Proof That Daniel Was The Real Bully In The Karate Kid

Proof That Daniel Was The Real Bully In The Karate Kid

So apparently the 1984 classic The Karate Kid is not about Daniel LaRusso, the new kid in the neighbourhood, becoming the target of "Cobra Kai" member Johnny Lawrence. Nope. It's the other way around!

Johnny is the real hero, trying to make things work, but Daniel, the violent sociopath, doesn't let him. And he even gets help from the demon sorcerer Miyagi! Pretty funny theory. Makes me want to hire J. Matthew Turner, the creator of this video as my lawyer, that's for sure:


    This is a joke from how I met your mother isn't it?

    Old theory but still good. Makes sense. Poor Johnny. Feel bad for him, especially when he gets his trophy broken at the start of the second movie.

    What is creepy is that Daniel is now older than Mr Miyagi was in the movie....

      God damn. I almost downvoted you for making me feel so old.

        It is still freaking me out.

    The one thing I've always thought of with this is the scene where he drenches the guy with water in the bathroom.. all the other stuff is fine but that scene was so out of place.

    I know this is a bit of fun and a theory popularised by Barney Stinson in HIMYM but the "Johnny is the real karate kid/Daniel was a bully" theory has a few flaws.

    1) Johnny might have been on a road to redemption but he apparently still needed a massive attitude adjustment given his antics on the beach. Daniel was wrong to resort to violence so readily, but this doesn't make him the aggressor under the circumstances. He's also not completely innocent, either.

    2) He was clearly deliberately tripped in the soccer game by Johnny's cohort, using a dirty karate technique. I know this whole argument is a gag but the fact people overlook this to make Daniel look like the aggressor is irritating. Clearly Johnny was going to hold a grudge against Daniel and indirectly make his life in school hell, even if he was going to keep his own hands clean. Daniel overreacted but when we're looking at the compressed timeline of the screenplay, he needed to. This falls under the header of "it's a movie, just go with it".

    3) Daniel seeking some karate lessons is not akin to buying a gun to go after someone you have a grudge against, and Johnny's response to nearly kill Daniel by running him off the road and down a steep hill was completely out of order. Daniel had done very little if anything to provoke this kind of response.

    4) At this point Daniel is a simmering pot of impotent rage. He has to show up at a school dance, which should be a safe space, in disguise because of the threat of Johnny's presence which apparently the school authorities are powerless to do anything about. Dousing Johnny in the bathroom was a stupid stunt and Daniel's life would have been better if he'd not done it, but he's a mixed up kid trying to do something - anything - to assert himself. Johnny's entire gang thrashing him in his own backyard is again, not a proportionate response.

    5) Miyagi involved himself in a conflict to protect Daniel from harm and once Johnny's gang was down, had clearly done enough, he was satisfied - a courtesy Johnny did not extend to Daniel even when his own gang pleaded with him to stop.

    6) We learn that Johnny's violent attitude is the result of poor discipline brought on by his douchebag karate master. This is enough to make Johnny a sympathetic character to the audience, and while Daniel physically fights the students later on at the all-valley karate tournament, the master becomes the real villain from this point on.

    7) Daniel uses the agreement to taunt Johnny at school the next day, which again, is a dick move. Daniel probably thought he was going to impress the girl with his new confidence, but here is where he starts to display symptoms of arrogance mixed with insecurity which is what drove her away from Johnny to begin with. This comes to a head later on when Daniel humiliates himself at the country club and is an important part of his arc which enables him to admit his flaws and reconcile with her later.

    8) Daniel trains under Miyagi and begins to find a sense of peace. He grows massively as a character during this time but is still tormented by the history of physical abuse he's endured and knows he cannot be settled until he proves he can protect himself.

    9) Daniel is crippled during the tournament as a result of dirty fighting. Johnny and his gang have clearly matured and are hesitant to do it, but their master presses them into it and they act out of fear. They are no longer the villains in this movie. While Daniel could have bowed out at this point and likely not suffered any further torment (something Miyagi tries to tell him) he eventually convinces Miyagi that he needs to fight on or he will always doubt himself. By healing Daniel, Miyagi did nothing more than offset the dirty fighting technique that crippled him to begin with.

    10) Implausibly, Daniel masters the crane technique and kicks Johnny in the face. It's been argued that this should not have counted as it was an illegal move or wasn't worth points but I honestly don't recall where this was stated in the movie. I believe there was a face punch that was discounted earlier on but it was because the technique wasn't "clean", rather than because of where the blow landed.

    11) Johnny hands over the trophy to the new champion. Both characters started the movie as mixed-up teenagers and by the end have reached a better understanding of each other and themselves.

    12) John Kreese on the other hand punishes Johnny for losing (and is duly subdued by Miyagi) and remains an embittered failure. His dojo closes. He later calls upon an old war buddy who uses his (ill-gotten) wealth to restore the Cobra Kai dojo chain in a misguided bid to get revenge on a young karate student and his elderly master. They psychologically torment Daniel to estrange him from Miyagi and hire a mercenary to do the dirty work. Of course this doesn't succeed, Daniel wins, and Kreese is ruined all over again. The evil business man presumably continues to poison rivers with toxic waste or whatever.

    Last edited 25/08/15 12:25 pm

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