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Netflix’s ‘Beef’ Has the Most Accurate Depiction of Church We’ve Seen On Screen

Netflix’s ‘Beef’ Has the Most Accurate Depiction of Church We’ve Seen On Screen

Steven Yeun and Ali Wong’s new Netflix series Beef is a dark comedy about two strangers with massive anger problems.

In the third episode of the series, “I Am Inhabited By a Cry,” Danny (Yeun) finds himself at rock bottom and goes to his last resort for hope: church. As he hesitantly finds his way to the seat, the church’s band begins singing a song that clearly hits Danny hard: “Are you hurting and broken within?”

Despite his best attempts, Danny bursts into tears as the chorus of “O, Come to the Altar” hits its peak. Danny begins singing along while a pastor comforts him in prayer.

“That scene was one of my favorites,” LeeSung Jin, the series’ showrunner, told Mashable. “It didn’t feel like we were glamorizing the moment but also not making fun of it either. We just really wanted to reflect this Korean church experience as honestly as we could.”

For Yeun, the scene allowed him to step into something he had experienced in his own life.

“That [scene] was interesting because I’m familiar with that feeling of going to a collective place where you’re overwhelmed by this feeling of, like, you’re holding so tightly to yourself until you go to those places, and then you’re able to let go because everybody’s communally doing something,” he said.

The scene not only stands out because of the powerful moment in Beef‘s storyline, but also how accurate it is to an actual church experience. We’ve all seen the typical Hollywood portrayal of a church service—some sort of amalgam of a prosperity preacher wearing a priest collar with a gospel choir behind them. The depictions are almost always wrong, and clearly written by people who only know church stereotypes.

But the church experience depicted in Beef is different. Startling different. It feels sincere, authentic and recognizable. It was clearly written by people who have first-hand church experience, and that’s why it works.

Yeun was raised in a Christian household. In an interview with The New York Times, he shared that he “heard a lot of praise music” growing up. As an adult, he gravitated towards Hillsong Church, which “specializes in the whole contemporary praise music thing,” and that engaging with that music “helps [him] get to an emotional place.”

He even admitted that he led worship for a while, which came in handy in episode 7 as he led the church in an energetic rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

“As an immigrant kid growing up in the Midwest, that was really my only real safe space,” he said. “There was another reality happening [in Korean church] where maybe the ways in which we couldn’t assert ourselves in wider America, we could at least feel for ourselves in that particular place.”

And just like his character Danny, Yeun went back to church in his late 20s after stepping away during college.

“I just found myself nearing tears every single time they start singing praise songs,” he said. “I’m just like, ‘Why am I about to cry? What is happening?’”


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