Matters of Taste

by Jamie Neben

I have a confession to make that won’t sit well with many of you.  I cannot watch The Sound of Music.  The film might indeed be among the most popular of all time, but when I find it on television, I get no further than Julie Andrews twirling around on the hilltop in the opening scene.  Then I’m searching for something—anything—better.   Better meaning different. Now, I’m not suggesting the movie was poorly made or doesn’t deserve the critical and financial success it achieved.  I just didn’t like it.  While I’m being honest, I am also none too fond of Office Space, Fried Green Tomatoes, and stories that involve wizards, dragons, or hobbits.

On the other hand, sometimes I get thrown for a loop when people don’t admire my favorite films.  For instance, I thought It’s a Wonderful Life was a timeless classic for every person.  Apparently not, as I’ve found out the hard way.  On one particular occasion, while I introduced a so-called friend to the David Lynch masterpiece Blue Velvet, he actually fell asleep in the middle of it.  That was quite the rude awakening for me (and later for my friend when he began to snore).    Another time, not long ago, and not so far, far away, I met someone who told me she “couldn’t get into” the original Star Wars trilogy.  I could hardly contain my dark side when confronted with that inconvenient truth.

In reality, Star Wars isn’t necessarily a good movie.  Just like The Sound of Music isn’t necessarily bad.  There is no disputing matters of taste.

Personal taste is a wonderful thing as it’s the unique filter in each of us that dictates our responses to art, food, fashion, and just about everything else.  Appeal can be measured somewhat by response, but that doesn’t inform us whether something is good or bad.  Nothing can because taste is purely subjective.  Or at least that’s what I cling to when trying to rationalize why the Friday the 13th movie series I grew up loving has some merit.

Some people rely on others to decide what they like, as if they don’t have the intellectual capacity to make up their own minds.

“Since Citizen Kane is consistently voted the best movie of all time, I should like it too.”

“My favorite critic doesn’t like Adam Sandler, so his movies must be stupid.”

“I thought the Best Picture this year was bad so there must be something wrong with me and I need to watch it again.”

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with seeking other opinions and perhaps letting them influence us as to whether we’ll give something a chance.  After all, time is precious, and if we’re spending it on entertainment, we sure as hell want a good return on our investment.  But the final verdict of good and bad should be ours alone.   We should accept our own tastes without apology just as we should respect those of others.

A final note to remember is that tastes change over time.   We may like things later in life that we previously abhorred, or we may cringe now at some of our childhood favorites.  There’s no telling what films I’ll gravitate toward in just five or ten years, let alone a couple of decades from now.

Maybe by then I’ll even like The Sound of Music.