By Ashley Amon and Andrew Daar
Season 1, Episodes 13 and 14: “Guess Who’s Coming To Breakfast” and “Can’t Buy Me Love”
Andrew: Sex! Now that I’ve got your attention, we’re going to talk about sex this week. Both episodes of Frasier focus on sex and dating. In the first, “Guess Who’s Coming To Breakfast,” Frasier has to confront the fact that there are certain people in your life who you tend to forget have sex lives, while in “Can’t Buy Me Love,” he gets back into the dating world and immediately confronts one of the most frequent consequences of sex: children.
The idea of one’s parent or child being a sexual being can be hard to fathom. When Martin begins a sexual relationship with another woman in the building, Frasier does his best to be supportive, but the disconnect between “Dad” and “Martin Crane” causes Frasier to make blunder after blunder, from a wonderful series of farcical Freudian slips (“Banger, dad?”) to revealing over the radio that Martin is sleeping with a woman in the building. Frasier has the best of intentions throughout the episode, but having to see his father as a full human, rather than a person whose sole role and cause in life is to raise and care for him takes getting used to.
The episode also delves into various characters’ views on sex. Frasier, the Freudian radio psychiatrist, is very open about sex, and thinks that talking about it is healthy and normal. By contrast, Martin thinks that sex is extremely private, and that people of his generation would never dream of discussing it with others. He also uses an interesting phrase that speaks volumes about his attitudes towards gender roles and sex: “Sex is between you and the person you’re doing it to.” Martin almost seems to be saying that sex is a lone, rather than mutual, activity. Niles, as is to be expected, is rather immature about the idea, referring to sex as “getting lucky” and acting giggly about it when Frasier tells him that no one uses the phrase “getting lucky” anymore.
Speaking of gender roles, “Can’t Buy Me Love” presents a few nice reversals of stereotypes. Bulldog, who until now, has been portrayed as an alpha male chauvinist, argues that men and women are exactly alike, and that they both want the same thing. Bulldog isn’t going to win an award for progressive attitudes, but the the idea that he doesn’t draw distinctions between how men and women is a bit refreshing. In addition, Roz plays a role that is often reserved for men, that of the determined and aggressive sex seeker. Frasier plays this for laughs, but also does not put the joke on Roz. She and Bulldog both have the same appetites, but what makes Bulldog a joke is his lack of respect or tact. Roz may be a very sexual and aggressive human, but she is also a decent person.
But what of Frasier’s experiences at the bachelor auction? Ashley, what did you think about Frasier’s ability to handle a teenager? And how does he end up with so many supermodels?
Ashley: These two episodes are a lot of fun. After the last two with their moral thread and feel-good-about-humanity theme, I’m thrilled to have “fun” episodes.
In “Guess Who’s Coming to Breakfast” we get to meet Noel Chempsky, one of Roz’s many admirers, though she never reciprocates. I mention him because Noel gets so attached to Roz after a cup of coffee that his character sticks around intermittently throughout the series. My favorite thing about Noel is his nerdium, something not considered popular during the run of Frasier. Plus his goddess worship of Roz is ridiculously funny.
I really like how both Frasier and Niles initially think Martin and his date will spend their evening playing cards and doing other senior citizen-esque activities. Like you said, they have a problem thinking of their father as a sexual being. Their father would spend the evening with a woman doing something platonic and innocent, certainly not engaging in any form of sexual activity.
The bachelor auction: are these still a thing and where do I sign up? I love the reverse-objectification in this episode, though it’s farcical, and I appreciate Bulldog saying that at the basest level men and women are the same. Honestly, that’s still a hard concept to swallow (no pun intended) in 2013. Women are raised to be sexually demure. And then there’s Roz and I just love her. She’s aggressive and saw what she wanted and “went after it.” Get it, girl. And for charity, no less!
As for Frasier dealing with a teenager, I love how easily he was manipulated. He’s a psychiatrist and a doctor, and to quote Dr. House “everybody lies.” How did he not see through Renata’s adolescent hyperbole? A lot of teenage girls have issues with their mothers (that usually they grow out of) so Frasier not being able to deduce that Renata was just acting out of adolescent immaturity is astounding.
