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My son, you have been stripped of your dignity, publicly shamed, and confined. What’s left to work with?


Phyllis Shimura is the mother of Brett and Jason, and the wife of Cornelius. Strikingly beautiful, young-looking for her age, and distinctly dressed, Phyllis is a force to be reckoned with. She is not just an antagonist. She's a lens that magnifies important themes in Asian culture: the importance of family, respect for one’s roots and culture, parents making sacrifices for their children, reverence for tradition and the elderly, and, perhaps most importantly, how matriarchs ground their families.

Phyllis is a wealthy woman who comes from an old money blood line. She’s also a selfish, elitist, cold-hearted abuser and all around detestable woman. Phyllis can move from relentlessly icy and near emotionless to a screaming, out-of-control wreck and back again at the slightest provocation, and just about every word and deed in between is underscored by a deep sense of sadness and despairing apathy. Judging by what other characters have to say about her, she was this way before Jason's death as well.

At the beginning of the series, she seems like a privileged, spoiled, and conceited parent. From the beginning of the series, it is obvious — especially with her in neglectful contrast to Brett — that she belongs to the upper division of a social hierarchy. While she's said and done unconscionable things to Brett, she does take steps to keep her son safe when she can, and seems genuinely hurt that Brett considers her an unfit mother. Phyllis is very vain and appearance-conscious, as well as being arrogant and uncaring towards the feelings of others. It’s heavily implied that part of the reason she enjoys becoming a waitress is the idea of so many men finding her attractive.

While one of the most detestable people in the entire show, once every blue moon Phyllis will occasionally give us a reminder that she is still human at heart: as horrible as she is to Brett, it’s made very clear that Phyllis did truly love Jason. His death leaves her utterly broken. Despite all the abuse she has inflicted on Brett over the years, in her heart, Phyllis honestly doesn’t want Brett to be seriously hurt. Thus, when she learns she is taking out all her anger and sadness over to abusing Brett, she initially tries to stop herself and comforts Brett with love and affection (as seen in Season 2).

Personality and Traits

Phyllis Shimura is highly intelligent, manipulative and perspicacious, being able to recognize small details and to use them skillfully to serve her interests. She always makes sure that she does not have to keep her promises, while staying true to her words. She's domineering, sharp-tongued, evil, cruel, heartless, belittling, manipulative, and vicious. Despite her “apparent” love for her husband seems to despise Brett, constantly treating him terribly, in a very unmotherly manner. Verbal and emotional abuse is a common theme in reference to Phyllis's treatment of her own son. Phyllis is charismatic and elegant, in her words and actions, and she really portrays as a cunning and intelligent villain. She holds a great envy towards Cornelius simply for her beauty and wholesome charm, so she treats Brett like a servant in her own home. A housewife who employs subtle methods, she is deviously manipulative in controlling Brett by maintaining a sham benevolence in her authority of the household; she sometimes physically abuses Brett but leaves that to her husband instead.

As of Season 2, her personality changes drastically as she becomes more sympathetic and noble. She has become a better person. Phyllis is now more reserved and wants nothing more than to be happy. Though, if someone or something threatens her or her friends, she has no problem letting her "bitchy" side shine through. Though Phyllis has become less threatening, she is not a pushover. She has been through so much, yet she is still so strong.


Role in Series