I’ve been wanting to write this post for years now. I did the research and had a (bad) draft of this lying around for years (since mid 2018, it seems). But I never felt that it was quite good enough.

Blogvent was not a huge success in terms of post-quantity1 for me. I had some health issues that stopped me when I was getting started, and I found it hard to jump back in. That said, I see it as a very successful endeavor. I finally got my website up, and I feel more comfortable about posting imperfect posts.

So here goes.

Moving to LA

In The Karate Kid (the 1984 one), Lucille LaRusso & her son move from Newark, New Jersey, to Reseda, Los Angeles, California. From that point on, the movie focuses almost entirely on her son, Daniel.

The movie opens with Lucille LaRusso & her son, Daniel, moving from New Jersey to California. This move sets up the entire movie, which later follows Daniel as he adapts to his new environment. Despite that, the movie spends almost no time explaining the move.

This makes sense, as Daniel is the protagonist, and the teen audience of the movie probably don’t really care about Lucille’s motivation. This means that we only get a few small glimpses into the reasoning behind the move.

In this post, we’ll dig into that move.

Rocket Computers

We first hear about the LaRusso’s reason for relocating when they unpack their car at their new place. Daniel meets Freddy, and they talk (5 minutes into the movie):

Freddy: Where you from?
Daniel: New Jersey.
Freddy: Wow! Whatcha doin' here?
Daniel: My mom got a new job with a company working out here.
        Rocket computers. Flight of the future.
Freddy: Never heard of it.
Daniel: It's up and coming.

Daniel and Freddy having the dialogue described above.
The subtitles read: Rockets, computers, flight of the future.

So now we know - they moved because Lucille got a fancy new job. For a long time, I was happy with this explanation. Sadly, it doesn’t hold up.

Manager Training

You see, later in the movie (23 minutes into the movie), Daniel meets his mother for lunch—at the restaurant where she works. This is already suspicious—wasn’t she working with computers?

Additionally, she’s raving about the relative benefits of working there!

Lucille: Guess what? I'm going to be trained as a manager.
         Isn't that great?
Daniel:  Yeah.
Lucille: They have this program: two nights a week.
         As soon as a spot opens, you're in.
         And the benefits?! I'd never get them working
         in computers. They pay for EVERYTHING. 

Lucille and Daniel sitting in the restaurant, going through the dialogue written above.
The subtitles read: They got this program. It’s two nights a week.

Now, this made no sense to me. Sure, it’s the 80’s, but being a waitress or manager can’t be better than working in computers, can it? So I went ahead and did some research.

Crunching Numbers

I was lucky enough to chance upon the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook of 1988. It gives the median earnings of 1986 for some potentially relevant professions:

While the pay for a waitress (according to weekly earnings in 1983 and weekly earnings in 1985) is around $8000 (weekly earning of $152 to $159 multiplied by 52 weeks a year).

Depending on which computer-related profession Lucille had, she may make more money as a restaurant manager, but the waiter pay makes a transition entirely unreasonable.

This makes no sense.

The Missing Scene!

This bugged me for years. Literally. But today, while looking at the The Karate Kid screenplay to make sure I get the quotes right, it finally made sense! While going over the script looking for “computer” references, I came upon a scene I did not recognize. A scene that never made it into the movie! In that scene, Lucille sheds light onto her changing jobs:

Lucille: I got a job.
Daniel:  Yeah. I know. Rocket Computers.
         Flight to the future.
Lucille: Crash landed in the present is more like it.
         They went bankrupt last Friday.
         Can you believe it?

That’s the scene that I was missing! The reason behind her switching jobs!

This was supposed to happen right before Miyagi comes in to fix the faucet (I frantically scanned through the movie again to make sure I did not somehow forget the scene existing in the movie). I’m really happy having found this. It’s been bothering me since forever and it’s nice to know that it actually was thought through.

In addition to that, we get to learn that this is probably Lucille’s first computer job after taking night classes, which would explain why becoming a waitress (at least temporarily) made more sense than finding another computer job:

Daniel: So after going to school and all those
        night classes 'n stuff for computers,
        you're going to be a waitress?

In Conclusion

The Karate Kid is a fantastic movie. It’s still one of my favourites and it holds up amazingly well. I am delighted that completing this post allowed me to solve the mystery of Lucille’s job change.

I hoped you enjoyed it too!