The best gaming chairs 2019
The best gaming chairs 2019 (Image credit: Noblechairs, Secretlab) How we test gaming chairs
Sit a spell, whether you’re in an office or a stay at home gamer, our best gaming chairs will make sure you’ve got plenty of cushion where it counts. There isn’t anything particularly wrong with buying a generic office chair from a big box retailer, but if you’re anything like me, your back is going to be screaming after just a couple hours. While it may not be immediately apparent, if you spend several hours at a time trying to correct your posture , you could be doing some serious damage. So do your body a favor by investing in something with some lumbar and neck support.
Aesthetics may come secondary to how comfortable a chair is, but they’re still important. Most chair manufacturers offer their models in a variety of colors to match nearly any decor—whether you need something slick and stylish or loud and garish. There’s more to a chair than looks though, you’ll want to pay attention to the quality of the materials, the adjustment options and potentially how easy it is to put the thing together out of the box. It’s also remarkably easy to buy a “gaming” chair with some cheap leatherette cushions for $100 while overlooking the more generic office chair that’s more comfortable and less expensive.
This isn’t to say a premium price won’t get you a premium chair, it’s just important to pay attention to the overall quality of the materials being used before you commit. However, if our favorites here are a little too rich for your blood, our cheap gaming chair deals have got you covered. Another alternative is to take a look at last year’s model for a particular brand, as they’re typically marked down and feature very little by way of changes.
The price tags on some of these chairs can be intimidating, but with Black Friday right around the corner, you can aim to save big on the throne you deserve. Bookmark our Black Friday gaming chair deals to make sure your butt doesn’t miss out. View Deal
Taking care of your body while gaming is just as important as picking out the best gaming headset . Nobody won any chicken dinners while hunched over their computer on a stack of apple crates like some kind of hobgoblin. So if the right chair is something you might have overlooked or neglected for far too long, we’ve collected our favorites right here for gamers of every stripe. Best gaming chairs 1. Secretlab Omega
The best gaming chair of 2019 Seat type: Racing seat | Recline: 165 degrees | Weight capacity: 240 lbs | Weight: 66 lbs | Available colors: Stealth, Classic, Amber, Royal, Ash Versatile tilt mechanism Tricky assembly
The Omega is one of the most well-made chairs we’ve tested. From the casters to the base, lift mechanism, armrests, and seat back, Secretlab clearly used some of the best materials available. The Omega has also recently been upgraded with Secretlab’s 2020 series of improvements, including premium metal materials in the armrest mechanism, making it silky smooth to adjust and even more durable, and the company’s ridiculously durable PU Leather 2.0.
The chair features a high-quality cold-cured foam that provided support which was a little bit firm at first but became really comfortable after longer gaming periods. What really made the Omega stick out from the crowd is the included velour memory foam lumbar and head pillows. These were so comfortable that we could easily fully recline the chair and take a nap if we wanted to. If you’re looking to treat your body with a chair that will truly last, the Secretlab Omega is worth every penny. Image 1 of 3 2. NZXT x Vertagear SL5000
The best gaming chair for making a statement Seat type: Racing seat | Recline: 130 degrees | Weight capacity: 330 lbs | Weight: 62 lbs | Available colors: Purple/Black/Green/White/Red/Blue/Grey Fantastic neck support The seat could have more cushion
It’s not the cheapest gaming chair you can find, but if you’re looking to correct your computer neck, the SL5000 is the chair for you. The dual cushions can be adjusted to support both your lumbar and cervical spines simultaneously so you can settle back into this chair with ease. The backrest is completely independent and adjustable, which also lessens the strain on your neck and back. The 4D customizable armrest allows for a wide variety in terms of width and height adjustments to better support your wrists and arms.
The quality of the chair’s materials can’t be denied, either. The entire exterior is made of PVC leather that’s stain and water-resistant, with extra thick foam padding. The base of the chair is made of aluminum alloy. Plus, the SL5000 stands out, as it strays from typical gaming chair colors of red and black or black on black. The royal purple is eye-catching and rich and the color even lines the inside of the wheels – this thing is a beauty.
It’s wildly easy to put together, too. The only qualm we have is that the seat cushion leaves a little to be desired when compared to the extra cushy backrest. Otherwise, it’s a beautiful, comfortable chair that is well worth the cash. Image 1 of 4 3. Noblechairs Hero
The best gaming chair for back support Seat type: Office chair | Recline: 90-135 degrees | Weight capacity: 330 lbs | Weight: 61.7 lbs | Available colors: Black, Black and Red / Blue / Platinum / Gold Has a firm seat and back-rest… …maybe too firm for some It’s quite pricey
When buying a gaming chair, it’s easy to forget your health. After all, most are advertised as luxurious, cushioned thrones that soothe your every ache as you smash the crap out of enemies in Apex Legends. But that simply isn’t true, and for some it’s important to pick a chair that takes back-support seriously. With some of the team having used it on a daily basis for almost a year, we can thoroughly recommend the Noblechairs Hero, in uPVC leather. While not the most exciting of chairs, or the sportiest, it definitely takes care of your back.
The Hero is easy to assemble, with the exception of the bit where you attach the back to the seat, so make sure you have a buddy for that. It’s firm and supportive, and extremely sturdy. As a word of warning: it is very firm, so if you prefer a softer chair that isn’t as good for your lumbar, this maybe isn’t for you. Aside from that it has a decent recline, can withstand frames of up to 330 lbs, and it has fully adjustable wrist-rests. It’s heavy, but glides pretty easily on the supplied casters. It’ll look just fine in both an office or gaming setup, so you’re getting a chair that can do both. Not bad, if you can afford it. 4. Arozzi Verona Junior
The best gaming chair for smaller frames Seat type: Racing seat | Recline: 165 degrees | Weight capacity: 130 lbs | Weight: 40 lbs | Available colors: Black, Blue, Red, White Comfortably placed back and neck pillows No locking mechanism for side-to-side armrest rotation 130lb weight limit
Whether you’re a kid or just shorter than the average human, Arozzi has got you covered. The Verona Junior’s racing-style chair is made just for individuals under 5-feet, 2-inches tall, which means you can count on this chair molding to the proportions of your body—and you can finally touch the floor with your feet without having to reach upward for your keyboard. Win, win.
It’s possible to curl up into a larger chair, but sitting for long periods of time with your body contorted into such a position can put stress on your joints, especially your back. That’s not healthy in the long run. A smaller chair allows shorter individuals to get proper support to their lower back, which helps maintain a neutral spine posture. The included lower back pillow actually sits right at your lower back, so the chair helps to hold you up—no fatigued back muscles from trying to maintain a dancer-like posture for eight hours a day.
The shallower seat back allows you to sit all the way back in the chair, which means added support for the hips and other joints that may have become achy with age if you’re a short adult. The Verona Junior also reclines to an impressive 165 degrees, so you can nap fearlessly. Image 1 of 4 5. X-Rocker Pro Series H3
The best gaming chair with built in sound Seat type: Baseless rocking chair | Recline: Fixed 115 degrees | Weight capacity: 275 lbs | Weight: 17.34 lbs | Available colors: Black Four built-in speakers and a subwoofer Very comfortable to lounge in Sleek design Can get warm after extended use
If you’re looking to save some cash on your PC battlestation (and still get your hands on a ridiculously comfortable gaming chair), consider the X-Rocker Pro Series H3 . It bundles a slick looking, extremely cozy baseless rocker chair with a 4.1 sound system, packing four speakers and a powerful subwoofer inside the body of the chair. And because it’s a rocker, you can really kick back while you’re lining up headshots in Apex Legends or ganking in Dota 2 .
The sound quality is surprisingly good for a system bundled inside a gaming chair. The speakers and woofer do a great job of combining to immerse you in whatever game you’re playing, and while it doesn’t replicate a proper surround sound setup, it does include a feature that will vibrate the chair when things start to really pop off in-game. Detailed stitching and high-quality vinyl combine with the futuristic presentation of the audio panels and speakers, and make the H3 a proper conversation piece. Best office chairs 6. NeueChair
The best chair for offices Seat type: Task chair | Recline: 85-130 degrees | Weight capacity: 240 lbs | Weight: 64 lbs | Available colors: Silver, Obsidian Ridiculously sturdy and well made Comfortable and supportive Highly adjustable Pricey
If you’re the sort of person who prioritizes functionality over flash, the NeueChair is an excellent option. Which isn’t to say it’s not stylish—quite the opposite, the NeueChair comes in a sleek, muted obsidian or flashy chrome/silver, both with bold, sweet curved supports on the back and an attractive black mesh. But more importantly, the NeueChair is built to last, with a heavy, sturdy industrial construction. Even the weight of the chair in the packaging indicates that this is a solid piece of carefully constructed industrial art: it’s heavy and substantial.
