Bad Taste


When it comes to design and decoration, it feels extremely tricky and dangerous to accuse anyone of having bad taste, or to pride oneself on having good taste. The official story is that anything goes and no one knows what is good or bad anyway. But that seems too easy, and lacking in ambition. Progress can in fact be made on this important issue if we try to understand what psychological mechanisms govern the business of taste in the first place. Why do we have the taste that we have? Why are we attracted or repelled by certain sorts of styles? The best way to interpret this is via a theory of compensation. We’re all a bit unbalanced inside, and get attracted to styles in the world that promise to compensate us for the things that we’re lacking within. so for example, people who feel chaotic, undisciplined, and cluttered inside, are liable to be very drawn to interiors that are serene, pure, and poised. Equally, people who are very exposed to and oppressed by the brutal tempo of modern life, with its excessive brutality, precision, and technological war are likely to be drawn to styles that speak of the rustic, the natural, and the cozily shabby. Now that might be an explanation for taste, but what about bad taste? What singles out instances of bad taste is excess in some direction or another. Bad taste is a massive overcompensation, which has been generated by a sharp shortfall in some area or another; it’s a response to a psychological or physical trauma. So for example, the Russians and the Saudis have, over the years, developed a reputation for spectacularly bad, as in gaudy, over-the-top taste, a pumped up version of Versailles in Riyadh or Moscow. This isn’t, in a sense, surprising; a century of extreme deprivation under communism, and an eternity of eking out a living in the barren deserts of Saudi Arabia have created, understandably, desperate desires for compensation, which have evidently, rather, overshot their mark. Or, think of sentimental bad taste, the kind where there are gnomes in the front gardens and gaudy, and sickly sweet trinkets inside. This is a style frequently favored by the less well-off in society people whose woking lives are humiliating back-breaking and the very opposite of welcoming tender. it should be no wonder that these unfortunates might therefore be in the mood for something counterbalancingly sweet at home in every instance of bad taste, we’re looking at the overeager embracing of a good quality like sweetness, freedom, fun or prosperity that was once in a very short supply bad taste often sickens people but once one understands its origins it starts to seem unduly harsh to judge like this we can all understand that if a person is starving, they might eagerly eat things which in less desperate situations they’d obviously reject and that in their desperation their manners might take a back seat it’s not at all pretty but we never blame them because we know why they’re stuffing themselves with such haste We should apply similar tact when confronted with unfortunate taste in design What’s bad in bad taste isn’t the person but the prior trauma which they’re seeking to compensate for, through their déco. There is no point in mocking or offering lectures about art history the problem isn’t a lack of information. It’s a trauma created by a badly broken and unbalanced world the solution to bad taste is therefore, political good taste comes about when people feel appreciated. When there is enough to go around and when there’s an economy
which doesn’t routinely humiliate in a base its workers to make good taste more widespread what matters above all are efforts to diminish the desperate lives in which lapses of taste invariably have their origins.

100 comments

  1. I disagree. I hate seeing things black and white, 'good' and 'bad'. There's no such thing as good or bad or right and wrong, only opinions.

  2. This video really feels like unsubstantiated pseudoscience. Just pointing to a minor number of seemingly-right examples and then presenting some vaguely-right-sounding-rationale doesnt make something true.

  3. What about Donald Trump? He grew up in wealth yet he loves an overload of gold everywhere he goes. Or what about the British Royal Family and their palaces?

  4. Sooo if I like to decorate my house with skulls and dark and gloomy stuff, what am I compensating? The fact that I live in a too happy and colorfull world and am treated to well at my working place? xD What if I also like glitter, fairies and unicorns!? Am I a total mess then!?!?! T_T So many questions after watching this video…

  5. No offense, but this shows an unstated bias for Scandinavian modernism and against postmodern architecture. Prague's Dancing House is well-regarded, and the city has plenty of "in good taste" architecture despite being ex-Communist.

