Friday, October 2, 2009

Breaking Down the Members of Cobra Kai

If you were born between the years 1970 and 1979 then I'm sure you've seen the 80's classic, Karate Kid. If you haven't then you obviously grew up on a compound in Provost Utah and have 17 mommies and one daddy. All Praise To Allah.

This is my homage to a great movie and perhaps the best collection of 1980's stereotypical film antagonists, the Cobra Kai. You're welcome.

There are four main Cobra Kai who form the nucleus of KKI (Karate Kid part I): Johnny, Bobby, Tommy, and Dutch. There are others (Jimmy, Jerry, Chucky, etc.), but these four are the only ones who have any substantial roles in the film. They each also have notable speaking parts, allowing us to identify them as something other than, say, the fat kid who gets reverse roundhouse-kicked in the chest (probably the greatest move in the entire film), the token black guy (also plays the token black fag in Revenge of the Nerds), or the one who was also in Head of the Class (Jimmy, a.k.a. "The Fifth Cobra Kai"). As it turns out, each of the big four Cobra Kai is emblematic of a certain archetype of high school cool kid society: rich bully, troubled good kid, smart ass, and sociopath.

JOHNNY: Everyone's favorite, the rich bully. There is not much to say here that true fans don't already know, so I'll be brief. Johnny (played by the bad ass Billy Zabka) is the antithesis of Daniel-san: whereas Daniel-san is a small, poor, weak, ethnic kid who sucks at karate, rides a shitty bicycle, rolls up his jean cuffs like a goddamn fairy and has no friends; Johnny is a tall, strong, rich, WASPy jock who kicks ass at karate, has a cool motorcycle, cleanly shaved balls (what?) and has lots of friends. The reason why Johnny is so popular these days is because he does a great job of summarizing what internet nerds always wanted to be in high school. No one looks up to Daniel-san. Would you rather have a moderately cute girlfriend with a bunch of baby fat and no tits who respects how poor you are, or would you rather have a kickass motorcycle, a ton of money and friends, and get to nail hot freshmen all the time? Would you rather be the skinny dork in the shower costume, or the fucking karate skeleton that smokes weed? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Fun Fact: Zabka has been nominated for an Oscar. Really.
Best line: "You couldn't leave well enough alone, could you, you little twerp? No, you had to push it. Well now you're gonna pay."
Best move against Daniel-san: While most people would say sweeping the leg, this spinning heel-kick to the face was absolutely devastating. I tried to get my sensai to teach me that immediately after seeing this film for the first time. I was reminded that he taught Tae Kwon Do, not that queer Karate shit. Then he spinning heel kicked me in the face to teach me a lesson. Martial Arts builds character.

BOBBY: Bobby is a complex character, one who represents a troubled but fundamentally good kid at heart who is searching for a role model. Bobby has an independent and non-conformist streak, unique among the Cobra Kai. Consider the following.

- When we first meet the Cobra Kai, they all wear red leather jackets. Bobby's is blue.
- Same scene, Bobby declines a warm beer offered by Tommy with a brotherly "no thanks, pal." Johnny also declines, but that's because he wants to avoid his reputation of "ace degenerate," suggesting a very different past.
- Same scene again, Bobby tells Johnny to forget about Ali. Peacemaker, not a troublemaker.
- Bobby's most famous line ("Leave him alone, man, he's had enough!") shows him standing up to Johnny and Dutch against taking violence too far.
- After the hilarious kick to the knee that cripples Daniel-san, Bobby is immediately down on his knees apologizing.

All of these incidents make Bobby seem like a much nicer guy than the other Cobra Kai fucks. So why is he a Cobra Kai? It seems that Bobby needs a role model, and this is something he gets from Kreese. More than any other Cobra Kai, Bobby is the character who exemplifies "teach say student do." Throughout the tournament montage, Bobby is always looking towards Kreese for encouragement (don't get me started on the thinly veiled homo eroticism that runs rampant throughout this film. but i digress....). His exclamation of "you're history man, you're dead" sounds hollow and out of character. When Bobby spars with Jerry, Kreese has to exhort Bobby to "finish him," which is fucking brutal for everyday sparring. Even right before Bobby delivers the near-fatal blow to Daniel-san's knee, you can see him look to Kreese repeatedly for reassurance. Teacher say student do indeed.

Fun Fact: In real life, actor Ron Thomas actually is a champion martial arts guy.
Best line: "Leave him alone, man, he's had enough!"
Best move against Daniel-san: Brutal flying kick to the knee in the semis. It takes mystical Chink magic to put Daniel-san back together again.

