Many Frown Over Possible Removal Of Alaska Airlines' Smiling Eskimo Face
The newsletter said some customers have had trouble figuring out that the picture on the planes is an Eskimo and it was difficult to use the logo in small size on stationery. Also, Alaska Airlines flies to California and the Southwest and some potential customers there have a perception the airline flies only within Alaska, says Kennedy.
If that's the case, "they're going to have to do a better job of advertising," says State Sen. Willie Hensley, an Eskimo from Kotzebue.
Kennedy also says the airline for years has gotten comments from passengers that the Eskimo face looks like Charles Manson, Moammar Gadhafi, Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson. Comedian Jay Leno on the Johnny Carson show has joked about the face.
"It may not be the best representation of an Eskimo, but it's our Eskimo," says Kelly. Alaskans want a say in the matter because "they feel an affinity with the airline. Alaskans feel it's their airline."
Satch Carlson, an Anchorage Daily News columnist, wrote recently: "The Eskimo is a friendly, human symbol of the north, of the spirit of Alaska . . . Take him off the Alaska planes in favor of some abstract, hip, meaningless design, you're taking one step closer to that impersonal austerity that characterizes most other airlines today."
A couple of thoughts about the airlines' use of a stereotypical Inuk or Eskimo.
1) Although the face supposedly belongs a Native, it looks Caucasian to me. I'd prefer someone with stronger Inuit features.
2) If the image isn't stereotypical, the fur-lined parka hood makes it so. That's why comedians have made fun of it. If the face had stronger Inuit features, we wouldn't need a parka to identify it.
Oh, and don't bother saying the image can't be stereotypical if it's a real person. It's not this particular person that's stereotypical. What's stereotypical is the general idea of using a parka-wearing Eskimo to represent Alaska.