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Forty-First Sort

Snobbery and Frasier Crane

by Dear Jon
April 16, 2001

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Forty-First Sort_Dear Jon-Snobbery and Frasier Crane ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON

Dear Jon,
I find your discription of Middle Brow to be quite inaccurate. It seems more to me like the middle brow describes someone who is part of the priviledged elite, but is ashamed to admit it. The categories and descriptions show a bias of someone who wishes they were in touch with the common man, but have the hopes, dreams and lifestyle of the snobbery they wish to avoid. They not have risen to as high of a status on the totum pole, but they are climbing. In short, Dear Jon, from what I have read, I think you are a snob.
Average Joe

Dear Joe,
You "think" I am a snob? What else do you "think?" That the sky is blue? That grass is green? That the Pope is Catholic? And why on Earth would I want to avoid this "lifestyle" of snobbery?


Dear Jon,
While watching Frasier, I learned from Niles that a dog or cat is not a highbrow pet; a bird, such as a cockatoo is highbrow. Does Dear Jon agree with this classification of pets? Is Niles a reliable authority? What class of TV show is Frasier? What class is the person who's too lazy to have a pet?
Sincerely, It's Been a Looong Week

Dear Week,

Frasier is "bourgeois," meaning, very much the Middle Brow. The Crane brothers satirize the "high brow," but their Dad, a retired cop, shows them up for all their shallow "new money" pretensions. People who watch it laugh because it makes them nervous.

This column also makes people nervous. Apparently some clarification is in order.

The brow one occupies does not necessarily depend on economic stratification. Nor does choice of pet necessarily indicate one's brow. Rather, low, middle, and high-brow refer to one's hierarchy of value. Democracy depends on more "snobs" in that it depends on more people being able to fashion informed, critical opinions. Generally, there is an inverse relationship between vertical brow-level and the amount of television watched in a week.

As far as pets go, it is not the choice of pet so much as the person's relationship with the pet that is indicative of the vertical brow-level. A cockatoo that is purchased and fed corn with the hopes of having squab for Thanksgiving, has been purchased for "low-brow" purposes. On the other hand, the most stuck-up people in my acquaintence invariably keep cats as pets. Yet not all cat-owners I know are snobs. Some like to feed their cats beer and watch them totter sideways, which is rather low-brow. Dogs tend to be owned by people of any brow who possess parental instincts and think a pet should be a friend.

So no, choice of pets is not a reliable indicator. For Niles to say so indicates a "new money" pretension that makes the middle brow nervous, but which the high brow will choose to ignore: "Who is HE to tell me I can't have a dog?" As you can see, the humor in Frasier can be pretty subtle at times.

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