Assembling it is a breeze, as it comes in two discrete pieces and is simply a matter of inserting the casters and pushing them together. And almost every aspect of the seat is adjustable, from the armrests (which you can move in three dimensions to perfectly suit your elbows and forearms) to the adjustable lumbar support system that lets you change the height and depth of the backrest. It’s one of the best office chairs I’ve ever had the pleasure to sit in and, if you can afford the admittedly steep price tag, well worth the investment. Image 1 of 4 7. Steelcase Gesture
The best gaming chair for ultimate comfort Seat type: Task chair | Material: Breathable fabric | Recline: 116 degrees | Seat height: 16-21 in | Weight capacity: 400 lbs | Weight: 78 lbs Stylish color options Very expensive
The Steelcase Leap is one of the most iconic modern chairs with a price to match its performance. Wirecutter named it the best office chair a couple of years ago, but we prefer the newer Steelcase Gesture for a number of reasons. Foremost of which is, holy smoke, it feels good. If your eyes are still watering at the cost, know this: much as we enjoyed the other chairs singled out here, none of them came close to the comfort of the Gesture.
Imagine your butt and back being perfectly cupped by the giant ever-loving hand of the deity of your choice. That’s what the Gesture is like. Or, as it became known amongst us testing it: ‘the dream chair.’ Anyone that spends a significant amount of time in a chair should seriously consider splurging on this one. The steep price buys you a lifetime warranty and your butt the most comfortable embrace it’ll ever experience. Image 1 of 4 8. Herman Miller Embody
The best gaming chair when money is no object Seat type: Task chair | Material: Multi-layer fabric | Seat height: 16-20.5 in | Weight capacity: 300 lbs | Weight: 51 lbs Stimulates blood and oxygen flow Unrivaled back support Insanely expensive
If money really is no object, Herman Miller has the exorbitant Embody. It’s the most obviously high-end looking of the chairs we’ve tried. Viewed from behind its dramatically-shaped backrest has a biomechanical look that seems like it came straight from a sci-fi cockpit. According to its maker, “Embody is so advanced that it actually lowers your heart rate and reduces stress by stimulating blood and oxygen flow while you sit.”
We can’t confirm that, but what the Embody’s flexible matrix design definitely does offer is superb support in the lower back area. The higher part functions like a more sophisticated version of the OM5, automatically adjusting to your posture and sitting position. The puckered fabric used for the seat material also stays pleasantly cool during extended gaming sessions. The Embody is clearly an excellent chair, especially if you have lower back problems, but the sky high price tag means you might end up spending more on your chair than your actual gaming PC. Image 1 of 4 9. Office Master OM5
The best gaming chair with a self-adjusting mechanism Seat type: Task chair | Material: Polyflex back, fabric seat | Seat height: 14.7-25 in | Weight capacity: 300 lbs | Weight: 64 lbs Highly customizable colors Limited manual adjustments
On the face of it, the Office Master OM5 sounds like the snake oil of seating. The marketing materials describe it as “a self weighing chair that intuitively responds to a wide range of body weights and sizes without the need for manual tension.” Essentially: don’t worry about all those levers and knobs on the other chairs, this one will magically work out what your butt and back need, no problemo. Our skepticism didn’t last long, though, because when it comes to the OM5, sitting is believing.
There are a couple of manual adjustments possible, but all of the magic happens around your back and hip. As you lean back and apply pressure, the seat pan shifts forwards while the backrest reclines in response, articulating smoothly thanks to wheels on runners that function much like the ones in desk draw sliders. It takes a little getting used to, but transitioning from upright work mode to relaxing whilst playing or watching swiftly becomes a cinch. If you want comfort and can’t be bothered with levers and adjustments, the OM5 is one of our favorites because it gives you high-end quality and comfort at a mid range price. Image 1 of 4 10. Office Star ProGrid
The best gaming chair for high-end features at a reasonable price Seat type: Task chair | Material: Mesh back, fabric seat | Seat height: 17-20.5 in | Weight: 41 lbs | Available colors: Black Very comfortable Requires a bit of tuning
Office Star’s range of chairs don’t look noteworthy at first glance, but the customer reviews are consistently good. We like the ProGrid Back Managers Chair a lot because it offers the kind of tweakability usually only found on much more expensive models.
Using its daunting array of levers, you can adjust the height and tilt of the chair, plus slide the seat pan forwards or backwards. The backrest can also be shifted up or down, and the armrests raised or lowered and slid back and forth until you find the perfect position. It may take a while, but once tune it to your liking the chair becomes incredibly comfortable. With so much customization, the ProGrid is a strong choice, and very hard to beat at this price. How we test gaming chairs
Between recent articles about the effects of sitting down on your body, and our experimentation with standing desks , you might think PC Gamer has fallen out of love with the humble chair. Dear reader, that could not be further from the truth. As gamers and office workers, our writers spend a significant chunk of each day sitting on their money makers in front of screens. Given that most of us don’t plan to change that anytime soon, it only makes sense to do so in a great chair. So that’s what I set out to find.
I wanted to find chairs that maximized comfort, support, and value. I knew I needed expert advice to help narrow my search, so I spoke with Melissa Afterman, MS CPE , a Senior Principal Ergonomist with VSI Risk Management & Ergonomics , Inc. who specializes in workstation setups. “Absolutely chairs are still okay,” she told me. “Yes, we know that sitting too long is bad for you. The reality is that standing too long is just as bad for you, and so the answer is movement. Taking breaks, getting up at least every hour and moving, or changing your position from standing to sitting every hour so that you’re not standing too long either.”
When searching for a new chair, aside from essential-but-obvious tweakable elements like seat height and armrests, Melissa told me a key element to consider is the backrest: “If you’re typing and working at the computer, you really want more upright support so that you can maintain neutral spine posture and let the chair hold you up,” she said. “But when you switch to gaming mode, you may want to recline a little bit to relax your lower back, while still having good support in that position. So a locking backrest and/or some sort of tension control is important.”
Another feature to look for, though it tends to be found on more expensive models, is a seat pan slider. This enables you to slide the positioning of your butt forwards or backwards relative to the backrest. “The nice thing about that,” explained Afterman, “is that if you’re tall you can get more support behind your legs, and if you’re short it can be set more shallow so you can actually sit all the way back in the chair.” Unfortunately this seems to be a feature found only on office-style chairs so far, somewhat accounting for their higher price tag over their racing-style counterparts.
When it comes to fabric and other materials, it’s pretty much a purely aesthetic decision—though whether you prefer plush leather or breathable mesh should be dictated by how hot you are. No, really. Afterman explained: “Some people run cold, some people run warm, and I think that when you talk about the fabric choices it depends on personal comfort and aesthetics.” As for what you should definitely avoid, Afterman recommended steering clear of overly rigid seat pans and fixed height armrests—both are likely to lead to discomfort.
In terms of how much you should expect to spend, she suggested that in order to tick all the boxes an ergonomist would hope to find, $300-400 ought to be enough for a supportive chair that looks and feels great. Below that, there are going to be trade-offs. Likewise, if you’re willing to spend more, you can open up greater levels of customization and luxury.
Birds of Prey (and the fantabulous emancipation of one Harley Quinn) Trailer #1
Today I watched the Birds of Prey trailer.
Kinda wish I hadn’t.
Well… this will be an ultimate breakdown, and believe me, when you screen cap this stuff you realise how much time is spent yet again on Harley as opposed to the rest of the motley crew.
Also how much everyone slags the Birds of Prey TV show when this looks to be in the same vein. Hardly Quinn walks down a neon street asking someone if they know what a harlequin is.
She goes on to explain in a weird, drunken voice that ‘a harlequin’s role is to serve, they’re nothing without a master.’ Actually, harlequins were more like advisers to royalty and were the only ones who could basically tell the king he was a frickin’ gobshite without losing their head over it.
Cut to Huntress in a old looking church for like a split second.
Back to Hardly Quinn in a bar after she got drunk and fell into a pile of sequins and diamontes.
She’s talking to the race swapped Black Canary… who is apparently a smoker? Um, lady – your lungs? The ones you need to screm? Alright, good luck scremin’ loud with laryngitis.
“Gurl, don’t even try to talk to me, you a mess.”
