Derry Girls breaks down how it feels to grow up in 1990s Northern Ireland

Derry Girls - Credit: Netflix
Derry Girls - Credit: Netflix /

The Netflix original series Derry Girls tells the story of what it’s like to grow up in 1990s Northern Ireland, and it’s hilarious. Check it out on Netflix now!

Derry Girls is a show about teenage life, and despite all that is happening in the background, it really is that simple.

The show is set in Derry, Northern Ireland in the 1990s, and the main character is an adolescent girl named Erin, who is forced to navigate a region in conflict with itself amongst a family with its own set of issues. Erin’s family isn’t exactly out of money but isn’t exactly wealthy, either.

An obstacle as obvious as a region going through tumultuous times politically could lead to a show that is more documentary than comedy — but that isn’t the case here.

Throughout Derry Girls, the dysfunction of Northern Ireland at the time is presented in the background. The crux of the show is about teenagers, mostly girls, attempting to navigate the dynamics of school and early social life. Erin and her friends have many concerns: like making sure a boy invited them to a concert in Erin’s case, or sitting in the back of the bus on the way to school. When it comes to Erin’s friend Clare, priority No. 1 is staying out of trouble.

As circumstances like a bomb threat, a lack of money, or an English parade come up in the show, the main focus is still how teenagers operate through those situations.

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During the parade, Erin, her family and her friends are stuck in a car that is surrounded by marchers donned in the Union Jack. Those in the car are clearly a bit nervous, but the scene is never tense, mostly because there are too many jokes.

Erin’s friend Michelle, after receiving a tarot card reading, admits she might have feelings for the people in the parade surrounding the car. “I think there’s something really sexy about the fact that they hate us so much,” Michelle said.

Even in an episode where the restrictions of living in Northern Ireland in the 90s are obvious, the show stays steady on its focal point of teenage life. Like in season 2, when the girls are trying to see the pop artist Take That.

Erin mentions how good artists never come to Northern Ireland “cause we keep killing each other.” The stakes of going to the concert are amplified by the contentiousness of Northern Ireland, but the girls fawning over the British pop group is brought up more throughout the episode.

The girls aren’t allowed to go to the concert, but sneak out and try to go anyway. The attempt at going to see Take That features a gypsy-traveler discourse and getting a ride from a woman who starts drinking on the road, but the story is still centered around the girls, how they behave as friends, how they avoid obstacles in their way. Despite the time it’s portraying, Derry Girls is more girls than Derry.

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