Cobra Kai’s Ralph Macchio Says The Karate Kid Was Ahead Of Its Time

Cobra Kai star Ralph Macchio says one key Karate Kid storyline was ahead of its time. Cobra Kai season 5, continuing the Karate Kidlegacy by having Macchio and William Zabka reprise their roles almost 40 years later, just dropped on Netflx. The impressive longevity of the series has proven audiences weren’t ready to say goodbye to the beloved Karate Kid franchise. Resurrecting the property for a new audience (like the Jaden Smith-Jackie Chan 2010 film did), the series has exhibited mastery at balancing the old with the new, telling a modern story while bringing back plenty of the films’ original actors and bathing in ’80s nostalgia and franchise flashbacks.


The original Karate Kid film was released in 1984. It features Macchio in the lead as Daniel LaRusso opposite the late, great Pat Morita as his mentor, Mr. Miyagi. The quintessential ’80s movie, The Karate Kid features a classic premise of a young, scrappy boy learning to hold his own and stand up to bullies. Despite the seemingly simple storyline, The Karate Kid has spawned an enviable franchise and continued success.

While breaking down his most iconic roles for GQ, Macchio credits The Karate Kid for being ahead of its time. Specifically, he mentions Mr. Miyagi’s backstory, which was tragically marked by his family’s imprisonment in a Japanese internment camp. See Macchio’s thoughts on that storyline below:

It’s kind of ahead of its time. Certainly in the Karate Kid the whole Japanese internment camp, that was the first major motion picture Hollywood studio movie that ever addressed that sort of dark time in our history, so as much as you could talk about Karate Kid being a popcorn movie of the eighties, it had those elements and that’s what separates it.

Macchio’s comments about The Karate Kid marking the first mention of Japanese internment in a feature blockbuster is surprising, considering that the events in question took place roughly four decades before the film’s release. However, even today, Hollywood continues to struggle with issues of representation and grappling with history to tell meaningful, authentic stories. The Karate Kid cast a Japanese-American actor as a Japanese character and reflected on the wrongs done to his family by the U.S. government during World War II, and managed to offer more meaningful representation that many current films. The Karate Kid’s balancing act between Mr. Miyagi’s tragic past and Daniel’s hope for the future elevated the film from “popcorn movie” status, as Macchio puts it, while maintaining its coming-of-age story at the center.

Based on the popularity of Cobra Kai, Macchio is definitely right about The Karate Kid being ahead of its time. However, while the series has paid tribute to Mr. Miyagi many times, it has yet to delve deeper into his past, as it did with Terry Silver and John Kreese. Perhaps in Cobra Kai season 6, the series can build on that pivotal Mr. Miyagi scene in the original Karate Kid film and finally tell that important story in full.

Source: GQ

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