There has been many a critique of the Tumblr slash TikTok Dark Academia community floating around across different platforms. I’ve read such critiques on mainly Twitter and Tumblr, probably most accessible due to their word-centric interface.
Now the topic of Dark Academia as an aesthetic community has resurfaced so to speak upon the release of a NY Times article about young adults filling the void of online schooling through sharing online material all surrounding Dark Academia.
I was surprised that such a publication would pick up a topic like curated online teen aesthetics but also unsurprised that the article didn’t go in depth of the inner workings of the community itself and barely touched the surface by simply describing and discussing the visual aesthetic. Which I guess is something Dark Academia enthusiasts and fervent defenders are relieved about?
Now there are many great critiques already available regarding the number of questionable aspects of Dark Academia such as the glorification of the western canon in academia, the dismissal of the reality of actual modern-day students currently attending these institutions (many of which are unfortunately children of rich assholes who themselves become rich assholes), but I’m going to touch on one particular fascination of the Dark Academia community that I can both sympathize with but also makes my eye twitch: Maurice, the 1987 Merchant Ivory film.
(Written at 4 AM this morning as I played girl in red’s i wanna be your girlfriend, trying to fall asleep to her singing “I don’t wanna be your friend, I wanna be your bitch.”. Edited at 1 PM for clarity.)
Everyone complains about Clive’s mustache, and his obvious ‘glow down’ when he starts to pretend to be straight (In the process of curating photos for this post, I actually had a very difficult time finding HQ photos of him with his mustache, which was hilarious to me since it was further proof that no one wanted to immortalize this travesty). I commented on this as a reply to someone else’s Letterboxd review: “I thought it was a clever way to comment on queer aesthetics, how we are the most beautiful when we embrace ourselves.” In my own review I also mentioned how slicking back his hair, arguably his most beautiful asset, as well as growing a mustache are emblematic to his plight in trying to fit into heteronormative polite society. But it’s 4 am and I’ve just realized something.
Favorite excerpts from a great book I read recently called Convenience Store Woman (コンビニ人間 Konbini Ningen) :
I find it really ironic how for centuries, the white imperialist entity has demonized many aspects of indigenousness (in their language : the exotic, the other) as ‘indulgent’ thus opposing the modesty perpetuated within Christianity, but the imperialist leaders themselves have drowned themselves in decadence and stolen luxuries* as a symbol of plundering and conquering.
(*I will never be able to view old western opulence the same way again, when I was reminded of how all their jewels were looted or forcibly harvested through colonization and slavery.)
- Fatphobia as a racially biased system, that perpetuates the belief that black and brown bodies are fat due to indulgence, thus fatness is sinful and equal to blackness and brownness, and the white men and women should aim to be as slim as possible to prove themselves as the opposite, as members of the ‘ideal race’. (Fearing the Black Body : The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia by Sabrina Strings)
- Chromophobia, a theory in which even outside of human features, color has also been racialized, as bright and vivid colors are ascribed to be seen as a mark of exotic indulgence, whilst muted colors were the sign of the white western intellect’s ability to refuse indulgence. (Chromophobia by David Batchelor)
be their worst nightmare :
Unapologetic and fierce in your otherness.
Edit 23rd of May 2020 :
Ancient Greek sculptures and architecture were also colorful, before the vibrant paints were eroded with time. Since during the renaissance the western world decided to revitalize the culture and tradition of Ancient Greece (though clearly not all since the church stayed queerphobic), the Ancient Greece they knew of were white and barren. This gave birth to a myth of whiteness that snowballed and integrated itself into the culture of white supremacy, where muted colors (specifically black and white) grew to be seen as a symbol of intellect and vibrant colors were seen as the opposite. This was strengthened by the presence of many vibrant tones in colonized cultures such as African ones and South Asian ones. Hindu culture was especially seen as counter-progress (Orientalism: seeing ‘the other’ as more barbaric, unable to hold themselves back, unlike western polite society) due to its visual vibrancy.