  6. i have bad taste out spite for the labels generally associated with each one. i trade up styles constantly to keep people on their toes and to confuse them. 😉

  7. 2:49 Fiat 131 Abarth Rally! I wonder why such a specific choice of car in a video completely unrelated to rallying or sports in general.

  8. This video is tinged with racism. According to this video, white people determine what is and is not in "good taste".

  9. This is only voicing a very particular opinion and championing it as true, offering little to no opposition. Quite the opposite of "stretching ones mind" unless you mean around a rigid and pompous world view
    1:18 cats rule, fuck you
    2:23 is awesome, fuck you
    i don't like these videos at all, i'll leave

  10. I think taste is rather subjective to enviromental and idolised figures(as well as other factors), as some may like a certain asian style (just one example) others may not. though this is rather a short answer to a rather large topic, but in any sence im trying to say that its not just based on one thing and differs between all of us and i honestly think the word bad shouldn't be used as an adjective for taste (though im not saying that taste shouldn't be up for criticism, everything should be)

  11. I have some reservations on this one. For me, a "taste" reflects one's experience and opinion, exclusive to the person. Calling something bad taste is like calling someone with a "bad opinion", I postulate that the term only fits when such is contradictory, as in incoherence in style.

  12. why not discuss how certain forms of artistic expression rely on "Bad Taste". it should be embraced artistically

  13. I was born in Soviet Union (Ukraine) and witnessed it's last years as a child. As a child I was happy, even though we didn't really have any cartoons, bananas or fancy toys, but I as a kid didn't care, cause I didn't know any better. From what my parents said it was a terrible life for grown-ups though. To buy meat, sausages or rare clothes people had to stand in lines for hours, corruption and nepotism were everywhere. For instance my parents had a right to get a flat for free from the state, but… they would have had to wait for 40 years to get it. So there were corrupt mechanisms to speed the process up and the people who didn't participate and didn't pay certain public officials didn't get anything in the end.
    And I'm not even starting on all the genocides Soviet Union (and by that I mean the Russian majority) committed on minorities (Ukrainians, Kazakhs etc.) and the resentment and fear it left among the survivors. Soviet Union was a piece of shit country and I'm happy it's over.

  14. School of Generalisations presents Generalised Good Taste vs Generalised Bad Taste: A sweeping stroke through a complex subject using quick and easily-digestible pop-psychology based on mostly-outdated, Freudian analysis – in just over 4 minutes!

    This is by far the worst one I've seen you guys do…

  15. Good god your idea of "good taste" is soooo boring. There's nothing there. No color, no personality, nothing.

  16. the world is interesting because there is limitless types of beauty. <3 for me, grand old french castles, baroque decor, they are amazing! how can people actually make such gaudy items work together?! so awesome…

  17. So one could create a style to make people think he has a certain trauma – even though he has not? 😀

  18. This is at least true to a degree. While it can be generalizing, since this video is less about whether or not the examples are used are super true, but more the general statement of "taste is a reflection of what a person needs in their lives". I see comments like: "I have this kind of mind, but I don't have the kind of taste that the video says people with this kind of mind have." It really isn't about that, that's just an example. While some people may find a certain kind of style to comforting, for example, others may think that it is the exact opposite of comfortable; but the sentiment remains: it reaches to the beholder of that taste in some way profound enough to make it a taste of theirs in the first place.

  19. Stop accusing video making judgment about what is good taste and what is bad taste.
    It just explained that its bad taste because reason of it is need of compensate from bad experiences. its not what kinda taste is bad, its reason what is harmful.

  20. Pretty narrow minded way to look at it. This is a complex topic that really can't be summed up with so briefly. I'd go as far as to say that in the majority of cases this explanation doesn't even play a part.

  21. This actually makes sense. Excess = bad taste. Well-argued and on point. Even goes so far as to analyze and understand why people act this way and accept it, address it, and not complain.

  22. Wait wait wait wait wait wait
    So you're saying that if we achieve a balanced state of self we would be unpassionate spirits looming across the world with no aesthetical inclination?

