The aestheticization — dare I say fetishization — of female pain reaffirms the conditions that made girls sad in the first place. Simply put, the Sad Girl reeks of complacency.
My shame of being found reading Colleen Hoover stemmed from a culture of intellectual snobbery — feeling superior and prideful about the type of culture you consume. It’s the person who prides themselves on their knowledge of “classical” literature, listing off the last names of authors such as John Milton, Charles Dickens, and Jane Austen as if they are family friends.
Is it vulnerable or honest about the reality of being at this school? Or is it playing to an aesthetic standard of what a Harvard student is supposed to be: personality, friendships, and academic success, all in one? These performances feed into a perception, however misguided, of students at Harvard and other elite universities as universally capable and flawless super-students, without even the possibility of failure.
Yet as I read “On Beauty,” her wonder of a 2005 novel, I couldn’t shake the one central mystery it posed: does Harvard by any other name sound as sweet?