"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.

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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 freelance journalist, and was previously the New Statesman's tech and digital culture writer. She tweets at @ameliargh

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