Cobra Kai has a major problem that needs to be fixed – digitalspy.com

Posted: January 3, 2022 at 1:49 am

Cobra Kai spoilers follow.

There have been four films, a remake and four seasons of a reboot series, but it's time to admit it the Karate Kid franchise has a girl problem.

The beloved collection of kickass karate champions and underdogs remains a staple of 80s nostalgia. From the moment Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) was taken under the wing of Mr Miyagi (the late Pat Morita), fans everywhere became devoted quicker than you can say "Wax on, wax off".

Now, in its own underdog tale, Cobra Kai has proven able to stand on its own foot, crane kicking its way into becoming a trusted and enjoyable progression of the story.

Back in 1984, The Karate Kid was unashamedly a boys' club kind of movie, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. The tale of finding your inner strength and overcoming obstacles was universal regardless. It made karate cool. It gave the bullied viewers aspirations of overcoming their tormentors.

37 years on, it's remained that way, and it's time to do better.

There's no denying the fourth film, the gender-swapped The Next Karate Kid in 1994, ground the franchise to a halt. To date, it has a gut-wrenching score of 7% on Rotten Tomatoes, with People's reviewer labelling the film "a desperate attempt to keep the franchise alive and kicking" using "backhanded political correctness".

This was somewhat echoed by Entertainment Weekly, who commented in a passive-aggressive dismissal of the movie: "There is something bitchin' about seeing a babe give a bully a good thwack. Not that girls will go see this or boys will care."

The Next Karate Kid's only real achievement was giving Hilary Swank her first leading role as Julie Pierce, who Mr Miyagi decides to train in order to curb her anger issues.

But it seems the film has left The Karate Kid franchise with a bit of a war wound, and in a "once bitten, twice shy" move, it's reverted back to leaving women with one of three jobs: a) a love interest, b) a damsel in distress or c) a combination of the two.

This happened in Karate Kid with Johnny and Daniel over Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue), and in Karate Kid II with Kumiko, who was kidnapped and held at ransom by Chozen to lure Daniel to him. In Karate Kid III, it's Jessica Andrews (Robin Lively), who has a will they/won't they friendship with Daniel until she's dragged into the karate feud.

But The Next Karate Kid didn't fail because it was a girl in the lead role, it failed because it was forcing a female character into a boys' franchise in a way that felt unnatural. Where's LaRusso gone? Why is there no one we recognise apart from Miyagi? The emotional tie was cut, and so too was the franchise's lifespan. That is, until Cobra Kai came along in 2018.

Cobra Kai, which was bought from YouTube Red by Netflix after season two, works because the heart of the movie remains strong, and it's just self-aware enough of its own ludicrousness to get away with it. Rather than start from scratch, the show reangled itself, taking on the point of view of Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), the original villain who, as it turns out, has his own perspective on how the original film's plot played out.

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Over the course of four seasons, it's developed a unique style of storytelling that is faithful to the teachings of Miyagi himself. There are two sides to every story. There's always a yin to your yang.

Cobra Kai's plot has also allowed the reintroduction of more old faces, giving old enemies a shot at redemption, old friends the goodbye they deserved, and the All-Valley tournament the battle they craved. In the modern day, it also allows for more diversity.

However, while former foes such as Chozen who literally almost killed Daniel in a deathmatch fight back in Karate Kid II are given a shot at being a good guy, sadly, even after four seasons, Swank's Julie Pierce is yet to be offered the same.

And once again, the women have been relegated to the sidelines.

As it stands, the new generation of Cobra Kai and Miyagi-Do dojos have a grand total of one (1) major female character each Tory Nichols (Peyton List) and Samantha LaRusso (Mary Mouser). Their initial introductions seemed promising, perhaps a little complicated, tales of who they're assumed to be by their peers, over who they want to be.

But by season four their arcs have become stale, with their only main conflict now being with each other, over their romantic entanglements with the two lead boys, Robbie (Tanner Buchanan) and Miguel (Xolo Mariduea).

Tory's troubled backstory is there, but has been stretched out now for three seasons, and only seems to be mentioned when she has done, or is about to do, something potentially irredeemable. This girl has threatened flat-out murder on Samantha over the course of the show, and brought spiked knuckle dusters to a school brawl. Yet we're actually no closer to finding out that much about her history than when we first heard about it, other than the stony sensei Kreese feeling some sympathy and protectiveness towards her.

In turn, Samantha lived in her father Daniel's shadow as a karate champion, and after finding herself dragged back into that world, became more headstrong for it. But this has somehow morphed into a character who believes she can do no wrong and, like Tory rightly points out, doesn't understand the word no.

With the exception of 'mom' roles Carmen and Amanda, who are there to provide exposition and a quippy comment about how ridiculous karate battles are respectively, that's pretty much it. Others have been cut out. Samantha's gal pals practically don't exist any more.

Actress Nichole Brown, who played fan favourite Aisha, had to take to Instagram to confirm she'd been dropped from the show, seemingly without explanation, between the second and third seasons. The outcry this caused no doubt played a hand in her season four cameo, which explained her parents had decided to move them away following a school fight that left one kid in hospital with a broken back. To be fair, that's a great real-life parenting decision, but a flimsy excuse in the world of Cobra Kai.

Somehow Cobra Kai, instead of finally giving girls the platform in the Miyagi-verse they deserve, and one boys will actually pay attention to, has fallen back to their old format.

It's a shame to see Tory and Samantha being led down the same path when they weren't initially set up to.

It's 2022. Time for the girls to fight their own battles and be more than a subplot.

Cobra Kai is available now on Netflix.

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Cobra Kai has a major problem that needs to be fixed - digitalspy.com

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