In a Body-Bag, Johnny

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Over at Vulture, Emma Rosenblum defends Pat Morita from Jackie Chan:

Though the original movie wasn't exactly lauded for its véritélike depiction of karate training (the "sand-a-floor" technique still hasn't caught on in dojos around the country), Morita's Mr. Miyagi certainly looked like he knew what he was doing, especially when he took down Johnny and his punk friends (Morita was even nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar!). But alas, Chan goes on to crush our childhood fantasies. "The action movement, honestly ... not really," says the actor, who then agrees when Lauer asks him if he found the first movie "unrealistic." 

To amend that, Chan says that he (or, rather, one of his "best guys from Jackie Chan stunt team") trained Smith so that he could do his own stunts, adding to the realism of a movie about a skinny 11-year-old who becomes a karate champion with the help of a stubbled Jackie Chan. Okay, so whereas Chan is an actual martial-arts expert, Morita got his start as a stand-up comedian known as "The Hip Nip," and there's no question who's more qualified to play an actual karate teacher. But, to those of us who came of age in the Golden Age of Macchio, there will only ever be one Mr. Miyagi.

A few unrelated points:

1.) It's very interesting to me that they lowered the ages of "Daniel-san" and "Miyagi." Obviously there's a business argument behind it, though I'm not clear on what it is. Is it a matter of branding kids at the youngest possible age? Or is that teens of today are an unlikely sell? I'm slightly sorry about the change, only because there was some spectacular (in many ways) about seeing this old Asian dude beat the crap out of a bunch of rich California pretty-boys. There was something subversive about that--like watching KRS battle Vanilla Ice, except if KRS was, like, 60.

2.) I really wanted to post that fight scene between the Cobra Kai and Mr. Miyagi, but I can't find it. Anyway, Miyagi was always the bad-ass, not Daniel.

3.) I did Iron Man last week. I have been informed that I'm excused from the Karate Kid this week. I have a very understanding family.


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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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