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Cobra Kai is a High School Karate Soap Opera and it’s Great

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For those sane enough to not have purchased YouTube’s video streaming service (because that’s where the show was before Netflix bought them out), Cobra Kai is the continuation of the 80’s classic The Karate Kid. A film in which Pat Morita won an Oscar for best supporting performance, and Ralph Macchio makes weird faces while doing stilted karate.

The original Karate Kid

Recently my partner and I binged Season three of Cobra Kai; after we had watched the first two seasons on Netflix a couple weeks before. She had seen the first two Karate Kid movies, but not the third or my personal favorite, the one with Hilary Swank.

The mean general from Starship Troopers is the bad guy

Cobra Kai fully represents what Karate Kid is to us now. A little silly, too dramatic, and that maybe Ralph Macchio wasn’t exactly a good guy in the original. The first season opens up as a fan service reflection of the original. Johnny Lawerence, former bully and All Valley karate champion, is now a washed up handyman, that just happens upon a kid getting bullied. A kid that lives in Johnny’s apartment building. Granted, Johnny Lawerence doesn’t save the kid until they throw the poor nerd into Johnny’s car, but after his heroics(?), he agrees to teach the kid how to fight.

The next eight episodes or so are mostly just a repeat of the first movie. Difference being now Ralph Macchio has a daughter and a car dealership, but is still a vindictive little twerp. Johnny Lawerence is still obviously better at karate, but is poor now. There’s still fighting over who’s dating whom, and nerds becoming bullies becoming the nerds again? The parts with the high school students are the least interesting, but the fight scenes are well choreographed and highly entertaining.

Being a show about a man stuck in the 80’s, there are some pretty obviously problematic things that are said as jokes and that is fine. Being true to the character is OK. BUT there are some weird things that are kinda too much.

Old School Asthma Talk : So my partner likes to point out that the main teen Miguel, who gives a solid performance, has asthma until Johnny Lawerence throws away his inhaler and tells him no he doesn’t. Now, I had asthma myself; and it did go away over a summer. That happens. But it happens sometimes, and only naturally. Not because some dude said so. But it’s a silly fun TV show, not the worst thing.

Where Did the Biracial Fat Girl Go?: So seasons one and two had Nichole Brown playing Aisha; a nerdy girl who learns karate, and gets revenge on her bullies. They showed her being active and capable while being fat, which was dope. They didn’t do much with her character, which is a shame, but it was still cool to see. But once the show moved to Netflix, most of the fat characters were off the show, or had inexplicably lost 40 pounds in a few days’ time as far as the show’s timeline is concerned.

None of the Motivations for the Girls Made Any Sense: My Partner and I kept having to ask each other, why is she mad at her? It really felt like the teen girls would be mad at each other, not for the dumb meaningless teen drama stuff, but literally from one scene being friends to the next being mad at each other? And then not being angry at all an episode later.

Overall the show is fun, silly, and has decent recurring themes like “you don’t have to become your parents”. Or “it’s ok for kids to have better lives than the older generations had”. “Self confidence is important, but don’t be an asshole”. “Patience is good”. “Try to find balance in life”. etc.

So if you want a short, fun show to not take seriously, then Cobra Kai should be right up your ally.

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.