Hardly tells Canary; ‘No one gives two shits who we are beyond that.’ Ah, this is some meta reference that no-one cares who the Birds are because Hardly is taking all their screen time.
WB/DC logos in that miserable half pink half blue dye job that would otherwise get you dropped from beauty school.
Hardly cuts her pigtails… slightly? I guess this is character development in her mind.
“Sometimes I cut myself.. but I’m not splitting hairs over it.”
‘The Joker and I… broke up.’ Cut to a terrible drawing of the Joker as seen in his original comic form being stabbed and slashed. Ironic that his image is damaged, yet his tattoo is mysteriously absent. Hmm.
“Screw you for leaving me out of your great movie, Pheonix!”
Hardly throws more knives at it and it turns out she’s a pretty bad shot.
Cut to Gotham apparently half on fire and what could be Montoya sashaying towards the flames.
Only a split second mind. Who cares what new catastrophe has befallen Gotham now because HARDLY HAS BOYFRIEND TWUBBLES!
‘Need a new start but as it turns out I wasn’t the only gal in Gotham looking for emancipation.’
**Black Canary intensifies**
This voice over comes over a really emo looking Canary gripping a mic like it’s a prize winning hand job, then she is apparently singing and causing martini’s to wobble…or…. shake, even?
“No, Mr Bond. I expect you to shake!” James Bond is shook.
That’s actually a terrible premise for a regular act, I mean, booze is a bar’s bread and butter. Don’t mess with that or you’re out on your keister, no matter how good you sing.
Montoya struts through the station carrying the universal cardboard box that screams of ‘you just got fired’ while other cops all clap, but don’t look at her?
Huntress holds a bow caster while wearing an uncomfortably heavy looking and bug like helmet. Also baring her abdomen while riding a motorbike. Um, yeah…. not the best idea.
Cleanest alley in all of Gotham, right here!
Hardly pulls a really weird face while wearing her trash bag confetti outfit. Huntress seems to be behind her from the previous shot. Hardly looks like she’s about to box someone but in the sad Youtuber-style of it.
Black Mask sans Mask walks up to three dangling chumps in a warehouse. ‘Spectacular news!’ he declares, which manages to garner more enthusiasm and cheer in those two words than I’ve ever seen him show in the comics.
Hardly joygasms over a random hyena in a cage.
Back to Maskless Black Mask who does the throat slicey hand gesture before one of his goons approaches an upside down girl with a knife. Goon has cut marks on hand – possibly Zsasz.
Hardly runs through a market – realising that she needs to go home and get more money to then buy every single item so she can cut it up and wear it all at once.
‘Ms. Quinn, she belongs to me.’ Buddy – you can keep her! Black Mask talks to some bleached blonde idiot.
Hardly eats licorice with her hyena in an attempt to upstage the ‘live action’ Lady and the Tramp.
Hardly stands in front of Cassandra in a warehouse, dripping wet and looking like someone asked her what her motivation is before saying ‘who are you guys? ‘ to some random bikers. They shoot at her, and the girls run away awkwardly. Is this Montoya? Her bystanders don’t seem as shocked as she is.
Some lady looks horrified with a gun – is this Montoya? Huntress kicks a mafia table during dinner because they didn’t invite her. Black Mask looks out of the window from Daredevil’s apartment.
Hardly is captured and tied to a chair in that same stupid club with the weird hand eyes and a bunch of goons pull guns on her. ‘Here’s the deal Quinn.’ Black Mask has an emotional breakdown in his bedroom because he regrets painting his walls so artistically.
Hardly grins at the camera – not sure if she’s meant to have blood in her mouth or if it’s just her usual sloppy make-up. She looks drunker than she did at the start of the trailer, and it’s 51 seconds in.
Someone sighs, someone else yells ‘You need me!’
Hardly lets her head fall forward and when she looks up she’s ripping off Marilyn Monroe because of course she is. Heaven forbid anyone have an original idea in Hollywood. Now we’re gonna have tweenage girls calling this look iconic and not even realising where it came from initially.
She does some stupid dance number full of jazz hands. That hideous tattoo on her chest is still there.
‘hees awfta awl hof uhs neow’ drawls Hardly, while we see her wearing a rip off of Freddie Mercury’s jester leotard, holding a mallet while Black Canary does her best to contain her mini-bra in her flimsy shirt. Hardly raises her mallet while Cassandra bears her gang colours and two other people are also there.
Upside down POV looking at possible Zsasz. Hardly flops over a couch with a comically huge dart in her neck. ‘None of us are walkin’ outta here…’ says the voice-over while the gaggle of idiots… actually walk out of either a well lit sewer or a tunnel of love. Not the most well thought out edit ever.
Hardly LEADS the gang while everyone else just follows the headliner act, afraid she might cut them from the film if she feels threatened.
A split second after this frame, something hits the roof and they all scream and prepare to fight. Honestly can’t tell if Black Canary is a squealer or if she’s about to Sindel their foes.
Motorbike ride. Car ride. ‘Hey, I belong here, right?…. Guys?’
‘….unless we work together.’ Hardly begging for friends, knowing she can’t do a solo movie without anyone else for her to outshine/sideline. Also, is she supposed to be in the clock tower. Ugh.
Gentlemen prefer original movies
More Monroe-knock off scene followed by Harley holding onto the back of a car and being pulled along her roller skates.
Huntress, Montoya and Canary stand in front of a window that has a bat-person shape hole in it.
Huntress looks like she’s seriously re-thinking her contract, Montoya is hilariously short, possibly scanning the floor for a box to stand on and Canary appears to be resigned to being the half naked POC of the film.
‘Just gotta buy something in a huge box, then I can hide this little person altogether!’
Hardly and Cassandra… well… Cassandra is there but hidden in the background – run through the aisle of a supermarket laughing.
‘….a lifetime supply of Hot Topic merchandise!’
Hardly stand before the four other bit parters and gestures like a game show girl.
‘You gotta be kidding me.’ Hey, that’s what I thought too when I saw Hardly had stolen Ace Ventura’s pants!
Flash back to girls, flash back to Hardly jumping in her Ventura knock-offs before landing on some idiot’s leg. Not sure if the three girls in the booth behind her are the bit parters or not.
Close up on idiot screaming in pain.
Looking down through a skylight – Hardly leading the girls into an old Joker hide-out?
‘Isn’t this fun? It’s just like a sleepover. OH! We should order pizza. Make Cosmos.’ Hardly prattles before Canary politely tells her to shut her face.
Hardly presses a bell before the camera pans out to her best attempt at a disguise then she shoots what looks like a cop?
Slow motion on Hardly pulling a bizarre, exaggerated sad face and waving her fingers around.
She then pushes open a door and marches in – possibly at the police station still? – and says ‘I’m the one they should be scared of!’
She might be taking to her co-workers her, this may not actually be in the script.
She yells BOO then headbutts the camera. She hides under a flimsy ass table while her house explodes. More Monroe background dancers. ‘Not you!’
Someone in a hotel gets shot and/or shot at?
‘Not Mister J’
Hardly punches a pillow, then break dance fights in a massive puddle. Then she humps a pole because of course she does. She laughs in a car. ‘Because I’m Harley frickin’ Quinn!’ She looks happily at the hyena. She points a gun at someone. She does a break dance move while apparently wearing the same style hot pants from Suicide Squad. Well, they said this movie was very low budget. She slides down a candy striped slide. She appears
in someone’s rear mirror, like that other horror movie. Canary sings while Black Mask – still no mask, walks in front rudely.
She dodges a bullet shot at the rear windscreen. Black Mask turns around in front of Canary
singing and says ‘Whoo! Who’s having a good time?’
Hardly jumps onto the back of a moving vehicle, Huntress possibly riding alongside?
‘Get ready, ladies’ She kicks a goon off the open back car. Have always said they’re a bad idea.
Canary spin kicks someone then
looks at them falling. Hardly jump
kicks someone. Huntress wrecks up some idiot’s farm.
Hardly then spends the next few seconds of the trailer walking away from an exploding Ace Chemicals while the names of people who may or may not appear in the movie flick up.
Roll title card and it’s stupidly long subtitle.
Cassandra says ‘Ohh, you’re that psycho chick.’ Hardly is driving and says ‘ You never call a woman chick. I’ll accept broad, lady, woman and on occasion, bitch!’
Cassandra at first appears to be concerned about the car following them, but then focuses on this speech and repeats ‘Bitch?’ like Hardly’s saying something unique and amazing. ‘What are you talking about?’
Uh… it’s pretty clear you chowderhead. It’s probably the only thing I can agree with Hardly on.
