A welcome battle cry for Q4 2020
Last Sunday, I watched the entire first season of Cobra Kai and doing so brought me such surprising joy and satisfaction. I knew the show existed; it had even been recommended to me by quite a few friends. But, I had resisted because it seemed cheesy and I feared that two of my childhood heartthrobs may not have aged well. The classic Karate Kid movie had already been remade and that was an epic disaster. Revisiting a movie I have quoted so many times and one that held a cherished spot on my, “if I flip the channel and it’s on, it stays on” list was a risk. So with massive trepidation, I began the first episode.
To quickly recap, way back in 1984, Johnny Lawrence was the quintessential 80s bully, who had his redemptive moment when he handed Daniel Larusso the winner’s trophy. While the story continued a bit, none of that really mattered. What mattered was that the outsider and underdog won the trophy, the girl and all of our hearts.
The new Cobra Kai begins with Johnny down on his luck, working odd jobs, estranged from his teenage son, and constantly blasting 80s rock ‘n’ roll (and drinking). He’s relatable to that left-behind man—or for me, a person in a left-behind industry.
I won’t give too much of Cobra Kai away; I will tell you that the series' plot mimics the plot and progression of the movie from the perspective of our beloved characters. They are now parents with children around the same age as they were when that ill-fated All Valley karate competition took place.
The tug of nostalgia hits in constant waves, and I found myself drawing parallels from those times to the challenges of today. The series plays to my sensibilities as a Gen Xer and addresses what I refer to as the wussafication of America (our kids getting too soft with too much time spent in the cocoons built by their parents). Yet, the show also does a beautiful job highlighting and acknowledging that significant progress has been made in how we communicate with one another and accept the differences of others.
The Cobra Kai mantra of “strike first, strike hard, no mercy” is one that currently resonates strongly. This time, I don’t associate it to a bunch of bullies but rather redemption and survival for my career and my colleagues. The event industry was the first to shutter once the pandemic hit and could be the last one up and running at full steam (along with many in travel, tourism and hospitality). It is fractured, truly wounded with many limping along reeling from our inability to gather in person. There are epic stories of perseverance and many have innovated successfully with digital products and fabrication of needed safety equipment and structures to keep environments safe.
In a world where Covid has shown little mercy to so many, I will continue to evolve, up my game and have no regrets. As Daniel instructs, I’ll search for the good stuff and squash the bad out. Cobra Kai is so much more than melodrama: it is a rallying cry that we are tough as nails, we are the leaders needed right now and we can handle it. To my treasured industry colleagues, partners and friends, Joe Esposito’s All Valley anthem says it best: “You’re the best around, nothin’s ever gonna keep you down.“
Oh, and for what my opinion is worth, Ralph Macchio (59) and William Zabka (55) are even sexier now than they were in 1984. ;)