The full essay is necessary reading if you ever thought liking a certain band/movie/book/painting makes you better than somebody else.
I have this feeling that some works of art are good, because I like them, and some aren’t, because I don’t. But some of the works I don’t like are simply works that fall outside of my taste, works which might bore me or annoy me, but that I can see others enjoying; the rest of the works I dislike are works that not only fall outside my taste, but are actively bad, and the people who like them must have horrible taste. This strikes me as a common attitude, though I’m most comfortable interrogating my own prejudices and so wouldn’t swear it’s universal: we put art — broadly defined, including journalism, novels, poems, songs, performances, movies, sculptures, paintings, photographs, and much else besides — into one of three categories: those we like, those we don’t like, and those that are horrible and which if someone likes them are grounds for ridicule. (Maybe the “those we don’t like” category could also be divided into Canon works, works we don’t get but feel are important because they are widely considered to be important and about which we’re willing to entertain the notion that we’ve simply misunderstood them; and those works we don’t get but imagine someone sane, but totally unlike us in major ways could enjoy.)
But I wonder: what grounds do we have for making this distinction between “bad art” and “simply a matter of taste”? Between stuff that, we recognize, it’s simply a matter of different tastes if we like or dislike, and stuff that, we seem to think, are simply bad and indicators of bad taste? Related is the distinction between art we enjoy and art that’s “good”, because while we’re inclined to say that art we like is good, we can also have “guilty pleasures”, which are works we enjoy but that we can’t rationally defend the qualities of to others, and there can be work we recognize as “good”, for the opposite reason — we (or someone else) can rationally defend their qualities to others — but that we don’t like. In general, the question is whether we have grounds to uphold a distinction between what we like or dislike, and what is good and bad in art.