Netflix’s ‘Beef’ Really Spoke to the Road Rage-Filled Bitch in Me

I’m used to blaming my road rage on external factors – genes, bad drivers, terrible roads. But an exploration of where and why that extreme anger surfaces only when I’m behind the wheel is far more complicated than I imagined.
Dhvani Solani
Mumbai, IN
Beef netflix show road rage
Photo courtesy Netflix

May 2019. I was driving the car I’d borrowed from my parents, a sedan whose glory days were in its rear view mirror, but which still held on (mostly) reliably. I remember taking it out one late afternoon for something super basic, like going to a supermarket or visiting a friend or whatever. 

Just around the corner from my house, I waited for a couple of seconds after the traffic light had turned green to let the stragglers pass by. All gone, mirrors checked, let’s gooo! 


I released my foot off the break and had just started to rev when from the corner of my eye I saw a white SUV shoot out of a lane running perpendicular to me and come to a grinding halt just inches from my bonnet. I slammed the brakes hard, and though the car was barely in motion was thrown practically face-first into the steering wheel. I locked eyes for a fleeting second with a petrified but also… gleeful... (?) early-20-something/teenage boy behind the wheel, driving his posse of five or six other young fucks. 

A cacophony of car horns surrounded us, but the boy took off in the direction he was headed. Almost instinctively, I hit the accelerator, changed directions, checked I wasn’t gonna hit someone else while doing so, and took off behind him. “Fucking young, rich and entitled assholes with no care in the world for their own lives or mine,” I raged inside my head, sitting at the edge of my seat, gripping the steering wheel with hellish force no human should have to endure. “I’ll fucking show them!” Show them what? I had no idea.

I chased the car down the road. The younglings revved up. So did I. Once I was close enough, I rolled down my window and shouted with as much force as my lungs could muster, “Abbe saale madarchod, bhosdike, tere baap ka raasta hai kya?” That loosely translates to: “Oye, motherfuckers, cunts, is this your father’s road?” But the kids weren’t even looking my way and my problematic outburst was for seemingly nothing.


Soon after, I lost them in a particularly trafficked patch. And that was that. I went home seething, forever left to wonder what the carpe-diem dweebs made of their lives, disappointed in my inability to show them, unfazed about letting loose the kind of profanity I otherwise thought of as sexist, lewd, and unspeakable – at least in public. 

The incident came rushing back to me when I watched the first episode of Beef last weekend. The 2023 American comedy drama that dropped on April 6 is created by Korean director Lee Sung Jin for Netflix. 

It starts off on a seemingly familiar note: a high-speed car chase between a down-and-out handyman (played by Steven Yeun) driving a pickup truck in LA and someone driving a gleaming white Mercedes SUV – we only later find out that someone is a woman (Ali Wong), presumably dismantling our preconceived notions of rage being a testosterone-fuelled extreme sport played only by men. The irony of a big white car being used was not lost on me. In Beef, this journey of fury snowballs into a bitter, dangerous feud. The show has been hailed as one of the best this year. Heck, it has a score of 98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and that’s, you know, a lot.


Motor mania

I remember my own particular incident because it happened the day before my birthday and a bit of the anger travelled into my big day too. But the honest truth is that I’ve been an angry driver for almost as long as I’ve been a driver. It kinda runs in my family, like instant flatulence after eating chickpeas, big butts, and asthma. I’ve grown up seeing the male figures in my life – who otherwise don’t really swear – vent some venomous shit should someone cut them off while driving. I’ve seen them shout at the presumed aggressor, drive dangerously close to them to cut them off in return, and generally rage right through car trips. As gendered boundaries of what’s considered “appropriate” dissolves in my generation, I’ve internalised this behaviour towards absolute strangers as absolutely normal, and myself copiously added to our joint family talent for raging on the road.

I share this insight with a colleague as I’m typing this and she can’t believe it. “But you’re all sunshine and rainbows,” she says, flummoxed. I can’t remember the last time I had a public row with anyone, and no one except maybe my partner on a bad day would describe me as hostile, aggressive, impulsive, angry, violent or scary (except for my adventures in sleepwalking). Kinda like Amy from the show who is told she has “this serene Zen Buddhist thing going on.”

In fact, if I’ve to tell someone off or if I’m genuinely angry, my voice quivers and I usually end up crying because tears are my go-to response for extreme emotions. I avoid conflicts with my closest friends, sending passive aggressive texts at best. This means I’m not really an outwardly angry person, and when I am angry, it usually has little to no effect on others. But put me behind the wheel and it’s a very different story, weirdly resonant with Goofy circa 1950.


So, what’s happening here? I turned to clinical psychologist Nipa Mehta Sanghavi for answers. In other words, for an expert to validate my anger. But there’s nowhere to hide. “Road rage is just a term given to the anger that takes place or happens on the road but, in essence, it’s just anger that is generally present otherwise too,” she said. “The only thing is, in this case, the anger is displaced. The driver could be experiencing stress on a personal level. So, they’re not actually angry at other drivers or cars but just displacing their anger onto them.”

