Is the woman who ‘once had three dates on a single Saturday and still had time to defrost my refrigerator and rotate my tyres’ the ultimate feminist TV hero? Absolutely, says writer Millie Milliken
Twenty-five years ago, on September 16 1993, Frasier aired its very first episode. It was created as a follow up to the perm and plaid-laden Eighties sensation Cheers, based around one of its more minor characters, Frasier Crane. Expectations were relatively low for a sitcom about the pompous psychiatrist who moves, post-divorce, back to Seattle to start a radio show, where he ends up living with his cantankerous father. Besides, who ever heard of a successful spin-off?
264 episodes, 38 Emmy awards and a finale that brought in 33.7m viewers later, Frasier is one of NBC’s most triumphant shows. The only series to eclipse its Emmy record? Game of Thrones, 12 years after Frasier’s final episode aired in 2004. And with rumours abound that its eponymous star, Kelsey Grammer, is in talks to bring Dr Crane and the gang back to our screens, there’s one character in particular that I hope will be power-suiting it back with him: Roz Doyle.
The character of Frasier’s radio show producer nearly wasn’t as we know her. Friends star Lisa Kudrow was originally cast in the part but when the producers saw her in rehearsals, they decided they needed someone more authoritative in the role. Enter their second choice, Peri Gilpin. Fiercely funny, defiantly headstrong and with one of the filthiest laughs I’ve ever heard, Gilpin’s Roz became the benchmark for what I thought women should be.
While her female counterparts only have the best of one world (case in point: Frasier’s ex-wife Lilith is a revered psychiatrist, but lacks emotion) Roz is determined to have it all. Yep, for me the woman who ‘once had three dates on a single Saturday and still had time to defrost my refrigerator and rotate my tyres’, is the ultimate feminist TV hero. And for a sexually carefree character that existed in the same decade that the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal broke, she deserves that title even more.
To celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary, I’ve gone through the archives to find six of the main reasons that Roz deserves the mantle of ultimate feminist female character…
She advocates casual sex
Although her dating life is often the butt of both Frasier and his brother Niles’s jokes, Roz takes unashamed pride in her prolific sex life: the line ‘I mean, he’s good. I’m better, but he’s trainable’ just about sums it up. Her little black book (literal, not metaphorical), after 264 episodes, probably comes with an index. But, despite the judgement of most of the show’s other characters (including her best friend Daphne), Roz refuses downplay her promiscuity. A quarter of a century ago, she challenged the stereotype of female sexuality in a way that women are only just, in 2018, being less judged for.
She chooses to be a single mother
When Roz becomes unexpectedly pregnant, it comes as a huge shock. There’s no question as to whether or not she will keep it (she tells Frasier she always knew she would), but there is a question as to who the father is. We soon learn that it’s an unsuspecting 20-year-old and, despite his offer of marriage, Roz turns him down in favour of raising her daughter alone.
Of course, her dating life takes a downturn: breaking the news of her ‘predicament’ leads to scaring off dates, while men turn on a sixpence when they notice her burgeoning bump. But Roz refuses to conform. It’s not that she doesn’t want to get married (‘When I die, I want it to be on my 100th birthday, in my beach house on Maui, and I want my husband to be so upset that he has to drop out of college’) she just knows she doesn’t have to.
She doesn’t let men get the better of her
From playing along with their unwanted advances (only to leave them in their underwear on her balcony), to beating them with the flowers they’ve brought her (after finding out that they’re married), Roz doesn’t sacrifice the sistership for sex. Quips from men that undermine her as a woman are also batted back with bite. In one episode, she puts on a cooing show with a puppy before thrusting it, emotionless, to Frasier. ‘Roz, how can you toss him aside after such a tender display of affection?!’ Her reply? ‘I can do it with men too’.
She succeeds in a male-dominated career
Roz’s mother is a Wisconsin Attorney General, an unusual role for a woman at the time, and Roz also breaks through the glass ceiling in her profession. She admits her reluctance to go to family gatherings to face the constant questions about her love life (especially with a sister who tows the marital line) but Frasier reminds her that, as the producer of The Dr Frasier Crane Show, she has the achievement of being one of the only women in her field - and that she nails it.
She auditions for her own programme (and only doesn’t get it because of Frasier’s meddling agent) and is more often than not the reason for the success of Frasier’s show. By the end of the series, and over all her male peers, Roz becomes KACL Station Manager.
She ain’t no wallflower
Or, in other words, she gives zero f**ks. She licks a rare book belonging to Niles in a retort to a sexist comment made towards her. She openly tells Frasier that she thinks psychiatry is ‘bull’ (on his first day at the radio station). When Frasier calls her to ask what it means when a woman invites him back to her hotel room, she replies ‘it means even a blind pig can find an acorn once in a while’. When she arrives at Niles’s engagement party, she greets him and his fiancé with, ‘congratulations and all that BS, where’s the bar?’ And the rest. You get the wonderful, zingy, not-holds-barred picture.
She stands up for what she believes in
When she’s not concentrating on being at the top of her game at work, juggling life as a single mum and just being a general badass, Roz is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. From instigating a strike at the radio station when management cancels the staff’s annual raise, to turning up as Wonder Woman to a party where guests dress as their heroes, she personifies the strength and courage it takes to be a woman. She doesn’t bow to stereotypes, she never lets the man have the upper hand and she is always, always a class act.
If I was invited to a ‘dress as your hero’ party, I’d definitely go as Roz Doyle.