The 4 Weirdest Lessons '80s Movies Really Wanted to Teach Us

#2. Defend Yourself With the Power of Confidence

The 1980s was the decade we invented martial arts, if you're just going by the movies. If you asked Hollywood, every small town in America lived and died by their local dojo. High school hallways were a perpetual war zone of acne-ridden kick-warriors dueling out their hormonal disagreements, and every Student Council election was settled via Kumite. But no matter how strong you got, no matter how much you trained, the final belt in every martial art ... was believing in yourself.

This Logic Gave Us:

The Karate Kid


Everybody knows the classic tale of The Karate Kid: A mysterious, elderly foreign shut-in develops a master/slave relationship with a skinny, impressionable teenage boy who ultimately learns to solve his problems through violence. You know, your classic coming of age tale.

No Retreat, No Surrender


A young Bruce Lee fan is having a hard time in life (seriously!) until the ghost of Bruce Lee (seriously?) becomes his sensei. He then uses his newfound Ghost-Kune-Do skills to challenge a young Van Damme, and is promptly and efficiently beaten to death with his own limbs for his trouble.

But the Most Ridiculous Example Was ...

The Last Dragon


Astoundingly, there was another movie that followed the "inferior young man gains magical powers by liking Bruce Lee a bunch and uses them to destroy an entire crime syndicate via one-on-one martial arts duel" plot template. Except this one took place in Harlem, and starred Taimak, Vanity and stunna shades.

The main character's name is Bruce Leroy -- that's not a joke, I promise; I'm not sure I could even accidentally be that racist. (But who knows? We've got a whole paragraph to get through here.) Bruce Leroy's sole desire is to discover "The Glow" -- the inner power behind all martial arts that manifests itself as a brilliant, sparkling aura ... which unfortunately uses the exact same filter as an Afro-Sheen commercial. (Hey, we did it!) Naturally, Bruce Leroy uses his newfound Soul Glo to rescue the '80s pop princess, inspire the spunky break-dancing sidekick, foil the plot of the evil white record executive and cave in the face of Sho'nuff, the Shogun of Harlem. All while a synth-pop song narrating exactly what's happening on screen plays in the background.

"You are the Last Dragon/Your Name is Bruce Leroy/Wait, that's fucked up."

That was a wholly accurate synopsis of the film's finale, with no embellishment whatsoever.

Thousands of years from now, when the bird-people that humanity evolves into are assembling that little pictorial timeline at the start of every chapter in history textbooks, just to the right of the King Tut picture we use to represent 1000 B.C. and the George Washington portrait that sums up the 1700s, you'll find a picture of Taimak, shimmering like a Twilight Blacula, silently saying absolutely everything anybody could ever want to say about the 1980s.

#1. The Best Way to Appreciate Different Cultures Is to Fight Crime With Them

Everybody is different: Some people are messy, while some are clean; some people are neurotic, while others just ooze sleazy confidence. Society is a great fondue of contrasting personality types, and we need them all to function. Whether that's the straight-laced businessman doing everything by the book or the mop-haired hippie who only takes directions from gemstones and the wind, we all have our own way of getting through this crazy little thing called life, and we need to accept each other as we are. Besides, no matter how different those two people may seem, they both have something in common: Their partners just died, and now they have no choice but to work together to take down some kind of cartel. It doesn't even matter what kind: Just any cartel. Take 'em down.

It's what diametric opposites do.

This Logic Gave Us:

Lethal Weapon


Lethal Weapon is the progenitor of all buddy-cop movies: Martin Riggs is a loose cannon, just this side of a psych ward. Roger Murtaugh is a burned-out veteran, the proverbial two days from retirement. Together, they fight crime almost as hard as they fight their homoerotic feelings for one another.

Tango and Cash


Every '80s action movie after Lethal Weapon read like a drunken Mad Lib of Lethal Weapon's IMDb page. Raymond Tango is a straight-laced, by-the-books Sylvester Stallone. Gabriel Cash is a devil-may-care, be-mulleted Kurt Russell. Together, they fight crime.

Red Heat


Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Ivan Danko, an elite Soviet policeman after a ruthless Russian drug dealer. Jim Belushi plays Jim Belushi being awfully Jim Belushi about things. Together, they fight crime.

But the Most Ridiculous Example Was ...

Collision Course


Fujitsuka Natsuo is a straight-laced Japanese policeman played by, holy shit, Pat Morita? Awesome. Tony Costas is a loud, belligerent rebel played by ... Jay Leno? Haha, what, seriously? All right, movie. I guess that could work -- like a late '80s inverse Rush Hour. I'll give the casting a pass, let's see the plot: Together they'll have to track down a rogue automobile engineer ... who escaped with a new kind of ... turbocharger?

Th ... they fight crime?


That's it, folks. That's how you end racism. If you can't understand and begrudgingly accept another culture after one member of it flawlessly executes a screaming, sprinting drop kick into a speeding automobile for you, then brother, you need to switch on over to a Care Bears movie, because Luck Bear needs to solve the mystery of who stole your ability to love.

Get the first episode of Robert's Sci-Fi Serial Novel, Rx: A Tale of Electronegativity, right here, or buy Robert's other book, Everything Is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead. Follow him on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook.

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