Let’s Talk About Dark Academia

I watch a lot of YouTube videos. This probably isn’t a surprise considering the amount of YouTube videos that are watched in a day. Though my favorite videos are Harry Potter related, decluttering/organizing, room makeovers, and some gaming content, occasionally my fiancée and I will watch random videos, which then makes YouTube recommend us a bunch of random videos. One night while trying to find something to watch, we came across a video about Dark Academia, so we watched it… and definitely had some thoughts about it.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with this term, Dark academia is an aesthetic centered on higher education, writing, the arts, and classic Greek and Gothic architecture, as well as romantic longing and death. And this aesthetic gained popularity on TikTok (don’t get me started on TikTok).

Honestly, it sounds like something I would totally vibe with as an academic who loves Gothic literature, has death in almost everything I write, and loves writing. And though I do vibe with aspects of it, I see huge problem with it- and that’s people embracing these things just for the sake of an aesthetic.

The word poser got thrown around a lot when I was in middle school and high school. When I stopped listening to boy bands and started listening to rock music and wearing all black, I was deemed a poser by several of my classmates. They thought I was doing it for attention or other reasons I can’t remember anymore. There was no truth to that, I had simply changed and when people make drastic changes, people can view it negatively and see you as being fake. And I can see that becoming an issue with Dark Academia.

It seems like people, especially the younger generations, are always looking for a new trend, new aesthetic, new something to latch onto and embrace. My generation is definitely guilty of this. One moment we were all into Pokemon, next moment we’re all into Yu-Gi-Oh, next thing you know we’re into something else. We ran through boy bands at an alarming rate. Styles of clothing stopped being in very fast. Xanga became obsolete when Myspace took over, and now we’re all on Facebook! I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made my point. I’m all for experimenting with new music, new clothes, even a new hair color… but I have an issue with people following something just because it’s trendy.

As a scholar, I love talking about books with people. Working at a bookstore is perfect for me because I get to recommend books to customers or talk to them about books. I fully support people reading books for education or enjoyment, but I am very aware that books can also become trendy with Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games being a few examples of that. And remember when everyone was reading 50 Shades of Grey? People followed a trend and now 50 Shades is Grey is one of the most donated books in recent memory.

Dark Academia encourages the aesthetic of classic books and Gothic elements and concepts of death. This means people who aren’t familiar with the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, or have never read The Iliad of The Odyssey will now be purchasing these books for the sake of an “aesthetic”. Will they ever read these books? Maybe they will, maybe they won’t, who knows? People who have never previously touched tweed or would even consider wearing black will now be wearing black tweed blazers and wearing fake glasses to look smarter. We’re probably going to see a rise of library selfies where people will be holding books and pretending to read them for the sake of likes on Instagram… and I’m not for it for several reasons-

  1. Pretending to read a book or like a book for the sake of likes and aesthetic is disingenuous. It is better to say you do or don’t like a book and be honest about it. It’s also better to admit you haven’t read something than lie about it because if you come across someone like me, I will talk to you about the book and if you’re lying, I’ll be able to smell your bullshit from a mile away.
  2. Books are meant to be read, not to just be a decor piece or a stand for you to put your vase of flowers on. I’m all for displaying books in an interesting way, but please read them, they get sad if you don’t.
  3. Education is an important and sacred thing. Higher education isn’t cheap and paying back student loans is no joke. So don’t pursue a higher education if you’re not serious about it. It’s one thing to major in something and realize it’s not for you- it’s another thing to do it for aesthetic’s sake.
  4. Death is a part of life and yes, some of us think about it a lot (we all have our reasons for it). But death isn’t something to be taken lightly (even dark humor stops and makes us think for a moment). So please don’t start talking about death just because it seems like something you should do for aesthetic’s sake. Also your school guidance counselors won’t care if your sudden interest in death is a part of your “aesthetic”- to them it’s a cry for help even if you aren’t suicidal. And as someone who has dealt with school counselor’s because I was seen as suicidal, I can tell you it’s not something you want to deal with.
  5. Glasses aren’t a fashion accessory! For those of us who need them on a daily basis or need them to read or drive, glasses are an important part of our lives. We’ve been called four eyes for wearing them or had them broken or stolen. We didn’t go through all that bullying and trauma for you to now decide they’re cute and trendy! Maybe this is me being slightly salty, but seriously, wearing them might make you look smarter, but when you open your mouth the real smart people will know the truth.

So I guess to sum it up- I am for the Dark Academia atheistic if it’s true to who you are as a person. For someone like me, Dark Academia is true to who I am, though I will never wear tweed because I live in Florida and it sounds itchy. I’m at the point in my life where trends just seem like an exhausting and wasteful thing. Think of how much money gets spent on each trend just for more money to spent on the next trend! Then the former trend clogs up donation centers or ends up in the landfill… and it is wasteful. So if Dark Academia is truly your vibe, embrace it and enjoy it. If Dark Academia doesn’t sound even remotely interesting to you, please don’t embrace it just to get likes on your Instagram photo- find validation within yourself for who you truly are, you’ll be a lot happier that way.

I’m not sure how this post will come across. I know it’s random, but as someone who is nearing thirty and has been self-reflecting a lot recently, I see the world a lot differently now and I guess I felt the need to share my thoughts on this. So if you’re still reading this post, thank you for sticking through the randomness! I hope everyone has a great week!

5 comments

  1. I’ve never heard of Dark Academia. When I saw the title of your post, I thought it was going to be about the ugly side of scholarly competition for the rapidly dwindling number of tenure-track faculty positions. Silly me.

    Like

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