Up until now, I’ve only had one qualm with The Karate Kid: the circumstances that force young Daniel Russo to become a kid who does karate. Early on, Daniel relocates from New Jersey to the San Fernando Valley. Despite the daunting task of having to fit in with a strange new peer group, he instantly wins over a bunch of bros by holding his own in a game of beach-soccer. He even musters the courage to flirt with a young lady in front of his teammates, which in the world of high school boys in the 80s means instant street cred. After that young woman’s recent ex-boyfriend begins to harass her, Daniel is the only one with the guts to stand up to him, and he gets his world rocked by beach-karate in her honor. Here comes my problem. Instead of Daniel’s teammates being impressed by his courage and carrying him home on their shoulders, they make fun of him for not knowing karate and leave him to his beach-tears.
No way does that happen.
I’ve been annoyed by this fictional group of high school boys’ specious reasoning for over 20 years. It turns out, however, that I may have been looking at this scene, and the rest of the movie, wrong. We all have.
YouTuber J. Matthew Turner just released a video essay that makes a shockingly convincing case that Daniel is in fact the true villain of Karate Kid. Not Johnny. Not the rest of the Cobra Kai. Not Miyagi. Well, maybe partially Miyagi. Turner does not have such nice words for him.
“The Karate Kid: Daniel is the REAL Bully” walks viewers step by step through the facts of the movie. In some instances, Turner uses clever editing to make his points work. In other instances, though, he is 100% right, putting everything you know/remember/love about the film in an entirely different context. For instance, when the Cobra Kai’s sansei forbids the group from engaging with Daniel before the big karate tournament, why does Daniel use this ensured protection to brazenly taunt the team? Kind of a dick move for a hero.
Have a look at the video, and let us know in the comments below whether you think anything else in Turner’s case holds water.