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Now that Cobra Kai has a bigger Netflix platform, its whiteness is even more glaring as a TV series rooted in East Asian tradition

  • Cobra Kai has no Asian lead actors or any writers of Asian descent. It's especially glaring with the show now revolving around three white men while being rooted in and deeply indebted to Eastern tradition. “Except for the Latino character of Miguel, all the other people of color are outside of that main cast, so it actually doesn’t show as a diverse show in a sense,” said Ana-Christina Ramón, co-author of UCLA’s annual Hollywood Diversity Report. “The thing I’d like to see them do is to go beyond this suburban idyllic space, this white pocket dimension, more deeply,” adds writer and podcaster Jeff Yang, the father of former Fresh Off the Boat star Hudson Yang, who has covered Cobra Kai for Quartz. “What if they actually did encounter people who embraced martial arts not just to overcome bullying, but because it’s part of a larger tradition that exists within people of color communities?” The lack of Asian representation among the writers and lead actors is also notable considering two of Cobra Kai's co-creators, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, were responsible for writing the groundbreaking Asian-American film franchise Harold & Kumar, starring John Cho and Kal Penn. Hurwitz and Schlossberg and fellow co-creator Jon Heald say they're aware of the criticism. "Having made Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle we’ve been particularly sensitive to Asian American representation in movies and television," says Schlossberg. He also made it clear that for story elements such as Gōjū-ryū karate and certain Japanese details, they relied on actors Yuji Okumoto and Tamlyn Tomita, who reprise their roles from Karate Kid Part II, and stunt coordinator Hiro Koda and original Karate Kid screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen. “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,” says Heald. “But 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.”


    TOPICS: Cobra Kai, Netflix, Hayden Schlossberg, Jon Hurwitz, Josh Heald, Asian Americans and TV, Diversity