While I was born in the 1970s, the ’90s are my jam. The resurgence of ’90s culture and fashion means I am no longer a fuddy-duddy and now I am entirely on point. It marks no surprise when Derry Girls came to Netflix, I was in love.
Derry Girls takes place during the early 1990s in Londonderry (colloquially known as “Derry”), Ireland. It follows five friends as they navigate teenagedom amidst the backdrop of The Troubles. The girls, and one boy, flounder about with the expected angst and struggle which is hilarious, painful, and relatable. Each kid is an archetype of your typical teen personality. Erin is the anxious one, Orla is the weird cousin, Clare is the people pleasure, Michelle is the bad girl, and Michelle’s hapless English, used to underpin English/Irish relationship, cousin James rounds out the group.
The action takes place mostly at their Catholic girl’s school and James is included in their class. James’ Englishness is used as an underpinning to the current English/Irish relation. He is seen as ridiculous and stupid (and for some reason, there are constant joke about his “gayness” with his constant attempts to point out he’s not at all gay). He’s placed at the all girl’s school for fear he would not survive the Irish all boy’s school due to his Englishness. James bears a lot of cousinly abuse from Michelle and he struggles to find a place to fit as an other both being English and a male.
Derry is on the border of English Protestant run Northern Ireland and Catholic Ireland which makes it a common location for altercations between IRA and the English. I was curious how writer/director Lisa McGee would play out The Troubles as a character and it went much better than expected; I was expecting it to be ham-fisted but it wasn’t. It felt natural that the cast is doing something and an event tied to The Troubles happens and the cast respond to it as something that happened every day because it did happen every day. The kids and their parents are mindful of the situation: bridges are being bombed and people are being shot. Scenes that take outside shore up English/Irish relations as armed soldiers are in nearly every take There is a scene where Da Gerry, Erin’s dad, finds a straggler hiding in the trunk of his car. There is a conversation on what to do: smuggle the straggler across the border and stand him at the service station. Da Gerry is adamant on not smuggling the straggler across the border, the ramifications are huge, but everyone else is against him. This scene, and the fear of consequences of everyday life, play smartly out on the television screen.