Cobra Kai Coming Under Fire For Lack Of Diversity
Any TV show that grows exponentially in popularity invites more scrutiny almost by default, with Netflix’s smash hit Karate Kid sequel series Cobra Kai the latest to find that out. The first two seasons were massive successes on YouTube, and the continued adventures of Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence found an even bigger new audience when they were added to the streaming service’s content library last summer.
The third run debuted on New Year’s Day and has already become one of the platform’s most-watched returning shows ever after being projected to draw in 40 million viewers in its first four weeks of availability. However, Cobra Kai is now coming under fire due to a perceived lack of diversity and the absence of an Asian lead character in a series heavily influenced by both martial arts and Japanese culture.
The Los Angeles Times ran a profile on the show that traced its journey through development and the transition from YouTube to Netflix, before calling out creators Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg by saying the following:
“There are now three white men at the center of Cobra Kai, a franchise rooted in and deeply indebted to Eastern tradition. After 30 episodes on two platforms, Cobra Kai has yet to cast an Asian lead.”
The creative trio responded and admitted that they were well aware of the criticisms being pointed in their direction, but went on to explain that their decision was based out of respect for Pat Morita’s portrayal of Mr. Miyagi, not to mention the fact that as a Karate Kid sequel, LaRusso and Lawrence were required to be the protagonists due to necessity.
“We would have loved if there was a Miyagi son or daughter that was floating around in the lineage and the canon of the movie to play with. We inherited the story that felt like the natural continuation, where for better or worse you are dealing with Johnny and Daniel as your protagonists.”
Season 3 made a trip to Japan to tie itself even closer to the original trilogy of movies, but it would appear that some people won’t be happy until Cobra Kai casts an Asian actor in a major role, regardless of whether it feels organic to the story or not.