Hardly lights an ACME dynamite stick and gives it to Cassandra. ‘Toss that for me, will ya?’
She does and blows the trailing car up.
The Short End of the Jester Schtick
nd that’s about it. It’s two minutes long, and again all we see is Harley. You know, it’s one thing to do an elseworld’s kind of thing and put these characters in a different setting (otherwise Cassandra Cain being mentioned by name is completely ridiculous, Oracle I can understand because of the whole New52ish direction these movies try to take, but still…. BATGIRL IS MISSING.)
The whole team movie again has not worked well for DC and here they are again with their expanded but not fleshed out universe.
If they really wanted a Harley Quinn vehicle – why include the Birds of Prey? Why not just have new characters that Harley can interact with (and over act around, natch)
All the comments on the trailer and the reaction videos are the same – decrying Harley taking over the BOP and the other half saying ‘well her name’s in the title, it’s just marketing!’
However… the feedback that came from the teaser trailer was ‘why is it just Harley Quinn, where are the actual Birds and their costumes?’ So, given the time that’s passed, why was this not rectified?
What I’m really concerned about (apart from the Birds apparently not getting to do anything in their own movie) is that this Harley – from what we can see in the trailer – does seem more like the real Harley Quinn.. but then again the trailers for Suicide Squad looked great and look what we got out of that.
Also, the lack of characterisation in this universe means that we probably won’t get to see the ultimate breakdown of the Harley/Joker relationship. How did they go from lovesick puppies to nothing in this movie? Again, Youtube comments go on about the tumultuous track record from the comics… BUT THIS ISN’T THE COMICS. We shouldn’t have to be prior fans of these characters or have to have read their entire comic run to understand what’s happening in the movie. A casual viewer should be able to know what’s going on and why. This is exactly what the New52 did – started fresh but not really so you still had to have known what happened before, which defeats the point of rebooting the universe.
Then, the other part of this issue is that we’re expected to go from Suicide Squad Harley – the one who apparently revels in the thought of someone killing their partner and kids and steals like, handbags and stuff to be this new person that is sympathetic to kids in danger and someone that everyone else is supposed to fear? Plus they seem to have neatly wrapped up her Suicide Squad arc for some reason? Though I’m sure Waller is glad to be rid of her TBH.
Maybe the movie will be alright, but as a long time fan of Birds of Prey, I’m not going to pretend that it’s okay to finally bring these loved characters to the big screen… and have their movie taken over by a heartbroken wanna-be teenager who does all the stunts, wears all the costumes, does all the dialogue and voice over and has the back story while the namesake characters do nothing apart from show up in a brief panning shot or quick flash.
The costuming is also quite shite – Harley is one messy problem all by herself but Black Canary and Huntress.. gone from kick ass and memorable to bland. Montoya doesn’t seem to be well represented at all and I would rather have seen her in a joint venture with Huntress or with Batwoman.
Then there’s what passes for Cassandra Cain…. YIKES. Gone is the ultimate ninja warrior with communication issues and complicated backstory who rises from a dark assassin background to stand beside the Bat family…. but it’s cool…. we have some random little girl who goes around saying ‘h you’re dat syko chik….huuuuhhh?’
All the racial diversity in this film and it’s appears to be going the same way as Suicide Squad where they’re all just token characters. Heck, you could probably have a stunt double switch races and people probably wouldn’t even notice because there isn’t a character there to begin with.
Oh, and the other comments I noticed were people saying that this Harley should have been in the standalone Joker movie, as if that made any sense whatsoever. Like, ugh, can you imagine trying to portray this dark, twisted tale of an elseworlds type Joker and then this random tart just shows up and tries to be funny in it? Goodbye Oscar!
Today Shows : October 6
day in history lookup
Grateful Dead – 1966/10/6 – Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA |
1971/10/6 – Grateful Dead (Skull & Roses) LP
Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders – 1974/10/6 – Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA |
Set 1: Think, Valdez in the Country, Freedom Jazz Dance, (I’m a) Road Runner, Mystery Train, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down | Set 2: Finders Keepers, It’s Too Late, The Harder They Come, My Funny Valentine
Grateful Dead – 1977/10/6 – ASU Activity Center, Tempe, AZ |
Set 1: The Promised Land, Tennessee Jed, Jack Straw, Dire Wolf, Looks Like Rain, Loser, Minglewood Blues, They Love Each Other, The Music Never Stopped | Set 2: Bertha, Good Lovin’, Friend of the Devil, Estimated Prophet, Eyes of the World, Drums, Not Fade Away, Black Peter, Not Fade Away, Around and Around | Encore: Uncle John’s Band
Grateful Dead – 1980/10/6 – The Warfield, San Francisco, CA |
Set 1: Acoustic: Dire Wolf, Cassidy, Jack-A-Roe, The Monkey and the Engineer, Been All Around This World, Heaven Help the Fool, China Doll, On the Road Again, Bird Song, Ripple | Set 2: China Cat Sunflower, I Know You Rider, Minglewood Blues, They Love Each Other, Beat It On Down the Line, Peggy-O, Lazy Lightning, Supplication, Brown-Eyed Women, Looks Like Rain, Deal | Set 3: Samson and Delilah, It Must Have Been the Roses, Lost Sailor, Saint of Circumstance, Terrapin Station, Drums, Space, Truckin’, The Other One, Black Peter, Sugar Magnolia, Johnny B. Goode | Encore: U.S. Blues
Grateful Dead – 1981/10/6 – Rainbow Theatre, London, ENG |
Set 1: Shakedown Street, Minglewood Blues, It Must Have Been the Roses, Little Red Rooster, Althea, Me and My Uncle, Mexicali Blues, Never Trust a Woman, Cumberland Blues, Looks Like Rain, Might as Well | Set 2: Man Smart Woman Smarter, High Time, Estimated Prophet, He’s Gone, Drums, Space, The Wheel, Sugar Magnolia, Stella Blue, Good Lovin’ | Encore: Sunshine Daydream, Brokedown Palace
Grateful Dead – 1984/10/6 – Richmond Coliseum, Richmond, VA |
Set 1: Hell in a Bucket, Dire Wolf, Cassidy, They Love Each Other, Minglewood Blues, Tennessee Jed, Looks Like Rain, Don’t Ease Me In | Set 2: Scarlet Begonias, Fire on the Mountain, Playing in the Band, China Doll, Drums, Space, Throwing Stones, Going Down the Road Feelin’ Bad, One More Saturday Night | Encore: Day Job
Jerry Garcia Band – 1993/10/6 – The Warfield, San Francisco, CA |
Set 1: Cats Under the Stars, Stop That Train, Let It Rock, Run for the Roses, Mississippi Moon, Wonderful World, Lay Down Sally | Set 2: Shining Star, The Maker, Simple Twist of Fate, Tore Up Over You, Don’t Let Go, Tangled Up in Blue
Grateful Dead – 1994/10/6 – CoreStates Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA |
Set 1: Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo, Minglewood Blues, Peggy-O, If the Shoe Fits, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Ramble On Rose, Easy Answers, Don’t Ease Me In | Set 2: China Cat Sunflower, I Know You Rider, Way to Go Home, New Speedway Boogie, Truckin’, Drums, Space, The Other One, Wharf Rat, Good Lovin’ | Encore: Liberty
Today Show Playlist
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Day to day beauty
When I travel I get to see many beautiful places which captivate my attention. Whether I am experiencing the local people, a metropolitan skyline, breathtaking nature, or ancient architecture, I always try to stop to appreciate the view. In contrast, when I used to live in Vancouver I seemed to take the immense beauty of my surroundings for granted. For most of my adult life before leaving Vancouver I lived within walking distance of the beach but rarely took advantage of it. Now when I go back to visit my brother we always engaged in some kind of outdoor activity whether hiking, biking, kayaking, or anything to do with natural attributes the city has to offer. I no longer take the beauty of Vancouver’s location for granted, just as I do not take for granted the beauty of my current home, Hamburg, and the benefits of living in Europe.
Young children are great reminders of how beautiful and fascinating our world is. They find beauty and wonder every day. Unfortunately, we seem to lose this ability as we change focus and become lost in our world serious thoughts and worries. Sadly, children are also soon drawn into a digital world of selfies, likes and comments. Then they grow into adults with a growing fear of missing out so that, between rushing around and trying to keep a step ahead, the only thing they pay attention to is what is the latest post or tweet. There is no way to be open and curious about the world if any time you are not occupied with too many thoughts you are looking down at a screen. The only beauty you will see on your device is what other people are experiencing.
