Fair warning that this is a half rant post and half please-don’t-write-like-this post. I’m going to be talking about the Netflix show Cobra Kai so if you haven’t seen all the seasons: SPOILERS!
I started watching the show with my husband because it looked interesting. Let’s take these characters from a hit 80s/90s franchise and see where they would be today. The idea is promising. The execution, not so much.
Before fans of the show get their panties in a twist, hear me out. I have watched every episode. I have tried to like it, really. I wanted to. But there are just so many glaring issues with the story that I can’t. If this had been made into a book series it would have tanked. Here’s why.
First of all, the character development and growth here is Bella Swan level. For those of you who never read Twilight, this means little to none. Every time a character realizes that they are acting stupid/immature and attempts to right their situation or themselves, something gets them riled up and they immediately regress back into idiotic childish behavior. The two main adult characters are the worst examples of this. “My nemesis from thirty years ago isn’t actually so different from me. Maybe we could be friends. Oh, he said something mean. I hate him all over again.” This is a recurring theme and by recurring I mean over and over until I am actually yelling “Oh grow up!” at my TV screen.
Everyone in this show is petty and spiteful. No one can keep their cool in a tense situation. The first two seasons, Mrs. LaRusso was my favorite character because she was the voice of reason. She didn’t hesitate to point out the obvious moronic behavior happening around her. She was the one who wouldn’t tolerate it. And then, in season three, she became as hot-headed and ridiculous as everyone else. Which could make her more interesting since the Madonna/Whore complex was going strong with every adult female, but no, this just makes her exactly like every other character in the show. The female antagonist, Tory, is a teenager with a bad home life. That’s it. That’s all we are given. No real details or inner struggles are shown with her. Can we maybe get in her head more? And let’s not forget the boy who was picked on but is now a badass fighter who bullies people because that has definitely never been done before. Not that school bullies is a bad topic, if done well. This was not.
Another big issue is how every life lesson seems to fall flat. You can’t have the supposed protagonist dole out pearls of wisdom one episode then go back on everything he just said about patience and trust two episodes later. You can’t have the rocky friendship between two girls finally get a breakthrough then have one of them (the one who actually had a personality and character development, might I add) disappear from the show. Don’t even get me started about how they treated a traumatized girl. Hospitalized by her attacker, emotionally vulnerable, Samantha tries dealing with it on her own for months. Her loving parents never suspect or even think, hey, maybe she needs counseling. Then she sees her attacker and completely breaks. It has all the signs of PTSD. How is it handled? Her dad gives her a motivational speech and she’s all better! Next time she sees Tory, she is afraid but after remembering her dad’s words, she is instantly cured. Yep, that’s totally how it works. Also, after this massive fight in school, and then later at the LaRusso house, she is the only one traumatized? Everyone else just rolls with it?
Anyone who has read my posts before knows that I hate a show that does its best to make characters seem more “realistic” by making them assholes for no reason at all. By feeding into the stereotype of teenagers acting reckless and impulsive. By making a villain overly vicious just because he’s evil. By making people jealous over silly miscommunications. This isn’t “reflecting real life” as many like to spout. This is teaching yet another generation of watchers that these behaviors are normal and accepted. How about, let’s not.
Can someone also explain Kreese’s motivations to me, because this guy is just a jerk to people for no real reason. He gets off on kids beating each other up because…? He is teaching kids how to kill one another, why? He is obviously clever enough to know how to play the system to get his way, but why? What is he getting out of this? He was in a war, so that makes his behavior okay? Um, no. His backstory gave us zero insight as to why he wants to destroy every life he touches.
I would also really like to know the location of the rock Johnny Lawrence lived under for thirty years. I assume there was no TV, no magazines, no billboards, or any other way for him to learn about these crazy computer things, cell phones, or the magical internet. For fuck’s sake dude, there were computers in the 90s! How can you try to pretend a person like this truly exists who isn’t an eighty year old shut-in or a time traveler from the 50s?
You may be thinking. “If this show is so horrible, then why is it so popular?” That’s easy. This show plays on the nostalgia aspect. It is targeted at adults, like my husband, who grew up on the movies. It brings back fond memories from their childhood, when life was simpler. (Hell yeah life was simpler: you could go out and slap your friend a high-five without fear of giving them a deadly virus. But I digress…)
Every major living character makes a cameo of some sort, which is a big deal. (Side note: How have none of these characters ever moved elsewhere and stayed gone? Why does everyone come back? Is this place like the black hole of crappy neighborhoods?) Daniel even, surprise, runs into everyone he knew from Okinawa in this one trip he takes there. Ali comes back as another Madonna character just to show the man-children that they could get along. The thing everyone has been trying to show them for three seasons. That is her entire purpose. Then she’s gone.
The cameo trick brings in the viewers like you wouldn’t believe. Not to mention all the flashback scenes from the movies thrown in here and there to play up that lovely feeling of nostalgia. Miyagi is mentioned so often, with such tenderness and respect, that his character is like a god in this world. Karate is shown as the solution to every problem that arises. The show basically lives on its own hype, when in truth, it has no substance.
This is, in a nutshell, lazy writing. This show plays on the same old cliches, tired storylines, and overused stereotypes while bringing nothing new to watchers. It merely throws karate in there. If you took the karate out, if it wasn’t some continuation of a popular franchise, it would be every other teen drama from the 90s that is easily forgotten or considered cringeworthy today.
Like I said, if this were a book, it would tank.
You know how we can correct this? Lawrusso fanfiction! Who’s with me?!
Lawrusso is the name of the pairing for Daniel x Johnny or Johnny x Daniel. But how is this even a fix? Well, the show is riddled with examples of toxic masculinity. I mean, it’s Kreese’s entire personality. Johnny especially isn’t good at expressing his feelings and gets angry and frustrated. This would, at least, explain the behavior of D&J when they get together and argue about something inane. The two would somehow have to come to terms with their attraction to each other, and also hopefully express themselves in more healthy manners.