New ‘Karate Kid’ Series Kicks Political Correctness in the Face

Ralph Macchio and William Zabka are back in 'Cobra Kai,' and their characters have much to say about today's youth and culture

by Zachary Leeman | Updated 10 May 2018 at 1:50 PM

The new “Cobra Kai” television series should not work. Plenty of other attempts to revive decades-old franchises have failed miserably — and this one should have joined those ranks. When the first trailer dropped for the next chapter of the “Karate Kid” saga, many people didn’t know whether it was a joke or not.

Not only does it feature Ralph Macchio in a reprise of his role as protagonist Daniel, but William Zabka (pictured above, in front) is back as Johnny, the villain from the 1984 original. Would people really want to see where these characters were 34 years after the classic original film?

The answer, it turns out, is yes. After its recent debut on YouTube Red, the first episode scored over 20 million views.

Praise for the new series has been nearly universal. It’s a smart take on the franchise. The majority of the story is told through the eyes of Johnny, a man who’s been living in the past ever since a young Daniel took his girl — and his shot at being a karate champion.

Re-entering the world through Johnny’s perspective offers a breath of fresh air for the franchise and adds depth to everything that came before.

Instead of basing itself on nostalgia, the show manages to meld two time periods and two generations. Both Daniel and Johnny take on students in the show and have lessons to teach — lessons that many of today’s kids could use.

When Johnny hears terms such as "gender stereotypes," he scoffs. He doesn't understand and doesn't have time to, either.

When he reopens the Cobra Kai dojo (the menacing dojo he belonged to in the original), Johnny is confronted with a generation that spends little time outside and falls victim too often to cyberbullying. People come to him for a safe space — but he doesn't give it. His lessons are hard and unforgiving, but they work. He gives kids purpose by pushing them and reminds them that sometimes you need to drop the phone and get hurt. Only then can you learn to pick yourself up.

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Life is unrelenting, he tells them, and he doesn't care if they're offended (in sharp contrast to what many of today's teachers tell children).

"Cobra Kai" is a show America needs right now. It connects two different — and distant — generations. The rivalry between Daniel and Johnny also speaks volumes about today's cultural upheaval. The two men could not be more different (and they hate each other); but the writers show that differences often boil down to perspective.

"Cobra Kai" could have been a goofy trip down memory lane, but it's so much more.

If these two simply sat down and communicated, their intense rivalry might dissipate. Instead, they bury themselves in echo chambers of information and refuse to acknowledge the other's point of view. Sound familiar?

"Cobra Kai" could have been a goofy trip down memory lane, but it's much more. It directly confronts many of today's issues in a humorous fashion — including the need for people to step back, drop the PC nonsense, and start talking honestly.

PopZette editor Zachary Leeman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter

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