Cumberland Falls, Cumberland Falls State Park, Honeybee/Corbin, Kentucky

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Sunday, August 30, 2020

Cobra Kai Comes to Netflix - With Mercy :)

So being that we were receiving much of the rain fallout from Hurricane Laura, yesterday, we stayed in and binge-watched seasons 1 and 2 of Cobra Kai, which just landed on Netflix.  

We have YouTube TV (streaming service), but the show was only offered through YouTube Premium, which we don't have; however, it was such a hit, Netflix bought viewing rights :)

My husband, who studied Muay Thai, was always a fan, and so was I because,  you know, I was a teenage girl in the 80s - and who wasn't Karate Kid fan, back then? :)

In fact, though Ralph Macchio wasn't my biggest teenage crush (that would be Sting, but more often than not, my teenage crushes changed as often as the color of my hair Scrunci),  my first love/boyfriend Ben, was very much like Daniel;  a sweet, principled, empathetic, charismatic Italian kid, whose family struggled - minus the karate  - he was a soccer star instead :)

Ben was never the small kid, but he had been "the fat kid" as a child, before getting into soccer and slimming down/muscling out - and never forgot what it was like to be bullied and struggle - and still never has, to this day :)

My husband now, of course is the same way.  Being shorter all his life, he had his share of bullying, and thus became the best all-around athlete and college scholar he could be - and he, too, never forgets what it was like to be bullied :)

And me?  

Well, I think I've mentioned I had my share of bullying - mostly in my own family and as a child in my family at elementary/middle school.

The school bullying stopped when I was in high school, but continued with my family - and returned otherwise outside of the home at age 37 online (and a couple of workplaces, while in a vulnerable place, it apparently was open season for sharks)  - but let's just leave it at that :)

Regardless, back to Cobra Kai, I gotta say - both Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (Billy Zabka) both look pretty good for their ages - 54 and 58 respectively, eh? 

Is it the best thing I've ever seen?  

No, but it's surprisingly entertaining.

It manages to recapture some of the magic, despite still mostly being in the vein of 80s cheese, by making fun of itself, but with an updated draw to millenial teenagers watching - and it show the characters through a bit more of a complex lens, rather than all good or all bad guys - it shows that humans can be both, especially depending on how they interpret - or misinterpret - an action that someone else took. 

And not only is it chocked full of 80s classic songs, but also incorporates the more WTF 80s soundtrack moments - ya know, where they pipe in garage-band songs with extended bad guitar solos at points that don't necessarily match the mood (and are sometimes inappropriate?

Like when a character is like ... staring at the sunset with teenage angst or after lost love lol.  

Or during an 80s-style mid-movie montage, of kids learning karate the old school way that Daniel did, "wax on/wax off" waxing cars and painting fences lol. 

However, these scenes are SO over the top, that's it's no longer intended to be a poignant moment, but an intentional LOL moment - never taking itself too seriously :) 

Or things that we did then, that would never fly now - like Johnny, trying to get the word out about the return of Cobra Kai cheaply, by passing out flyers the old school way instead of using social media, at the local basketball court, telling the guys playing they can get those 'hot babes' watching them, if they impress them by learning karate.  

The guys were like, "Well, we were just gonna go talk to them, but yeah ... instead we'll go with trying to impress them ... by learning karate from some old dude creeping around the park, we just met." 


And when he finally does agree to using social media, he tells the kids, "Put one of those hash browns, at the end, yeah. You know - Hash brown Cobra Kai."

LOL again.

As far as being updated politically, it's very diverse, yes - and finally accepts women (which was always stupid they didn't, because karate in Japan was always taught to both genders for self-defense, just not military-style karate for women). 

It's inclusive, yes - HOWEVER - it also kind of makes fun of both sides of politics, too. 

For example, Daniel's biggest competitor takes a swipe at him for not being a true patriot and unAmerican, because of his love and respect of both karate and Japanese culture that instilled in him by his father figure, Mr. Miyagi -  especially by giving away a bonsai instead of an American cactus with every car sale.

However, for exact same reasons, the political left accuses him of "cultural appropriation!" 

Sigh, the poor guy can't win lol. 

Daniel is now a car dealership owner, which you can totally see, actually, capitalizing on his charisma - but he is, in fact, an honest one (nod to Mr. Miyagi).   

He's still a great guy, but also shows his flaws, by becoming obsessed with a rematch with Cobra Kai, after misinterpreting some of Johnny's efforts to rebuild Cobra Kai (but differently) - and Johnny doing the same, at times, escalating the problem.  

And that's what's especially interesting about this series, is the it's insight into Johnny's version of events, and where he was coming from, at the time.  

We always knew that there was actually a heart under the bully, because he didn't want to "sweep the leg" at the end, his Sensei Kreese insisted - but Johnny initially blames his life on that moment of mercy, weakening him, instead of understanding lack of mercy was the problem. 

