As a preface to this question, I will say I only know what I see about the new Karate Kid series (Cobra Kai) from YouTube commercials.

I am wondering if William Zabka's Johnny is now more a sympathetic character than he was in the original movie (1984). In that feature, his character seemed to vex Daniel at every turn to the point where he was seen as the bad guy.

In the last 10 years, Johnny's character has become sympathetic in hindsight due to How I Met Your Mother's character Barney's portrayal of Daniel as the antagonist. Popular culture gravitated to this perspective and many sites and YouTube clips came out thereafter painting Daniel as the real villain.

So my question is, does this new series play into this popular culture of the last 10 years? Is Daniel painted now more of a villain, and Johnny more of a hero?

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    Closely related, but not quite a duplicate: movies.stackexchange.com/q/88896/46980
    – F1Krazy
    Jun 20, 2019 at 14:37
  • I am not very familiar with the Karate Kid movies. But being somewhat cynical, and remembering what I do from the movies, it would be easier for Cobra Kai to convince me that Daniel was bad than that Johnny was good. Jun 20, 2019 at 17:23
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    We feel that way because the story goes on with from Johnny's perspective. He believes that past was not fair to him, he tries everyday to push that away but it seems really haunt him. He lost almost everything while Daniel got everything,and successful.. In that state, it's pretty normal to feel how he feels about himself. Since we see most of the story from Johnny's perspective, he doesn't feel he's the villain, but Daniel is.
    – Vishwa
    Jun 21, 2019 at 3:08

1 Answer 1


Johnny, I think, was always a sympathetic character. You didn't really see it until the final competition, but in that last 20 or so minutes of the movie you see that Kreese is the real villain and that Johnny is really just a victim of wanting to please his Karate Dojo Master. You can see this by his facial reactions to Kreese's commands to hurt Daniel. You can also see in the way he congratulates Daniel after the fight that he really didn't dislike Daniel and he was actually redeemable.

Also, if you ever watch The Karate Kid with the commentary track on, William Zabka talks about how he came up with a loose backstory for the Johnny Lawrence character, in order to better "get the feel" for playing the character. He states in the commentary that he envisioned Johnny as having no father, and that Kreese is the closest thing to a father figure he had in his life.

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    Good answer. I wonder specifically about the night scene at the chain link fence where Cobra Kai is dressed as skeletons. Here Johnny didn't seem to be driven by Kreese. This is the indelible image I think of that Johnny was a villain in the first offering. Jun 24, 2019 at 17:46
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    If you remember, some time had gone by between the initial confrontations and that Halloween scene. Johnny was sitting in a bathroom stall, rolling a joint, completely unprovoked when Daniel decides to douse him with a hose. That caused the chase, which ended with the confrontation at the chain linked fence. Jun 24, 2019 at 19:15

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