Sunday, 18 February 2018

Accounting For Taste

Debates regarding the nature of perception have been carrying on for centuries. As has the phenomenon of people claiming that they, and they alone, have finally cracked it and are therefore perpetually on the side of the angels. On the other side of the ledger are the individuals who maintain that opinions are like noses in that, barring some sort of unfortunate incident, everybody is posed of one. The truth is, of course, to be found somewhere between these two extremes. Critics are as human and therefore as fallible as any other in the mortal coil. Though, to be fair, the majority of professional critics have experience, education and other such background factors that give them a sharper insight and wider context when judging a particular work. This can include amateur and self-published critics, such as those often found ‘online’. Individuals such as Lindsay Ellis and Kyle Kallgren who possess post-graduate degrees in film production and film theory respectively.

While all opinions are, in the end, essentially subjective, there are particular things one can do in order to account for this. One of the simplest methods is to try and discern exactly what it is you like or otherwise about a particular work. Just saying that something ‘sucks’ is not terribly helpful. Nor overly articulate. Lacking many of the syllables one so likes to see in words. Pointing out that the characters seem bland and disengaged and/or that the plot is weak or slow or derivative, or even all of 

these, sometimes referred to as a ‘hat trick’, is a lot more useful and generally more considered. Something else that can be done is to expend as much effort as possible to account for taste. Despite what the old saying might claim, it is possible to account for taste and to not automatically assume that just because one is note entirely enamoured with a work it is not, therefore, intrinsically bad. A prime example of this manner of falafel thinking is when an adult criticizes a children’s film for being ‘patronizing’ or ‘simplistic’.

A reverse of this effect occurred with Neil Gaiman’s illustrated novel Coraline. Loved equally by readers and critics, adults and children, there later emerged something of a 

trend in which children could read the famously frightening tale  and end up largely unscathed, while adults tended to sleep with all the lights on. Gaiman’s own theory is that children tended to see the book an an adventure story, while adults see the book as a story about a child in danger. Difference of perspective which cannot help but influence one’s reaction to the work.

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