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What we saw: June 22, 2020

As a born and bred Derry girl myself I thought it was my bias that made me enjoy the show Derry Girls, however it seems to have transcended cultural barriers. It’s not just for Derry girls; in fact Mo, fellow CS writer, from St Lucia watched the second season before I got to it! However, if you also are not from Derry, may I suggest though that you put your subtitles on, some people have a wee bit of difficulty with the accent.

Derry Girls is a Northern Irish comedy centering around five teenagers hilariously navigating adolescence in the city of Derry, N.Ireland in the 1990’s towards the end of many years, of what I will describe as a sort of civil war or conflict commonly referred to as  ‘The Troubles’. The backdrop of Derry Girls is a serious one, not that you would ever know as the show really bottles the spirit and humour of the average “Derry girl”.  The 4 girls and boy attend an all-girls convent school (due to the fact the boy is English he couldn’t attend the boys school due to fears for his safety!). The main characters get into all sorts of hilariously dramatic situations, and often find themselves in trouble with their families and teachers; who are a little bit loco themselves.

The writing is excellent and the characters on point: very well thought out and all so very very Irish. One to watch is the sarcastic Sister Micheal (she has a huge fan base, I foresee a spin off show!)

The writer balanced humour with the sombre reality of life in N.Ireland at that time. Society’s coping mechanism seemed to be to develop a great sense of humour combined with bucket loads of sarcasm; cause laughter is the best medicine after all! The N.Irish people became so accustomed, and perhaps numb, to bomb threats that the reaction was more irritation; viewed more as an inconvenience, rather than fear. The most poignant moment for me was at the end of the first series where the news reports one of the worst atrocities of the troubles where 30 people were killed, at the same the girls are dancing on the stage at school, conveying the sad reality that people were just trying to get on and live a normal life. The moment is also filled with joy, implying that hope for a peaceful future had still not been lost.

For anyone who doesn’t know about the situation in N.Ireland; well it’s kind of like trying to explain COVID lock down measures; a lot of it seems contradictory! Even the term ‘The Troubles’ implies that like things weren’t great. But in reality more than 3,500 people were murdered – so it was more than just a wee bit trouble. Anyway, important background knowledge for you (if you don’t already know) is that in N.Ireland there was/is a difference in opinion between Catholics and Protestants, not, as you would have probably assumed, about religion, but whether N.Ireland should remain under control of the English or be reunited with Ireland. To be politically correct I must add it’s not actually Catholics Vversus Protestants, but that’s a whole other story! There are many references in the show to the division in society, Catholics were considered the underdogs by the way, and of course you’ll quickly pick up on the intense dislike of the English by the Catholics as they’re deemed as the oppressor. Hence why the poor wee English boy character is picked on so much.

I have to commend the writer on her level of accuracy at recreating Derry in the 1990’s. She was bang on, I felt like I’d stepped into a time machine with the soundtrack, vehicles, the 90’s fashion (think chokers, denim jackets, long shirt with cropped sweater), tangerine coloured make up, even down to the fetching shade of moss green kitchen cabinets (which we actually had!). Honourable mention to the half bottle of mousse used on Michelles hair every day.

You can watch the first two seasons of Derry Girls on Netflix. A third has been promised – but ya know, COVID – so we have to wait a wee while longer. I hope you enjoy.

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