Why “Cobra Kai” Is So Gloriously Brilliant

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May 8, 2018 by liebestropfchen

Rebooting old movies has been done a million times before. Something about my generation (Gen X) and the perpetual reboot appeals to the powers-that-be in their search for the next big “thing”. After Ghostbusters, Beauty and the Beast, and a gazillion Superman flops, I’d pretty much written off any hope that reboots would be anything to write about…

…that is, until I heard about “Cobra Kai”.

What is it about “The Karate Kid” that still gets me pumped? I can’t explain it. I was 5 years old when that movie was released, and I was absolutely obsessed with watching it. My dad even bought me that Karate Kid action figure with the switch on his back that would make his leg kick. I have no idea what happened to it, but I wish I still had that action figure.

Too young to understand the Miyagi-isms, and too much a girl to take karate lessons (hush, fellow feminists, it was the 80s), I could do nothing more than simply laugh at Mr. Miyagi’s funny way of saying “Uuuupppp!!!! Doooooowwwnnn!” and fan-girl over the cute Ralph Macchio pwning Johnny’s face at the end of the movie.

To this day, I still cry at the end. I can’t help it.

But now my perspective is so different. Mr. Miyagi really was incredible with his advice and honor-driven teaching style. While a master of his emotion and life balance, he still had that vulnerability that would shine through every once in a while, reminding us that even Miyagi knew how to cry.

I also see Daniel as a whiny little bitch now. Don’t get me wrong, I still adore that whiny little bitch, but he’s just a little different in my adult eyes.

Anyone who’s seen those YouTube videos about how “Daniel is the real villain” (hilarious, BTW) knows what it’s like to feel unsettled about how the first movie ended. Johnny was viewed as this giant asshole with a chip on his shoulder, who was trying to outshine the rest to win that trophy (or, to win back his girl). He couldn’t help that Kreese was a dick, right? After losing to Daniel, he graciously said “You’re alright, LaRusso!” as he cheered for the guy who had just toe-clobbered him in the nose. Long ago, that made me feel like anytime I bested someone they’d surely congratulate me and acknowledge my awesomeness with no sense of hostility or anger, right?

Obviously, life isn’t like the movies. Humanity is so much more complex. That’s why I was excited about “Cobra Kai”. FINALLY, we get to hear a little about what happened after Johnny came in 2nd place and found himself in Kreese’s choke-hold. Did he go to college? Did he become a doctor? Did he send Daniel postcards from his world travels? Did he die in a gutter somewhere after losing all his money in Vegas?

Johnny got hit by life’s choke-hold. That’s what happened. And he’s quite bitter about how everyone seems to kiss Daniel’s ass.

Billy Zabka, always cast as the token douchebag in the 1980s, has so much depth. Finally, we get to see him as not only a broken man, but a broken man for whom you are cheering to rise up and win. On the flip side, Ralph Macchio does a great job of making me hate his perfect life, with his perfect house, as he does a lil’ role reversal. He’s reached the new – subtle – level of douchebaggery.

After finishing the first few episodes, I saw exactly where these writers are headed, but not in a way that becomes predictable. That’s why they are so brilliant. They know exactly which lines and moments will resonate with those of us who grew up watching the film – i.e., Bananarama pancakes (I even had to explain this reference to my husband, it was so fan-fucking-tastic). Yet, the premise is a brilliant merge of the two rivaling concepts – were Johnny & Kreese the villains, or was Daniel really the villain?

(By the way, I’m waiting for Tommy to make a cameo to scream something about body bags. Just sayin’.)

In a world where people tend to speak only in absolutes (you’re either for or against something, pro-A means you must be anti-B, etc) what these creators have captured is the true concept of life – the representation that no one is fully evil, nor fully good.

It’s in the grey area, where we will find our true character.

There’s your Miyagi-ism for today.


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