Imagine my joy when I discovered Cobra Kai, a ten-part Karate Kid sequel series on YouTube. Then imagine my further joy upon finding out that it’s actually good.
This “sequel no one knew that we needed” is a binge-worthy revival that mines Generation Xers’ craving for nostalgia, and explores how — spoiler alert (Does that even count after three decades…?) — Daniel Larusso’s winning crane kick to Johnny Lawrence’s head in the under-18 All-Valley Karate Tournament of 1984 changed the trajectory of their lives.
We learn that poor Johnny has never recovered. He’s become a marginally employed handyman and deadbeat drunken dad. On the other hand, underdog Daniel is a family man who operates a fleet of successful auto dealerships, trading on his fame as a local sports hero.
But Cobra Kai cleverly “sweeps the leg,” reversing the original movie’s formula. This time around, when Johnny saves a boy from getting beaten up by the popular kids, he relaunches Cobra Kai, the menacing dojo he belonged to in Karate Kid, to try to teach youngsters how to fight back.
But Sensei Johnny’s new students belong to the Millennial generation, one that’s fallen victim to cyber bullying, viral GIFs and photo tagging. When these kids come to him looking for a “safe space,” he doesn’t give it; Cobra Kai’s mantra is, “Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy.”
His students have been raised by helicopter parents chauffeuring them to Suzuki violin lessons, so he pushes them beyond their comfort zone. And while he goes more than a tad too far, it’s still a lesson we can all learn from.
Meanwhile, when Daniel starts training his own disciple, Johnny’s troubled son, Robbie, his methods are more cerebral and meditative, “You are the tree, Robby. You got strong roots, you know who you are. So now, all you got to do is visualize what you want your future to look like and make it happen.”
I discovered Cobra Kai on Father’s Day, and that got me thinking:
The rivalry between Daniel and Johnny speaks volumes about today’s cultural upheaval. The two men could not be more different, but these differences boil down to perspective rather than substance. Think about how often we bury ourselves in echo chambers of information and refuse to acknowledge the other’s point of view. If only we’d open our minds, we might find we have more in common after all.
There is a Talmudic notion that the acts of the fathers are a signpost for the children, implying that sons often re-enact incidents from their parents’ lives. Children face the same challenges, but the question is: Do they make the same choices their fathers did when confronted with similar circumstances? Do we?
The lesson here is: It’s never too late to make better choices, and, in turn, set a better example for the next generation.
And speaking of the next generation: Hurry up with the Top Gun reboot!