How does Frasier get so many models? Easy: he’s smart (brainy is sexy), sophisticated, charming, and the voice is a plus. That’s just my opinion. But speaking for my gender, and I’m certainly not model-material, those are some pretty attractive qualities in a man.
Andrew: Frasier’s inability to see through Renata’s ruse is a bit strange. He’s not a child psychologist, but the angry teenage personal is beyond cliche. I think there is an explanation, though. Frasier is an optimist, which can sometimes border on naivete. Frasier is a brilliant clinician, able to understand why people do the things they do in the abstract, but put him in an actual social situation, and he often does not know how best to act (which is the source of much of Frasier‘s farcical humor), and he tends to assume the best about people. In “Can’t Buy Me Love,” Frasier was taken in by Renata’s lies because he didn’t think she had any reason to lie. Without a reason, why would she, so what she said must be true. But that’s the thing: she doesn’t have a reason.
She lies despite having no reason. She lies because she’s a teenager. And this reasoning never enters Frasier’s mind because it is utterly without reason. When Frasier speaks with his callers, their behavior may be irrational, but he can pinpoint a reason for their problems. Teenagers are something else, though. So within a matter of hours, Frasier completely turns on his date, based on the angry statements of a teenage girl who isn’t particularly nice to him. Some of Renata’s lies do seem like something a model might do (the weigh-ins), but her story about the tattoo seems fairly unbelievable (not sure how much photographers/employers would like having to spend time and money covering up tattoos).
Or look at his behavior in “Guess Who’s Coming To Breakfast.” Is Frasier optimistic or naive to think that broadcasting to all of Seattle a dinner invitation for a woman who got spooked because he’d previously mentioned her on the radio would be more likely to get her to accept the invite? Frasier has the best of intentions and he’s optimistic that mentally people will respond the way he thinks they should. But people are quite complex, and even people in good mental health can act irrationally or against their best outcomes, due to personal baggage.
Ashley: It’s interesting about Renata’s lies, seeing as how in later episodes Frasier will have the same kind of reaction to Frederick lying (i.e. “why would he lie?”). I think it’s hard for an adult mind to fathom why a teenager would lie for the sake of lying, especially a highly-trained psychiatric mind like Frasier’s. It doesn’t make any sense. But you’re right, her behavior is completely cliched. I don’t know a single teenager (myself included) that didn’t butt heads with their mother or father at some point or lie to their friends about how “unfair” they were (and looking back on it, they were totally fair and acted within reason, and yes, mom, I know you read these). Frasier ruins a possible relationship again by listening to his moral compass.
Frasier expects so much from humanity, which is actually great in my mind. For a character to have such a high expectation of human beings not only provides humor when things don’t work out, but also a tinge of hope for the rest of us misanthropes. I always did wonder how Elaine one, heard Frasier’s plea on the radio (she might not be listening, we don’t know) and two, after the subsequent embarrassment why would she agree to show?
Andrew: I think it’s a blend of the two. We’ve seen over and over that Frasier genuinely wants to help people. He softened to Renata when she started talking about her “problems.” Before that, he tried to talk with her and have a mutually enjoyable evening, but didn’t truly take an interest in her until he believed that she needed help. And Frasier was genuinely upset with himself about how he sabotaged Martin’s relationship with Elaine. He was helpless to stop himself from making his double entendres due to his own psychological shortcomings, and afterwards, he did everything he could think of to mend the problem. At the same time, Frasier doesn’t quite live in the real world. Martin’s joke about him needing a bite of a reality sandwich in “The Crucible” remains relevant. Frasier thinks that if you do the right thing, everything will work out for you; that people free of psychological problems will act rationally and in everyone’s best interest. Is it cynical to say that optimism and naivete are two sides of the same coin? On the other hand, Frasier’s heart is usually in the right place, and, in this age of TV anti-heroes, seeing someone who is a genuinely good person can be quite refreshing.
Corn nut to rook 7.
Frodo Baggins listens to Frasier’s show.