Hello everyone! It’s that time again, for another round of Devil’s Advocate!! With all the sober and heavy political hullabaloo, I thought it would be nice to break up the iciness with a little comedic distraction. In this installment I shall once again attempt to defend one of pop culture’s more infamous bad guys.
This site’s objective is to put a spotlight on idiots we all must suffer, and I don’t think that shining beam should be off limits to the fictional nincompoops that often mirror the real ones that infest our society in the realistic theater we all live in.
I challenge you to prove me wrong via comments, and see how “bad” the bad guy really is. Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong. I’m counting on you faithful readers to agree or disagree accordingly. Let the game begin!
Here, I would like to prove that the idiot in question is the main character, and that the bad guy is just another hapless victim of circumstance when seen as a complex, flawed, entity that is only reacting as any normal person would.
Today’s subject is the alpha male, Cobra Kai guy, everyone loves to hate: Johnny from the Karate Kid. Personally, I always found this character to be one of the most under looked victims in cinema. He’s cool, talented, highly motivated, popular, handsome, and above all: a hapless puppet of the movie’s real villain, Sensei Reese,which is revealed in the film’s end.
Let’s start with the premise of the movie itself. Ralph Maccio’s underdog role as Daniel, is uprooted from his New Jersey setting and moved by his single mom to California. From the very beginning of his estrangement in the West Coast, this scrawny brat whines and cries at every turn.
Defending Johnny is a combined effort of understanding high school social politics, as well as really analyzing Daniel’s naivety in the setting of a new school. As in every installment of this column, I try to understand the motive of the movie’s villain as opposed to just ingesting the plot through the perspective of the protagonist.
The school year begins, and Daniel is seemingly just trying to find his place in the hierarchy of his new environment. Let us begin at the beach scene, where we meet the love interest that is the starting point of the friction between Daniel and the misunderstood Johnny.
Granted Elizabeth Shoe is one hell of a looker and no one can blame Daniel for trying to seize the opportunity to get his foot in the door, but the moment he realizes who her ex was, he should have just turned around and never looked back. ESPECIALLY after his Karate via correspondence got his ass kicked good and proper. Daniel even escalated the melee by assuming a karate pose when confronted. Johnny was doing simply what he was trained to do when faced with such a reaction. But alas no, this weaselly prick just keeps cruising for a bruising.
I could go on for pages trashing Maccio’s mousy character, but let’s get back to the real victim here: Johnny. Firstly, who knows how serious his relationship was with Shoe’s character? Who’s to say she didn’t lead him on for weeks on end? We don’t have enough back story about their relationship to judge Johnny’s display of aggressive jealousy towards Daniel. It’s childish sure, but we’re talking high school kids here.
Secondly, let’s not omit Daniel’s complete ignorance to how high school works. The popular kids rule, even more so in 1980’s teen flicks. His pursuit of Ali is a guaranteed way to receive another pounding from Johnny. Who knows? Maybe Johnny had a soft side, was writing eloquent poetry and genuinely trying to work on his anger issues. All we’re shown is him at his worst. I like to think he’s a person like everyone else and feels guilty for his shortcomings. But NOOOO, the 90 pound whiner Daniel-san just can’t leave well enough alone. So if Johnny did have a benevolent side, it’s certain it was instantly washed away by our east-coast, sniveling, suitor.
If you were Johnny, wouldn’t you be infuriated that the geeky new kid was trying to usurp your action? I know I would. I know Johnny is arrogant and abrasive. This is usually an indicator of severe insecurity. Knowing this makes me pity him, he’s overcompensating for something and instead of Ali trying to help him be a better person she immediately starts trolling for the nearest spineless wop on campus. What an insensitive bitch.
When it comes to bare bones character traits when comparing Johnny and Daniel, there’s no contest to who the better human being is. Johnny is disciplined, determined, handsome and driven. He’s not only a top tier athlete, he’s also a second degree black belt. That takes grit and giant brass balls. You have to give credit to someone who worked as hard as Johnny did, regardless of his attitude.
Then you have Daniel. A mama’s boy through and through. He’s a crier, and a self loathing, weakling until he meets Mr. Miagi. Even after their meeting, he complains and whinges throughout his entire training. He detests hard work, and represents himself as someone who gives up before even trying. Only after Morita’s character shows him the benefit of the work he performed, does he take himself seriously. Only after he’s acquired his new bodyguard who saves his ass by agreeing to no fighting until the tournament, this little bastard douses poor Johnny with a water hose as he’s minding his own business smoking a joint while sitting on the pot at the Halloween party! Pathetic. Daniel is just asking for it!!!
To take further heat off of Johnny as an asshole, we have to factor in the sinister conditioning Master Reese instilled in him. Can we really expect a well mannered, gentleman who’s been indoctrinated into the philosophy of “Mercy is for the week!”? Johnny is a sad, pitiful, product of a teacher who teaches all the wrong things.
In the scene where Johnny sweeps Daniel’s injured leg during the final tournament, Johnny’s obedience to stoop to such a level to win is a merit to his devotion to what he sees as his superior and father figure. I see an apt pupil and a team player if I’ve ever seen one.
In closing, there is one redeeming moment to absolutely prove my point. After Daniel wins the tournament with his cheap shot and is celebrating in the parking lot, Johnny actually congratulates him with a hug and a nod to him being a worthy opponent. If that’s not the flagstone sign of a good winner I don’t know what is.
So, next time you’re watching this film do your best to look at the tale from Johnny’s point of view. It’s a totally different experience and certain to make you feel less sorry for the iconic Daniel-san.
Thank you all for reading, and Kobra Kai, Do or Die!!!!!!!!!