What Cobra Kai Can Teach a Generation Marinated in Victimhood and ‘Safetyism’

Cobra Kai might be the best show on TV—and much of it has to do with its radical message of individualism and self-reliance.

Cobra Kai is back. Season 4 begins Friday, and my family will be watching what is perhaps the most surprising hit in a decade—and our personal favorite.

The Karate Kid spinoff had “flop” written all over it. After several sequels and reboots, the franchise felt spent. Moreover, it was launched as part of YouTube’s ill-fated plan to compete with Amazon and Netflix in original content production.

Nevertheless, Cobra Kai has proven a smash. After being acquired by Netflix in June 2020, the show dominated the Nielsen streaming charts, quickly racking up more than 2 billion streaming minutes.The acquisition, as Forbes put it, turned Cobra Kai from an obscure hit into the #1 show in America.

The show works for several reasons and has struck a chord with young people (my kids can’t get enough of it), largely by running against postmodern sacred cows and embracing some radical ideas: self-ownership, personal responsibility, and individualism (as well as 1980s-style bad*ssery).

Cobra Kai does all this with humor and a twist. The themes of individualism and self-improvement are channeled not through a wise Miyagi-like sensei—but through “ace degenerate” Johnny Lawrence, the villain of Karate Kid who famously got his face kicked in the fifth act.


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