HARRY POTTER! That's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear dark academia. But it is so much more than what J.K Rowling’s brilliant mind wrote about. Dark academia is an internet aesthetic that has slowly risen in the trends like an unattended sourdough starter. It has taken over a lot of minds since the start of the, shall we call it, one-year stationary period, instead of a pandemic. But what is dark academia?
Gowns, cobblestones, old library books, old literature, and vintage cycles are just some of the things that have attracted thousands of minds to this internet aesthetic. Dark academia is a romanticization of learning and life in the vintage era. Mainly during the early 19th century. The followers of this environment are drawn more towards the fantasies that are clutched between its dreamy fingers than to the reality; and reading period literature, poems, and wearing age-inspired looks gets them closer to said fantasies. A prime example is, of course, the popular children’s book series, Harry Potter, as we all know there are potentially billions of ‘Potterheads’ in the world and they are all holding on to the fleeting strings of their childhood magical dreams through the medium of this internet aesthetic.
Dark Academia is a wonderful thing that gives homage to a time when the boundaries of architecture, literature, and the sense of style were pushed and played with, showing the advancements, curiosity, and creativity of the human mind. People feel they are a part of something bigger, they connect with others and discuss their favourite pieces of music, literature, conspiracy theories, and several other things. It's a safe space for thousands of minds. But being attached to this old-timey paraphernalia is an ethical minefield.
Remember, dark academia is mainly based on the old, European-dominated world, this has its problems.
Misogyny, yes, I was as surprised as you are, not at all that is, very in character for the time, women rarely been given any opportunities, even if they were, they would be and still are critically scrutinized for their every action, while the males are rarely paid attention, leading to them to have anything they want and do anything without consequences. Funny how some things don’t change over time. In movies and books that take inspiration from these times, female characters barely get recognition, have no development, and are represented as obstacles and objects that are used and abused. This is subtly hidden in them, giving more importance to the male roles, and very rarely give the woman’s point of view.
Racism. This word alone strikes fear in the hearts of powerful white males all around the world. But it is something we should talk about, even though it seems like it's been talked about more than needed, there is no action being taken against this, countless protests, marches, wakes, and so many other forms of public gatherings being held every day and it only results in more violence against colored communities. It has been going on for centuries, yes the conditions have changed and it looks like everyone is being treated equally but under that soft velvet covering, it is the same, only updated to the times. Members of the coloured communities weren’t given the same opportunities, excluded from clubs, classes, and many activities.
Elitism is, again, a word that has not been thrown around lightly at these times. The fantasy world that people associate with the aesthetic is the world that is being looked at through the rose-tinted lens that is the eyes of a child or young adult from an aristocratic family, in other words, a spoiled rich kid.” The Riot Club” is one of many movies that comes under the Dark Academia aesthetic. This movie talks about The Bonnington Club, a student club at Oxford University. It is a private, all-male dining club known for its wealthy members, grand banquets, vulgar behavior, including vandalism of restaurants, public spaces, and student rooms. Founded in the 18th century, this club has created quite a reputation.
I helped recruit for the Bullingdon, and advised [the president] on its activities,” she told the Observer. “I know very well what the patterns of behaviour were. When [her ex-boyfriend] was president, they had prostitutes at their dinners. They performed sex acts, sometimes at the shared dining table, and sometimes elsewhere on the premises.
-A woman who helped recruit members during the club's 80's heyday
In 2007, a picture of the Bonnington Club taken in 1978 was discovered and hit the British headlines because Boris Johnson and David Cameron, both of them prominent in British Politics, were members of the club. Negative Media attention portrayed by “The Riot Club” and the play it was adapted from, “Posh”, led to decreasing memberships of the club.
While all these problems are almost everything that is being talked about, it is always nice to look back and see how far we have come, while preserving some good aspects of what was before. I’m not saying those who are fans of this aesthetic are bad people and should rethink their choices. Acknowledging what has happened is important. I think it is necessary to do at least a little research before you spread your opinion on things that might be controversial. Fantasy and reality have their differences, hence two separate words, so try not to get too carried away, but it’s a free world, that is something we can say now that we probably couldn’t in the 19th century.