The Everyman Taste

Today: I watch a little bit of the Olympics – the dressage final – but as curious as the sport is (horses trotting very precisely to music), I’m still uninterested in it all. Not even at a time when people who don’t usually watch sport are now in fact watching sport. And lots of it.  But my taste seems immutable: I do not like sport. Pity, really. I take no pleasure in not sharing a common taste – no tiresome contrarian I.

On the subject of common tastes, I’ve just been watching a three part TV documentary, All In The Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry. Mr Perry is shown visiting people in Britain from across the class divide, in order to portray them in a series of colourful tapestries. With the tapestries, he manages to pay homage to Hogarth’s Rake’s Progress as well as classic religious paintings, while commenting on 21st century social behaviour, sometimes affectionately, sometimes scathingly.

The programmes themselves rather offend my own taste in documentary making, however. They do that irritating magazine-like thing of having a montage of clips at the start as a kind of framing device, so nothing is ever a surprise. It’s a reminder that when an artist or expert becomes a TV presenter, unless they have a hand in the whole process and treat it like an equal artform (like, say, Jonathan Meades), they’re at the mercy of a formulaic director, one who thinks they know what people like in a documentary. Which is rather ironic when it’s meant to be discussing the nature of taste. Still, at least the series justified itself with the tapestries, by acting as a conventional advert for unconventional art.

Mr Perry has some interesting interpretations on what makes taste, and where taste comes from. He sees it as part of peer group aspiration, of wanting to belong yet also define oneself as an individual. In my case, my taste in Not Liking Sport isn’t any kind of deliberate choice at all. It’s entirely innate; I don’t like sport in the same way as I am left-handed. Some people might point to my schooldays for reasons – I was a classic swot who was good in the classroom but useless in the gym, and one whose parents also were not big followers of sport. But neither was I forced to not like it. There’s certainly no escaping being exposed to sport, particularly football.

And right now, liking sport is the best way to feel Not Alone. But while I’m pleased for the people who take pleasure from the Olympics, I still can’t join in.

Something I am following, however, is another well-publicised discussion on taste. Obligingly, the BFI’s Sight & Sound magazine has released its Best Films Ever According To Proper Critics list, which it only does every ten years. The big news is that Vertigo has toppled Citizen Kane from the #1 spot for the first time in 50 years. I enjoy reading all the ensuing articles, until I come across one particular piece in The Guardian that makes a couple of rather sweeping assumptions about the masses:

“We’ve all used the clapping Orson Welles gif to punctuate Tumblr posts, but have you ever watched all of Citizen Kane?”

No to ever using the clapping gif, yes to watching all of the film. I suppose that makes me officially too uncommon for The Guardian.


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