Even Channel 4 buys the student stereotype

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Grab your mirror and take a long hard look at yourself. You’re disgusting. You’re probably wearing a knitted jumper, got a can of Strongbow in your hand, and balancing a cigarette between your fingers. You haven’t shaved in days, your room is a pig sty, and there’s a musky smell of body odour wafting through your flat. There’s probably not a lot on your mind throughout third term, because you’re a lazy layabout who does nothing but watch television all day. How I Met Your Mother is your biggest concern, and you have no need to show any interest in the outside world because you’re in the university bubble and nothing can hurt you.

Not quite right? That’s interesting, because that’s exactly how Channel 4 imagines the life of a “young person”. And that’s an upsetting reality which students now find themselves in as the general election approaches. E4 is being taken off air on 7th May in an attempt to encourage “young people” to go out and vote. That’s right – because these so called “young people” don’t have jobs, college, or university to attend, but they instead spend their Thursdays watching The Big Bang Theory in their pyjamas.

If viewers turn to E4 on 7th May, they will be greeted by “Darren”, the man in charge of keeping E4 on air in the channel’s control room. The channel reaches 8.7 million 16 to 34-year-olds every month, but its regular schedule will be suspended from 7am to 7pm. In the world of Channel 4, it is thought that young people will turn on their television, notice the absence of Sheldon Cooper, and then decide to go out and vote.

Or, they’ll just turn to a different television channel. Or, like most people I know, they’ll be too engrossed in revision to care. Perhaps they’ll even be working, just like “normal people”, or attending college and working hard for their exams. The stereotypical student is a myth, and campaigns like this only reinforce the stigmatised attitude that people seem to have towards them. Just to be clear, we don’t sit around and watch E4. Campaigns such as LUSU’s 333 drive really highlight the large number of young people who do genuinely show an interest in British politics, and the Channel 4 fiasco is a huge kick in the teeth for those students who are busy revising.

Apparently, the adverts notifying viewers of their election campaign will ask: “How many times have you missed life-changing events because you wanted to watch your favourite TV show?”

My answer is probably never; because we’re real human beings with volition, not stereotypical layabouts with nothing better to do. Get a grip and know your audience, Channel 4.

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