We all get so wrapped up in our habits and routines that it takes new surroundings or a break in our daily habits to remind us of the beauty all around us. Every moment, in any place, can reveal some form of beauty. If you see the world only from a perspective of what is wrong, what is missing and how difficult life is, then you will likely miss a great deal. It is hard to be grateful for what you have when you see life through such eyes. Learning to see the value of little things every day can take you out of a life of frustration, sadness and even hopelessness, into one of joy and gratitude. When you do experience something inspiring and beautiful resist the urge to take a picture and post it. Maybe you can take a break from carrying your smartphone. If you can break the habit of excessive thought and excessive digital sharing you will see more of what you are currently missing. If you can learn to see life’s beauty more regularly your appreciation for life will grow and so will your happiness.
The Philosophy and Ideology of Modern Literary Theory (Introduction) / By: Dr. Sunil Sharma
The Philosophy and Ideology of Modern Literary Theory By: Dr. Sunil Sharma
The 20 th century Western literary criticism is globally marked by three well-defined features: (1) For the first time, in the history of the entire Western aesthetics, literary criticism makes a transition from literary criticism to pure theory with a capital T. Literary criticism sheds its earlier historical insularity and evolves as a complex inter-disciplinary field where mutually competing theories displace each other faster than the fashion shows of New York, Paris or Milan: very much like a Versace fall collection superseded by Armani winter collection. In fact, the shelf life of these various theories is not more than a decade or so. Most such theories are constructs well irrigated by fields as diverse as psychoanalysis, linguistic structuralism, philosophy and sociology, and, cultural and anthropological structuralism. Literary Criticism lost its innocence in this century.
(2) The ideology of these theories is decidedly idealistic, agnostic, anti-foundational and anti-Marxist. The literary theory, as such, emphasizes the formal elements of literature, challenges the cognitive function of literary artifacts and the referential role of language. It subverts the received values like the author, intention, subject, reason, meaning and reality. In this sense, modern literary theory is decidedly anti-Enlightenment, anti-Romantic and anti-Realism. The highly eclectical theory raids, within this constellation, idealistic philosophic resources like Kantianism, Hegelianism and Nietzchean system for legitimacy and sanction for its avant-garde theoretical constructs. Derrida and Lyotard, for example, query those philosophers for erecting their own constructs. This mobilizing of the past epistemologies-the recruitment of older philosophers-for modern/ post-modern project is not new. Eighteenth-century England, as demonstrated by Terry Eagleton, discovers classical heritage of Reason, Order, Nature for the explicit ideological purpose of incorporating the emergent bourgeois class into the cultural value system of the declining aristocracy, and, prompting the emergent politically triumphant class to assume moral and intellectual leadership of the nation, and, thus, promoting a rapprochement between two antagonistic classes at that historical moment. Neo-Classical literature, thus, becomes an instrument of incorporation. In other words, two contending worldviews find resolution in the classical Age of Augustus and its literary principles and Order and Reason are restored to a turbulent period of the English history through the Neo-Classical literary phase of the English Literature.
(3) The literature theory of the 20 th century is radical, innovative, avant-garde, and cosmopolitan. Its location is no longer a single nation. It has become a trans-national—both in origins and destination—in its transactions. Within this location, however, the dominant is the French-German axis. The traffic of ideas, originating in this axis, then move outward to England and America, and, then from Anglo-American axis to the Third World. The diffusion of the literary theory—in its variegated forms and locations—is achieved through the institution of the metropolitan university in metropolitan nations to non-metropolitan centers via academic journals, seminars, magazine interviews, and books. The age of the professional critic has finally arrived, so has a professional market for such a specialised discourse. Literature is no longer a solitary, enjoyable activity for the reader, critic or the author. Literature and criticism as distinct aesthetic categories are suddenly problematised by the proliferation of literary theories and made unstable. Nothing is certain any longer. Boundaries collapse and literature is everything other than a site of cognition of the world and of enlightenment. The reasons for this bewildering variety of critical discourses are, of course, sociological and historical. In the age of imperialism and mass society, the contradictions of the class society are exacerbated by the expansion and export of capital. Ideologies take on new meanings and get tailored to the emerging historical needs of the transnationals in a globalised borderless world. Two World Wars, the rise of the totalitarian political systems like Fascism, Nazism and Stalinism; the integration of the working classes into mass consumer society, the resultant de-radicalistion of this class as change agent, lead to political pessimism among liberal intelligentsia of the Western world.
Liberal humanism as a political philosophy is dead. So, are the other Meta-narratives. In such a fragmented, post-modern world, the hegemony of the transnational capital is supreme. Marxism, as an alternative, is challenged and called a discourse. Lyotard, a former Marxist, becomes an organic intellectual and advances an apology of late capitalism through his version of post- modernism. So does Frederic Jameson. Revolutionary art is unashamedly replaced by kitsch. The revolutionary hopes and aspirations of the 1930s, or, for that matter, 1960s West are displaced by the depthless, decathecated surfaces of post modern art and literature.
Modern literary theory is an assemblage of theoretical stances of the alienated and marginalized intellectuals’ utter despair at the commodification of art and its total commercialization in the pop culture. For Althusser and Adorno, the only radical hope was a Brecht or Beckett who, as avant- garde artists, could resist integration into the commercialized circuits of a mass society. However, by early 1980s, even that hope receded for intellectuals like Lyotard, or Jameson.
The plurality and eclecticism of the modern literary theory ideologically masks the inner fragmentation and splintering of the consciousness of the subject of a fragmented world. Its distrust of totalizing narratives and political systems is well known. Its suspicions of evolutionary history, progressive art and literature are equally self-evident. Be it Foucalt, Barthes or Derrida, Lyotard or Althusser or Adorno, the tenor of their theories is identical: political pessimism, retreat from politics, distrust of anything radical, and, impossibility of any meaningful and higher social synthesis or change.
It is a bleak dark theory of a bleak dark world. The following sections of this essay take up these themes in a somewhat detailed manner.
Modern literary theory is idealistic in its philosophical orientation, and hostile to a materialistic conception of art and literature. Formalism, structuralism, deconstruction, psychoanalytic theory of Lacan, Phenomenology, Feminism, New Historicism, Post- Colonialism and Cultural Studies all derive their raison d’tr from the idealistic philosophical tradition of the German variety. Peter V. Zima, in his lucid account of the philosophical foundations of modern literary theory, convincingly shows the affinities existing between Kant, Hegel and Nietzsche on the one hand, and, influential theoreticians like Barthes, Derrida, Foucalt, Adorno, Althussar, Lyotard—to name but a few. (1) Commenting upon the influence of these German philosophers upon contemporary literary theory, Zima says that
It is perfectly possible to speak of Kantian and Hegelian positions within contemporary literary theory. In fact, it can be argued that it is impossible to understand the latter adequately as long as the Kantian, Hegelian or Nietzchean bias of its competing components is not perceived. (2)
According to Zima, the German idealist tradition has played a significant role in the formation of the 20 th century critical thought. Kant, for example, in his Critique of Judgment ( 1790) posits the idea of the autonomy of art and aesthetic experience vis-à-vis the social, political and economic factors. Art, Kant believes, cannot be reduced to the conceptual. A competent or ideal observer regards artistic objects with disinterested pleasure. This ideal nature of art and beautiful without a concept is very appealing to contemporary critical discourses:
This Kantian conception of artistic autonomy underlies the theories of Anglo- American New Criticism, Russian Formalism and Czech Structuralism. All these theories are Kantian aesthetics in so far as they emphasize the autonomy of art and are strongly opposed to all attempts to reduce literature to heteronomous factors as the author’s biography, the social context or the reactions of the reader.
(3) Hegel, on the other hand, inverts this Kantian position. In his critique of Kant, Hegel proposes that art is not autonomous but tied up with the historical consciousness of the World Spirit or Weltgeist. Hegel believes art is a product of artistic consciousness that is historical in nature, and as such, expresses this consciousness in its historical development. Symbolic, Classical and Romantic art are the stages of the historical development of artistic consciousness in its attempt to comprehend the Absolute Idea. Out of these three stages, it is the Classical Art that represents the perfect dialectics of content and form, the ideal synthesis that could not be achieved either in the first (Symbolic) or the last stage (Romantic). However, it is philosophy as the highest mode of comprehending Absolute Idea that is favoured by Hegel. Philosophy is supreme to artistic form because it comprehends the Absolute Idea not through sensuous forms but conceptually.
Thus, Hegelian critique of Kant shows that art without content, idea or concept has no validity and is nothing but a manifestation of ahistoric idealism.
