Was Daniel Larusso actually the villain in Karate Kid?

What if we told you that Daniel Larusso was actually a violent sociopath, and that Johnny, not Daniel, was the real hero of the ’80s classic The Karate Kid?

That’s exactly the argument made by a new YouTube video which — though it glosses over some of Johnny’s more sinister behavior — makes some pretty solid points.

The video points out that, as the new kid on the block, Daniel immediately starts making trouble. First, by pursuing Johnny’s newly ex-girlfriend using a “courtship ritual consisting solely of creepy, unbroken eye contact,” then by inserting himself into a non-violent confrontation between Johnny and Ali.

Later, after cooler heads have prevailed, Mr. Steal Yo’ Girl re-escalates the situation by drenching Johnny with water at a Halloween party, and then flees on foot, leaving a multi-car accident in his wake. This done, it’s up to Johnny to “contain Daniel’s fury” since there is “no telling what further damage this unbalanced and violent individual will do.”

There are no sacred cows in this take on the story and even the peaceful, kindly Mr. Miyagi is recast as a “local busybody, karate master, and child-batterer.”

Of course, all of this is argued with  tongue firmly planted in cheek, but it’s a good lesson in how filmmakers can frame a story so that only one interpretation of events seems valid. Sometimes, the filmmaker uses this power to enhance the audience’s understanding of a narrative, but sometimes, it’s used as a sort of sleight of hand, diverting the audience’s eyes from what they should be seeing.

So kudos to YouTube user J. Matthew Turner for this creativity and for his 3.6 million views. Next up: How Darth Vader was the real hero of Star Wars.

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