Fresh Meat: An Accurate Portrayal Of Student Life?

In Commentary, FILM, THEATRE & TV, HOME by Sam Prance

Fresh Meat is an award winning satirical sitcom on British university life from Peep Show creators Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain (these people can do no wrong).  Now in its third series, the show follows a house of first year students in Manchester as they navigate their way through ‘adult’ life; from the all too familiar ‘so what A – Levels did you do’ stage to the apparently inevitable housemate incest.

Now in their second year, each character is a familiar example of the stereotypes that are impossible to avoid at university. Unusually, the writing doesn’t morph them into BuzzFeed list esque caricatures. Instead, each is complex, relatable and of course slightly ridiculous. But how similar are they to the types we find at university?

First there is Josie, a character I think we all meet at some stage or another. She is welsh, a typical ‘girl – next – door’ and she spends most of the first series pretending not be engaged to her engineer fiancé back home. She makes a couple of minor errors along the way: forgetting to mention her fiancé to poor besotted Kingsley; committing insurance fraud and getting kicked off her course for drilling a hole in someone’s face (so glad I do not dentistry). Despite these flaws, Josie is hard not to love. She’s a great example of the many that come to university in ‘first love’ relationships, only to either pretend they don’t exist or to twist the whole ‘loyalty’ thing a little. Josie is also an excellent comfort to the many first years that do, ‘accidentally’, end up involved with a housemate. It’s not the end of the world like everyone else seems to tell you and it works out pretty well for her. In the most recent episode she also confesses a deep love for buying things in bulk (OMG 4kg of penne) – bulk buying is my jam.

Now we have (spoiler alert) Josie’s current boyfriend Kingsley. Kingsley is a sort of average Joe type. His ventures into music, however, are an excellent representation of the hundreds of wannabe musicians at uni. He returns from the Christmas holidays with a soul patch (experimental facial hair is far too common), a trilby and a new-found passion for song writing. His questionable musical skills produce works of art like his ‘Implodium Implodes’ (written by Blur’s Graham Coxon). This song premiers at a student open-mic night; something all university students been dragged along to at some point.

Then there is: Oregon, a character who spent most of series 1 having an affair with her English tutor. If you haven’t seen it, I think the overall message is that it isn’t a particularly advisable thing to do. I’m also pretty sure that this isn’t a thing that actually happens that frequently; especially with 40 year old professors who are – quite frankly unattractive. Halfway through the series we discover that she is, as I like to phrase it, a ‘Closet Posh’. It turns out that she has a car with her at uni, several horses at home and a seemingly unlimited outfit fund. However, this is not what makes her so infuriating. In the new season, she has become really, really annoying. You know the type that thinks they’re a National Theatre worthy writer at 19 and then takes up human rights causes for no other reason than their own smug self righteousness? One of those.

JP, on the other hand, is anything but a ‘Closet Posh’. Proudly declaring himself a ‘Stowaway’ (Stowe old boy don’t you know), and constantly striving to be more of douche than he actually is, JP is a somewhat loveable public school stereotype. Despite engaging in a lot of morally dubious behaviour: ‘they’re all cabbies in the North Giles’, JP redeems himself by abandoning his fellow old boys in favour of his new housemates and showing a more human side after falling for a fresher. He’s a character that every one can recognise; someone you want to hate, but who, deep down, is a complete softie. Disclaimer: If you think he is a repulsive character you’re probably right. I’m a bit more inclined to want to like him because I get a lot of the chat that JP gets from his housemates for maybe being a bit posh (although I am nowhere near as bad as JP. Promise.)

And finally there is the oddball of the house. In Howard, Bain and Armstrong really have created an outsider; he works in an abattoir, engages in conspiracy theories and is in the process of compiling a definitive list of whether everything is ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’. I’m not aware of anyone who has have even been to an abattoir  (if this is a preferred pastime of yours, I’m sorry, I’m sure it’s lovely), however Howard is still relatable to a point. Admittedly, he is an enigma, but every social group has the one person who is perhaps a little less proficient with the opposite sex or who shies away from big groups. Howard, I think, speaks to the weirdo in all of us. On a side note, he’s a completely unrealistic character. He is Scottish and at an English Uni. What’s wrong with you Howard? That’s an unnecessary nine grand a year down the drain!

Even if you don’t fall into any of these categories, Fresh Meat is a really awesome show. On the whole, it’s pretty relatable and regardless of that, hilarious. If you’ve never seen it (what have you been doing?!!) and if this post has made you love it already, or at least intrigued) you can catch the episodes on YouTube, 4oD and Mondays at 10 on Chanel 4.

Naomi Hoggett

Naomi Hoggett is a second year student at Edinburgh University. She studies English Literature. Naomi loves coffee, camembert and watching foreign films at artsy cinemas – mostly because they’re awesome but sometimes just to look mysterious and clever. Her friend Rachel calls her an adorable cherub of joy. That’s all you need to know.

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