Return to Homepage
 
... Dedicated to the TV Addict in All of Us

   The place to be....for the Characters, Places & Things on Television

What's New at TV Acres  
 
  Home > Index > Ethnic Groups > Inuit (a.lk.a. Eskimos)  
 
Inuit (a.k.a. Eskimos))


MAD TV/FOX/1995+
*(Alex Borstein/costar) Miss Bunny Swan, an irritating lady from Kuvaria (near the North Pole where Santa Claus lives). Bunny is seemingly dense, clueless, cheap (bargaining for the price of popcorn and drink) and unable to speak or understand the English Language very well. Miss Swan works as a manicurist at the Gorgeous Pretty Beauty Nail Salon. While conversing, with customers and others her mangling of the English language annoys people so much that they often give her things just to get rid of her. Once, after an encounter at a fast-food drive through window, the attendant on duty lost his temper trying to communicate with Miss Swan and pummeled her with hamburgers. However, when Miss Swan really wants something, she is a clear as a bell in explaining what she wants. When Bunny is threatened, she might say "If you're not nice to me, I will not smile at you like this [she displays a cheesy, half-baked smile with upturned lip.] The most memorable Miss Swan sketches featured her character at an ATM machine, running a phone sex hotline, volunteering to be hypnotized by the Amazing Mesmo and when she appeared on THE DATING GAME...and won! Miss Swan's trademark catchphrases included "Yeah okay"; "I tell you everyting"; He...looka like a-man"; and "You such a nice lady to help me." TRIVIA NOTE: In an October 23, 2000 Los Angeles Times article entitled "Asian Americans Living in a 'Bamboozled' World" Guy Aoki from Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) accused Alex Borstein of wearing "yellowface" in her portrayal of her Miss Swan character. The Los-Angeles based group also said of Borstein: "She is an affront to the Asian- American community and they want MAD TV to get rid of her." Borstein addressed the accusation in an October 30th article entitled "Counterpunch...Providing the Real Origin of 'Mad' TV's Ms. Swan." In the her response, Borstein offered up information to explain the origins of the character. The Miss Swan character is based on Alex's 85-year-old immigrant grandmother who has been in the USA for 50 years. Her grandmother often feigns ignorance of the English language unless as Bortstein reports, "she needs a favor - then she's clear as a bell." Alex Borstein's ethnic origins are Hungarian, Mongolian, Russian and Polish. As to the nationality of the Miss Swan Character, Borstein references the Latka character on the TV series TAXI as her inspiration. That is, the way Latka's vocal patterns (performed by Andy Kaufmann) are an amalgamation of many mid-European countries. In Miss Swan's case, people may perceive the character as Asian, but the character has no specific focus such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc. To debunct the "yellowface accusation, Borstein described the Ms. Swan costume to the Los Angles Times as follows: "To become Miss Swan, I don a housecoat one can purchase at Sav-On for $19.99. (My grandmother wears the very same housecoat around her Santa Monica apartment). I wear knee-high pantyhose and black leather slippers from Italy. As the character is a manicurist by profession, I wear a checkered apron with little feet on it. I wear a black wig, peppered with gray strands, that is cut in the style of a chin-length bob. (This wig actually resembles my own hairstyle quite a bit). The makeup that is use is a regular base from Cinema Streets. It is the exact color of my natural skin one. I have never, never used a yellow makeup or even yellow tones. The "yellowface" that Aoki speaks of is a figment of his imagination. Ms. Swan's facial appearance (the shape of her eyes and lips) are actually based on Bjork, a singer-songwriter from Iceland. I even toyed with the idea of making Ms. Swan Icelandic through and through. In the end, I opted for the freedom that creating her homeland would give me." Borstein also reminded her naysayers that her show MAD TV parodied and satirized all kinds of groups from politicians to immigrants and that if Aoki, and anyone else, didn't like her portrayal, that they have the choice to just turn to another channel. Reportedly, the Miss Swan character started out as Miss Kwan (based on the show's old script titles. MANAA's concerns were that Borstein's character was "perceived to be Asian" and so tarnished the image of Asian community. They point out the Chinese-sounding name, clipped accent and the fact that she operated a nail salon (an occupation allegedly dominated by Vietnamese women in recent years) all point to create a negative image of Asians on television.

MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE/FOX/2000-2006

**(Emy Coligado) Piama Tananahaakna, Inuit wife of Francis Wilkerson. Piama met Francis while he worked as a cook in an Alaskan logging camp. Piama married Francis after a one-month courtship and lived with Francis in a house in Mamu. Piama is very supportive of her new husband. When Francis' boss treated him badly, she tells Francis "My husband is being disrespected by a woman who isn't fit to eat the crap between your toes. Someone ought to cut that woman's belly open with a rusty knife and strangle her with her own entrails." When Francis discovers that part of the house (one fifteenth) is located on tribal land he decides to open up a casino. Later Piama confesses "The whole house used to be on the reservation, but my idiot grandfather built it on a glacier. It's been moving two inches a year ever since. In a hundred years, we'll have a nice view of the lake." After the logging camp shuts down, Francis and Piama move South where Francis takes a job as a foreman at a dude ranch owned by a cheery German couple. Steve Reevis played Enoch, Piama's deadbeat dad.

Before they left Alaska, Piama and Francis firm up their relationship with each other. The following is an excerpt from episode No. 21 "Monkey" (aired May 12, 2002):

Piama: Francis, I've been on this reservation my whole life. I don't know anything else. I'm just a hick. I'm not like you. I can't just pick up and start a new life whenever I need to. I'm not as brave as you, okay?
Francis: Brave? I'm not brave, I just didn't know any better.
Piama: What?
Francis: If I had had any idea of how horrible it was up here, I never would have come. And I never would have met you. I'm not brave, I'm just stupid and lucky. And you're with me now, so my stupid luck will take care of you.


 

Back to Top

 
 
Home | Site Map | Search | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Archive
Copyright © TV Acres. 2000-2013 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. All photos are the property of their respective companies.