Despite The Troubles, ‘Derry Girls’ Just Want To Have Fun
Even though it takes place during one of the worst periods of Irish history, Derry Girls manages to be hilarious, heartwarming, and hopeful all at the same time. It gives off the wholesome vibe of a family sitcom like One Day at a Time. But it also shows off an edgier side that we’ve come to expect from Netflix shows like Orange is the New Black, with all the horniness of Big Mouth too.
Set in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, the show focuses on a group of young Irish teenagers who get into mostly wholesome, but hilarious, troubles of their own. Our main character, the ambitious but somewhat puritanical Erin, (Saoirse-Monica Jackson) badly wants to be important at school. She jumps at the chance to edit the newspaper when the editor becomes severely ill.
The rest of the staff wants to respectfully decline to publish in honor of their friend. They basically think Erin is a sociopath. She operates with a glorious, realistic coldness. Most teenagers, in any era, act self-obsessed to the brink of clinical narcissism. All parents look forward to the end of that developmental stage.
James (Dylan Llewellyn), Michelle’s British cousin that everyone despises for being British, arrives on the scene as a minor obsession for the Derry Girls. The rest of Erin’s gang includes Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell), who rarely thinks through her actions, and Clare (Nicole Coughlan), who’s constantly anxious. Orla (Louisa Harland), another cousin, seems to inhabit a slightly different universe than everyone else.
Derry Girls successfully and casually uses ongoing political violence as a backdrop to more madcap adventures. The teens barely seem concerned when armed soldiers board and inspect their school bus. The family gets more worked up about being banned from their local chip shop, forcing them to order pizza, than they do about the threat of violence. They don’t consider pizza “as nice” as fish and chips, a stance I can’t get behind. Some cultural differences cannot be overcome.
The Derry Girls get into epic, whimsical messes. While cleaning the chip shop as punishment for theft, Michelle starts a fire. Then the gang’s parents make things insanely, hilariously worse. But they also face real struggles as they must leave town to escape potential violence. The final scene of the first season strikes a somber note that intrigues while somehow not seeming out of place. Sometimes historical Troubles just get in the way of ordinary life.
I adored this show because it features idiots and charming accents, two of my favorite things. Also, the soundtrack truly reminded me of the greatness of Salt n’ Pepa. I look forward to more.