Originally posted on The Student Journals: http://studentjournals.co.uk/2014/07/tsj-talks-to-aiden-of-channel-4s-the-secret-life-of-students/
Channel 4’s new series, which follows freshers beginning student life at the University of Leicester, has caused quite a stir. The first two episodes have so far seen a great amount of ‘prinking’, some STIs, neknominations containing a raw fish, and a vodka-soaked tampon being inserted anally. All of these, we saw, were done by Aiden Pestell.
Since starting university I had often wondered when there would be a TV reality show revealing awkward freshers introductions and shenanigans, and now it’s arrived. How much of the show is reality is, of course, questionable and brings the danger of presenting a select few participants as the average student at UK universities. It must be said, however, that the “banter” currently spewed across Channel 4 isn’t that unfamiliar to students these days. I spoke to Aiden, who revels in being the lad of the show. I warn you, he brags a lot about banter and refers to himself in the third person.
How would you describe yourself Aiden? “Narcissistic, God, rare,” he says. A big motivation for going to university, he said, on The Secret Life of Students, was ‘to get laid.’ How’s that been working out for you Aiden? “Got a good record and high numbers so lad, lad!. Now that the show has come out Aiden’s had even more. Chlamydia gets girls. Girls love money, appearance, intelligence, humour and chlamydia in a guy!” What a charmer.
Weren’t you embarrassed to reveal you had Chlamydia on television? “No – Chlamydia is just banter!” Right, and are you currently in a relationship Aiden? “How can I have a girlfriend when I’m in a serious relationship with myself?” I see, got it.
So how did you end up being on The Secret Life of Students? “Uni of Leicester emailed all first year students, then it was a process of interviews and seeing how we are around a camera. And basically finding out I was the most entertaining.”
Have you enjoyed finding some fame from the show? “I’m fairly happy now – quite a few fans have requested that I have my own show! This show shouldn’t be called ‘[The] Secret Life of Students,’ it should be called ‘Secret Life of Aiden!’”
He tells me more, in third person, about himself. “Aiden has banter in his blood, and in that lad comes with it. I’ve always been pushing boundaries.” I ask him how he’d define a ‘lad’ and he says: “Definition of lad is me. Someone who is a role model, has banter, gets girls, intelligent, etc.”
Lad culture is said to perpetuate sexism, misogyny and dangerous levels of binge drinking at university. I asked Aiden what he makes of the criticisms that lad culture goes too far? “It can have a dangerous side and that’s why it’s great!”
On the series so far we have seen Aiden do a neknomination. I asked what he thought of the dangers of the downing such vast quantities of alcohol – so far causing the deaths of at least three people aged between 19 and 22. He answered: “I believe neknominations is [sic] just like natural selection. Dying is for fools and amateurs.”
It was quite clear he wasn’t going to agree with student unions’ recent crackdown on lad culture, when I asked him about over 20 banning Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines over fears it promotes rape. “It’s ridiculous!
“I just think it’s the universities’ students unions who have low self-esteem women running as President banning it because they don’t get any attention.”
He also describes himself as a “devout Christian” and “very right-wing.” Are you part of any societies at university Aiden? “No, but I’m looking to set one up. I aim to start a society like the ‘train spotting society’ where underground a lot of banter goes on and ridiculous welcome drinks which make the rugby team look tame.”
How do your family feel about your appearance on the show? “They’re against it because they know what my banter is like and thank god not everything went on the final edit.”
So what did Channel 4 miss out? “In December I lost an eyebrows bet – lad game – which meant I used my overdraft to go to New York during first term. That was great banter! There was a lot of footage that was not put in the edit – I missed an exam because I was busy Xmas shopping on Fifth Avenue. Used my overdraft for it and my parents had no idea I went.”
A big part of the show is revealing all your private texts and social media posts sent through your phone. It seems he is quite typical of a young social media user who doesn’t fret about the dangers of over-sharing online. Was it invasive for viewers across the UK to be reading all your messages Aiden? “I didn’t really care,” he says.
Lauren, another contestant on the show, struggles with university because of the social pressures to join in on drinking games. With the rise of neknominations and prinking now being a nationwide phenonemon, it seems social life at university is almost inescapable from binge drinking. I asked Aiden if he thought beginning university sober would’ve been different? “I could of [sic] done freshers completely sober as I can pull sober. I just felt I had to join in the drunkness [sic] to make others in the block feel better about themselves.
“It’s all fun and games,” says Aiden, who inserted a vodka-soaked tampon into his anus to get drunk faster before a night out.
Did you feel sorry for Lauren who struggled as the only sober student? “She’s like the mother of the block – if I wanted a mum I should of [sic] stayed at home.”
The Secret Life of Students, whilst showing a mixed bag of experiences, sheds a big light on the surge of pressure to binge drink and join in with “banter” at university – which included Nazi salutes for photos in pre-drinks in one episode. But is Aiden, who got onto a Business Management and Marketing course through clearing, actually at all representative of British university students? He is now dropping out to work because “[I] wasn’t really going in [to lectures.” He has decided to take at least a year off to attempt to “find the correct mindset to get at least a 2:1.”
What’s yet to come on the show Aiden? “In Thursdays’ episode you see me cry and a different side to me, you also get to [see] me in a suit and cane.” We’re all on the edge of our seat, Aiden.