Once upon a time we drew wisdom and insight from the classic writers of the time. If you want to more deeply understand certain elemental concepts such as family tribal feuds and unrequited love, you would read Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, or, in another homage to Shakespeare, and to understand the journey from boyhood to adulthood and the acceptance of leadership, you could read Henry IV. Want to glimpse the perils of using technology to create unanticipated monsters, there’s Shelley’s Frankenstein. What about the rise of dictatorship and the intersection of ambition, loyalty and betrayal? Julius Ceasar. Hubris and complacency? Try the fable of Icarus.
Literature and drama is storytelling. We have storytelling within cultures for a reason. For one, it transmits, preserves and continues a culture’s history – a link to its past and a means to maintain continuity to custom and tradition. In another, stories, through allegory, help us better understand the struggles and eternal conflicts, the achievements and joys – the repetitive human behaviors that are common among us and transcend time, era and place. The stories transmit wisdom.
Sorry Bill Shakespeare. We’re just not that into you anymore. Who has the time or the concentration to read your often impenetrable prose when the next episode of Ash Versus Evil Dead or The Queen’s Gambit starts in 3…2…1. I don’t even have a moment’s reflection to decide whether watching trashy Netflix pulp is the best use my time. The next installment is already upon me within moments. I am helpless to resist.
Popular culture is our literature now. Or, to be fair, Shakespeare was that era’s popular culture. Just because Cobra Kai is lowbrow camp. Just because its a retread of a retread of a popular movie some time ago with aging B level actors, unconvincing martial arts choreography, corny high school love triangles, predictable plot twists and overdrawn villains doesn’t mean it isn’t FRICKIN AWESOME!!
Like the eternal cliché of the wise Asian old guy with long bushy eyebrows imparting his wisdom in Yoda-esque platitudes, so does Cobra Kai have wisdom it can grant us in this time of uncertainty.
I waited eagerly for season 3. Would Miguel reconnect with Sam? Would Miguel walk again? How would Johnny respond to the betrayal by Kreese? To me, however, the important question was when and if Elisabeth Shue would make a cameo appearance to reprise her role as Ali Mills, love interest and source of eternal conflict from the the original movie. We were given tantalizing clues when, in the final scene from the last season 2 episode, she Facebook friend requested Johnny at just the very moment he cast his phone in anguish and frustration into the sand, perhaps never to be seen and leaving us to wonder, “what if?”
I have to give a little bit of a spoiler, so if you haven’t yet watched Season 3, you can scroll on down, but ….
she makes a cameo. She returns and becomes re-entwined in the lives of both Daniel and Johnny, leading to some predictable tension, but also some mediation. I bring this all up because there was one scene that I thought was interesting. She was listening to accusations and counter accusations by the two main rivals and protagonists; the mutual grievances and angry projections by each part of the other’s bad faith.
She said something very wise. She looked at Daniel and said, “you have your version of events.” She then looked at Johnny solemnly and said, “and you have your version of events.” She then said with all the wisdom and stateliness of a Supreme Court Justice (or a wise, old Asian sensei), “and then there’s the truth.”
It’s important to realize that conflict, individually or broadly, usually begins with an unwillingness to give up a sense of grievance, but rather build a version of events that reinforce it. Preach it, Liz.