Monday, May 17, 2010

William Zabka: Evolution of a Cinematical Cockbag

I found this story by the Huffington Post today about the phenomenon of the bully in 80's movies, and my first thought was how sad it is that I know and often quote all but one or two of the movies represented in the video montage. My second thought was how great it is that actor William Zabka made up about 40% of all the bullies who make an appearance. Anyone even remotely versed in 80's movies probably knows Zabka as Johnny Lawrence, leader of everyone's favorite group of violent sociopaths from the Cobra Kai dojo.

But that's not all Zabka has done. He's primarily known for three movies from the 80s: The Karate Kid, Just One of the Guys, and Back to School (all quality films, by the way). And in all three of those movies, the phrase "arrogant dickhead" plays a key role in his characterization. But I think what makes Zabka's progression as an 80s movie douche bag so interesting is that instead of amping up the menace factor, he actually becomes substantially more effete in each movie.

First, look at The Karate Kid. Essentially, he spends the majority of the movie trying to beat a small Italian boy to death for looking at his girlfriend the wrong way. You've probably already seen the following clip of Johnny and his fellow Cobra Kai dressed as skeletons while doling out what must be the 3rd or 4th severe beating to walking punching bag Daniel LaRusso, but take one more look and carefully consider what the kick at 1:15 of the video would have done had it connected:

He was running full-tilt to kick a person in the face that could no longer stand under his own power. Without Mr. Myagi's interference, how does that sequence of events end in anything less than voluntary manslaughter? I mean, I know it's Ralph Macchio and all so I understand the rage, but isn't that still just a bit too harsh? Suffice to say, this was not a man with whom to fuck.

Part two in the trilogy sees Zabka bulking up to play more of the classic style of weight-lifter jock for the gender-swap comedy Just One of the Guys. Now, physically he made for a much more intimidating presence, but aside from lifting weights he doesn't seem to be all that competent in committing manly/violent acts. In fact, his most menacing display is to take a girl dressed up as a boy and throw her into some bushes. When he actually finds himself in a fist fight with one of the skinniest males in the entire school, he winds up getting his ass handed to him. And this was even after sucker-punching the kid. In reality, someone who lifts as many weights as Greg Toland was purported to have lifted should be able to not only knock someone out with a sucker punch, but probably do some critical damage to the face and skull. Instead, the guy just stands up, shakes it off, and proceeds to pummel this supposed bully and leave him in a heap on the ground. Plus, on a side note, everyone seems to point out that Toland has smaller-than-average genitalia. And how can anyone with a small penis possibly be a threat?

I'm going to kick your ass, geek. What? No, I don't need tweezers to pee. Why does everyone ask me that?

Back to School represents Zabka's final foray into bullydom, but this time he's only a bully in the loosest sense of the word. First of all, his name is Chas Osborne, and his sport of choice is diving. This sounds more like the lead in gay porn than it does an 80s villain. Plus, rather than beating the shit out of everything with a pulse, he spends most of the time making snarky comments and getting his balls busted by the likes of Robert Downey, Jr. And then there's his hair. In what world could this possibly be even the least bit threatening:

Chas Osborne could wipe out entire villages with nothing but his balls and I still would not be intimidated by him if he had that haircut while he did it.

So what happened? I guess when you start of as a maniacal psychopath there really isn't anywhere to go but down. I guess you could say he was trying to portray a more sympathetic, vulnerable villain later in his career. You could also say that he had a choice jack and shit in his movie role offers and he had to make due. But really, it doesn't matter. Effeminate or not, William Zabka will always be a staple in the land of the 80s asshole, and the best part is that he's completely in on the joke. If you've remember the video for flash in the pan band No More Kings and their song "Sweep the Leg," you might be surprised to know that aside from starring in it, Zabka directed it as well. So whether you are a homicidal martial artist or a bitchy diving prima donna, I salute you, sir.

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