The Karate Kid Remake: More than Just a Kid Flick

20 06 2010

So I saw the new Karate Kid movie tonight, per my partner’s request, although I would’ve gone to see it eventually anyway—albeit probably at a matinee, to pay some respect to the boycott of the film called by Aly Morita, the daughter of the late, great Noriyuki ‘Pat’ Morita (who played the iconic and inimitable Mr. Miyagi in the original version of the film). But I didn’t really agree with the boycott anyway, which I’ll get to in a minute, and I’m glad I went to see it on a Saturday night, since there were tons of little kids of color (mostly African-American but some Asian-American too) in the theater who were super-excited to see the movie.

That in and of itself says something about the importance of this film, and made me glad that I didn’t buy into Aly Morita’s call for people to boycott the film in theaters (she says it’s OK to watch it later on Netflix, I guess to decrease its box office impact). Tonight at the theater, I was especially moved by two young Black girls—probably between the ages of eight and ten—who waited with big grins on their faces in line, practicing ‘karate’ kicks high into the air, emulating the image of Jaden Smith doing his split-kick in the movie’s promotional materials.

As a woman of color and a sometime martial artist, this made me happy. Even though I was well into womanhood when I saw the amazing women-only fight scenes in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, they affirmed my desire to practice martial arts, and more than that, to define myself however I wanted to as a woman. And that women could be damned good martial artists, too.

Of course, there had been many other movies (mostly Chinese) that showed women kicking ass before, but this was the first that had such huge commercial success in this country, and that makes a cultural difference, if only because of the sheer number of people that then see these images. In many ways, that’s the real power of this ‘Karate Kid’ remake, which has been the top-grossing movie in the US since its release last week.

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