Nietzsche questions the very metaphysical truth and totally subverts the certainties of this metaphysical truth. Nietzsche shows that the binaries like essence/ appearance, truth/ lie, and good/ evil are not as neat as they appear to be. He exposes the antithetical values of the European metaphysical truth by showing the vile side of the virtue, the Evil side of Good. Metaphysical truth, says Nietzsche, is nothing but “a mobile army of metaphors, metonymic, anthropomorphisms.” This assertion leads to the recognition that truth is not absolute but relative, not univocal but polysemic, not neat but contradictory, not clear but ambiguous in nature. Music, Nietzsche declares, is purest and highest form of art since its sounds negate and neutralize any conceptual content or boundaries. This Nietzschean philosophy of art, language and truth again inverts the Hegelian dialectics of form /content, appearance/ essence, subject/object and anticipates Barthes’ and Derrida deconstructionist discourse by demonstrating the polysemic character of language and all the truths expressed through such a language.
The philosophical and critical effects of this German triumvirate on some of the literary theories of the last century are now clearly established. The selective digging of the specific features of Kantian, Hegelian and Nietzschean systems of thought by Jacobson, Barthes, or Derrida for the ideological purposes for erecting their own theoretical constructs is equally clear. Their aim is simple: to show the theoretical continuities between their systems and the idealist philosophy of these three Germans. At this critical juncture of the 20 th century bourgeois art and literary criticism, two competing points emerge. One, the Kantian position that art can be conceptualized and is independent of the social context of its origins and production, and, second, that art is a conceptual entity not free of its historical context (Hegel). The modern literary theory of the 20th century oscillates between these two antipodes in its rejection or acceptance of the social context of art. Against this philosophical background, what exactly is role of the Marxist aesthetics? The following section considers Marxist theory of art in some detail and the impact of it upon the contemporary debates within modern literary theory.
Marxist conception of art and literature is primarily a materialist one. It is a dialectical and historical conception that emphasizes the social origins of the art. Marx, it is true, did not confine his attention exclusively on art as such or leave any separate treatise on it. He was simply concerned with the general laws of the social and historical development of humankind. In the course of his relentless investigation into the primary causes behind the motion of history, Marx came to develop a materialistic science and philosophy called historical and dialectical materialism. In short, this epistemology is a critique of Hegelian idealistic philosophy and a radical synthesis of German idealism, political economy of England, and the materialistic philosophy of Feurbach along with a radicalisation of the then French utopian socialism. (4). Marx and Engels, in a joint collaboration, formulated the structural homology of base and superstructure in order to explain the progressive, higher movement of history. Base constitutes the economic mode of production and production relations; superstructure contains the consciousness of these relations in the forms of legal, political, jurisprudence and artistic. The super structural formation is ideological and reflects the class origins of the given mode of economic production at a given historical moment. The prime mover in this materialist philosophy is economic mode of production. In other words, historical and material conditions, the objective real world, govern the progressive evolutionary character of human and social development. Marx, in his celebrated passage declares:
The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. (5)
It is not consciousness that determines life, but life that determines consciousness. (6)
Thus, it can be seen that Marxism achieves its breakthrough with the preceding philosophy and supersedes it by a higher, materialistic understanding of the laws of motion that govern social development. Art, like other superstructural forms, is ideological in nature. Besides that, art plays a cognitive function and remains somewhat autonomous vis-a-vis the economic base. This slightly schematized version of Marxism makes it abundantly clear Marxism’s sympathies towards critical and realistic art of the West that artistically, and not vulgarly, reflects the inner contradictions of a class society. Authentic art, believed Marx and Engels, is enlightening, spiritually elevating and shows realistically the progressive nature of historical logic of social development. Goethe, Shakespeare, Balzac were favorites of Marx in their true artistic vision and their greatness lies in their fidelity to truth. Lenin, in the subsequent exposition of the Marxist considerations on art, called Tolstoy as the mirror of the Russian society. The reflection theory of art of Marxism-Leninism is the cornerstone of the materialistic aesthetics along with partisanship and commitment in art.
Western World and Marxist Aesthetics:
The reception of the Marxist aesthetics has not been very warm in the West. Critics have repeatedly pointed out that there is no body of Marxist writings on art and literature that can merit the name aesthetics. Bourgeois critics have also been dismissive about the real contribution of Marxism-Leninism in the field of aesthetics. For example, Lyotard dismisses Marxism along with Christianity and Rationalism as exhausted meta- narratives of a fragmented and pluralistic post-modern western world. The tradition of Marxist thinkers like Plekhanov, Belinsky and Chernovsky or recent soviet aestheticians like Avner Zis is hardly acknowledged in the Western academia. On the other hand, the reception of the Frankfurt School of Marxism has been quite enthusiastic there. The reasons for this wide dispersal of the Western Marxism across the academia there is obvious. Western Marxism is basically Hegelian in its theoretical foundations. Also known as Critical Theory, it derives its sustenance from Georg Lukacs, especially the early period of the Hungarian philosopher, which is decidedly Hegelian in its roots. His History and Class Consciousness (1922) along with earlier Hegelian works Theory of the Novel (1920) and The Soul and the Form (1913) have exercisd a deep influence on the Western Marxism of Herbert Marcuse, Theodore Adorno, Louis Althussar and Walter Benjamin. Space constraints do not permit a long presentation of the nexus between Lukacsian Marxism and the Marxism of these theoreticians. It would be contextually relevant to examine the Hegelian Lukacs’ theory of art and its influence on the later development of Marxist aesthetics of Benjamin and Adorno, in brief.
Georg Lukacs’ conception of art is Hegelian in that it tries to seek art as a meaningful and harmonious totality. The classical bourgeois art appeals to Lukacs precisely because it reflects an artistic totality and harmony. The realistic novels of Scott, Balzac, Flaubert, Dickens, Tolstoy and Thomas Mann offer the best tradition of the liberal humanistic phase of the bourgeois art. Their works realistically reflect the society in all its contradictions and richness. The typical characters of the realistic novel reveal the essence of a society moving from feudalism to capitalism, (Balzac) from early capitalism to industrial capitalism (Dickens) or from industrial capitalism to imperialism (Thomas Mann). Coherence, totality and harmony , essence, rationalism and typical are the crucial categories of Hegelian Lukacs’ theory of art and literature. Modernist writers like Joyce, Kafka, Proust or Beckett are not welcome because these writers do not exhibit a rational totality and the typical in a realistic manner and thus fail to reveal the essence of their society. Such modernist works are elitist in nature and are disqualified as inauthentic by Lukacs. Incoherence, lack of totality and harmony, absence of the typical make the modernist avant-garde works of the latter an art that is not wholesome. Its decadent nature shows the hopelessness of the alienated artist. The pessimism of the social conditions of the marginalized and alienated subjectivity is not acceptable to the Hegelian Lukacs for whom art is an artistic form of revolutionary social consciousness. Modernist avant-garde phase of bourgeois art is, for him, altogether retrogressive. Two important motifs emerge here in the Lukacsian thought: (a) the concept of alienation and, (b) of reification. These two categories inform the early works of Lukacs up to History and Class Consciousness . In his later ‘Marxist’ phase of intellectual development, the Hungarian philosopher applies these crucial categories to an analysis of literary works, in books like The Historical Novel and The Meaning of Contemporary Realism . The survivals of Hegelianism are apparent in these works but they offer a radical critique of the development of art and literature as historical and social products. Both alienation and commodification of art and artist play a crucial role in the Marxist aesthetics of Adorno that has come to exercise a deep fascination on modern literary theory. Western Marxism takes up reification or commodification of art and everyday consciousness in capitalism as given that cannot be historically superseded. Before understanding Adorno, for the sake of intellectual continuity, it is important to deal with Benjamin’s theory of art under advanced capitalism.
Walter Benjamin, very much like Lukacs and Adorno, is concerned primarily with the specificity of art as an aesthetic category, and, of the nature of artistic experience in the capitalistic society. Writing in his essay ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ (1933), Benjamin assesses the impact of technology of mass society upon the very character of art as a product and the experience of this product as an aesthetic category. For Lukacs, the classical realist art provides a totalizing perspective on a fragmented fetishised world, a world of commodities ruled by extreme rationalization and exchange values by restoring a wholeness and organic unity of essence and appearance realized in the fictional worlds of Balzac or Tolstoy or Mann. This organic unity is not realizable in the everyday life of a reified world of late capitalism. Great realist art, thus, becomes the last refuge of the wholesome humanism and a corresponding revolutionary class-consciousness during the early progressive phase of the bourgeoisie.
