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A Powerful Metaphor for Modern Online Social Behavior

The popular series Beef, available to stream on Netflix, follows a feud between characters Danny and Amy. What started as a parking lot dispute led to a full-on road rage incident, including a chase and driving through someone’s yard. This initial encounter sparked a feud between Amy and Danny, leading to a series of humorous petty acts of revenge. Their collective anger, desire to be right, have the final say, and an overwhelming sense of superiority over each other escalated the situation to the proverbial boiling point.

While the feud between Amy and Danny occurs mostly in person (sometimes indirectly), there are many ways in which their situation demonstrates what modern-day online social interactions look like. Although online disputes don’t often go so far as to destroy someone’s life, they certainly can. And many parallels in Amy and Danny’s situations make Beef an excellent metaphor for online behaviors. Including the fact that they were anonymous to each other in the beginning, and through the use of the internet, both were able to discover the identity of the other and gather information on them.


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Anonymity Online Sparks More Tension


When the feud began, neither Amy nor Danny knew who the other was and likely didn’t expect their anger to be matched by the other. In real life, it is more likely in the case of parking lot disputes and road rage incidents that people may blow up at each other in the moment and argue, but often it doesn’t go any further, or the police get involved and defuse the situation.

Then people move on from the situation. Rarely do these situations lead to a long-time rivalry between individuals trying to get revenge on the other.

But online is a whole other story. The anonymity between people often makes them braver and more willing to speak out about something they might not in real life. We’re all likely familiar with the sense of security and safety we find through our online personas.

Even if our real names are attached to our online identity, we often find ourselves braver and more outspoken online than in real life. Plus, there is an added layer of anonymity where we can assume a username, pen name, or false persona to voice our thoughts and opinions that we might not feel comfortable sharing with our loved ones.

Such is the case for Amy in Beef, who puts on a front for her family and friends and rarely shares her true feelings and thoughts. But with Danny, a complete stranger, she feels comfortable being more outspoken and honest about her feelings. Especially her anger and desire for revenge because he doesn’t know who she is, nor does he have a preconceived notion of who she is before their encounter. Had Amy’s husband been in the car with her on that day, she would not have provoked Danny in the manner she did.

As for Danny, while he generally is who he appears to be, he has secrets from his family that reveal a rather selfish part of who he is they otherwise wouldn’t be able to see. And that is that he has been holding his younger brother Paul back from reaching his potential by sabotaging his college applications and dragging him into his construction business rather than supporting his goals and aspirations.

Danny seeks to control Paul’s life to a certain extent and bring Paul down to his level out of fear of losing his brother, but also to avoid appearing like the failure or disappointment of the family.

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Our Actions and Words Online Can Have Real Life Consequences

Steven Yeun as Danny

Although Danny and Amy’s feud occurred between them in person, we can still apply how their actions mirror online interactions and the way they impact our lives. This includes how what we say and do online can end up having real-life consequences in the sense of ruining relationships, destroying marriages, and creating unrealistic expectations and standards for ourselves and others.

At first, their dispute was focused on petty revenge, and there was no direct confrontation except from a safe physical distance from each other. Both sneak around to vandalize each other’s properties, leaving negative reviews on their business pages and engaging over the phone.

However, what began as insignificant interactions and minor inconveniences, eventually grew as anger festered between them with no end or resolution until it began to significantly impact their lives.

Interactions online are much like this as they begin as simple arguments between people with strong opinions and disagree. We often forget there is another real person on the other end of it, and we care more about our own selfish tendencies to be right and have the final say.

While most of these interactions end with people assuming others to be stubborn and ignorant and moving on, we are seeing more and more these days the resourcefulness of people as they dig up dirt on people and expose various secrets to satisfy a grudge.

This ability to obtain so much information on people can have real-life consequences, both good and bad depending on how you look at it.

This story originally appeared on Movieweb

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