Friday, November 03, 2006


On matters of taste and decency

I have been thinking about manners, and good taste, and bad taste and where the limits of expression should be. This is, in part, because I've been reading Jane Austen and manners are such a critical part of her world. It is, in part, because I spend time at b3ta and it's flung up numerous issues of good taste in terms of the book they've released and the pulling of an image challenge after Virgin got offended.

Trust me, comparisons between the world of Jane Austen and the world of b3ta are not to be taken lightly.

Some thoughts...
1. I still love Jane Austen, and am apparently more sympathetic towards her heroines now than when I was an angry teen.
2. I'm sorry, b3ta is great but jokes that are sick for the sake of being sick just don't do it for me. It seems rather dull.
3. Surely Virgin can't be that stupid? They've had more publicity as a result of pulling the challenge than they would have got from leaving it up, and they've even given prizes out. I am suspicious.
4. I found it strangely annoying to have a place I post described as one where "design types let off steam and post offensive animations and pictures". Change "offensive" for "funny" and I'm happier. Being funny often leads to being considered offensive in someones eyes, but it's not offensiveness for the sake of it. See 2.
5. There should be no limits to expression. Freedom of speech has to mean freedom to offend. If the thought is there in somebody's head we may as well hear it; better that than it be shoved underground. If I say one person can be silenced I acknowledge than one day it could be me. And I like making noise too much.
6. I can still find things to be offensive twaddle and say that. That's part of the point.
7. The name Jeffrey is, for me, forever associated with Rainbow*.
8. I have had a drop of wine, it's Friday, and life isn't so bad.
9. I'd like everyone reading this to have a good weekend.

I forgot the links as I was writing so have them here.
News about b3ta and Virgin. The Inquirer | The Register | The Guardian | VNUnet
The works of Jane Austen
Someone else with doubts about the bad taste thing

*This isn't a comment on b3ta or Jane Austen. Just something that popped into my head whilst catching up on Jonny's blog this evening.

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I adore Austen's heroines! Except Fanny from Mansfield Park, the wet bint.
Hehe, I finished Mansfield Park last night. She definitely remains the most frustrating of them all. When I was 18 I was far less sympathetic to Anne in Persuasion than I am now though.

I still couldn't resist a few cries of "just tell him" though.
I've loved most of Jane Austen's works since I was about eight years old and that was a long time ago. Haven't read any for a long time. Funny, I had a better/wider literary appreciation, knowledge and taste at the tender age of twelve than I do now. These days I seem to have regressed into childish humour, fantasy and generally mindless fiction. Sad or what?!

I agree with your post but I think true freedom of expression is an unattainable myth and perhaps rightly so. A bit like the Holy Grail, is it the quest or the myth that's more important.:)
This is all a bit intellectual, like.
Tattiehead, it's been a long while for me too. I recommend revisiting them, it has been most enjoyable. That said I also read a lot of silly fiction too, but I figure it's good to mix it all up!

JonnyB, few people realise the efforts I regularly make to hide my enormouse intellect behind bunnies reading the news and galloping hippos. It's inevitable I should fail sometimes.

I'm sure you enjoy being referenced inbetween Jane Austen and b3ta though. You do manage to combine the socially astute comedy of the former with a slightly too poo obsessed tendency of the latter.
As far as I can tell there are exactly two reasons to make a joke.
1) It makes you snigger because it’s funny
2) It makes you snigger, because it lets you getting away with stuff you really think, but you don't get away with otherwise.

What the actual motivations of the narrator are is at anybodies guess but after the hundredth funny rape joke reason 1) starts to look unconvincingly.
I suspect there's enjoyment at other people's offense as well... the whole 'shock value' thing.

It passes me by somewhat but I certainly hope it exists, as it's a more comforting option than 2).
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