[personal profile] wingedbeast
No, I'm not talking about the cartoon. I will be focusing on the original. Yes, you can thank Barney Stinson.

"The Karate Kid", for those who have seen neither the original nor the remake, is the story of a kid with a single mother moving to a new location, having the social problems associated with being the odd one out and the new kid, as well as dealing with the trouble of a violently aggressive bully. Seeing that he's going down a bad path, one elderly gentleman of Japanese descent takes it upon himself to teach the lad Karate, the same martial art as said bully.

Barney Stinson, the character in "How I Met Your Mother", popularized an interpretation of the original movie and others have taken that to heart. In that view, the lead character, Daniel, is the bad guy of the movie. The real good guy is the one that the movie would have us believe to be the bad guy, one Johnny Lawrence, the bully who, at one point, violently beats Daniel. And, I'll go so far as to say that they're half-right.

Johnny, like Daniel, has a character arc. It's quick and towards the end, but it's there. For most the movie, he follows his instructor's guidance without question. At the competition at the end, his instructor commands him to "sweep the leg", an illegal maneuver to break the opponent's leg. He balks, temporarily, arguing that he can win without such methods, but breaks down under pressure. When Daniel does win, he acts in sportsman-like fashion and congratulates the victor.

You can see the story that could be there, that we don't see because we're focusing on Daniel. Because we're focusing on Daniel, we not only see his flaws but also that we are requested to be on his side, rather than Johnny's. This, coupled with a new habit of critique, one that I consider quite good and healthy for the most part, makes it easy for us to cut Johnny more slack and deny some to Daniel.

The habit, of course, is challenging the morality of the fiction with which we are presented. That's a good thing. But, it's also something with which we can go to far. Blind rebellion and blind obedience are both blind.

What this has is the potential for a series of multiple perspectives around two main protagonists, each the other's main antagonist. For this, we should note the difference between a main antagonist and an enemy.

Daniel is a good main protagonist as is. He's the new kid in town. He's in that special age when things have a new level of confusing. This setting puts him immediately off-balance. He is under new pressures that he doesn't know how to handle.

Johnny is a good main protagonist if we take what we see of him in the original movie and extrapolate. His base-line life is under pressure.

Let's take a look at the Kobra Kai Dojo. This dojo is lead by John Kreese. In the movie, he takes violent aggression to the point of a moral philosophy. He makes kids into warriors or, to use more apt language, into aggressive winners. He takes this philosophy to a degree that would be painfully unreal... if you didn't actually know people like that.

This is why this needs to be a series, because we do need to examine Kreese's mindset. His perspective needs to be understood as something that is real. It even needs to risk being forgivable. He really believes that he is doing what is right for the world, by producing aggressive winners, champions who will take that philosophy and apply its ruthless "efficiency" in their careers.

Let's take a look at Daniel's mother. She's a single, working mother, who has moved in order to do a demanding job that doesn't leave Daniel with a full-time parent. Yes, she would like to be able to give Daniel all the attention, support, and guidance that he needs. But, she doesn't have either the time or the knowledge in order to do that. Nobody has the perfect advice. Everybody needs help.

Let's take a look at Mr. Miyagi. In the original, he's a quiet old man who takes a liking to the new teenage neighbor who, well, needs a friend. Part of the reason is that he lost his family. He was away at war while his wife died in childbirth and the baby did not survive. In the remake, he's not so old and the loss was due to him driving drunk. In either case, you see the need to take strength from a discipline such as a martial art (Karate in the original and Kung Fu in the remake). As well, you can see the need to be a part of someone growing up.

And, let's look at Ali. The reason I haven't mentioned her yet is that, in a way, she's not important in the original movie. She's the girlfriend of Johnny and her affection for Daniel is part of what starts the tension between the two. They're fighting over her, objectifying her. Heck, she's less object and more symbol for what they are fighting over, being the winner.

All of these are perspectives, including their own issues, which need to be lenses through which we see both protagonists. Both need guidance. Both need confidence. They are very much alike. They even share the same enemy, and it's their relationship with that enemy wherein they most differ.

Let's look back to Kreese, his dojo, and, again, why Johnny's parents continue to pay for lessons with this man. I know nothing about their financial situation, but I must assume that they love their son, that they want him to do well in life and be psychologically well-adjusted. I would have to believe that they see the impact Kreese has on their son as a positive.

I mentioned Kreese's philosophy as including ruthless "efficiency". The scare quotes are important. Ruthlessness isn't really efficient. Creating, say, a hostile work-environment in which the boss ratchets up the stress levels with regular threats of demotions and/or firings for even small mistakes is not good business... but it is easy to mistake it for good business.

There's a certain cult of personality around our culture's relationship with winning and winners. We tend to think of winning as something that requires losers. "Us" winning can be defined as "them" losing. And, of course, vice versa. If you doubt the influence of this notion on our culture, I encourage you to behold that group known as "The Manosphere". And, for my side, there's a part of me that does feel the winner when I see them fail or flail.

In this culture, it's not enough to be competent at what you do. You have to be the Alpha. Heck, it's to such a degree that there's even a group of people following instruction to call other men "Beta Males". The language comes from the theory of wolf-interaction, in which it is the dominant pair that breed and others that meekly obey.

That's not true. It's since been debunked. The theory was developed by observing wolves captured from the wild and put together in enclosures and zoos. The debunking even went so far as to say that this was like extrapolating all of human behavior from a refugee camp. Another good analogy might have been school. Both remove one key method of resolving conflict, leaving.

This a healthy or productive way for any human organization to behave. Yet, we both prepare our children for it and demand our children reinforce it. None of us are pure on that regard, but some of us are fucking Kreese about it.

It's like a web that's all around us, artificial and dangerous and at the same time tempting. For Daniel, the struggle is to avoid getting entangled in that web. For Johnny, he's already entangled, but how is he going to disentangle?

Sure, a nice gesture at the end of a match is one thing, but it's really a start... that can be continued in another season.
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