  23. Rusians have good taste i woud know i live in Sent Peatersburg . Bad taste in rusian architecture are leftovers by soviets but they weren't supose to be pretty they were practikal
    But now rusia is gering on her former traks

  24. @Alain De Botton, I'm a big fan of your work. Can you make an episode that discusses 'bad taste' in music? I'm referring to terrible mainstream commercial pop music.

  25. This video came so close to naming and recognizing historical trauma and its place within specific cultural ornamentation and the famine-feast cycles that influenced that form. So close school of life. For more about the very real impact of historical trauma see ( https://www.extension.umn.edu/family/cyfc/our-programs/historical-trauma-and-cultural-healing/ )

  26. In the end it's more about intelligence than compensation. I've not yet met an intelligent person who would heavily overcompensate with style. No intelligent person has a style of Pamela, Kanye etc. The same with undereducated and under average intelligent after generations of indoctrination and backwardness Saudis. It's not politically correct to put things that way, but that's how it is. In general, you can have different styles being an intelligent person, but there the opposite correlation between intelligence and the degree to which your style deviates from the average to the edge.

  27. Does this initiate that ppl with good taste are more emotionaly stable?

    I always subconsciously assumed ppl with rly bad taste are autistic in some way, and never wanted really to meet them.

    Personaly, i think they are lacking huge part in self reflecting and conscious personal growth, but dunno how to argument my belief. I might be wrong ofc.

    I hope i havent offended any1 btw.

    I would like to hear from you people, what do u think about that.
    Feel free to comment :))

  28. So you mean Western Taste… one of the last cartoon pictures of good taste literally had the Big Ben in the back….
    More "West is the Best! Go bagels ans lattes!"…. yawn… insultingly ethnocentric.
    Didnt think i need to unsubscribe from school of life but here we are.

  29. "What's bad in bad taste isn't the person, but the prior trauma which they're seeking to compensate for through their decor"

    I have no idea if there's truth to this but died laughing…

  30. The only ppl who have bad taste are the ones who pointing fingers at others so they can run out of it!! I'm a saudi by the way and this video is BAD TASTE!. Thank you for reading.

  31. It makes sense, but it does not explain why people from same cultural and economic backgrounds still so often have very different tastes, bad and good.

  32. I find it interesting and slightly offensive that whenever they speak about 'bad taste' the background music changes a more latin beat. I love the content school of life has to offer but just because you lack the physical coordination and grace to move to latin music and you can't enjoy it doesn't mean it's bad taste

  33. This video is the definition of "pseudophilosophy". No sources, no background information, and wildly overgeneralized speculation.

  34. 1:17 Examples of bad taste… And you're displaying a DRAGON??

    Well, fuck you. Dragons rule.

    … And by the way, your entire premise is that everything you say is bad, and good, taste is necessarily and objectively bad, and good. Well, it isn't. You're simply making a claim.

    I love TSoL, and I appreciate what you're trying to do here, but it failed.

  35. This video is problematically ethnocentric and incredibly pompous. You can't discredit someone else's aesthetics because you think they're in "bad taste." Taste and aesthetic is relative, so you're only comparing this to your own ideas of good and bad taste. This video and explanation is dangerously oblivious to the classism, racism and xenophobia that's wrapped up in this argument.
    In general, I find your videos very helpful and smart, so this one is especially disappointing. I strongly encourage you all to re-examine what you're saying here.

  36. So…just to be clear, this is some racist bullshit. So bad taste = Black man with fur, hat and gold chain? FOH

  37. Um, bad taste is the scariest not in architecture and clothes but in music and literature. Try to explain that with overcompensation.

  38. In National Lampoon's original Vacation movie, Clark W. Griswold says, "I'm so hungry I could eat a sandwich from a gas station!"  Now there's a classic line and situation.  Agreed with the video here.  ~2:55.

  39. Bad taste is in the eye of the beholder.  One man's bad taste is another man's "perfect."  The question is, should we let anyone else dictate to us what taste we ought to prefer?  (I'm not saying no here, just asking the Q.)

