Plenty of movies lay out the heroes and villains pretty clearly, but what if the tables were turned?
If you haven't seen this video yet, I know what you're thinking: "Really, this movie?" Yes, this movie, and it actually works surprisingly well. It's worth noting that Pat Morita was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as Mr. Miyagi, so it's a little bit more than your average 80s movie.
J. Matthew Turner recently took a look at the 1984 film The Karate Kid, and with some clever editing and convincing narration, proposes that Johnny may not be the villain at all, but that Daniel, the main character in the story, is the bully who has escalated the situation at every turn, and has no business being in the karate tournament. This is more of an experiment than anything — it's pretty clear from the filmmaker's point of view who the hero of the film is, but it's fascinating to turn something like this on its head and really see what kind of messages certain plot points and images are sending:
It's definitely an interesting take, though this isn't the first time this idea has been put forth. In a bit from How I Met Your Mother, the character of Barney Stinson proposes the same idea [Editor's Note: I have not watched a single episode of this show]:
I think an interesting example of this is with the Broadway musical Wicked, which was adapted from a 1995 novel, and tells the story of The Wizard of Oz from the perspective of the witches, turning expectations on our head about who we should really be rooting for.
While the real lesson might be that you can interpret anything in any way you like, it's the job of the filmmakers to show only what they want us to see. Any time there is a movie with an unreliable narrator, something similar is happening. A great example of this is with documentaries, especially those of Michael Moore, where we're seeing things from a very specific perspective, though the actual truth may be far more complicated than it appears based on the images and the information we are given.
Either way, this is more of a product of films or other works where we are told who we are supposed to be rooting for. There are plenty of other works where the heroes are flawed, and it's not quite so obvious. Some of the best examples of the anti-hero come from television, with characters like Tony Soprano and Walter White, who aren't the best guys in the world, but have moments where we can actually root for them — even though they do plenty of awful things throughout their respective shows.
This isn't Turner's first go-around, he's also put forth the idea that Enter the Dragon and Mortal Kombat are the same movie. Check it out: