What is Taste?

What is taste?

Noun

1 The sensation of flavour perceived in the mouth and throat in contact with a substance

1.2 The faculty of perceiving taste

1.3 A small portion of food or drink taken as a sample

2 A person’s liking for particular flavours

2.1 A person’s tendency to like or be interested in something

3 the ability to discern what is of good quality or of a high aesthetic standard

3.1 conformity or failure to conform to generally held views concerning what is offensive or acceptable

Taste is an opinion, it’s a preference, and it’s something we all have. However, these tastes vary drastically from person to person, and just because two people like one thing the same, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they like everything that person likes.

Recently, I came across an image of a dress, which caused quite a bit of controversy as people couldn’t agree on what colour the dress was. Just for factuality’s sake, it was black and blue, and someone applied different filters and messed with saturation to alter the look of the dress, but the argument was whether people saw Black & Blue, or Gold & White/Lilac/Purple, one girl even suggested the dress to be gold and green. My point is, that everyone who looked at the image had a different opinion on what they saw, whether this was down to people seeing colours differently or people seeing the colours that they thought looked best is a good example of why I’m asking what taste is.

Another good example of taste is in regards to music, which has a mass amount of controversy and sometimes violent arguments regarding who likes what and what genre is considered “Good”. The idea that some groups of people will go as far as to assault people, both physically and verbally, over their choice is quite a ridiculous notion. With an example being that there are people who outwardly hate celebrities like Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and One Direction for the music they make and get genuinely insulted by being made to hear it. Which in my opinion, doesn’t make a lot of sense to have a reaction like that, but it’s very hard to be open minded when it comes to something you feel to be distasteful, especially when a majority of society feels so passionate about their own likes.

In 2013 there was a news article on the ‘Mail Online’ which claimed that “‘Loving’ teenager hanged himself after listening to ‘death metal music with dark lyrics which glorified death’” this quote is taken directly from the website:

“A schoolboy killed himself after listening to death metal on his iPod, an inquest has heard. Truman Edley, who was just 15 at the time of his death, hanged himself in the hallway of the family home in Rotherham after he had been listening to the violent music.

A coroner refused to name the band he was listening to or publish the extreme lyrics which formed part of the evidence at the inquest in Rotherham.

Speaking as a fan of Metal, be it Death, Power, Melodic, Thrash, and whatever other terms are thrown about in regard to “rock” music, I know that, yeah, some of the songs do have strong undertones of death to them, but that’s just the style of music as most of those songs are about the writer’s own experiences of death from a loved one, family member or friend. Secondly, a lot of the other songs by the SAME bands which have “death-related” songs have songs which speak about the joys of life, love, and other generic happy subjects. I mean, as I write this blog, I’m listening to System of a Down, and I don’t have any thoughts of suicide or self-mutilation, like many claim. Relating this back to the last sentence of the quote “The official also noted that Truman had been suffering from a number of problems, and his mother said that he had “self-esteem issues.” Therefore, as someone who isn’t on the whole “Metal is evil” bandwagon, this says to me that the boy would have probably thought about suicide regardless of what he was listening to, and it has nothing to do with his musical taste.

Taste among “Gamers” is a wide subject, for example, there’s a rift amongst Gamers about the platform they play on, the (not-so) age-old argument of “Xbox vs Playstation vs PC” is one in which every gamer will have been involved with at some point. Today, the differences between Xbox and Playstation are so minimal it comes down to what games the individual wants as they usually include several titles that are “console specific”, but PC gamers are in the winning section of the argument as (usually) their gaming set-ups are usually better than the console variants, with games coming out on PC that would be console specific, meaning that they get the best situation of the three. Not to mention the ability to modify games, but that’s a whole different discussion! The differences in taste amongst the gamers even boils down to the differences between two different franchises essentially selling the same game, for example, Call of Duty & Battlefield. They both, essentially, are First Person Shooters, in which you play within a Squadron or on your own, both have multiple maps with multiple class set-ups, many different weapons and uses essentially the same mechanics and controls, however there are people who will call ‘Call of Duty’ utter rubbish and then proceed to buy, play and enjoy Battlefield, and it also works the other way around. Personally, I’m a Battlefield guy, but that’s because I don’t agree with selling the same game year after year and only putting a different name on the box. Battlefield is guilty of it to some extent, but it’s no-where near as drastic as the way it happens with Call of Duty.

Clothing is another interesting example of people’s tastes, as there are possibly hundreds of different styles and fashions around at the moment, more so than in recent years. One specific fashion I’d like to talk about, solely because it helps to massively further my point, is the “top-knot” fashion that sprung up in recent months. Now, I honestly don’t care what anyone thinks of my opinion on it, as it is MY opinion, and I think that men with top-knots look like ridiculous deformed onions, I can’t see why you’d ever think that look is “good” personally as I think I’d rather stick my face against a belt-sander than look like that, but that is because of my personal tastes. People who have these “top-knots” are often considered to be in the group stereotype, “Hipsters” which, apparently, are one of the more “tastefully” dressed groups of individuals with regards to the current fashion trends. Styles such as Goth & Chav aren’t as massive as they once were thanks to the uprising of the hipster fashion, but to me this newest plague is so much worse than any of its predecessors, as it literally is a combination of random clothes that don’t match anything, thrown together

in some form of need for acceptance of other badly dressed morons. But again, taste is a fickle thing. You may like that kind of thing. Many of which do follow these “fashion fads” are often heavily inspired by ‘popular culture’ with heavy influence upon current celebrity trends. Looking into taste, with regards to behaviour, one monumental devastating atrocities was committed due to difference in taste, both fashion and musical. This was the murder of goth girl Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend Robert Maltby. This murder, although classed as a hate crime on a subculture, it stemmed from an extremely aggressive difference in taste. The gang of yobs that have thankfully all been sentenced to various prison sentences, varying from murder, to GBH, attacked the pair, who were walking home one night, simply due to them being a “pair of moshers”. This in itself it a complete atrocity, and shows that taste is something that people can become overly passionate about. This whole story in itself can be summed up by one of the witness statements: A recording was played in court of a 15-year-old telling the emergency services: ‘This mosher’s just been banged because he’s a mosher … his bird’s on the floor as well.’ A tragic end, to two people who choose to go against the mainstream ideology of “good taste”.

