Cobra Kai Being Anti-Woke Makes It Refreshing

The most unforgettable television moment of 2020 did not belong to Cobra Kai. In fact, there wasn’t a new season released in 2020. That honor belonged to Ricky Gervais and his no fucks left to give monologue while hosting the Golden Globes. 

Gervais infamously lit into Hollywood, mocked them, and called them friends of Jeffrey Epstein. His most important point was the last few sentences of his monologue:

“So if you do win anything, don’t come up here and give a political speech. You’re in no position to lecture the general public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your god, and fuck off.”

At this time Gervais delivered this rebuke to Hollywood, Cobra Kai had completed two seasons with YouTube and was set to release their third season with Netflix at the beginning of 2021. Netflix had completed their acquisition of Cobra Kai from YouTube just a few months after Gervais’ monologue. 

The acquisition by Netflix exposed Cobra Kai to a much larger audience, and I wouldn’t have heard of it otherwise. I spent the day with a friend of mine who introduced it to me after Season 3 had been released on Netflix, and we burned through Season One and half of Season Two during the day. Just prior to the release of Season Four, I subscribed to Netflix and started over, watching the first three seasons. 

The series is incredibly diverse. Characters from every ethnic background, with the protagonist student being Hispanic. Same sex relationships also exist in the series. Yet, Cobra Kai does not get on a soap box about any of it. They don’t scream the point in your face, they don’t lecture you, and they don’t use it to crow about how virtuous they are. In fact, Cobra Kai has made a point of mocking Virtue Signaling.

During the championship tournament in the Finale of the first season, Cobra Kai openly ridiculed the idea of virtue signaling.

While competitors were being introduced, the defending champion Xander Stone did forward flips to the front, grabbed the microphone from the announcer, and began to lecture the audience about ending hatred and intolerance, and called for a moment of silence.

During that moment of silence, Sensei Lawrence said to his student Miguel, “kick that pansy bitch in the face.” 

Yes, hatred is a bad thing. Also yes, showboating and demanding praise and glory when you are in effect doing nothing, is also a bad thing. Virtue Signaling, or drawing attention to yourself for applause, is frowned upon in this clip. They did a good job demonstrating how ridiculous virtue signaling is, by depicting it as showing off and being tacky while doing nothing to help a cause.

While race appears a sensitive topic these days with who is the good guy and who is the bad guy, how does Cobra Kai rationalize this with a diverse cast? Who are the good kids, who are the bad kids and which races are they? 

The answer is simple. They’re all the good guys and the bad guys. Character development is guided by triumphs from positive influences, and faults from negative influences. They have all been on the Heel to Villain spectrum, as well as the Hero spectrum. This is true for both Student and Sensei. Everyone has evolution and purpose.

Contrast this approach with a work like Ghostbusters Afterlife which was a terrible film on its own merits. I’m not opposed to a female Ghostbusters, but women can be Ghostbusters too was the only thing the film had to deliver.

Cobra Kai has had no problem delivering the message that girls can kick ass without having to make it a tiresome lecture that leaves the audience clockwatching. Just the opposite, it’s enjoyable.

The other thing that Cobra Kai does well is depicting overly broad and disastrous council decisions. Following the fight at the high school, the City Council made the move to cancel the All Valley Under 18 Tournament, citing not wanting to foster a culture of violence. Cobra Kai made the notion sound as ridiculous as it actually sounds. 

More impressively, in the appeal to the council, student Miguel cited how this has helped him deal with bullying problems, and how schools care more about the perception that bullying doesn’t exist (see: zero tolerance), rather than actually doing anything to solve the problem. They satirized these school approaches by introducing Hugs Not Hits as a school initiative to combat bullying. 

Miguel convinced not only the council members, but hopefully also the entire Netflix audience that these school campaigns and facades surrounding bullying are useless, and that instead we should be teaching our to be children capable of violence.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated Ricky Gervais’ monologue was delivered at the Oscars, when the monologue was delivered at the Golden Globes. Correction Credit: @KingAdrock42



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