How are hierarchical relationships between taste cultures possible in a fragmented, popular and accessible medium like television? This article explores this question by looking at relationships between taste cultures in Dutch television comedy. A survey of 340 Dutch people showed four humour tastes, two of which were related hierarchically: a lowbrow style disliked by educated informants, and a highbrow style mostly unknown to less-educated informants. Interview materials were used to understand the mechanisms behind this asymmetric pattern of knowledge and dislike. Whereas educated informants' readings of lowbrow humour were confidently rejecting, less-educated informants' readings of highbrow comedy are best described as 'despondent'. These findings fit Bourdieu's notion of legitimate taste rather than Hall's encoding/decoding model. The article argues that taste must be understood not only as a pattern of preferences, but also as cultural knowledge. This knowledge varies between groups, and is crucial in the perpetuation of taste hierarchies.

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Media, Culture & Society
Arts & Culture Studies

Kuipers, G. (2006). Television and taste hierarchy: The case of Dutch television comedy. Media, Culture & Society, 28(3), 359–378. doi:10.1177/0163443706062884