Friday, January 18, 2013

The Karate Kid (1984)

The Karate Kid (1984)
seen on TV @ AMC

In re-watching the original Karate Kid the other night, I found myself thinking about it in a new context - namely, within today's rise of bullying to near-epidemic proportions. After all, Daniel only takes up karate because he is bullied, and to a pretty harsh degree. I've talked about this before, but when I was a kid, my father told me that I should stand up to bullies, and while one would hope that one wouldn't need to learn karate to do so, intellectually, I still agree with him. But then again, it's been a looooooong time since grade school for me, and things have changed.

I pass by those Tiger Schulmann's martial arts schools all the time and I usually see little kids, some as young as six or seven, perhaps, in their white robes and headgear, rolling around on the floor or whatever, and I wonder whether these classes are for them or for their parents. When I see the parents lined up against the wall, watching little Ashlynn or Braden (don't get me started on modern baby names) throwing punches and kicks around like they're Bruce Lee or something, it makes me whether or not there's a kind of status symbol thing in having your kid learn martial arts. 

What percentage of these kids will continue with their training into adulthood? Ten percent? Seven? See, to me, karate classes for your little kid isn't quite the same as klezmer lessons or playing on the lacrosse team or what have you. If you want your kid to learn martial arts, particularly from a young age, it seems to me the reasons are gonna be slightly different - and I can easily imagine one reason being that you want them to be able to defend themselves against bullies... but fighting back is often discouraged.

In The Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi stresses to Daniel that violence should only be used as a last resort. The environment of a karate tournament means Daniel can face his bullies in a controlled situation where each side is equalized. (Let's not bring up the sequels.) This isn't always possible, of course, especially these days, when cyber-bullying means one can torment another from afar anonymously and never face repercussions. And beyond that, I suspect standing up to bullies, whether physically or verbally, is simply harder today than when I was growing up.

Would I tell my theoretical child to physically stand up to bullies? I believe so, but maybe I'm old-school. Maybe I don't fully understand how different bullying has become. One more reason why I do not want kids, ever.

Anyway, you don't need me to tell you how awesome this movie is. In looking at Ralph Macchio again, I really appreciated how charismatic and charming he was at such a young age. He never became as big a star as, say, Matt Dillon or Ethan Hawke, which is unfortunate. It was nice to see him on the big screen again in Hitchcock, even if only in one scene. And Pat Morita is godlike in this film.

AMC has been doing this thing lately where during the movie, they have this pop-up factoids that are displayed intermittently, kinda like having a running director's commentary on a DVD. It's kinda interesting at first, but after awhile it gets really distracting. They could just as easily post these tidbits online at their site, or better yet, leading into and out of commercial breaks. At least with director's or actor's commentary on DVDs, you can turn it off if you want to.

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