Derry Girls is centered around the lives of four teenage girls (and one boy) in the early 90s in Derry, Northern Ireland. They deal with the same issues that all teenagers around the world have to deal with. What makes this show different is that it is set against the backdrop of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
The Troubles refers to the conflict between Unionists and Nationalists in Northern Ireland that lasted over 30 years. It began in the late 60s when Catholics began protesting against discrimination from the Protestant community. The British army was deployed to keep order between the two communities, but this led to an increase in violence. Bloody Sunday was a turning point when British soldiers shot 28 innocent civilians, killing 14, at a protest in the Bogside in Derry.
Peace Walls were built to keep the two communities apart, however, the violence continued on both sides until the passing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. During the conflict over 3,500 people died, more than half were civilians.
The show perfectly captures not only life in Ireland in the 90s but also life as a teenager. While the Troubles are never far from the minds of the parents, they also had to deal with normal family issues. The ending of the last episode of season 1 shows the two sides of life in Northern Ireland: the adults are watching news reports of another bombing while the girls are dancing on stage at their school talent show. This episode also deals with Claire coming out as a lesbian. As a student in a Catholic girl’s school in Ireland in the mid-90s this would have been a very difficult thing for someone to do. The support of her friends showed her that she can truly be herself.
The last episode of season 2 was incredibly emotional for me to watch. The country is preparing for the visit of President Bill Clinton. After decades of bloodshed people on both sides of the divide were starting to feel hope that peace could finally be achieved. The girls finally accept James as part of the gang, telling him he’s a Derry Girl now. We hear the words of Bill Clinton, imploring people to seek peace.
The show injects humor into a very serious and dark time. It shows that while they were constantly aware of the violence around the country, kids are still kids. The girls still have the normal teenage issues to deal with. From sneaking off to a Take That concert to getting drunk for the first time, it shows that despite all that is going on around them life has to go on. It’s available to watch on Netflix around the world and I would highly recommend bingeing it on a rainy day. I guarantee you will laugh out loud and fall in love with all the Derry Girls (James included!).
Girl Museum Inc.