I never watched the Karate Kid films growing up. In fact, I watched the Jackie Chan/Jaden Smith remake long before seeing any of the originals. Because I’m a completist, when there was a lot of talk on my Twitter feed about Cobra Kai after it arrived on Netflix last autumn, I went and watched all the films (even the Hilary Swank one), before starting the series – a series that immediately became one of my favourites and a lot of that was to do with one Johnny Lawrence.
Johnny Lawrence is not typically a character I’d love due to his drinking and often self-destructive behaviour but because of the writing and William Zabka’s performance I couldn’t help but root for him. He’s a disaster but he tries. He’s caught up in his past a lot – his teenage glory days – and doesn’t know how to be a father to his son, but what he does find is that he can be a good sensei.
I love his relationship with Miguel and how it’s so unfortunate that he can be such an unusual but good father figure to him but not to his own son as there’s no history between them or expectations.
I love how Johnny appears to be an insensitive caveman when it comes to things like equality but with the help of Miguel and Aisha, he soon realises that in his dojo it doesn’t matter if you’re small, nerdy, a loser, or even *gasp* a girl – as long as you’re badass. He’s a surprisingly great teacher. He has to unlearn some of the bad things he was taught as a teen but as he does that, he becomes a better person and a better teacher. He wants his kids to be strong and capable, but he also wants them to fight with honour and not become bullies like he used to be.
Johnny is such a complex character and one that definitely needs a lot of therapy because there’s definitely a load of trauma tied to his father figures there. He’s blunt and tough and is useless with modern technology, but he’s also caring and he becomes so soft around his old school friends like Bobby. Sure, he has a bit of a short temper whenever he’s around Daniel LaRusso (they sure know how to push each other’s buttons and they’re both as bad as each other) but Johnny tries to do better. He often makes a load of mistakes or goes about it completely the wrong way, but most of the time his heart is in the right place.
I just love Johnny Lawrence a lot and will always be rotting for him – even when I want to smack him over the head for how he forgets about his son.