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“Cobra Kai”, the popular series recently re-released on Netflix, could mean much more than just something to binge-watch. In the late seventies, director John G. Avildsen made America and the whole world to fall in love with “Rocky”. Rocky (Sylvester Stallone), a loser and unmotivated boxer, finds a unique opportunity -one of those that only the social elevator of capitalism can provide- and he succeeds thanks to personal effort, competition and the spirit of self-improvement and sacrifice.
In the sixties and seventies, culture was taken over by leftist ideas, loaded with cynicism, contempt and resentment toward these values, because they were typical of the “American dream,” from which they said one had to wake up and forget. In the eighties, Rocky’s success helped to restore these values and contributed to the triumph of Ronald Reagan. Rocky and Reagan managed to remind Americans of their dream, allowing them to once again feel proud and grateful for these principles that had been the basis of the most prosperous country in the world.
In 1984, shortly after Ronald Reagan was elected the 40th President of the United States, the film The Karate Kid, also directed by John G. Avildsen, was released. It was not only a box office and critical success, but also generated a great cultural and social influence, especially in the adolescents of the eighties. Thanks to this film, a large number of young Americans signed up for karate lessons or other martial arts classes, overcoming the fear and mistrust their parents’ generation felt towards the traditional “Asian enemy”; in particular Japan -which belonged to the Axis during World War II-, country of origin of the iconic master in the film, Sensei Miyagi (Noriyuki “Pat” Morita). The virtues of the “American dream” that Rocky had promoted through boxing were the same ones that The Karate Kid now transmitted through the oriental martial arts.
Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), a teenager of Italian descent, the son of a single, working-class mother who just moved to All-Valley in Los Angeles, finds in Mr. Miyagi’s teachings a way to deal with the harassment he is beginning to experience in his new school from a group of boys studying karate at the Cobra Kai dojo. In particular, he engages in a strong rivalry with Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), a young karateka raised in abundance by a millionaire stepfather, as LaRusso begins to seduce Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue), who has been Johnny’s girlfriend for the past two years. The end of this story, known to all, is that LaRusso wins the final fight against Lawrence in the All-Valley karate tournament, conquering not only the championship, but also Ali’s heart. His effort, hard work, and not allowing himself to be trapped by victimhood in the face of adversity made him win. The ideas that had now become fashionable were those that the left had been rejecting, while Reagan’s new right had embraced them. The cultural and political balance was shifting to the Republican side.
In November 2016 Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States and shortly after, in May 2018, Cobra Kai was released, a sequel to The Karate Kid -with its first three seasons produced by Youtube and now in the hands of Netflix- taking over the lives of Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence 34 years after what happened in that summer of ’84. But this time, the real hero and protagonist of the series is not Daniel LaRusso and, just as The Karate Kid helped to reconcile with the “Japanese enemy”, Cobra Kai redeems Johnny Lawrence before the audience.
The series starts with Johnny now in his fifties, traumatized by the defeat against LaRusso during his youth. With no championship, no girlfriend, no stable job and without the help of his rich stepfather after the death of his mother, Johnny is divorced from a woman of dissolute life and has a juvenile delinquent son. He is an alcoholic who only drinks Coors beer. He still drives his old Pontiac and lives in the impoverished and dangerous immigrant neighborhood where Daniel LaRusso once lived. Daniel LaRusso, by contrast, is a snob who now lives in a rich neighborhood after his victory in the Karate Tournament that made him a local star, allowing him to boost his successful business of importing cars, especially Japanese ones. Although not explicitly mentioned, it is evident that Daniel LaRusso is a voter and perhaps even a donor of the Democratic Party, while Johnny Lawrence has the profile of a Trump voter.
When Johnny Lawrence meets his new neighbor Miguel (Xolo Maridueña), a young Hispanic immigrant, and defends him from his high school bullies, he finds an opportunity to straighten out his path and redeem himself. He takes Miguel under his wing and reopens the Cobra Kai dojo. His teaching methods are harsh and offensive, but “how are you going to defend yourself from a punch if you can’t even take an insult?”. His method was what Miguel and other harassed youths in school needed. They had been left behind by the system, accustoming them to the culture of offense and victimhood.
The series is breaking all ratings and seems to have found a way to satisfy all those viewers who, like Johnny, have for years felt subjected to a constant erosion of these good values that they had been taught as children as the right ones. Cobra Kai has been a breath of fresh air for people fed up with the victimhood and political correctness that in recent times seems to have flooded everything. It has succeeded in appealing to young people and adults who are desperately searching for meaning and purpose in their lives, disoriented by the counter-values promoted by the cultural and political left.
Sensei Johnny Lawrence’s “Way of the Fist” is not Jordan Peterson’s “12 Rules for Living“, but they are very similar. In essence, they are the values and beliefs from Rocky and The Karate Kid, the same that Reagan rescued in the eighties to govern for two terms and that now Donald Trump has made his own after, as then, the left abandoned to give in to counter-values such as relativism, the culture of victimization and identity and gender politics. According to audience data, it seems that the silent majority identifies with the conservative values of Johnny Lawrence and Donald Trump. “Cobra Kai Never Dies”.
Ignacio Manuel García Medina, Business Management teacher. Artist and lecturer specialized in Popular Culture for various platforms. Presenter of the program "Pop Libertario" for the Juan de Mariana Institute. Lives in the Canary Islands, Spain // Ignacio M. García Medina es profesor de Gestión de Empresas. Es miembro del Instituto Juan de Mariana y conferenciante especializado en Cultura Popular e ideas de la Libertad.
Social Networks: @ignaciomgm