At first, Johnny's still driving around his old Firebird, listening to Guns N Roses, clearly stuck in the 80s, and you're like, "Oh, dear, like so many popular kids we all went to high school with,  he's still stuck there, reliving his glory days, every day."

However, you find out that he's NOT wealthy anymore, actually living paycheck to paycheck as a stucco contractor, has a drinking problem, and the rich family?  

It was actually actually his stepdad's money, who was very abusive to him, and thus why he turned to karate for self-defense and confidence - and the money wasn't accessible to him after his mother died, he was on his own. 

As he says to Daniel, in the movie, "Just because someone has a pretty house on the outside doesn't mean what's going on, on the inside, is so pretty."  


This conversation happens, of course, during a bonding/reparation scene, after Daniel replaces his car, with a 2009 Charger, for free - at Daniel's hilarious wife''s urging - because Daniel's cousin had Johnny's Firebird set on fire, without Daniel's knowledge) - right after they head bob and sing REO Speedwagon together lol.

Okay, I know ... REO Speedwagon had the kind of 80s rock sound that hasn't aged well/hasn't held the test of time/isn't respected now (and I get it) -  but I don't care who you are, or what background you came from, all children who grew up in the 80s will sing along with REO Speedwagon in the car, when they come around the radio ... LOL!

There are actually two scenes include this one, and at the bar, worth a watch: 

Daniel:  "So ... your stepdad was an asshole, huh?"  Back in the day, I just figured you were living the life.  Fancy cars, motorcycles.

Johnny:  "It had its moments.  But I used to come home and get bullied every day.  That's why I joined Cobra Kai.  Kreese gave me more attention than I ever got at home.  The guy was more than a sensei, I mean, he was basically a father.  You wouldn't understand." 

Daniel:  "My Dad died when I was 8.  Mr. Miyagi was more like a father to me.  It's crazy, man.  Both finding karate role models." 

Johnny:  "Yeah.  Except yours didn't break your trophy and try to kill you." 

Daniel:  "That is true."

And also, let's be honest - Daniel stole Johnny's girl - and he really was in love with Ally, and never quite got over her.  

Of course, the better man won, at the time, because Johnny WAS a asshole (and still somewhat is, while trying to change ) - but also, coming from the background that Johnny was coming from,  you can see how impactful that being in love was, to the kid that otherwise had been shown "No Mercy." 

This bonding moment is short-lived, however, because even when they bond for a minute, their warring students keep shit going, and the misinterpretations and distrust keep happening. 

And therein lies the biggest message to the movie:  When you're bullied as a kid - in school, your family, online, or in life - you now have a choice ...

... you can either use that experience to empower yourself to become a more honorable, empathetic person, that never does the same to anyone, and helps/defends others  ...

- OR - 

 ... you can become bitter and vindictive, trying to appear invulnerable, making others feel just as bad or worse then you did - essentially becoming an even bigger, scarier bully, yourself, imagining that you're justified. 

Luckily, though my husband, myself, and even that first love, I mentioned, went through a "be meaner than evil" in attempt to never appear vulnerable again, during our late teens and/or early 20s - it didn't take :)

However, important side note, here - that phase of mine was exactly the reason why I lost Ben, at age 22 - because I became "meaner than evil," in effort to try to not be bullied/mistreated by others anymore, trying to not appear so vulnerable :(

Not physically, verbally - I began to increasingly become bitter and shred people who even looked at me or my friends in a strange way, became selfish, demanding, and expected him, and the world, to make up to me what I didn't have as a child :(

He knew it wasn't the real me, the one he fell in love with - and who I was emulating.  He tried to warn me of what I was doing -  because he'd done it himself, for a brief time, when he went from the fat kid to "cool" soccer star - but at the time, I didn't listen - and broke up with me. 

In fact, I'll never forget what he said, the wisdom he had - though both of us were only 22:

Ben:  "Chrystal, I love you, I probably always will - but you're not the same person - and I need to end this because I love myself as much as I love about you - and lately, it's become all about you and what YOU'RE going through.." 
"That girl who wanted to save the world is now becoming the merciless bully, not wanting to feel like that skinny little "weak" girl anymore.  Well I fell in love with her, the sensitive, gentler one.  I like the sassy, smart girl, too - but I don't even know who THIS is - this is somebody else."

Me:   "But ... but ... you didn't have a life like mine ... you've struggled, sure, but your family loves you ..."

Ben:  "No.  No more.  No more excuses.  Yes, you were dealt a shitty hand, but the world actually doesn't owe you shit.  I don't owe you shit.  I DO know what you've been through, and I've put up with a lot lately because of that - but that's not an excuse.  What you've had to deal with was horrible, I'm not knocking it - but there are people have been through worse - remember that?  Remember the girl who wanted to get into social work to help people going through even worse than herself?  Where did she go?" 
"And I know what you're doing because I've done it for a while at first, in soccer.  I know it may feel powerful?  But it's not - it's weakness.  And in the end, not only are you hurting, but so are they.  You're becoming the people who made you.  They didn't start out as bad people either.  It's a choice, Chrystal. I love you, but ... goodbye."

