A Matter of Taste?

There’s a line David Foster Wallace quotes from Tracy Austin’s insipid autobiography: “Tennis took me like a magic carpet to all kinds of places and all kinds of people.” He quotes it to note how the ghostwriter seems to have contributed very little to the writing quality. But, in reflecting on the Monroe project to this point, it immediately came to mind. I’ve literally traveled from Virginia all the way to Toronto. I’ve seen stars on stage and heard them interviewed. I’ve met film fans from around the world and found my Airbnb landlord to be a father figure in an odd way. I’ve watched some movies that were very comfortably within my taste. Others have pushed me to define more clearly what bothers me or disappoints me and why. A creepy relationship between a kindergarten teacher and her student was physically difficult to watch I was so uncomfortable. I didn’t expect to have such a strong response, but it tested me much more than some of the violence I saw, which included a man standing suddenly directly into a knife through the crown of his head.

Going into the project I had some official as well as personal goals. I wanted to better understand cinema presently as well as popular and critical taste. For myself, I wanted to figure out why I hated The Last Jedi but have come to really enjoy The Last Knight. The explanation I arrived at is tentative and will require more theoretical work to flesh out, but my basic idea I found helpful in thinking about diverging taste. I tried to develop a set of values that people hold in watching films, values that change with expectations but often differ from other viewers. The values I landed on were message, social value (wokeness), technical excellence, identity, nuts and bolts (plot/characters), ending, and tightness (or logic). I don’t think these are perfect or exhaustive, but considering which I value compared to critics and other fans helped me better understand how taste can be so different yet so vehemently defended at many points. It helped me to humanize people who otherwise I’d be prone to labeling as pretentious, shallow, or ignorant.

Attached is the paper I ended up with. It’s typical of my writing when I’m enjoying myself. It’s not self-serious, and it’s not niche. I hope it’s, at the very least, an entertaining read for those who feel brave enough and moves you to consider the taste of you and your community.

A Matter of Taste


Paper’s done, game over.

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