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"Choose Facebook": How Trainspotting 2's updated speech falls flat

The references to social media in the the latest trailer for T2 have none of the impact of the original Trainspotting speech.

Choose life. Choose Vine. Choose hashtags. Choose Facebook Live. Choose Bitcoin. Choose memes. Choose the gig economy. Choose the dog face Snapchat filter.

This isn’t quite how Irvine Welsh updated the iconic Trainspotting speech for the trailer of its long-awaited sequel, T2, but it’s close. “Choose life. Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and hope that someone, somewhere cares,” opens Renton, paving the way for a speech that name drops zero-hour contracts, revenge porn, and slut-shaming.

And I get it. When a bunch of writers sat around to contemplate how to update a 20-year-old speech for the modern age, these are the topics that would naturally come up. And it might have worked if, you know, they weren’t making a film about 45-year-old ex-junkies with a penchant for crime.

That’s not to say, of course, that 45-year-olds ex-junkies don’t use social media. It’s just that it all feels slightly inauthentic. Sick Boy, Renton, and Spud would probably have Facebook – in 2016, it’s almost illegal not to have Facebook – but would they really snap their avocado toast for the Insta Likes? “Aha!” you say. “That’s the point. They’re mocking people who do!” But that’s where it all falls flat. The original speech worked because Renton was taking aim at people older than him, with their new washing machines and electric tin-openers, but now he has become every other baby-boomer on the planet, convinced that a teenager taking a selfie is one of the seven signs of the impending apocalypse.

Despite this, the trailer is undeniably good. It’s hard not to be excited about seeing familiar faces back on the big screen, and it’s clear that the plot won’t consist of watching Sick Boy try to level up on Candy Crush Jelly Saga. But if the characters aren’t sat around using social media, why talk about it in the speech? 

Take the reference to revenge porn. Anyone who’s read Welsh’s Trainspotting sequel, Porno, will be happy that this at least hints towards a similar plot. But people who share pornographic photos of their ex-lovers don’t do it after sitting down and saying, “Ah, yes. Time for a spot of revenge porn.” They just do it. Revenge porn is a helpful title for headlines, but in this speech it sounds heavy-handed. As a plot, revenge porn is fine. As a soundbite in a speech, it jars.

Then there’s the line: “You’re an addict so be addicted; just be addicted to something else.” Hopefully this is hinting towards the bags of pills and Sick Boy’s cannabis farm that we see in the trailer, but lord help us all if Renton is talking about iPhones. Black Mirror did it first, and again-and-again, and saying Social Media Is Bad is a cheap, basic way to reflect on society.

The first speech, for example, hit home because of the specifics. Low cholesterol, dental insurance, fixed-interest mortgage repayments – these are all scathing, intricate digs at our lives. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – that’s like saying, “Choose talking to people” and “Choose taking photos.” It isn’t scathing. It’s superficial. 

This could, of course, just be a problem with the trailer. The entire movie might be a masterpiece like the first, and this criticism might become redundant. To figure that out, there's only one thing to do. Choose to see the film. 

(And then tweet about it). 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.

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Don’t worry, Old Etonian Damian Lewis calls claims of privilege in acting “nonsense!”

The actor says over-representation of the privately educated at the top of acting is nothing to worry about – and his many, many privately educated peers agree.

In the last few years, fears have grown over the lack of working class British actors. “People like me wouldn’t have been able to go to college today,” said Dame Julie Walters. “I could because I got a full grant. I don’t know how you get into it now.”

Last year, a report revealed that half of Britain’s most successful actors were privately educated. The Sutton Trust found that 42 per cent of Bafta winners over all time were educated independently. 67 per cent of British winners in the best leading actor, actress and director categories at the Oscars attended fee-paying schools – and just seven per cent of British Oscar winners were state educated.

“That’s a frightening world to live in,” said James McAvoy, “because as soon as you get one tiny pocket of society creating all the arts, or culture starts to become representative not of everybody but of one tiny part. That’s not fair to begin with, but it’s also damaging for society.”

But have no fear! Old Etonian Damian Lewis is here to reassure us. Comfortingly, the privately-educated successful actor sees no problem with the proliferation of privately-educated successful actors. Speaking to the Evening Standard in February, he said that one thing that really makes him angry is “the flaring up recently of this idea that it was unfair that people from private schools were getting acting jobs.” Such concerns are, simply, “a nonsense!”

He elaborated in April, during a Guardian web chat. "As an actor educated at Eton, I'm still always in a minority," he wrote. "What is true and always rewarding about the acting profession is that everyone has a similar story about them being in a minority."

Lewis’s fellow alumni actors include Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Redmayne – a happy coincidence, then, and nothing to do with the fact that Etonians have drama facilities including a designer, carpenter, manager, and wardrobe mistress. It is equally serendipitous that Laurie, Hiddleston and Tom Hollander – all stars of last year’s The Night Manager – attended the same posh prep school, The Dragon School in Oxford, alongside Emma Watson, Jack Davenport, Hugh Dancy, Dom Joly and Jack Whitehall. “Old Dragons (ODs) are absolutely everywhere,” said one former pupil, “and there’s a great sense of ‘looking after our own’." Tom Hollander said the Dragon School, which has a focus on creativity, is the reason for his love of acting, but that’s neither here nor there.

Damian Lewis’s wife, fellow actor Helen McCrory, first studied at her local state school before switching to the independent boarding school Queenswood Girls’ School in Hertfordshire (“I’m just as happy to eat foie gras as a baked potato,” the Telegraph quote her as saying on the subject). But she says she didn’t develop an interest in acting until she moved schools, thanks to her drama teacher, former actor Thane Bettany (father of Paul). Of course, private school has had literally no impact on her career either.

In fact, it could have had an adverse affect – as Benedict Cumberbatch’s old drama teacher at Harrow, Martin Tyrell, has explained: “I feel that [Cumberbatch and co] are being limited [from playing certain parts] by critics and audiences as a result of what their parents did for them at the age of 13. And that seems to me very unfair.”

He added: “I don’t think anyone ever bought an education at Harrow in order for their son to become an actor. Going to a major independent school is of no importance or value or help at all.” That clears that up.

The words of Michael Gambon should also put fears to rest. “The more Old Etonians the better, I think!” he said. “The two or three who are playing at the moment are geniuses, aren’t they? The more geniuses you get, the better. It’s to do with being actors and wanting to do it; it’s nothing to do with where they come from.”

So we should rejoice, and not feel worried when we read a list of privately educated Bafta and Oscar winners as long as this: Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dulwich College), Emilia Clarke (St Edward’s), Carey Mulligan (Woldingham School), Kate Winslet (Redroofs Theatre School), Daniel Day-Lewis (Sevenoaks School, Bedales), Jeremy Irons (Sherborne School), Rosamund Pike (Badminton), Tom Hardy (Reed), Kate Beckinsale (Godolphin and Latymer), Matthew Goode (Exeter), Rebecca Hall (Roedean), Emily Blunt (Hurtwood House) and Dan Stevens (Tonbridge).

Life is a meritocracy, and these guys were simply always the best. I guess the working classes just aren’t as talented.

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.

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