A Leg Sweeping Fantasy
Updated: Dec 6, 2020
Growing up in the age of the action hero, it’s hard to imagine a time when I didn’t want to be a leg-sweeping bad-ass. Van Damme in Bloodsport, Segal in Under Siege, Wesley Snipes in Blade, and Jackie Chan in everything. Fast fists, strong kicks, and the ability to fend off multiple stinky-looking bad guys regardless of their size.
You don’t need money or weapons, just your body and some insulting one-liners to leave your mark. Stallone and Schwarzenegger are the Kings of this genre, however their physique, while tantalizing, can alienate the average guy. No movie inspires quite like 1984’s The Karate Kid, especially for a New Jersey boy like myself.
Don’t be that guy that points out the lack of realism. I get it. You get. We all get it. Wait for my forthcoming other post, Krav Maga Guy if you’re hellbent on ruining the fantasy.
The Karate Kid is about a financially disadvantaged teenager who relocates to the California coast with his single-mom. Originally from New Jersey, he’s continually reminded of where he falls in the economic pecking order. He crushes on Elizabeth Shue, meets Mr. Miagi, then wins the local karate tournament, defeating John Creese and his cult like doctrine of Cobra Kai.
Need we say more?
It’s important to note a few things:
F. Scott Fitzgerald couldn’t have written a story of classism this satisfying
Winning the championship wasn’t about winning the girl
Knowledge is power
Good teachers produce good students
Money wasn’t needed to be successful
Country clubs are for one-percenters
The ability to connect to this movie is what made Bruce Willis in Die Hard so successful. He was a regular trying to patch-up his shoddy marriage over Christmas but was interrupted by Professor Snape and his band of terrorists. Windguardium leviosa suckas. John McClane and Daniel Larusso have plenty in common; they weren’t the biggest, smartest, wealthiest, etc. but they were right guy for that moment. It’s the wrong place wrong time idea.
Is the metaphor too heavy handed?
A poor kid meets a mysterious WWII Veteran who teaches him karate. Through their friendship, he develops the skills necessary to defeat a cult like gang of wealthy white Aryan kids. Even after cheating took place in the All Valley Tournament, Daniel and Mr. Miagi persevered in their quest.
The small apartment The empty pool The move across the country Embarrassed on the beach Mom driving on dates Not that boy from Reseda? The car stalling in front of her house Halloween beatdown Wax-on Wax-off Country club mess Sweep the leg You’re Alright Larusso
The Karate Kid is story about a kid who is constantly reminded of his places on the economic fringes of society. Could his situation be worse? Sure. Could it be better? Absolutely. He didn’t need the ivy league karate equivalent. His success story is one of personal validation through hard-work, dedication, and the encouragement of an east-Asian man. Daniel Larusso belonged.
Miagi is proud of you.
Despite his journey to validation, there are those who believe Daniel was the true bully in The Karate Kid. Stay tuned for an upcoming post about this fascinating theory.
In the meantime, do yourself a favor and watch Cobra Kai on Netflix.