Modernists just reflect, as did naturalists like Zola, the fetishised reality of late capitalism; the organic unity of appearance and essence is completely ruptured. The oppositional and progressive character of art is permanently lost in the 20 th century modernist and avant-garde art. Benjamin, however, evaluates the latter in a different way. He believes technological developments have brought art closer to the mass audiences in the Western World. The distinction between classical art and mass art is central to the materialistic theory of art of Benjamin. The technological advancements like photography, cinema have destroyed the aura tic distance and autonomy of classical art of last three centuries. The new innovative techniques of montage and collage, the easy mechanical reproducibility of works of art and their free circulation in the society have combined together to eliminate the earlier uniqueness and distance between, let us say, a Renaissance painting or a religious icon like Black Madonna of Vladimir. The reproduction and repetition of mass art, the circulation of the copies of a film or a Surrealist painting have also destroyed the originality of the art work of the previous centuries, an original available to the wealthy patron only. Classical art thus becomes mass art. Another notable feature of modern art is its shock value, as opposed to the harmony and totality of the classical and Romantic phases. A Baudelaire or a Brecht brings together disparate, heterogeneous elements in their art of poetry or theatre. Heterogeneous, mutually opposite, elements like tragic and comic, the holy and the profane are joined together, resulting in a shock at the collapse of these well- defined boundaries. Modernist experimental art produces the shock by this feature in the recipient’s consciousness. This shock value is reminiscent of Bakhtin’s concept of the carnival where official and popular, religious and mundane, sacred and profane meet and interact in the Rabelasian or Dostoevskian novel form and celebrate the polysemies, disjuncts and ruptures of very day life experience under capitalistic society. In a way, both Benjamin’s shock theory and Bakhtin’s concept of carnival anticipate the post-modernist literature and aesthetics as far as the mixing of the serious, hilarious, official and popular cultures is concerned. The heterogeneity and the ruptures, dislocations caused by such a disharmony of a work modern /post-modern announce the arrival of Lyotard’s version of the post- modern condition of the artist and the art, and, its reception in the age of the late capitalism. Theoder Adorno position about the modernist and avant grade is equally radical. A Beckett is no longer a decadent playwright in the Lukacsian sense but a bold subversive artist who, through his radical experiments and formalism, exposes the reified structures of art and its reception in a mass society. In a way, such innovative works of Kafka, or Joyce or Beckett resist the integration of artist into commercial culture. The artistic resistance, the only available option for the marginalized alienated artist, at the level of form and consciousness, makes such works truly revolutionary. For Adorno of the 1960s, art is the only enclave still uncorrupted by the totalitarian reason and the relentless logic of culture industry. Avant-garde art, in Adorno’s view is negative. It negates the false ideology of mass culture and refuses to be a part of ever sameness of this culture. Adorno’s analysis of pop music and TV shows is a pointer in this direction. The main task of these forms of popular, commercialized art is to adapt masses to the existing social reality and obtain consent to the highly regimented experience of artistic forms in a society that standardizes such an artistic experience by excluding the new. At this stage the dialectic of the particular and the general comes to the fore. The highly specific individualism, the particular subjectivity of the early laissez faire capitalism gets replaced by a “Pseudo-individualism” of modern mass culture, a culture where everything including aesthetic needs are mass produced for a mass market. Naturally, such a mass market operating for bigger profit suppresses the particular and reduces particularity to the general, the mass. Pop culture-be it pop music or pop art or cinema-operates on a set formula where the new, the innovative play an extremely limited minor role. In his paper on “Television and Patterns of Mass culture” (1954), Adorno lays bare the conservative nature of this new medium by claiming that TV shows aim at the suppression of individuality and encourages viewers to adapt an uncritical, un-oppositional status quoist attitude towards late capitalism’s anti- humanist nature: ‘ Society is always a winner and the individual is only a puppet manipulated through social rules.” (7). The “sham” conflicts shown in such TV programmes overtly convey a strong anti- authoritarian message celebrating the specificity of the particular but the overall covert aim is to reconcile the individual with the social norms, to encourage a desired personal adjustment with a totalitarian society and its set of norms. (8) The particular is subordinated to the ‘natural law of the general. Popular music, for example, performs this job of reconcilement perfectly well. Adorno points out that pop music oscillates between banality and novelty both in its theme and composition. Both the writer and composer cannot go beyond a certain thematic and harmonic range. American pop has the stock themes repeatedly explored: motherhood, bliss of domesticity, nonsense or novelty songs, or the lamentation about the loss of a girlfriend. American Jazz’s journey from authentic to the commercial is another example of the subordination of the individuality to the norm, of the spontaneous to the formulaic, of the new to the conventional and banal. However, serious modern music of Shoenberg for Adorno, represents the authentic art that truly captures the individual, the particular moment in a conservative tradition by highlighting the particular details, ‘the living interrelation of details’, in the overall musical composition. Shoenberg’s music style is able to retain the individuality of twelve-tone system and thus, effect a disjunct between the particular and the general series. Such music is also able to disorient the automatic response of the listener that mass culture produces in the audience. Adorno’s sympathetic attitude towards modernist literature of Kafka and Beckett, as distinct from Lukacs’ summary rejection of them, reiterates the same theme. Both Kafka and Beckett represent the aspirations of a fatally marginalized and alienated modern artist towards artistic formalism and experimental as a technical formal revolt against the traditional. The negative character of their works successfully challenges the hegemony of the earlier realistic traditions of art forms and their subversive role resides in the precisely negative nature of their works. The novels of Kafka or absurd plays of Beckett produce a negative aesthetics of modern society, a negative knowledge about it that undermines the ruling false ideology and exposes the real character of this type of social formation. In a way, it negates the prevalent views, the official version, the ruling value system of late capitalism through a new kind of artistic form. Beckett’s Endgame , argues Adorno, parodies the traditional drama that has been appropriated by culture industry.
Since a revolutionary consciousness is not historically possible for the proletariat now long assimilated into consumer culture of advanced capitalism, the only oppositional consciousness possible is in the field of the authentic art. The proletariat class, implicated in the culture of the late capitalism, cannot realize the full potential of its class position as a revolutionary agent of historical change and therefore, loses its species consciousness and becomes deradicalised. The masses, says Adorno, have no understanding of themselves as object of history. They have no awareness of Subject/ Object antimony. This limited understanding of their class position in the reified structures of late capitalism and promoted by the culture industry lead to passivity and fragmented world-view of a fragmented subjectivity. The changed historical realities of the 1930s and 1940s West make Marxist theory inadequate as far as its role as a change agent is concerned, and, therefore calls for a radical rethinking of Marxist categories of base/ superstructure, appearance/ essence, being/ consciousness, etc. Adorno’s Negative Dialectic (1966) is the answer. It is a radical reassessment of the Marxism as an ideology and science. As the very name suggests, it is negative dialectics that pleads for the anti-progressive, anti- evolutionary nature of history and class-consciousness. Marxism is not conceived as praxis but as a critical theory of history and development of society. Revolutionary consciousness is replaced by critical consciousness that is contemplative and passive, a critical consciousness available to a theorist (Marx, or later, Adorno) or to an artist (Valery or Kafka or Beckett) or an enlightened critic (Benjamin or Adorno or Horkheimer). On this view, authentic art, like Critical Theory, articulates the truth content of Society of modern times in a negative, critical manner purely in the realm of a contemplative consciousness of an artist, philosopher or critic. The knowledge produced by such a negative aesthetics or theory is critical of the totalitarian nature of a late capitalist mass society of our time, and, the only authentic mode of resistance to the crass commodification and reification of the culture industry. Since it is negative, such an art has no positive value for a mass culture. In fact, its negativity resists integration into the commercialization and commodification of art and therefore, leads to its marginalisation. In other word, claims Adorno, the social conditions of advanced capitalism prohibit the full flowering of the revolutionary potential of the working class and/ or artistic consciousness. It is an age of a deradicalised worker, poet and philosopher. Adorno’s a-historical and idealistic version of Marxism anticipates the Lyotard’s version of post-modern condition of the 1980s, in its celebration of the plurality, fragmentation of subjectivity, language and of the world.
