June 20th - Karate Kid

So I was tired, it was Friday evening, I just wanted something undemanding and maybe a bit funny to watch before crawling into bed. Yes, at the weekend I watched ‘Karate Kid’, the new 2010 version with Jaden Smith in the title role.

Back in 1984 when the original version came out with an endearingly gawky Ralph Macchio playing the lead I was already old enough to wonder what the pretty blonde teenager saw in the scrawny youth. So it was disconcerting this time to see an (admittedly cute) child playing the title role – he can only have been 10 or 11 when the film was being made, since he only attained the grand old age of 12 a couple of days before the film was released. (For the record I was also disconcerted about the fact that the Karate Kid was learning Kung Fu instead of Karate, that the gracious and other-worldly Mr Miyagi (Pat Morita) had been replaced by a rather seedy looking guy (played by the illustrious Jackie Chan) who you definitely wouldn’t want your young son hanging out with, and that there was no wax on, wax off or fly-catching with chopsticks. But that’s all by the by.)

Above all though, I was disturbed by the portrayal of ‘romance,’ however sweet and innocent, between this small and baby-faced child and a girl of 15 (Wen Wen Han). Surely in spite of all we hear about the early sexualisation of children, small boys still think all girls are stinky. If not, I’m quite sure that 15 year old girls still think all small boys are beneath contempt. I just didn’t buy it.

Having said that, Jaden Smith was quite convincing – not in the kiss scene, that was just ridiculous – but in the looks of smouldering desire he managed to produce during the scene when he was watching the girl dance. I can only imagine the director Harald Zwart had starved him for a couple of days and then filmed him watching a pizza being slowly loaded with pepperoni and mozzarella.

And therein lies the source of my discomfort, I think. This was a child who had somehow been taught – by adults -how to act out feelings he should not rightly be feeling for a number of years, for our entertainment and ultimately for the making of money. And I watched it.

I feel a bit grimy.