On another topic within the idea of taste in fashion, a lot of major fashion companies bring out clothes each year which are worn by celebrities and those of the richer persuasion, yet these clothes look utterly ridiculous and often could never be worn as “every-day” clothing, nor do they actually have any practical use, but these garments are often considered more tasteful than a tracksuit set, which has practical use, can be worn as every-day clothing and don’t cost more than the average working class wage. The differences between the two examples is cost and taste, but these two factors are often interlinked, as the more something costs the more it’s considered to be tasteful, which is a ridiculous notion if you take into account the fact that there are people who do have the amount of money necessary to buy whatever they want that wouldn’t even consider buying any of the abominations which people call “fashionable”. Celebrity trends don’t just inspire the way people perceive fashion, they also inspire other trends, such as the current onslaught of “old School” tattoos, which mimic and feebly attempt to revitalise the age old navy tattoos of the 1940s and older, copying designs and attempting to create designs by tattooists such as Sailor Jerry, but with a “new School” vibe. These trends, and more often, the titles that go with these trends often bring about a new level of ridiculous taste arguments, with people more often quarrelling over certain style tattoos, copying designs from google which have been recreated on literally thousands of people. This in itself seems to remove any of the creative, and moreover individuality, that come with tattoos, and body modifications in general. This includes the “feather bursting into birds”, the “infinity symbol with (insert random word/name in cursive here)” and also the “David Beckham sleeve”. Yet saying this, many still think that tattoos in themselves are tasteless, and are the age old symbols of criminals, gangs and general miscreants, but maybe that taste is due to the era in which the people with this opinion have grown up in, and moreover, their social class.

Television is another topic in which taste is widely varied, for example True Blood, The Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy, there is a vast amount of murder, death, drug use and sexual content within these shows which a lot would consider to be untasteful, however each of these shows boost massive viewing audiences and fan bases, which just goes to show how something viewed as tasteless amongst some is massively revered by others. Most of these popular and somewhat violent shows what are popular at the moment, all hail themselves from the United States. Does this poise another question, Is taste based on your area, country and culture? I’d say yes. Taste within TV can not only be based on your taste in fantasy, if a character or actor is aesthetically appealing, or just the storyline. It can also be to do with how relatable the subject matter is. Soap operas are a huge pointer towards that. Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale all have monumental fan bases, and although they are mostly fantasy, they do sometimes address current world issues, and also have relatable topics within them. Although over dramatized, one of the most memorable storylines from EastEnders for example, was when Kat Slater came out to be Zoe Slaters Mother, rather than the sister that Zoe had been brought up to believe. Although this in itself seems farfetched, it raises the issues of teenage pregnancy, and the characters inability to cope and raise said child, with custody being re-aligned to her own parents. This is seemingly “good taste” in TV shows, within a lot of British culture, but I personally find it to be mindless drivel, as it is like watching mundane and potentially ordinary people create over exaggerated problems for themselves. This brings me onto another popular selection of television shows, which has influenced taste. Be it taste in sexual partners, fashion, aspirations and also mannerisms: Reality Television. Now most reality TV for me is a massive No No when it comes to my TV at home, yet there is one brand of reality TV I will watch. And that is The Jeremy Kyle Show.

The Jeremy Kyle Show is often a cause for quite drastic differences in opinion, with some people tag lining it with “Human Bear Baiting” for its ability to antagonise the shows subjects, often humiliating them for their mistakes, and chastising them for mundane things that really shouldn’t be a huge issue. Many people will view this in bad taste, and in a way, the whole show is quite tasteless, shunning apparently lower class people, to create entertainment, and in even worse taste, reducing a lot of its viewers, myself included, to tears, laughing at some of the ridiculous problems people have created for themselves.

Yet this kind of reality TV has a lot more substance than the likes of Jersey Shore, Geordie Shore, The only way is Essex and a stupidly long list of TV shows that glamourize a bunch of babbling and uneducated idiots, primarily focused on dress sense, and nights out. I cant see any remote appeal to these shows, but this is down to Taste I suppose. And obviously they are considered “in good taste”, as 57% of all TV shows are reality TV. Yet another argument against this, other than just personal opinion is that since the dramatic increase in reality TV in 2000, the amount of young teenage girls with eating disorders has tripled, due to the forced belief that they should look a certain way. This, is “bad taste” on behalf of television producers of this drivel. Why would you continue to create these shows knowing that apparent good taste has such negative effects on people? Oh yeah, money. Taste and moreover Good taste, can easily come back to money.

There’s another argument that can in a way boil down to taste… and that’s sexual preference.  This topic is quite a touchy one, and literally, can only be backed up by opinion. Yet there also seems to be many that are in agreement about the “sexiness” of a person, leading to yearly lists being compiled. For instance, FHM compiled the “100 sexiest women alive 2014” list, which was topped by actress Jenifer Lawrence. In all honesty, as chauvinistic as it is, I kind of do have to agree as a fan of Jenifer Lawrence, but most of the time I can’t help but sit and wonder who decides these things? It also re-raises the question of how taste can be forced upon people by deciding what is good and what is appealing for the majority, and most of the time we just go along with whatever they decide.