Cobra Kai: A Nostalgic Show That Appeals to All

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"Cobra Kai" is a continuation of the beloved "Karate Kid". The series on YouTube Red and Netflix follows the main characters of the classic movie from which it originated.

Benjie Thimangu, Radical Reviewer

TV reboots of classic movies have often fallen short of delivering fans something new and exciting while still maintaining feelings of nostalgia of the original. That is not the case in “Cobra Kai”, “The Karate Kid”’s continuation. 

“Cobra Kai” resonates with Generation Xers who loved the original while reaching Generation Zers by adding a modern twist. 

Originally released  in 2018 exclusively on YouTube Red, “Cobra Kai” didn’t reach fans of “The Karate Kid”. That changed in late August when it first aired on Netflix, leading to a lot of views and excitement.

The show revives the rivalry between the original “Karate Kid” antagonist, Johnny Lawrence and Danny Larusso 34 years after the famous fight in the 1984 movie. 

In the original movie, Lawrence is a wealthy, popular high school student. He trained at the original Cobra Kai karate dojo. He was portrayed as a classic movie bully, regularly picking on other classmates with his friends from the dojo. As an adult, though, Lawrence lives a sad life as a repairman, barely scraping by, and living in a poorly maintained apartment.

Meanwhile, Larusso had made a name for himself by opening a few successful luxury car dealerships.

Lawrence is struggling with being an adult, but that all changes when he meets Miguel Diaz, played by Xolo Maridueña, a high school student.

Lawrence decides to open up a dojo in order to teach Diaz to stand up for himself and fight.

The show is very intriguing since it manages to portray the beloved characters in a modern light. The traditional cafeteria bully and nerd that were represented in countless coming of age movies from the 80s and 90s might seem cheesy in entertainment today. In “Cobra Kai,” however, the writers did a very good job at making realistic characters.

Lawrence is a stereotypical adult that peaked during high school. As an adult, he struggles to navigate the modern world and never left his hometown. He has the traits of a bygone time, using mildly misogynistic and homophobic terms that would not be seen as politically correct in today’s society. 

Despite that, I never got the impression that Lawrence was a bad person or felt it was an unrealistic portrayal. After thirty years, he has had a chance to reflect and change his ways. He seemed like a flawed hero, put into a role of authority that he was never meant to be in. 

Miguel struggles with popularity and a crush on one of the most popular girls in the school. He is something of an introvert, but he wants to be more than just the quiet kid who sits alone at lunch. This is a feeling that teenagers from the 80s as well as today can relate to.

Even though the plot is predictable, the writers have modernized the story with new twists. As someone with parents who grew up in the 80s, I was raised around movies of that time period, such as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “The Breakfast Club”, “The Karate Kid”, and other high school movies, so I had some idea of the inspiration for “Cobra Kai.”However, unlike the original movie, there are more comedic scenes.

It’s easy to assume that the show would try to ride off of Gen X’s nostalgia, as many reboots these days have attempted. And while there are nods to the original with similar scenes and music from the 80s, there are also new conflicts and growth in characters. Millennials and Gen Z can find a newly refreshing comedy that combines tropes from coming of age stories and modern movies.

“Cobra Kai” really sets itself apart from other teen shows and movies of the past decade because it has something for all viewers. Unlike many modern teen movies and shows, “Cobra Kai” does an excellent job of keeping up with modern culture. It does not feel like it’s caught in the past, and by showing Diaz and Lawrence as the new protagonists, it gives viewers a new perspective on a movie that was very black and white.

In the “Karate Kid,” it is easy to see that Lawrence is meant to be purely evil, without at all considering his side of the story. However, after watching “Cobra Kai,” viewers get to see a different perspective that the original story did not show.

Overall, it’s not hard to see why Rotten Tomatoes rates the show at 94%. The combination of young and new characters with old, nostalgic ones as well as a new twist on an old story all generations can relate to, leads to a show that anyone can enjoy.