Johnny Be Bad – Celebrating William Zabka

With the arrival of “The Karate Kid” to theaters there has been much debate over whether or not the new movie can ever live up to the cultural icon from 1984 bearing the same name. Can Jaden Smith live up to the standard that Ralph Macchio set during the Cold War? Will Jackie Chan ever embody the wise old man played by Pat Morita that taught us “wax on…wax off” and the term “Daniel-san?” These questions will be debated throughout the ages, or at least until the new Karate Kid movie gets replaced by the next Twilight movie, but what of Johnny?

When the dust settles and the movie tickets are in, the missing component to the greatness of the original Karate Kid is not whether or not Daniel Larusso uses the crane kick, but the brilliant antagonist played by William Zabka. Better known as “Johnny,” William Zabka epitomizes the quintessential 80’s prick boyfriend character. No other actor in history – I was too lazy to back this up so if some fancy pants responds to this blog with some other actor, they have way too much time on their hands and should find a hobby not involving video games – personifies the classic 80’s movie black and white extreme emotional character. Before movies started to give the “bad guy” feelings and a troubled background so we can relate to or feel sorry for them (see hippy mentality takes Hollywood – some blog I will never get around to writing), the 80’s brought us honest to goodness a-holes we could rejoice as they met their demise. Within the first fifteen minutes of the movie you knew who the good guy was and who the bad guy was, and when you saw William Zabka, you knew which one he would be playing.

William Zabka
William Zabka or Johnny from the Karate Kid. Photo by Bjoern Kommere. Source imdb.ll. Source

With such classic roles as “Johnny” from the Karate Kid, “Greg” from “Just One of the Guys“, “Jack” in “European Vacation“, or “Chas” from “Back to School,” William Zabka sets the standard for jock insecure beefy guy boyfriend. Whether it is sweeping the leg or trying to make his team lose in “Back to School” William Zabka shows us that being bad is really good, at least for movies in the 80’s. Some might even argue that Johnny, or his reincarnations in William’s other films, learns something in the end, but do we really care? We like to see Johnny get his, just as much as we like to see squeaky clean players like Tiger Woods implode on prime-time. That’s why we need more William Zabka’s in the world of movies. Movies are about escaping reality. In reality your boss that you don’t like has a mortgage, kids and has similar problems to you. In an 80’s movie he is a tyrant, a heartless, cold money hungry SOB that needs to be taught a lesson (that same description can be used for any CEO of a company in today’s populist rhetoric from Washington D.C. – down with BP and corporations man, but that’s another story for another day – don’t worry I wont get to it).

Back to School Zabka
“Chas” in Back to School. Source Flix66.

So when you go to see “The Karate Kid” in 2010 don’t ask yourself, is Daniel better than Dre, or is Mr. Miyagi better than Mr. Han. Ask yourself whether Johnny is better than Cheng. I know my answer.

It was easy since I haven’t seen the new Karate Kid movie. I mean seriously does Hollywood have a creative bone in their collective body?

No, Sensei!

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