“I used to sip a glass of sherry while I watched Frasier,” my husband told me. “I could only afford the cheap stuff so it was pretty gross.” You could’ve knocked me over with the proverbial feather! My husband hates (most) sitcoms and usually shuns alcohol. So what made this particular sitcom so compelling that my husband was a faithful watcher, glass of cheap sherry in hand?
I had to find out! Two weeks of binge watching all eleven seasons of Frasier later, I was smitten too. Frasier soon became one of my favorite sitcoms, running a close third just behind The Big Bang Theory and The Mary Tyler Moore show.
Rather than delving deeply into the narcissistic mire as my articles usually do, let’s have some fun in this article. Let’s explore this question:
Is Dr. Frasier Crane a snob, a narcissist or are they the same thing?
With his Armani suits, love of haute cuisine and penchant for the opera, the word “snob” springs to mind to describe Frasier (and Niles) Crane. By throwing the word “snob” at the Crane brothers are we implying that “snob” is synonymous with “narcissist”?
I’ve given this a lot of thought over the past few months, especially while I wrote Re-Defining Your Life After Narcissistic Abuse. As I re-defined my life to discover my safe, warm, happy place, I came to the hair-raising conclusion: If Frasier Crane is a snob, so am I.
He loves the symphony; so do I. He loves fine dining; I recently attempted my second made-from-scratch Hollandaise sauce (Hollandaise separated; Hollandaise curdled; Hollandaise snatched from the jaws of disaster with hot water and an egg yolk; whew!). He loves opera; I listen to the Metropolitan Opera. He loves oil paintings on canvas; I recently purchased my first real painting ($2 at the thrift store!) He buys objet d’art at auction; I pretend to bid at Sotheby’s online auctions. (Money is no object, no object whatsoever.) He loves to name drop classical composers, orchestras, artists; so do I. He plays classical piano; I play classical violin.
Does all of that equal “snob”? Not according to dictionary.com!
a person with an exaggerated respect for high social position or wealth who seeks to associate with social superiors and dislikes people or activities regarded as lower-class.
Ah, but there’s three important things to remember about snobs and snobbery:
- Just because you love “high falutin'” things, doesn’t necessary make you a snob if you value those things for what they are and not how much they cost.
- I would argue that a snob pretends to like “high falutin'” things to elevate themselves but it doesn’t come naturally to them.
- A snob may or may not look down upon those who, like Marty Crane, intrinsically prefer beer, baseball and bacon. (Bacon! Now I’m craving it.)
- A snob may or may not be a narcissist.
Frasier intrinsically likes all those things. He doesn’t pretend to love fine things to elevate himself. He’s been naturally inclined towards them since childhood, intrinsically understands them and feels at home with them. (And suffers for them, but more about that later.)
His safe, warm place is beauty. Just beauty. Beauty in clothes, music, food, art and “Frette hand towels…direct from Italy, I give you the spugna con frangia, with the tulle lace insert.” If he can afford them, why shouldn’t he enjoy them — much like outdoorsy men invest in the best fishing rods or optical sighting device or whatever it is that outdoorsmen buy.
Frasier feels most at home wrapped in the beauty of the symphony, the opera. If he could, he’d set up housekeeping in the opera house. Anywhere else makes him feel exposed, vulnerable, cold. He feels happiest, warmest and safest when he’s enveloped in fine art, classical music, haute cuisine and fine wine.
And so do I. Even though we were so poor we couldn’t afford meat, my father still took us to the symphony in 1986 and the Minnesota Orchestra sounds just as good in the nosebleed seats. Mother introduced me to beauty and poetry and fine dining, back when a visit to LeeAnn Chin meant meeting LeeAnn Chin herself at her restaurant, complete with hot Oolong tea, tablecloths, cloth napkins, soft classical background music and warm, lemony fingerbowls. From childhood, like Frasier Crane, beauty became my safe, warm, comforting place. It feels like no evil, no sadness, no sin can intrude in beauty. Beauty is elevating, it raises us up to be the best person we can be. That’s what the Victorians believed. That’s what Bach believe when he wrote everything to the Glory of God.
That sexy, low, soothing radio voice he adopts for The Dr. Frasier Crane Show falls under the “snob” thing too. Yes, it makes him sounds wise and knowledgeable, but mostly I see his radio voice as an attempt to calm himself down. As he gives advice, he’s trying to make sense of his own confusing, frightening world as much as he’s trying to help the caller.
And the same goes for Niles. When he and Frasier are singing snatches from Rigoletto or discussing when to re-season crepe pans (“Sauce pans in summer, crepe pans in fall. When winter’s upon us, there’s food for us all!”) they aren’t doing it for effect, to appear snobbish, to snub others or to pretend to be something they’re not. That is the authentic Niles, the authentic Frasier. When no one is around, they behave in exactly the same way so it’s not mere affectation.
Truth be told, they suffer an awful lot of snubs, put-downs and insults for expressing their so-called “snobbishness” from the beer, baseball and bacon crowd aka Marty Crane. As children, they were bullied unmercifully. But, to be fair, Frasier dishes it out pretty well too, so I guess he deserves to get some of it back. Yin-yang and all that.
The beauty of the show is how down-to-Earth Marty brings balance to you-make-everything-too-complex Frasier. It’s moments like when all three Cranes are turning The Antiques Roadshow into a drinking game that make me go a little misty-eyed. (“Veneer!”) And that precious moment when Marty exposed he knew what color “burnt sienna” actually was. (“Brown. But don’t tell anyone I know that. “)
Where Frasier crosses the line into pure snobbery is his (and Niles’) shameless social climbing. As if one human being is “better” or “higher” than another, usually only by virtue of the amount of money they possess.
Frankly, I’m a little embarrassed for the Crane boys. Marty raised them better than to equate personal value or status by a fat bank account, an expensive apartment or to believe that one person is more important than any other.
Marty worked hard to give his boys everything they wanted and needed, but he couldn’t give them what they needed the most: affection, approval, self-esteem. That’s why Frasier sometimes (often?) behaves like a narcissist. He just has “fleas,” narcissistic fleas he caught as he tried to reconnoiter life with a shaky foundation. But luckily, he always catches himself or, if he doesn’t, Niles, Marty or Daphne give him Hell, so I don’t think he’s a full-fledged narcissist after all and definitely not malignant.
And speaking of Marty Crane, the world lost a great blessing when actor John Mahoney left us on February 4th, 2018. He was my favorite character, but I always did have a soft spot for cantankerous old men. Just under his crusty exterior, was so much love, just like my cranky grandfather. So much love!
Marty Crane (John Mahoney) was really the heart of the show. Everyone always came home and there was Marty in that revoltingly ugly recliner – always a good listener, always caring, always with good advice for his boys…and Daphne, his Healthcare Worker turned adopter daughter turned daughter-in-law. He was the yin to their yang. He brought balance to their Psychiatric Force with his homespun wisdom and intuitive understanding of the human heart. Whenever my husband says I’m overthinking things, I call him “Marty” and he calls me “Frasier.”
Although this article may be short on psychology, I hope you (and your inner secret “snob”) had as much fun reading it as I did writing it. And now, if anyone wants me, you’ll find me with a glass of Manischewitz (yes, that yucky sugary wine) in hand, watching the The Antiques Roadshow with the Crane boys. “Veneer!”