In recent posts, I have talked about the Karate Kid series and how narratives can subtly set up good guys and bad guys. Fictional narratives are all the more effective at making people prejudiced because there is no arguing people out of it as there never was an argument in the first place. All that we have is a work of fiction. I think it worthwhile, therefore to point out how Karate Kid uses this technique against the United States military.
It is not a major plot point and it is certainly easy to miss if you are not paying close attention but the villain John Kreese is a Vietnam War veteran. It is alluded to in the first film and provides the connection to his corrupt businessman buddy from the third film. In the TV series, we get some flashbacks to Vietnam. This would not be a big deal in of itself. Villains, like everyone else, need to come from somewhere and have some kind of backstory.
I am hardly going to claim that all people in the American military are good or that all of America's wars have been just. That being said, Mr. Miyagi's backstory is that he was in the Imperial Japanese army during World War II. He even puts on his Japanese uniform. It is a funny scene with Miyagi getting drunk and it adds a lot to his character, indicating that, underneath his quirky personality, lies a tragedy.
Clearly, not every Japanese soldier during World War II was a mass murderer. We have no reason to assume that Miyagi was anything other than a young man serving his country honorably and doing his duty. That being said, the Japanese army did commit war crimes almost on par with that of the Nazis. There is no way that the film could have gotten away with making Miyagi a veteran of the Wehrmacht. You could make all the personal apologies for the young German Miyagi you want but audiences would still have lost their sympathy for him.
Obviously, no one involved in making the series is actually claiming something so absurd as Japan fighting World War II, which included invading Vietnam, was less immoral than the United States in Vietnam. That being said, a seed is planted in the audience. It is all the more powerful because no argument is being made. Keep up a steady diet of this poisonous claim from other films, combined with the failure to actually teach history, and you can produce a society of people who cannot imagine atrocities committed by anyone other than Americans or at least white Europeans. Did the Japanese army murder millions of people? No, Japanese soldiers were cute karate people like Miyagi. The United States army, by contrast, sent a bunch of Kreeses to Vietnam to oppress civilians.