THE BLOG
08/07/2013 10:39 BST | Updated 04/09/2013 06:12 BST

A Question of Taste

The situation is simple, I want to say I have it, but I am very conscious that this might not be the case. This lack or perceived lack of taste is directed, in particular, to my appreciation of the arts ... The question is simple, am I a pleb or a connoisseur?

This petty dilemma of mine awoke while reading an introduction to the 18th century concept of taste and its impact on architecture. The main thrust of this short chapter was that taste was something one is born with, it cannot be learnt. This confirmed a deep fear of mine that while attempting to expand my appreciation of the arts, my taste remains as pedestrian as a twenty something Adrian Mole.

Two recent films spring to my mind when considering taste: Terence Malick's Tree of Life and Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master. These films have been, and indeed are, lauded by the likes of Cannes, the late Roger Ebert and our own Mark Kermode. I walked into both with high hopes, being a massive proponent of Malick's Badlands, and a lover of PTA's oeuvre. Needless to say I was wholly deflated by both; indeed during Tree of Life I lost all sense of time and meaning.

Kermode is the most prominent British film critic, and Ebert arguably the most influential film critic of the mid to late 20th Century. These men of taste were joined in applause by hundreds of their critic peers. Can I have taste if I believe their judgments on these films to be utter bilge? In both films I laughed due to the truly farcical nature of various scenes such as the dinosaur expressing mercy in Tree of Life and the naked sitting room scene in The Master. Is it unforgivable that I would happily rather watch Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988) and Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986) than put myself through these two 'masterpieces' once more.

I will happily accept and respect (well maybe) Kermode's adoration of the horror genre of film and Ebert's preference for Vertigo over Psycho. I struggle, however, when I see overindulged pretension where the former two see genius and philosophical discourse. Am I a philistine or simply a man able to identify the emperor's new clothes when I see it?

John Cusack in High Fidelity (2000) exasperatingly explains to his girlfriend that she cannot like both Marvin Gaye and Simon and Garfunkel, equating the choice to backing the Israelis or Palestinians. Are there really such clear cut decisions to be made in the area of artistic appreciation? It is as if the modern notion of the subjectivity of taste does not allow one a free hand but rather a multiple choice test where one is categorised and then rated.

This rambling post highlights the hilariously trivial quagmire I find myself whenever I struggle to ascertain my status as an amateur appreciator of the arts. It is a deep wish of mine that I had been an 18th century gentleman of leisure, not only for the obligatory valet, but for the ability to proclaim myself a man of taste without being struck down as a fraud by millions of differing opinions published on countless review sites and magazines. Then again I have a sneaking suspicion that this gent of leisure was most probably troubled by the same issues, albeit caused by salon hostesses and literary journals rather than IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.

Help me please...