Cool cool cool. So am I just… an angry person but don’t know it yet? In more concerning news, I could also be a particular personality type that is more prone to raging. “There are certain personality types – like antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder – that might be more prone to aggression than others. They might have impulse control issues and getting behind the wheel might aid their risky behaviours. They then have no fear of anything, might (falsely) think they have superior driving skills, and want to compete with others out there. It may not come out as violence for all but more passive behaviours like cursing or excessive honking.”

More than meets the bonnet

This honking is kinda like that snake eating its own tail that the character of Amy has tattooed on herself in Beef. The symbol of renewal and repetition ties in well with my pet peeve of honking – a permanent fixture around me – emerging from what seems to be our innate anger and then, in return, feeding that anger too. But what’s important to note too, is that the persons honking, or just driving, are anonymous entities at best reduced to false stereotypes like “the bad lady driver.”

“The anonymity these situations provide aid bad behaviours too,” says therapist Varun Dutta, who also provides anger management counselling. “Like, when you’re trolling someone online. When you feel anonymous, you no longer have the internal self-checks of empathy, guilt, embarrassment or shame that would otherwise inhibit such reactions. In a car, though your number plate can be traced, you still can get away with feeling anonymous, and that can strip you of any incentive to behave responsibly.”


Add to that the illusion of safety that comes from the heavy metal encasing you. “A vehicle then becomes a safe space, a medium to express your anger,” says Mehta Sanghavi. “If you have someone sitting next to you, you will control your impulses, but if you’re alone, the car becomes a safe space to vent in ways you feel are okay.”

Desi girl

In India, the country I live in, road rage is a permanent fixture in our lives. You see it everywhere around you, and in you if you’re like me, but it also manifests in darker, life-threatening ways that become headlines: Driver draws a knife and threatens biker on the road; Man hit by bike assaulted, friend also beaten up; Man runs over 3 people as road rage argument turns ugly

Though there are no definitive studies to prove that we have the most number of ragers in the world, the Indian cities of Kolkata and Mumbai feature in the top 10 when it comes to the road rage score as studied by auto parts vendor Mister Auto. Additionally, according to a list by an insurance company Compare the Market, India ranks fourth among the countries with the worst drivers. Speaking of terrible stats, India also accounts for 11 percent of global deaths in road accidents, the highest in the world, according to a 2021 report by the World Bank. 


Of course, we’re not all that special. Road rage shootings are up in the United States too, but I’m more interested to see how my surroundings play their part in aiding and abetting my rage, now that it’s out in the open for all to read and absolutely not because I’m looking for more excuses for my behaviour. Thankfully, Mehta Sanghavi can contextualise that for me. 

“In many places around the world, including India, we’re not taught to respect other people’s space,” she said. “We also are used to immediate gratification in our life today, so we want to get there faster with the least number of obstructions. When that doesn’t happen, you feel blindsided. We’re taught that an eye for an eye is normal, that you can’t be submissive. The lack of civic sense and basic respect for others then merge with our need to one-up, and all of them collide when on the road.”

So if it’s so fucked up outside, it’s only natural for me to yell around town, right? She’s not letting me off the hook so easily, though. The idea of mental health being that you control what you can and all that modern-day jazz. Sigh. Turns out, I have work to do, and maybe you do too?

Werking it

So, to save yourself from the destiny that awaited Amy and Danny, or the mind fuck that I put myself into, Mehta Sanghavi has some tips to help both me and you deal with the raging Goofy inside us:

  • Firstly, if you've seen this pattern in yourself (who me?? pfft!), try and understand where the stress is coming from. Yes, the roads are overcrowded and you’re late and someone’s driving badly. But these are just superficial reasons. Get to the source of your real stress and manage that in your everyday life.
  • Don’t take it personally. Sometimes, we get swept away by the notion that someone is doing something to personally affect us. But we’re actually all in the traffic together and it’s frustrating for all of us.
  • Consider how this is affecting you. It’s probably raising your heart rate and blood pressure. Ask yourself if it’s worth it.
  • Prime yourself. There are various techniques for this. Maybe you can use visual imagery to imagine a situation where you’re gonna be stuck in traffic, but without losing your cool. If you practise that on an everyday basis, you can then transfer it to your reality when placed in such situations. This often requires guidance from a professional, though. Or you can practise breathing techniques that help you get calm and not to react impulsively.
  • Shift your focus. Distract yourself with attractive colours in your environment, count backwards, start stomping a bit, if you’re in a position to. Or pat yourself on your shoulder or touch a surface that can help pull you back into the moment and not dwell in your thoughts.

I’m now gonna keep a packet of Lays’ chips in my favourite flavour (Magic Masala, if you must know) in the car and distract myself with the shiny blue wrapper and then snap back into reality by munching on it every time  someone tries cutting me off. If that doesn’t work, I can at least throw the packet at them. Just kidding, I’m gonna duel this vicious snake in me with my meditation practice. Take that, you lane-cutting asshole. Oh, I’ve also been advised to stop name-calling. Do curses in other languages count, though?

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