Derry Girls: Awkward, Amusing, and Authentic

There has been one show that has gotten me through heartbreak, the ups and downs of school, and the pandemic which only gets better every time I watch it (up to four times now) and has become a fixture in my life. Set in 1990s Northern Ireland, Derry Girls is the quintessential high school show with a girl gang (plus James) and all the trials and tribulations that follow being a teenager just trying to figure your life out. 

The creator is Lisa McGee who chose to base the show in Derry, Ireland due to her own childhood growing up there, which creates a backdrop for the show immersed in the political and religious divisions between the Catholics and Protestants throughout the 1990s. The historical background of the show gives an interesting perspective of what it would have been like to live through the end of the Troubles in Ireland when the conflict was going on. Although the show is not centred on the conflict itself, it is an important element to the dynamics of the show and is part of almost every plotline which really forces the viewer to submerge themselves in the context of the show to understand the main characters and their families.

What makes the show so hilarious and dynamic are first the incredible accents portrayed in the show, which are entirely unique to Derry and take some time to get used to — I would even argue it’s part of the show’s fun. Second, the connections between the five main characters are what grounds the series and make it so relatable. Every group has a friend like one of the five main characters and can see themselves and perhaps their own dumb high school decisions and crushes in their own lives. Also, if you enjoyed the Hot Priest in Fleabag, you’re in for a good time: Derry Girls has a hot priest of its own who catches the eye of the girls in the show.

Too many high school shows nowadays have not been entirely accurate to the experiences of actual high schoolers, but Derry Girls is awkwardly realistic. Forget your Gossip Girls and 90210s where the clumsiness of being a high schooler is basically overlooked. They are ultimately not as funny because they don’t compare to the uncomfortable shit that happens in real life when you’re sixteen. 

Derry Girls perfectly captures what it’s like to make plan after plan with your friends to skip an exam or not get caught sneaking out but ultimately fail and have to deal with the hilarious consequences. There are so many great moments in the show that are based on the relationship between the characters and the constant push and pull between them when they’re trying to not get into trouble. 

While being incredibly funny and poignant, the show is also touching in its demonstration of the strength of friendship and family, which is comforting anytime you need a pick-me-up from four Irish girls and their friend James.