TOMMY: Everyone knows someone like Tommy, a smart mouth who always has something funny to say but who also needs a good ass beating. A disproportionate number of the movie's most quotable non-Miyagi lines are his: "brew time, man!," "who are you kidding, you're still the ace degenerate," "take a right, check it out," "we really like your car Mrs. Larusso", "do what you gotta do Bobby," and the infamous "get him a body bag!" are all his. These lines are emblematic of his character. He's smaller and weaker than the other main Cobra Kai characters, so he makes up for this by being the perfect follower whose mouth makes him fun to have around. Guys like this are bad enough in high school when they are associated with assholes, but they are worse in college: they attach themselves to a fraternity as the crazy mascot guy who will say or do anything, and of course the older that you get the less funny that shit is. Tommy is the one who looks back to his high school days with the most fondness, because that's when the cool kids paid attention to him. Today, he's the type of guy who you want to kick in the balls. Unfortunately for our purposes of judging him, Tommy is also the character who shouts "must be take your worm for a walk week" at Daniel-san. This is quite possibly the gayest insult ever, combining as it does a ridiculous premise to begin with (a weird riff on "take your daughter to work day") with a weak insult ("worm") and excessive alliteration. Tommy loses big points here.

Fun Fact: Actor Rob Garrison was later in a soft-core porno. It was weird, i watched the entire film and there were no chicks in it.....
Best line: "Get him a body bag! Yeeeeaaah!" Fucking Brilliant.
Best move against Daniel-san: Punch to the side. Weak, but it does require Daniel-san to get taped up.

DUTCH: Dutch's character is rather confusing. I mean, until you realize that he's a psychotic. He gets phenomenally excited by the prospect of kicking the bloody hell out of Daniel-san, yet he has no credible motive for this. Johnny's desire to harm Daniel-san is understandable--Daniel-san is banging his woman. Bobby and Tommy spend more time trying to embarrass Daniel-san than anything else. Dutch, though, is different. His character is malevolent dick: he pushes Daniel-san down the hill, he's bouncing up and down and giggling like a little girl when they beat the shit out of him after the dance, and he issues a frighteningly cryptic set of threats in the locker room before the tournament. He has no real motivation for this behavior like Johnny does. So the only reasonable conclusion - and it fits the character very well - is that he's a sociopath. Everyone knows someone like this in high school, someone who beat on weaker kids just because he could, and whose favorite pastimes were malt liquor and date rape. If Tommy is the character you want to kick in the balls, Dutch is the character you want to avoid direct eye contact with. The best thing about Dutch is that Chad McQueen (who portrays him in the movie) even LOOKS like a sociopath, with those beady little eyes and that unnatural curly blond hair. Today, Chad McQueen looks like date rape is still high on his list of priorities.

Fun Fact: Actor Chad McQueen is the son of Steve McQueen (RIP)
Best line: "What's a matter, mommy not here to dress you?"
Best move against Daniel-san: Massive roundhouse kick to the eyeball. Fucking classic.

Given these different characteristics, how can we best judge the Cobra Kai? This is no easy task, for there are many different metrics. Coolest: Johnny. Best Lines: Tommy. Most Likely to Rape Your Sister: Dutch. Best to Study Algebra With: Bobby. Best Hair: Johnny. Biggest Cock..... But I submit that the true metric of the Cobra Kai is actual martial arts prowess. And here, one Cobra Kai stands out: Bobby. Bobby, you'll recall, was disqualified for excessive and deliberate contact in his only fight with Daniel-san. By contrast, Daniel-san defeated Tommy, Dutch, and Johnny (and also Jimmy and Jerry) during the tournament. That means that Bobby was actually more Chuck Norris than Johnny or the other Cobra Kai ever were. As Bobby is the only one who never lost to Daniel-san, and the only one who was able to even come close to putting Daniel-san out of commission, I hereby nominate him as the ultimate Cobra Kai.

Plus, Bobby's full name? Bobby Brown. Fuck Yea.


Ry said...

i find it hard to believe that no one has commented on this article. but i just want to say, this is a job incredibly well done. you hit the nail on the head.

glad to know there was something behind my love for karate's not just a great flick from my childhood, i think it is an all-time classic

Karl Dickens said...

Thanks Brother!

Anthony Holmes said...

Hey my man, all I have to say is kick ass blog about the famous Karate Kid movie. Glad to know someone puts this same kind of thought into this movie as I do. The only thing I would have to correct on a few things about your blog is one: only Tommy and Johnny had red jackets, Bobby had his blue one, but Dutch and Jimmy had lighter blue ones or some shade of grey and Dutch wasn't the one who threw Daniel down the hill, it was actually Johnny who kept steering him toward the hill while Dutch and the others surrounded him to make sure he couldn't escape. I know this seem a little knit picky but they're not major just small things I'd thought I'd clear up. But I completely agree with everything you said, and I especially think that Jimmy should of had more of a roll in the film other then just hanging out with the other four Cobras all the time and not doing anything cause the fact is he only said two words in the movie which was "no mercy" in the opening beach scene after Daniel punched Johnny and Johnny said "no mercy" then pummeled him. For this fact alone Jimmy may as well have been just another member of the Cobra Kai dojo and not part of Johnny's gang/friends. I really enjoyed reading this though. Major props

Anonymous said...

I hate commenting on articles that are more than a year old, but fuck it, this one's timeless. This Karate Kid piece should be on where it can be appreciated, not collecting dust here. Not to blow smoke up your ass, but this is funny as hell!

Anonymous said...

Great article. I was looking for someone to recognize the inherent goodness of Bobbi.