Now, young ones reading - this was in person - not via text, email, or even even phone - never have this sort of conversation the coward's way - do it face to face, as gently as you can.

Because though it hit me like a ton of bricks, and at first, I tried to make myself the victim - which is, of course, what my parents and older sister did/do - I then quickly realized that is as gentle as he could say it, making myself the victim of the situation only proved what I knew to be true, which was - he was right.

However, we have spoken since - in the late 90s, and again, in 2017 on Facebook, after my husband's stroke. 

I apologized both times, repeatedly.  And even though he said he he forgave me when we spoke in 1997, I apologized again.

He said, even the first time:  "You were always too hard on yourself, even then, when you became that way.  I knew who the real you was, and I understood what you were doing and why.  And you didn't have the best role models.  But that isn't you.  Glad you realized it. I forgave you a long time ago - but you need to forgive yourself."  

I said, "Well, thank you for breaking up with me lol - because I wouldn't have, if you hadn't.  You gave me the biggest tough love lesson of my life, in the perfect way, I needed it - and you were right."

And he was also right about not forgiving myself for a long time, over it - because even though he had already said it in 1997, it wasn't until I met my current husband in 2011, that I understood it. 

Until then, I kept hooking up with losers who mistreated/abused me, as self-punishment for what I'd done - because I took this  lesson too far and thought that's what I deserved, both as punishment for Ben, and thinking maybe my family bullies were right about me.

But then I met my current husband - who is much like Ben - but also like other honorable men in my life, he's the BEST composite of honorable men  :) 

So we're both happily married now, by the way, but grateful for the lessons we learned and how lucky we both were to have such a beautiful first love as prototypes for our current spouses :) 

And don't get me wrong - I can still pull out verbally-shredding-but-funny girl, if the situation calls for it - but the situation rarely calls for it. 

Particularly, if I see other people being ganged up on/bullied mercilessly, rather than myself - although I have learned to pull out verbal-shredding girl for myself, too, if someone is relentless and just refuses to cut out their shit out towards me. 

I don't like to have to take the gloves off and do that - but there are still some situations that call for it, after everything else has been tried, too - including trying to walk away and they keep following ;)

And we're all tempted, at times - in fact, about two years ago, after being fed up with a few people's BS for too long, I came dangerously close to that again.

They honestly did deserve to be called out, but I took it too far - catching myself just shy of completely going off that cliff again.

But the point is, we figured out, pretty early on, that though this worked for other people in our lives, this isn't who we were overall, nor who we wanted to be, stooping to their level - and chose the former - but some people don't.

Because I've personally witnessed that happen - both almost to myself, but also a close childhood friend of mine, and that older sister I mentioned - both of whom, unfortunately, never passed through that "phase," but stayed stuck there. 

They still have empathy, but mostly for people they overly identify with (which is actually more accurately sympathy) -  but otherwise, over-compensated by becoming verbally abusive (and one of them physically), bullying bitches, towards certain others unwarranted, imagining they are still the victims of the situation and fully justified.

Essentially, they have both became the thing they never wanted to be, due to bitterness,  as well as never wanting to be seen as, or feel, that vulnerable again. 

Unfortunately, I hate to admit it - but  at least in my experience, the latter type of bully - the bullied-victim-turned-bully is most likely a fellow modern-day liberal - someone who for whatever reason, didn't fit in the white Christian, cool mode in some way - and was bullied - and became a bully, not wanting to ever appear that vulnerable again:(

But you're not off the hook, modern-day conservatives - because at least in my experience, it is most likely you who inflicted that pain as the original bully - because of your wealth, your privilege, your tendency to imagine yourselves superior, you're inability to relate to struggle, and your judging/bullying anyone different than yourselves - abusing power, but always playing the victim, later, and knowing people will typically believe you, if you have more wealth - and you know it ;) 

(Not always - but more often than not, at least in my experience - this is true/has been the case.)

However, my fellow liberals still have a choice of what to do with that pain - and they're facing that choice, right now, actually.

Do we want to become bullies, stoop to their level and fight dirty, being vindictive, after being bullied/oppressed - like Johnny once did and Hawk currently does?

- OR - 

Do we want to be like Daniel - who though loses close touch of what it was like to be bullied and struggle in his current over-privileged bubble, still always remembers his empathy, what it was like to struggle, and defending the side of the under-privileged, the oppressed, the poor, the marginalized, the minority, the underdog, and the bullied? 