Although Adorno offers some brilliant insights into the nature of contemporary society, his project suffers from an inherent idealism. His privileging the theory over praxis, consciousness over matter, is highly problematic. His denial of historical and materialistic conditions of social consciousness makes his Marxist theory of art and society highly unsatisfactory and ant- rational. The works that appeared avant-garde in the 40s, 50s, or 60s no longer appear like that mainstream academia have already appropriated them and institutionalized them. Beckett, the mainstay of many postgraduate courses on drama the world over now, has come to shed his shocking novelty and become as passé as an earlier Dali or Picasso.
The logic of market economy, it looks, spares nobody, not even the so-called greats of modernism or post-modernism. The casebook series can easily destroy the auratic distance between these innovative artists and a hungry mass audience.
Another important figure of western Marxist aesthetics is Louis Althusser whose views on the role of ideology in the celebrated essay “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” (ISAs) of 1969 have come to exercise a strong influence upon both Marxist and bourgeois aesthetics. Ideology in general, according to this structuralist and materialist theory of society, plays the function of adapting individuals to the real conditions of existence. In that sense, it is an expression of the imaginary or lived experiences of the actual or the real. It becomes a relationship of the imaginary to the concrete. Second, ideology is a material practice, born out of the real social practices and social rituals. In this materialistic sense, Ideology is dispersed by the ideological state apparatuses (ISAs) like the school and the family. ISAs are more persuasive than RSAs (Repressive State Apparatuses) like police and military. Third, ideology interpellates (hails) individuals as subjects. Christian rituals, for example, hail the individual as a unique, free subject who willingly submits to the authority of the subject. Ideology has an unconscious character: a child is born into established ideological practices and thus realizes that he/ she is ‘ always- already’ a subject. Thus, says Althusser, the chief function of ideology in a society is to manufacture a suitable subjectivity for the sole purpose of adapting it and its appropriate consciousness to the existing production relations. Ideologies, in the final analysis, serve the conservative role of producing a consciousness that is necessary for the maintenance of production relations. Despite the relative autonomy of these superstructural forms, the main aim is to reconcile the subject to the existing infrastructure by reproducing the real in the imaginary. Art, for Althusser, is authentic only when it makes us ‘see’, ‘perceive’ and ‘feel’ by making the silences, the gaps in a work speak eloquently. At that precise moment an enlightened critic (‘us’) becomes aware of the ideology as an effect. This, in brief, is the materialistic conception of ideology in the structuralist version of Marxism of L. Althusser. For the first time in the history of Marxist aesthetics, Althusser is able to propound a theory of ideological practices that reproduce an appropriate consciousness of an interpellated subjectivity for the sole purpose of the maintenance of the given production relations. Althusserian Marxism is at odds with classical Marxist account of ideology. Marx emphasized the negative role of ideology and showed the class character of ideology in a class society. Marx always believed that false ideological consciousness can be superseded by the revolutionary and scientific consciousness of the class that becomes change agent at a given historical moment. (Revolutionary bourgeoisie at the beginning of the early capitalism, and, proletariat in the capitalistic mode). Despite its limitations, Althusser demonstrates the process by which individuals are incorporated into social systems through the subtle, unconscious mechanisms of ISAs, and now, after obtaining consent and adaptability, resistances are erased in society. Pierre Macherey and Terry Eagleton take up this Althusserian project in their works.
Marxist Critique :
Any Marxist critique of the philosophy of the modern literary theory in all its plurality and polysemic forms has to proceed from a firm grounding in the Marxist-Leninist tradition. The classical Marxism is humanist in nature. Its account of the laws of social and historical development are both philosophical and scientific, in sharp contradiction, to the philosophy/science debates that characterize the general tenor of the intellectual development of Western Marxism and its aesthetics, Marx, Engels and Lenin have always emphasized the cognitive and spiritual value of the great art of humankind. Art not only cognizes the world in sensuous artistic images but also fulfills the spiritual needs of humankind; the needs for harmony and the beautiful, the moral attitude towards life, and, an aspiration towards life, and, ideal. Art is a fruit of the dialectics of theory and praxis, subject and object, and, form and content. Art is both historical and supra-historical: it is definitely a product of material, historical conditions of production as well as a transcendence of the immediacy of such a moment. In a way, art is autonomous and stable in relation to its base (production mode). Greek art is a fine example of the uneven development of great art across the centuries. Despite primitive development of production mode, Greeks could produce a very wholesome, organic, rich and beautiful art that still appeals to us, despite the intervening centuries between it and us. The same applies to Shakespeare or Tolstoy. Despite ultra-sophistication achieved in our age in terms of mode of production, the beauty and totality of their works is still unsurpassable and provides us with aesthetic joy and pleasure. The kind of unity of essence and appearance, form and content, subject (artist) and object (society), achieved in the art of the Greeks and greats like Balzac, Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Goethe is superb and transcends time and space barriers. Art is a product of the human praxis: man, in the process of transforming nature, not only creates objects for his physical needs but also for his spiritual needs. Art, as an aesthetic object, enjoys universal appeal because it primarily deals with the moral and beautiful. It is also an aid in understanding social reality and also, progressive, as it clearly shows the future path, notwithstanding the class contradictions and class interests that get reflected artistically, objectively through the subjective personality of the artist and his/her world-view. In that sense, great art is both temporal/atemporal and ideological/non-ideological (it moves beyond the declared ideological and class position of the artist). By creating types, great art penetrates to the social essence and reflects a totalizing experience of society in all its contradictions to the recipient’s limited ideological view of reality. In that sense, it is a superstructural form of cognition and social consciousness, and, it has an enlightening capacity.
This slightly oversimplified and schematic view of Marxist theory of society and art, revolutionary in its import, clearly demonstrates the materialistic and dialectical foundations of this humanist and praxis-oriented epistemology that was a definite advance over the existing idealistic and mechanical materialistic philosophical systems of the West. Western Marxism of Benjamin, Adorno, Althusser and Marcuse does not subscribe to this materialistic and historical epistemology of Marx, Engels and Lenin. For Western Marxists, dialectics is negative and so is the modern avant-garde art. For these theoreticians, art is not revolutionary in its intent. Beckett, Joyce, Kafka celebrate passivity and reificational structures of society through a negative art. The cognitive oppositional role is no longer possible for a subjectivity that is being fragmented and marginalized. This negative conception of society and art makes their idiosyncratic versions of Marxism anti-progressive, anti-revolutionary and ahistorical.
There is always an in-built danger of oversimplification and reiteration in an essay of this kind. Despite limitations to the essayistic form, some points need reiteration. The foremost point is that modern literary theory of the 20 th century is idealistic in its philosophical orientation. It asserts the prime value of subjective consciousness at the cost of historical fact. The fragmentation, pluralism and polysemic characteristics of the modern literary theory—both bourgeois and Marxist—are idealistic in their denial of the social nature of artistic process, cognition, language and meaning. Formalism, Structuralism (Barthes), Deconstructionism (Derrida), post-Modernism—to name a few of the influential-theories—attempt to destabilize the received categories like meaning, totality, author, text, etc. by postulating that these are metaphysical concepts no longer valid to contemporary reality. Second point: despite the proliferation of various competing theories, as possible models of understanding the reality, they all fail to offer a convincing account of modern world and its lived reality. The reason is simple. They are not adequate rational accounts but partial and agnostic. The increasing unpopularity of Derridean deconstructionism in the late 1980s of the West is one example of the short-lived life of such theories. Third point: The suspicion of modern literary theory of Marxism is pervasive. Most French theoreticians (Barthes, Lacan, Derrida, Lyotard) develop positions that are anti-Marxist. This leads to the final conclusion that modern literary theory is anti-Enlightenment, anti-Realist and anti-evolutionary. And, most important, anti-humanist and anti-liberal. It is a theory of the disillusioned despairing intellectuals of a deradicalised age.
Despite their radical distrust of any overarching Meta narratives, the fact remains that their idealism is not the death knell of Marxism. The emergence of resistance to the expansion of capital via MNCs is a welcome change. Protest poetry, underground literature, subaltern literature and art of graffiti are some of the new forms of artistic resistance. The dialectics of history cannot be checked, notwithstanding the slogans like “End of History.”
Marxism is not obsolete.
Eagleton, surely, proves that.
Notes: Peter Zima, The Philosophy of Modern Literary Theory(London, The Athlone Press, 1999). Part of the framework of the present essay derives its inspiration from this well-argued, lucid book. Ibid., p.3 Ibid., p.5 V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol.19, (Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1980) pp. 23.28 Karl Marx, Prefaceto A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977) p.20. Karl Marx, and F. Engels, The German Ideology, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976), pp. 36-37. Pauline Johnson, Marxist Aesthetics, (London: Rutledge and Kegan Paul), pp.90-91. Ibid., p.90