Johnny Lawrence... The Cynic.

So, just for the HELL of it, I'm going to do a fun, snarky, little exercise. I haven't talked about something I enjoy for a while, and I haven't done an exploration of a piece of art in even longer, so I'm going to do that. I'm going to explore a show I greatly enjoyed, and explain why I feel that The series "Cobra Kai" might be one of the most eloquent examples of the Cynic philosophy that we have in the Modern Day. (And of course, this will contain spoilers for the show.)

First off, a Little background about the show. Cobra Kai Is a follow-up to one of my childhood favorite films, "The Karate Kid". The show is set thirty years after the original film, and follows the original bully from the film, played by William Zabka. Ralph Macchio also reprises his role, but in the form of an antagonist.

Over the course of the show, Zabka's character Johnny has given up many of the trappings of modern society. He is shown to be indifferent to many of the social mores of the culture, refuses to hold value in the same things that the society does, and prides himself on his honesty and directness. Johnny is not by any means a genteel person, but he is extremely virtuous, as shown by his actions in coming to the defense of the helpless. It is in fact this act of virtue which is punished. Which leads to Johnny's gradual growth into a cynic.

Throughout the course of the show, Johnny's repeated virtuous acts are treated as crimes to the society at large. Defending the helpless leads to arrest. Training the youth is treated as a crime against the prevailing order. His honest statements to the students are treated as bullying, and many leave as a result.

I find this Interesting, since Antisthenes himself was often criticized for his harsh treatment of his students.

When he was asked why he was so bitter in reproving his pupils he replied, "Physicians are just the same with their patients"
Laertius, Lives, Book VI

Throughout the entire story Johnny is seen to live very simply, in a manner that many of the poor in the United States do. He Eats Simply, enjoys simple pleasures of alcohol and television, and does not dwell overmuch on the state of the world. His world is his home and his students. He even goes so far as to actively reject money, searching instead for his own happiness and growth outside of even his family, as did many Cynics.

Johnny even mocks the social order in bitter satire. His response to his rival's family destroying his possessions is not to seek justice that he knows he would never get, but rather to spray paint a penis onto his rival's public visage. This simple act sends ripples through the society and many ape his action against his rival. It is also interesting that it is Johnny's student who defends the innocent from the further spreading of the satire to those who it was not directed towards.

He does not gain students through the traditional methods of advertising, but rather by demonstrating exactly what his philosophy can accomplish. He holds himself to a high standard, training himself along with his students, for he holds that the body is of equal value to the mind in the pursuit of happiness. Johnny does not deny human folly, and expects his enemies to break the rules that they have established. He does not even deny human folly within himself, and much of the story has him dealing with issues related to his own faults.

So, that's just a fun little thing I wanted to explore. There are other elements of course in the story. Johnny's student growth via a public challenge by a student directly mirrors that of many schools in Japan in the late 19th Century. The rivalry between Johnny and Daniel eerily mirrors that of Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro. (I also find it funny that as a kid I was always rooting for Sasaki/Daniel, but as I grew older I discovered that Musashi/Johnny was far more honest.)

Overall, I am just enjoying making the Mind work again. This wasn't as easy as I thought it would be, and my brain is absolutely about to hit muscle failure. Smile

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detroitmechworks's picture

Just haven't had to analyze a piece of literature from a point of view in a while, and I wanted to apply the old skills to a new medium and philosophy and see if they worked. (I mean, that's why you write essays on topics in school, or at least it should be. To demonstrate understanding of the subject.)

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.