You’re expected to know everything about a profession you chose in your late teens within a 4 year span. At least enough to get you started on the bottom rungs. Most college movies feature frat parties and lots and lots of drinking. But for me, at least, dark academia novels like Bunny and movies like Dead Poets Society seem closer, although not close to the reality.
People do drink; I have drunk, although I don’t have a high tolerance and tend to avoid it lest I do stupid things like email my ex or come out to my mother. I don’t actually know how accurate college movies like Neighbors are, although I sure wouldn’t want to live next to or in a frat house.
I’m thinking of Bunny, how a very small group of girls get together and do demented things. I’m thinking of If We Were Villains, when the gang would stay up late studying in the common area and let out a few grunts in class the next morning. I’ve sadly not encountered a murder (although there was one the semester before I came here.) But people, my people at least, tend to take college seriously enough because they genuinely care about the things they’re learning. They rave about their favourite classes and wonder how to explore the subject further.
That is what Dark Academia conveys best: people go to college because they’re passionate about something. It gets to the root as to why so many of us get sick in our college years; if you devote yourself to study or your gang to the point where you loose sleep and skip meals, you will get sick. In real life it can result in mental health complications. In books, it leads to murder.
I love Bunny and If We Were Villains. But I haven’t read another DA book that I loved, or even liked. I avoid many because I know that the systemic racism, sexism, elitism, etc. that pervades IRL university systems seep their way into these books and go unchallenged. We read to be critical of the world around us and the institutions we engage with.
I am not a patriotic college student. I was on the newspaper for a year, and that’s part of the job. But it’s more than that; there are problems with my university that I’ve never been able to ignore. How the dining hall still underfeeds vegan students despite high marks from PETA and emails/petitions from vegan students like myself. How it claims to be a leader in environmental issues, despite watering the sidewalks everyday during the worst drought in CA ever. How the best professors are the least rewarded because of how much time they spend on students rather than research or winning awards. How they cut the budget for humanities as it prepares to bloat the sciences.
I want to see some of these IRL issues addressed in these DA books. I love the murder, please keep the murder. And the books, and the passion. But I want a book that addresses the elitism and other systemic issues. I want a book where the admin and professors are realistic people driven by money and selfishness. I want to see students fighting for their right to an education that both enlightens them and prepares them for the future.
Do you, dear reader, have Dark Academia recs? What’s a book that reflects uni life well?