Is Cobra Kai “Whiteness” Being Targeted Another Backward Step for Diversity Progress?

The newest target in Hollywood’s ongoing fixation on diversity: Cobra Kai. Yeah, the show based on a movie that included one of the more famous 80s Asian-American lead characters: Mr. Miyagi, played by Pat Morita.

“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, coauthor of UCLA’s annual Hollywood Diversity Report, which designates leads as the top eight credited regular actors. (Across the industry, the report found that white characters made up 75.9% of the leads in digital scripted series like “Cobra Kai” in the 2018-2019 season, while 5.9% of leads were Latinx, 4.7% were Black and just 1.8% were Asian.)

At Netflix, whiteness of ‘Cobra Kai’ is under new spotlight – Los Angeles Times

Have said this repeatedly at this site that the key to more diversity isn’t imposing quotas on casting.

Season three, without spoilers, includes a pretty juicy subplot about Daniel returning to Okinawa. That involved several non-white actors. The show continues to harken back to the teachings of Mr. Miagi. If Pat Morita was still alive he would be front and center in this show. They did the smart thing by not trying to recast him. Instead, viewers are constantly reminded of his influence.

Is it a fair concern that more of the new youths aren’t more diverse? Perhaps. They could have cast that differently. Would Hawk have been a more engaging character if he was non-white.

Don’t look now, but season four will possibly see the return of two other white characters: Terry Silver and Mike Barnes.

But if Cobra Kai continues to harkening back to The Next Karate Kid or the reboot, we’ll have even more diversity in casting. No idea if that’s where it’s headed, but all signs seem to point that direction … eventually.

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