By Ashley Amon and Andrew Daar
Season 2, Episodes 17 and 18, “Daphne’s Room” and “The Club”
Original airdates: Feb. 28, 1995 and Mar. 21, 1995
Andrew: Frasier constantly engages with the notion of status. In the third episode, Martin called out Frasier and Niles for being classless snobs who look down on those of lower status. Much of the humor comes from the juxtaposition of the elitist brothers and their more blue-collar, down-to-earth father and friends. Status is front-and-center in “The Club,” and, while not as obvious in “Daphne’s Room,” still quite important there.
I’ve written before that Frasier and Niles strike me as people who display snobbish traits because that is how they think people with refined tastes should act, and “The Club” provides ample evidence of such. The episode concerns Frasier and Niles’ attempts to gain admission to an exclusive Seattle club. While we don’t learn too much about the club’s role or purpose, it appears to be a place where men (it was never explicitly stated, but it appears to be a men-only club) can broker power and escape their wives and the “riff raff.” Frasier’s excitement about the club appears to be most related to the perks it affords, rather than the people present. He doesn’t know any members, so he has no friends to meet up with there, and he has a hard time connecting with the other members when there. But the club has soft leather chairs, a private dining room, a planetarium, and a very fine selection of booze. Niles’ true feelings are a bit more ambiguous – when Roz tells him that he’ll fit in with the greedy, arrogant bluebloods who have no regard for average people, he doesn’t take it as the insult it was intended to be. On the other hand, when he arrives at the club to tell the membership off for rejecting him, it does sound like there is some actual truth to his words, rather than just wounded pride. He and Frasier both want to be members because membership is exclusive and being part of an exclusive club is something high-class people do.
The status issues in “Daphne’s Room” centered around women in general and Daphne’s status in the Crane household in particular. When Frasier goes into Daphne’s room without her permission to retrieve a book, she is offended by the invasion of privacy. To her, Frasier sees her as nothing more than a servant who has no expectation of privacy, while Martin tries to tell Frasier that men and women approach privacy differently. Frasier is more sympathetic to Daphne’s explanation than to Martin’s, but his ultimate solution to the problem is to buy Daphne off, seeming to reinforce her position as lower status, in that she needs financial assistance and will put up with invasion of privacy in exchange for money.
Ashley: These two episodes are two of my favorites. They’re both terribly funny and include quite a bit of snobbery.
In “Daphne’s Room” I feel like Frasier got a little too curious about Daphne when he went into to retrieve his book. You’ve heard the stories about your guests looking in your medicine cabinets when they use your bathroom. I feel like Frasier was doing just this: it was innocent in the sense he forgot himself (and his manners) when he started looking around her room after finding his book. Would I have been upset if I found out someone had gone into my room to get something without my permission? Of course, but I’m a very private person. I grew up as an only-child since my brother is significantly older than I am so I’m not used to having people in my space, and I live alone now. Subsequently I’ve had roommates with multiple siblings and the notion of ownership is rather fluid and that didn’t sit well with me (no, you can’t use my $150 hair straightener without my permission).
Personal space is a big deal, especially for Daphne with her eight brothers and now in a house with two men in it. Frasier makes it worse by getting stuck in Daphne’s room as she undresses for a shower. I don’t think Frasier meant to offer Daphne money (or really, the newly decorated bedroom and a new car) to reinforce her position as a servant. Think about Niles: Maris has plenty of money but he bought her a Mercedes. I don’t think either of the Crane men “bribed” the women in their lives. They made gestures, they just happen to be rather expensive gestures.
I find the rivalry between Niles and Frasier for the membership in the Empire Club a bit hard to understand. I say that because I don’t understand the need to belong to an exclusive club with people you have to work to impress. They have to allow you into their inner circle. But watching the two of them thrash each other in front of the members (Niles was young and firm and in love with an anarchist after all) was a lot of fun to watch.
Andrew: The reason I see Niles’ and Frasier’s “gestures” as bribes is because they chose to take the easy way out instead of working at their relationship. With Maris, this makes sense, as she is so shallow and materialistic that there isn’t much of a relationship to build. But Frasier and Daphne do have a relationship that is more than employer/employee. For all the times that Frasier mocks Daphne’s psychic abilities (which have pretty much stopped being referenced), for all the times Daphne mocks Frasier’s pompousness, they like each other and mostly enjoy each other’s company. The first time Frasier enters her room, he has a semi-valid excuse for going in, if not for staying in and snooping. The next time, he chose not to own up to his mistake and to sneak back in to her room. The third time, he was trying to prevent a disaster. Instead of just throwing money at the problem, he could have tried to talk to Daphne about his motives, his mistakes, and why he understood where she was coming from.
The exclusive club is desired because of what it represents. Much like a Mercedes or a Rolex, the power is in the symbol, not the actual thing. Frasier and Niles want to be able to say that they are Empire Club members. They don’t want to go there to be with friends, they want to go there to be seen by the “right people.” That’s why the brothers fight so hard to be the one who gets admitted. It’s not enough to be able to go as their brother’s guest, they have to be the member, the one with the prestige.
Ashley: I feel like by the third time Frasier was in Daphne’s room (with Niles, Martin, and Eddie in tow) there are no words. He could explain till he was blue in the face but there are no words in the English language that could explain why he was in there. Even worse, why he was in there and why Niles decided to go in himself. And for once, I agree with you in the Weird Niles camp: if I found out a man was interested in me and had been in my home (without my permission) I’d be SERIOUSLY creeped out.
But my point is, after Daphne threatened to leave, and I see what you’re saying about it appearing like a bribe, Frasier saying “I’m sorry” wouldn’t cut it. Though a car is a bit much.
The thing about “The Club” is that while I (sort of) get the exclusivity of it what do the Brothers Crane hope to gain from their membership? In an episode from the tenth season called “Roe to Perdition”, Frasier and Niles get payment for cheap caviar in the form of opera tickets and fancy parties. I’m assuming this is the appeal of the Empire Club: acquirement of “stuff” and power. But again, me personally, I find myself saying “Ugh, who cares?” They have plenty of money and prestige on their own, why do they need this club that essentially pits them against each other?
Andrew: Welcome to Camp Weird Niles. We’re a conflicted bunch. (He’s very often funny! And it’s slapstick, and Frasier and Martin give him hell for his weirdness. But he’s just so weird sometimes. He requested that Frasier draw her nude so that he could find out if she looked as he always imagined her.)
Acquisition of stuff and power is a very important part of life for many in the upper class, and that is exactly why Frasier and Niles want to be a part of it. And what they have is never enough, there is always the next level up, the older, rarer port that’s just out of reach. The Empire Club is a place where the most powerful people go to rub elbows and do favors for each other. While Frasier and Niles probably want to use the connections to make themselves look important, many options are open. Just look at the circumstances that made only one membership available: a member was reinstated after he was acquitted of extensive white-collar crime. When Frasier remarked that the man was innocent, the man he was speaking to made it very clear that he was not and that everyone knew it. And yet the club reinstated his membership. His guilt is of no consequence, he is an “important” person. You’d think that Frasier, with his all-important ethics, would no longer want anything to do with the club. But its allure is too great.
When no one is around, Frasier bangs out Little Richard on the piano.
Frasier was trapped in the closet long before R. Kelly.
Niles was young, firm, and in love with an anarchist.