There is a debate of no trivial consequence raging in my Friday morning men’s Bible study. Some of us contend that Netflix’s hit show Cobra Kai is a beacon of light shining through the woke fog of modern TV. It is a breath of fresh air and a poignant commentary on today’s uber-progressive social zeitgeist. Others think it’s just another helping of hack-acted, teeny-bopper trash TV with no redeeming value; it is mindless drivel served up for the binge-watching zombie masses. I’m never one to make war where peace is possible, but in this case my brothers are so absurdly wrong I have no choice but to engage the fight. As Martin Luther famously said, “here I stand, I can do no other.”
By way of primer, Cobra Kai is a popular Netflix series that follows the lives of the characters from the original 1984 movie, Karate Kid. The characters are played by all the same cast members as the original. Ralph Macchio is Daniel LaRusso, William Zabka is Johnny Lawrence, and so on. The show picks up their stories thirty-five years after Daniel defeated Johnny with the infamous Crane Technique kick-to-the-face to win the 1984 All Valley Under-18 Karate Tournament. Life has gone well for Daniel, not so much for Johnny.
I don’t know anything about show creators Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg and Josh Heald’s religious beliefs. They may be practicing Jews, professing Christians, atheists, agnostics or Zoroastrians. What I do know is over the course of two seasons they deliver nine-and-a-half hours of the most profound, refreshing and insightful social commentary I’ve ever seen. It is an epic takedown of modern PC culture, and it is delicious.
Don’t misunderstand me, Cobra Kai is not a “Christian show,” nor does it pretend to be. In fact, I am certain many of my Christian brothers and sisters would be put off by its cavalier approach to sexual ethics and its occasionally salty language. That said, it walks where most modern shows fear to tread, and in so doing, it highlights some basic biblical truths our woke culture has forgotten. For that it should be celebrated. Here are five things Cobra Kai gets right (SPOILER ALERT):
1) It highlights the importance of fathers
The theme of absentee fathers permeates nearly every episode of Cobra Kai. The show does a great job of highlighting the importance of having fathers present and active in their kids’ lives. More than that, it shows how, in the absence of a good father figure, kids will attach themselves to virtually anyone willing to show them attention, sometimes with devastating consequences. We all know this intuitively and research bears it out. Kids raised without a father suffer from abandonment and attachment issues, have lower rates of economic success later in life, suffer higher rates of child abuse and are more likely to end up in a gang or incarcerated. Cobra Kai drives these points home with a five-finger face punch.
Storylines about fatherless kids struggling to make it are hardly original in Hollywood. What sets Cobra Kai apart is that it not only addresses the problem, it offers a sound solution. And it does not come from a progressive government program, political slogan or neo-feminist single supermom. It comes from real men who recognize their own shortcomings but realize the welfare of the children in their charge takes precedence over their own fears and selfish desires. It says, “this is what a real man does.” He steps up, takes responsibility and teaches kids how to become adults. It is a refreshing take on traditional fatherhood from an industry whose stock-in-trade is to depict fathers, when they are present at all, as bumbling dolts who serve no higher value than being the source of their wife’s exacerbation and the brunt of their kids jokes.
2) It shows that not all masculinity is toxic
Cobra Kai openly and affirmatively rejects modern culture’s “toxic masculinity” narrative. It does not take the popular position that masculinity is bad, rather it offers a deliberate and intelligent dissection of different types of masculinity. Some masculinity is toxic, no doubt. It is self-serving and merciless, and it leaves a path of devastation in its wake. That type of masculinity is the legacy of Johnny Lawrence’s evil sensei, John Kreese, and it’s what Johnny must overcome if he wants to be a better man. Johnny is tough, he likes to kick ass, and he’s drawn to Kreese’s “strike first, strike hard, no mercy” philosophy. But he recognizes how damaging it is and that he must let it go.
Enter the refreshing courage of Cobra Kai’s creators. They could have easily resolved Johnny’s toxic masculinity dilemma by having him disavow all things manly and embrace a more woke “the future is female” philosophy, but they didn’t. They didn’t make Johnny go soft, they still let him kick ass, but they taught him some lessons.
They made him contend head on with the damaging fallout of his Kreesean masculinity and learn to temper it with honor. They let Johnny be humbled by his earlier mistakes so he could see them for what they were, the misguided rage of a broken youth. Johnny faced his past and learned from it not by being weak, but by being strong. Johnny learned that being a man isn’t about dominance, it is about strength. He doesn’t need to give up his strength and his masculinity to be a good man, he just needs to rule it rather than letting it rule him. It’s a long journey for Johnny, but that’s how life works. As viewers we’re not even sure he fully gets it by the end of season two, but he’s well on his way. And as he becomes a better man, he becomes a better teacher, better father and better friend. Nothing toxic about that.
3) It illustrates our need for redemption
One secret that Christians learn very early in our faith is the healing power of Christ’s redemptive love. Living with the consequences of our brokenness and sin is dark, debilitating and crushing. The human spirit needs redemption. It lifts us up and gives us hope. This is true in a Biblical sense, but it is true in a practical sense as well. We need healing or the darkness will destroy us.
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: Christian Post, Jay Atkins