beef is a TV series about two strangers, Danny and Amy, who end up in a road rage incident when Danny almost backs into Amy’s car and she responds with passive-aggressive honking. While the show starts off as a comedy, things soon take a darker turn. It becomes obvious that both characters experience mental health issues.
What issues do they have in Beef?
Both characters suffer from depression which they describe as an empty but solid feeling. Danny is a contractor who struggles to find clients and sees himself as a disappointment to his family because he can’t fulfil the financial role of the oldest son. Amy seems to have it all with a successful business, a husband and a daughter. Yet, she feels like there’s something missing and hides behind a facade of perfection. The other themes explored in Netflix’s Beef are:
When we look closely at the characters’ backstories, we can assume that they’re the way they are partly because of their upbringing. Amy’s parents were emotionally neglectful and didn’t teach her to talk about her feelings. In the flashbacks, we see Amy discover her father’s affair and witness her parents saying they had her because they didn’t have a choice, which leads to insecurities in adulthood.
Similarly, Danny had many expectations placed upon him by his parents. His identity is centred around fulfilling them instead of pursuing goals that would truly make him happy. As a result, both Danny and Amy repress negative emotions and search for happiness in the wrong places. Amy is an overachiever and Danny chooses to sacrifice his long-term friendship for money.
Because of childhood trauma, Amy believes she’s unworthy of unconditional love and doubts that this kind of love even exists. In one of the episodes, she attends a therapy session to help her marriage but instead of being true to herself, she chooses to tell the therapist what they want to hear. On the other hand, Danny’s self-esteem seems to be tied to what he perceives as success: having a profitable job and providing for his parents.
While it seems like the characters’ situation could be improved if they confided in one of their loved ones, Danny and Amy don’t feel understood and suffer from loneliness. Danny is afraid to be alone to the point of jeopardising his brother’s chance to go to college. Amy believes no one would love her if they saw the real her so her relationships are superficial.
In a way, the road rage and what unfolds after is when Danny and Amy can finally be true to themselves. Even though their lives are completely different, they both suffer from mental health issues and realise that they’re more similar than they previously thought.
Why has the show made a positive impact on the viewers?
There’s a lot to relate to in Netflix’s Beef. Many call it a realistic portrayal of what depression is like when it’s turned outward. It doesn’t always look like shutting yourself from the outside world and staying in your room all day. Sometimes it’s about setting on a journey of self-destruction once the repressed anger finally comes to the surface.
The show gives everyone something to relate to and teaches us that repressing your emotions doesn’t lead to positive outcomes. Additionally, what some associate with success isn’t always a road to happiness. While Danny believes that once he lives up to the expectations the emptiness will disappear, Amy is already on the top but struggles with the same feeling. This might make many people realise that the root of their unhappiness isn’t a lack of success but possibly a mental health issue.
How does Beef make us feel as an audience?
The TV series has received praise from both critics and the audience. Even though the characters are flawed and resort to malicious ways to get back at one another, it’s what actually makes them likeable. Not everyone would seek revenge when provoked by a stranger but many people rely on unhealthy coping skills to distract themselves from their problems and struggle more than they’d like to admit.
When you finish watching the series, you might be left with mixed emotions. On one hand, it might generate a sense of being understood. On the other hand, it might make you realise that the feeling of emptiness both Danny and Amy experience feels familiar.
What if you can relate to one of the characters?
If you can relate to what Danny or Amy are going through, you aren’t alone. Plenty of people suffer from depression and struggle to unlearn negative beliefs about themselves. Luckily, these problems can be addressed in therapy. Contact Therapy in London to speak to a trained professional who can offer you treatment suited to your needs.