Political unrest, heated arguments, growing up, and the rest of the world’s insanity are all hard enough on their own. When they all hit us at once, they can become practically unbearable. Yet, even when history is being made around us and it seems like the world is just too cruel and insane, life still has to be lived. This wisdom is what sits at the core of the hit TV series “Derry Girls”. 

Derry Girls” is a coming-of-age story that follows a group of five teenagers living in the Irish town of Derry during the final years of the Troubles. The group consists of aspiring writer Erin, her eccentric cousin Michelle, voice of reason Claire, wild child Michelle, and token Englishman James. The group often find themselves in the classic teenage hijinks of sneaking out, going to parties, and lying to their parents, while also facing the ever-imposing challenge of growing up in the midst of widespread political unrest and  heated cultural divides. 

“Derry Girls” takes these normal teenage issues and paints them against the background of the final years of the Troubles. The issues that the girls face aren’t treated as if they are trivial and pointless compared to the violence occurring around them. Instead, the issues are treated as seriously as they would have felt for the teenagers. The threat of going to a dance alone feels just as real as the threat of a bomb going off down the street. 

The finales of the first two seasons show how the small moments in life can matter just as much as the historically impactful ones, and both are forced to blend into each other. The season one finale ends with a scene of the gang all dancing together at their school’s talent show, cut between scenes of Erin’s family huddling together to watch a news broadcast of a bombing in Derry. This scene highlights the devastating cruel reality of this violent time in direct juxtaposition with the blissful naivety of being young. In doing so, the scene calls on the viewer’s own sense of nostalgia for being young and blissfully ignorant of the cruelty of the world. 

In the season two finale, the gang is amping up for Bill Clinton’s visit to Derry. At the same time, they are forced to grapple with the possibility that James may be leaving. In the final scene, the downtrodden girls stand out starkly against the energetic crowd around them. Upon spotting James, the girls give up their hard-fought-for spot in the crowd and rush to his side, ignoring the history being made around them. It highlights the idea that while history is being made, mundane things are happening. In history books, these moments could be described as earth-shattering and groundbreaking, but in reality, life keeps on being lived as it was. It also shows that the unpredictability that comes with the future can be made more bearable when we keep those we care about close to us. 

Through its two seasons, “Derry Girls” shows the blissfulness of being young while also showing the importance of being focused on the present and those around us. As Michelle says, “Being a Derry girl, well, it’s a fucking state of mind.” This state of mind is all about being there for those near and dear to us and continuing to live, even while the world seems impossible to live in from afar.

Tagged: tv show


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