“The Karate Kid is the story of Daniel, a violent sociopath who moves to a California town and begins tormenting a local boy and his friends.” That’s the opening statement of J. Matthew Turner’s new video, which proposes that moviegoers got it all wrong! Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) was the true hero of The Karate Kid, while Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) is the bully who starts every fight in the movie.
The thing you have to understand is that before 2010, The Karate Kid wasn’t just a horrible remake starring Jaden Smith. It was the Rocky of the ‘80s — the tale of an underdog and his beloved Sensei, Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki “Pat” Morita). You’d have a hard time finding a more ‘80s movie than The Karate Kid. Like that song on its soundtrack, it was truly “The Best Around.”
Over the course of his nearly five-minute video, Turner makes his case for Johnny’s unappreciated heroism. And granted, Turner is correct when he points out that Daniel instigated most of the fights in the film. Daniel was very quick to anger, and he almost always took the bait when Johnny and his Cobra Kai brethren provoked him. Also, the incident at the Halloween party was totally Daniel’s fault. You don’t mess with a dude while he’s sparking a J! That’s just asking for trouble.
I have to admit that “the demon sorcerer Miyagi” is a very funny line, but I think Turner’s argument is doomed from the start. While Turner tries to change the narrative of the film with his amusing voiceover, it doesn’t change the fact that Johnny’s buddy, Bobby (Ron Thomas) intentionally tripped Daniel during the soccer game. Nor does Johnny and his Cobra Kai bros running Daniel off of the road translate into “your violence will not be tolerated.”
Nice try, Mr. Turner. But your video reminds us of the people who try to find proof that Draco Malfoy wasn’t that bad of a guy in the Harry Potter novels and movies. Compared to Draco, Johnny’s a saint. And Johnny’s one real moment of nobility at the end of The Karate Kid doesn’t change what a huge jerk he is.
Nerdist readers! It’s time for you to share your opinion: did Turner successfully argue for Johnny’s heroism? Or is Daniel still the true hero of The Karate Kid? You decide!