Now with two seasons available for streaming on Netflix, the historically accurate Irish sitcom “Derry Girls” follows a group of young Irish teens getting into all kinds of trouble while experiencing adolescence in the midst of massive ethnoreligious clash. The show is the epitome of a charming teen comedy and encompasses the perfect balance between humorous and more serious, heartfelt endeavors. The only pitfall of the show is trying to decipher what the characters are saying through their thick Irish accents, so subtitle–haters beware.
Shows about teenagers can generally be very hit-or-miss in that they often rely too heavily on one character, or they get too tangled up in their own, wildly overarching plot (“13 Reasons Why,” “Riverdale,” etc.). “Derry Girls,” however, manages to avoid this and portrays teenage years in a way that a young audience can actually believe and connect with. The diversity of each character and their own personal highs and lows gives the show a more realistic and down-to-earth feel, despite it being a comedy series.
The portrayal of the children’s parents and how they view the political and religious turmoil in Ireland adds another layer to the show and creates adults that are just as humane and ethically flawed as their children. The way that the adults react to the religious clash is juxtaposed to the teenager’s carefree and virtually unbothered stance, an accurate representation of the trope that teenagers truly live “in their own world.” This comic take on such a serious topic is refreshing and adds complexity to the show.
Most episodes of “Derry Girls” consist of quick and independent storylines that don’t necessarily connect with one another. But the sharp contrast of the main character’s comical endeavors and the short glimmers of the surrounding violence in their community make each episode feel more dynamic and involved. It also adds a level of maturity and realism that sets “Derry Girls” apart from other, more simplistic, comedic shows. Though the representation of the religious conflict in Ireland (called The Troubles) is a major background in many of the episodes, the show remains wildly funny and genuinely enjoyable to watch and definitely belongs in the feel-good section of your Netflix browsing.
I watched all of “Derry Girls” in the span of about four days, and what kept me so drawn into the show was definitely the character dynamics (as well as the aesthetic appeal of the late ’90s). The show surrounds a girl named Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), and her group of friends: Orla (Louisa Harland), Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell), Clare (Nicola Coughlan), and James (Dylan Llewellyn), all of whom attend an all-girls Catholic school (even James, who is often teased for being English). Each character brings something new to the table, and the combination of all of their loud and contrasting personalities often lands them in trouble with both their parents and the cynical yet ironically humorous Sister Michael (Siobhan McSweeney), who runs the private school. For most of these young actors, “Derry Girls” is their first big role, which is surprising considering how professionally they pulled off the trope of overwrought, awkward teenagers.
Though the portrayal of The Troubles is a recurring backdrop throughout the show, it never overwhelms the silly and lighthearted nature of the storyline, and artfully adds depth to a show that could have easily been a slapstick comedy with no real-life connection. I would certainly watch this show again, if not for the funky hairstyles than for the myriad of Irish slang that I personally found very amusing.
Rating: 5/5 Torches
Note: This show contains mature content and language and is not for young audiences.
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