is a philosophy discussion group meeting on the 3rd Tuesday of every month
from 7.30 to 9.30pm
in the The Bull
in Tanners Street. We cover a large range of topics
. If you have an idea for a topic that you would like us to cover why not drop us a line
? There's no charge for membership and everyone is welcome to drop in. Just bring your brain and some beer money!
Good taste — Bad taste
We will mainly be looking at some examples of bad taste as our criteria of bad taste, and the strength of feeling it arouses, helps us to see where the boundary lies. The big question is, of course, when we make a judgement of taste are we just expressing our feeling of like and dislike or are we drawing attention to some real, objective features in the object of judgement? Is taste purely subjective or is it objective? Does someone who claims to have better taste than someone else (or the masses) asserting some real knowledge of the world or just epressing snobbery?
Good taste and tastelessness not only applies to art, of course, although that will be our main focus, it can also apply to remarks, jokes, adverts, TV programmes etc. Some examples are given below to show the wide range of ways that one is able to offend your fellow-humans!
Is taste purely subjective?
In his 2014 book The Virtues of the Table philosopher Julian Baggini argues that taste in food (literal 'taste') can be objective and is not simply a matter of opinion:
If you accept that liking is not the same as judging to be good, that aesthetic objects have objective qualities, that some people can discern these better than others and that the existence of these qualities provides grounds for claiming that some things really are better than others, then you cannot but accept that taste is not purely subjective.
What is true of literal taste in food is surely also true of metaphorical taste... Read the article (PDF, 9 pages)...
Gratson Perry's TV programmes on taste
Grayson Perry looks at working class, middle class and upper class taste and concludes, in the final episode that no taste is better than another. This seems like a very democratic conclusion, avoiding the accusation of snobbery, but thoughout the series Perry makes all sorts of value judgements about what he is seeing. Is he saying that these statements ate nothing but expression of personal like and dislike? If so, he rather undermines the whole point of his series surely.
- All In The Best Possible Taste, episode 1 (video, 38 mins)
- All In The Best Possible Taste, episode 2 (video, 39 mins)
- All In The Best Possible Taste - episode 3 (video, 39 mins)
Some examples of bad taste for you to consider
- A slide show of some examples of bad taste
- Beware. This is a 12Mb PDF file which may take a while to dowload.
Bad taste TV & Radio
- Bad tase reality shows in the USA
- Good examples of bad taste in the media. The question you have to ask yourself is why you feel they are bad taste? Is it something to do with trivialising important human issues?
- Bad taste joke about Jade Goody in the Big Brother house
- A contestant in the Big Brother house made a joke about the ghost of Jade Goody 'haunting' them. Many viewers took to social media to condemn the remark as in 'bad taste', which is ironical as many would think that the whole BB show is in bad taste! On the other hand the ghost of Princess Diana appears in the play Charles III and no one has complained and she had just as tragic a death as Jade.
- The Russell Brand prank phone call to Andrew Sachs, 2008
- Brand and Ross called Sachs as a guest to interview on-air. When Sachs failed to answer the telephone, they are heard leaving a series of lewd messages on his answering machine, including comments about Brand's relationship with Sachs's granddaughter, Georgina Baillie. The incident was widely criticised including by Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
- TV Presenter Matthew Wright joked about a 16 year old boy murdered on a Scottish island, 2011
- The joke centered on the fact that there had not been a murder on the island since 1968. Channel 5 received 2,000 complaints.
Bad taste adverts
- Bookies lambasted for tasteless advert featuring paedophile Rolf Harris
- A billboard for the Irish bookmaker featured the slogan "The only Aussie we don't want to get out" alongside the disgraced entertainer's grinning face. Is this just a matter of context? The ad is displayed in public. Would it be OK in a magazine say?
Bad taste fashion
- Sexy Virgin Mary
- A prominent fashion designer sparked outrage in Chile by dressing up models like the Virgin Mary---in some cases with ample, near-naked breasts.
Bad taste art
- Marcus Harvey's painting of Myra Hindley
- Myra is the large 1995 painting of Myra Hindley by Marcus Harvey which became notorious when it was exhibited at the Sensation exhibition at the RSA in 1997. It was made using casts of an infant's hand to build up a mosaic of black, grey and white handprints, creating a reproduction of the police photograph of Hindley after her arrest. It is presumably the juxtapostion of the innocent child's hand-print with the evil Hindley that causes offence. The painting was vandalised twice at the RSA.
- The Holy Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili, 1996
- The image, displayed in the 1997 'Sensations' exhibition is of a Black Madonna executed in, amongst other things, elephant dung, map pins and collaged pornographic images. Like 'Myra Hindley', it was defaced while on exhibition.
- Piss Christ, 1987
- Piss Christ is a 1987 photograph by the American artist and photographer Andres Serrano depicting a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's urine. In 1987, Piss Christ was exhibited at the Stux Gallery in New York and was favourably received. The piece later caused a scandal when it was exhibited in 1989. Serrano received death threats and hate mail, and he lost grants due to the controversy. The work was vandalized at the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, and gallery officials reported receiving death threats in response to Piss Christ.
Bad taste poetry
- The doggerel of Patience Strong
- Patience Strong was the pen-name of Winifred Emma May (1907--1990) who wrote very sentimental poetry. Her name has now become almost an adjective for bad poetry.
Bad taste products
- A zombie-woman target that bleeds when you shoot it
- You can buy a mannequin gun-target in the form of a zombie woman that bleeds when you shoot it.
- Jimmy Saville costume