Deploring Other People’s Deplorable Taste: A Comment on a Comment

This was the original comment from an old friend:

“Much of [the author’s] charm is due to the fact that he clings so tenaciously to Victorian ideas and sensibilities. Thus he blames the present deplorable public taste on ‘egalitarian democracy.’ He says this even as the Occupy Movement attempts to dramatize the hideous discrepancies that presently exist between rich and poor. The appalling lack of taste displayed on television, in art generally and in other aspects of modern life is due to the collapse of standards among our elite, which is interested only in money. I keep telling [the author] that in such a society as ours he should trust the poor and defeated. They alone can judge the monstrous pretext that what is on offer from the media is a response to ‘popular’ demand.”

The author’s comments:

Advertisers intend entertainments in television to make people feel good in order to put them in a buying mood. This purpose is at odds with the intention to create good art, with the result that much of it is indeed deplorable. But by no means all of it.

As to the difference in taste between today’s elites and the elites of the past, the author agrees that today’s elite is unique in its shallowness and lack of interest in sponsoring serious art. It is difficult to be serious in artistic matters if one’s primary purpose is to make money. It is, however, surprising how many valuable works are created nevertheless, with support from one source or another. It should be added, however, that, outside the mass media, serious writers, composers and visual artists often intend their creations to be appreciated primarily by the cognoscenti. If they are not funded or rewarded, the shallow elites are not solely to blame.

In pre-materialistic times, Shakespeare’s patrons no doubt reflected public taste. The Globe Theatre was usually sold out. No wonder: the plays were mass entertainments. Pope Julius II’s motivations in commissioning Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel were considerably less profit-oriented than those of today’s patrons, as were those of Mozart’s Archbishop of Salzburg, and certainly those of the Victorian press barons who published Dickens. The schools in Vienna were closed on the day of Beethoven’s funeral.

As to the poor and oppressed, it is perfectly true that the author hangs on tenaciously to the ideas and sensibilities of reform-minded, humane Victorians like Wilberforce, Lord Shaftesbury and Matthew Arnold. They believed that the poor and oppressed were to be helped – and trusted.

So does the author as long as they are not whetting their knives to cut his throat.

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One response to “Deploring Other People’s Deplorable Taste: A Comment on a Comment

  1. Well put.
    “It is difficult to be serious in artistic matters if one’s primary purpose is to make money.”
    How true.