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6 Works of Dark Academia You Have To Check Out!

You might have heard of the “dark academia aesthetic” since it has been getting quite popular these days. And if you’re not familiar with the world of “aesthetics” and don’t already know what it means you might be wondering what it is. So let’s start with that!

 

What is the “dark academia aesthetic”?

Dark academia is an aesthetic highly associated with the arts, literature, and being highly educated. It has a dark color palette, mostly consisting of dark brown, black, gray, white, and beige. Things like Gothic architecture, candles and candlelight, writing and poetry, ancient Greek and Latin, ink, coffee, studying, and ambition are all popular concepts you’ll most likely encounter in dark academia.

 

Now that we know what it is, I’m going to recommend you some books, movies, and shows that have become known for representing the dark academia aesthetic. If you’re a fan of the aesthetic or have just become intrigued, I believe this list is for you. Without further ado, let’s dive right into it!



  1- Dead Poets Society

Made in 1989, Dead Poets Society has become one of the first movies to come to mind when talking about dark academia. This movie is about seven boys –Neil Perry, Todd Anderson, Charlie Dalton, Knox Overstreet, Steven Meeks, Gerard Pitts, and Richard Cameron- who are attending a prestigious, all-boys university prep school: Welton Academy. With the new school year starting, they meet their new English teacher, Mr. Keating. Soon enough, they realize Mr. Keating is like no other English teacher. Through the power of poetry, Mr. Keating teaches the boys to follow their dreams, to be themselves and not to conform to whatever anyone says, to carpe diem –seize the day. He changes their lives. But of course, it’s easier said than done. Some obstacles in the way cause unexpected, tragic turns in the story. Starring the legendary Robin Williams, with its warm friendships, valuable teachings, love of poetry, amazing scenery, and soundtracks; Dead Poets Society is easily one of the best movies to have ever been made!

 

The aesthetic of Dead Poets Society:




2- The Secret History

In my opinion, The Secret History is like the god of dark academia. Written by Donna Tartt, it is a book with very dark themes. Its main cast of characters all have extremely problematic sides, which is kind of the point of the book. The story follows Richard Papen, a university student who is fed up with his boring life and whose fatal flaw is “a morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs”. He decides to transfer to Hampden College, a college in Vermont, to pursue his interest in the language and literature of ancient Greek. He joins an exclusive group of students to study ancient Greek with their mysterious and charismatic teacher, Julian Morrow. There, he meets the other students –Henry Winter, Bunny Corcoran, Charles and Camilla Macaulay, and Francis Abernathy- who are super rich, mysterious, and extremely knowledgeable in their area. But not much later does Richard find out about this friend group’s dark side. One day, without Bunny and Richard, the others perform a Greek bacchanal, a Greek spiritual ritual where one lets go of their consciousness and acts purely on instinct. This ritual goes horribly wrong and an accidental murder takes place. After this, everything else goes corrupt. Another murder inside the friend group –this time on purpose- follows the accidental murder. Their so-called friendship gets tested under terribly hard circumstances. Will they be able to get away with the murder? With its hedonistic theme and obsession with "living for the aesthetic", The Secret History is the perfect representation of dark academia.


The aesthetic of The Secret History:




3- If We Were Villains

Written by M. L. Rio, this book is very similar to The Secret History in terms of its vibes. Finally released after serving for ten years in prison for a murder he may or may not have committed, Oliver Marks is going to tell everything that happened in reality to a curious retired detective, Detective Colborne: Ten years ago. Oliver is in his last year of college. He majors in acting, doing Shakespeare plays with his group of seven friends where each person always plays the same role both on and off-stage: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingenue, and extra. But during one play, when everything gets out of hand and the secondary characters usurp the main ones, they find themselves in the middle of a murder. Now, they must face their biggest acting challenge yet: Convincing everyone, including themselves, that they are innocent.


The aesthetic of If We Were Villains:




4- Kill Your Darlings

Starring the famous Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan, Kill Your Darlings is yet another dark work. But this movie is based on real events. Young Allen Ginsberg finds himself infatuated with his college classmate Lucien Carr. But Lucien has an old friend named David Kammerer who seems to be a rival for Allen in terms of their affection for Lucien. Though, David’s is more like an unhealthy obsession. One thing leads to another and Allen, Lucien and their friend group find themselves in the middle of a murder. David Kammerer has been killed. And by one of them. With its cinematography, Kill Your Darlings is a great example of dark academia.


The aesthetic of Kill Your Darlings:




5- The Picture of Dorian Gray

This book is a classic written by the famous Oscar Wilde. It is perhaps the most known work of dark academia. Like The Secret History, The Picture of Dorian Gray has a concept of hedonism, along with vanity and the corruption of youthful innocence. Basil Hallward, a painter, one day invites Dorian Gray -who is a very handsome young man- whom he is infatuated with to his house. He introduces Dorian to another one of his friends, Lord Henry Wotton, who is quite an arrogant, hedonistic man. As Dorian and Lord Henry spend more and more time together, Lord Henry influences Dorian in all the wrong ways and convinces him that youth and beauty are the most important things one could have. One day, Basil gifts Dorian a portrait of him. In a reckless moment, Dorian wishes the portrait would age instead of himself. Miraculously, his wish comes true, though in a way he could not have guessed. Dorian stops aging but with every sin he commits, he sees that the portrait gets uglier and uglier. His hatred for the portrait drives him out of his mind and he finds himself a murderer. Who did he murder, do you think? Then, not being able to stand the sight of the portrait anymore, he does something that brings his own demise...


The aesthetic of The Picture of Dorian Gray:




6- Gilmore Girls

Gilmore Girls is a popular, cozy series famous for its dark academia aesthetic. It tells the story of Lorelai Gilmore, a single mother, and Rory, Lorelai’s ambitious and intellectual teenage daughter, who are living in a small town. Their lives are full of ups and downs. With an academically ambitious protagonist, its cinematography, and choice of clothing; Gilmore Girls is a perfect cozy, dark academia show!


The aesthetic of Gilmore Girls:



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