  40. Been watching a lot of British "home decor" shows lately in 2018 and wondering, what in HELL is wrong with British wallpaper?  Bad taste doesn't even begin to describe the horrors they glue to their walls.

  41. This explains why people choose gaudy dress, but doesn't talk about why we dislike it. Amy Chua suggested in her latest book that we look down on lower class taste as a way of separating classes, and that's why we hate things like lawn ornaments, spray tans, and cheap jewelry. But what she didn't get – what I sort of expected this video to talk about – is that bad taste inevitably does two things: it misrepresnts, and it is aggressively attention-grabbing.

    Bad taste is usually a bad smokescreen to make people look richer, stronger, friendlier, or more deeply identified with a subculture than they really are. Everyone represents themselves through appearance, but some do it badly. It's ultimately disingenuous, and that's what turns people off.

    It's also the obnoxiousness that irritates people. Bad taste is a way of stealing people's attention for something not worthwhile, like advertising. Lawn ornaments, flashy attire, dozens of bumper stickers on your rear window: all of these are like cognitive pop-ups that others force on your attention for no beneficial reason. In short, bad taste is misrepresenting yourself LOUDLY.

  42. My mother was very repressed and loathed nudes – she hated even the idea of being naked. I'm less repressed so of course I have loads of nude artworks now

  43. How does the ballenced not- trauma-originated good taste.. Look like?! Can u count on Magazins?

    But king lui XIII who Versailles was for, probably never was deprived, starved, surpressed.. Yet the pathological issues in the design scream the loudest…..

  44. There's no such thing as bad taste! One's desire to become special should not be viewed as eccentric or odd regardless if it's compensating or what not because everyone is unique and has the freedom to express their happiness in life. So long as the pursuit of excess or whatever this video is trying to label is not achieved by violence, there's no reason to make such a big deal of what anyone had been through in life. You can't change the past. You can accept it but you don't have to listen to what people think a good taste should be.

  45. Russians god bad taste??? spoken by a man who comes from the country that gave us the Mohawk and ballerina pants for men.

  46. Well if you look at conspicuous and gaudy consumption it's only considered bad when someone else perceives themselves to be above it, assuming that they are more sophisticated than the 'noveau riche' in that case. It's all just about people trying to make themselves distinct from others on the basis of taste because they would hate to accidentally be associated with someone of a lower status (status being just a construct too). It's the bougiest people who tend to 'rule' what is bad taste and not, and they also come up with new ways of looking or buying when people with less cultural capital start behaving in their way. It's craaazy related to class and Bourdieu wrote about this, really recommend

  47. What you call bad taste is just over exaggeration of things, unmatching textures, grand buildings etc. Trying to show what you don't have by exaggerating might be a compensation however it can never be called bad taste. What is bad taste anyway? Avant-garde? Kitsch? Those all have some patterns and formula within them, even the most exaggeration of things can be beautiful. Besides, taste doesn't have to be beautiful at all. Just because you find something ugly doesn't undervalue it.

  48. The irony is that the biased, western supremacist prespectives of this video are in very bad taste. What are you lacking within, School of Life?

  49. Western minimalism and modernism can also be seen as bad taste that overcompensate a lack of control.

  50. Okay but who determines what is "good taste." This is basically saying that people who came from lesser means cannot have good taste because they'll keep trying to compensate for something. And was it really necessary to generalize an entire countries for having bad taste and asserting that Western countries have good taste? I mean, of course everyone thinks they have good taste and you are clearly looking at the world from a very western perspective. And does simple really mean good taste? You can't try to pass an opinion off as a fact, man.

  51. That's the dumbest and narrow minded video I have ever watched. Why does he think the western is good taste and the Arabic or other cultures are bad tastes. Open your mind a little bit more and try to understand other cultures.
    In Africa we say the anyone who doesn't travel thinks his/her mother is the best cook in the world.

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