Daniel is, of course, not perfect - he doesn't practice or teach karate anymore, he just used his legacy to sell cars and become wealthy (which he realizes that he's done, during the series).

So the bullied nerds, smaller kids, minorities, and/or marginalized kids are thus drawn instead to the broken and financially broke Cobra Kai instead, to try to empower themselves and be more confident ...

... and some of them use the old "strike first"  and "no mercy" methods Johnny at first regurgitates - to become monsters themselves.

For example, Eli, with the cleft-lip surgery car, chronically bullied - transforms into "Hawk" - who at first, is cool, but eventually becomes a merciless, amoral a-hole ... 

... even towards his former nerd bestie.

However, over time, Johnny watches this happen and begins to re-evaluate the message - which Daniel realizes at the same time, when he begins to cross the dirty line to compete with Cobra Kai - and that message is there's "No Mercy" to win - and there's fighting honorably, even if you lose - which kind of person are you?

Now, for the entire first season, Johnny is still pretty much a douche - but he begins to realize that he's a douche, and that maybe the way that he learned to deal with life, win at all costs, with a bad role model (Sensei Kreese) is his entire problem - that his inability to live up to the "No Mercy" mentality  while fighting Daniel didn't make him weak or soft - it made him honorable.

Johnny begins to realize maybe life isn't a series of calculated moves, and that people - especially women -  more often than not respond to genuineness rather than efforts to impress them - especially these days - as well as he realizes that showing mercy doesn't show weakness, it shows honorable character - which is true to the original form of karate. 

However, while in this state, he gives Kreese a second chance, showing him mercy, believing people can change and that everyone deserves a second chance like he needs - which is a big mistake - because it's case by case - some people truly will never change - and perhaps it's best to not fight them, not enable - just walk away.

And it isn't until his former HS buddy - played again by Rob Garrison - who was dying in real life from kidney and liver problems in real life, when he reprised the role   -  dies - after all of them having a talk about their regrets, and one final barroom fight - ironically considering their former selves - with a bully. 

(Rob Garrison - on the left -  died in real life from kidney/liver failure, not long after those scenes were filmed, by the way.)

Daniel, on the other hand, has life by the tail.

Though he does appreciate it, and is still a good guy, he has also lost touch with karate.

Although he still employs many of the life lessons Mr. Miyagi taught him with the people around him (he uses karate more as a selling tactic than a way of life) - until he realizes how much easier this is to do, when you're life is perfect and you have money - but that doesn't mean that you are in balance, either.

At first, he doesn't realize he's out of balance until his old high school rivalry to dominate his life -  and ends up abusing his money and power to try to crush Johnny's fledgling karate practice.

Daniel has begun to practice karate to restore work-life balance, and to teach it for free, to many of the kids that tried Cobra Kai, but realized Kreese was a psychopath, or caught Johnny during yet another confused moment between what he should do and what Kreese taught him to do.

He remembers that karate was meant to be self-defense, not offense, as well as it's intended to empower you to be honorable in both battle and in character.

His wife  - who is hilarious, by the way - constantly teases them both about their obsessions with what happened in high school, and how childish and absurd this rivalry is, 34 years later,  and makes a dent, but not completely - until he begins to lose touch with his family over it, too.

However, before that happens, there's bonding scene number 2, which comes again at the urging his Daniel's wife - especially because their kids and students are now at each other's throats ...

Though, I won't spoil it, Daniel is still out of balance by now ignoring his family and work, as well as still being partially motivating to re-practice karate to get at Johnny.

So Daniel doesn't really get it, until the final show of the last season - which actually, in my opinion, was actually fairly OTT and the most ridiculous episode yet - and not in a goofy, fun way -  until the last 90 seconds, when a main character is seriously hurt - and it's actually Johnny that first realizes what toll this ongoing karate rivalry has taken on the kids and the people they care about.

However, we will have to wait for Season 3, sometime in late 2021, to find out what happens.

Mark: "Doh, the end of 2021? Grrr." 

Me: "Well, what do you expect them to do, during COVID - karate over Zoom? lol Can you imagine what that would look like? ..."

Daniel: (on his laptop, via Zoom): "This is all YOUR fault. I'm going to crane-kick you, now, Johnny!"

(Daniel kicks at his monitor. A flash card pops up, not unlike an onscreen "Pow" from an episode of 1960s Batman.)

Johnny: (On his laptop, via Zoom): "Arggggh!" (Falls back) "You kicked me in the face, Broheim! No, this is all YOUR fault. I'm gonna sweep the leg ...." 
"Wait ... how do I make the screen bigger?"

Hahaha! Yeah .. though hilarious, I'm not sure that works :)

And sorry to disappoint you, fans - Billy and Ralph are, and were, actually really good friends, having maintained a friendship over the years :)

No, we're not talking Ozark, here - but a fun trip down memory lane with an updated twist, if nothing else, and worth a watch :)

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