An Ode to Derry Girls: Why We Need More Irish Girl Gangs on our Screens

We’re no stranger to girl gangs on our tv screens. From the Sex And The City foursome to the Golden Girls, we love a good, strong female friendship to laugh and cry with every week. But with most of the silver screen’s girl power offerings based among New York skylines or bustling city streets abroad, we Irish girls haven’t had many homegrown stories to relate to. We were badly in need of a fix that we could see ourselves in; that is, until last month, when Derry Girls filled that spot beautifully.

Derry Girls is the latest comedic offering from actual Derry girl Lisa McGee, following a group of teenage girls in the North at the tail end of the troubles in the 1990s.  Between the swearing, the slagging of token Brit James and the references to Catholic school, everyone in Ireland was hooked overnight.  And it seems we weren’t the only ones. After its massive overnight success, Channel 4 commissioned the show for a second series after just one episode.

What Makes It So Successful

To me, the success of Derry Girls is down to a multitude of reasons. The brilliant writing, the poignancy of seeing the Troubles relived on our screens and the hilarious group of actors all stood out from the first scene. But the real heart of the series lay in its Irishness. Jokes about ’fanny pads’, the importance of a good chipper in your estate, cynical nuns and tragic priests are all laughs that lead into our own memories of teenagerhood in Ireland.

I don’t know how many times over the past few weeks I’ve gotten into a conversation about how brilliant Derry Girls is, while simultaneously chatting about that time we were doing the dance to "Saturday Night" by Whigfield at a house party, or when we had to put our Catholic heads down on a bus through the North during an Orange Order march. Relatability is so important in today’s mediascape and to see your own experiences mirrored in primetime TV makes for addictive (and really memorable) viewing.

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Striking a Balance

What also must be said is that when making a comedy show about a period such as the Troubles, there needs to be a delicate balance. You need to make things funny and light and authentic to the people of Derry, all without diminishing the hardships of the time. Lisa McGee struck this balance amazingly well. The Derry Girls’ lives were filled with all the normal hilarity of adolescence, punctuated by the gut-wrenching sight of another riot and the short transition period back to normal life every time. This resonated with many; the reactions on social media included Twitter user RedMum saying: “The Troubles were obviously on television a lot, and I remember feeling aggrieved that's all the media used to represent where I lived when it was so much more than that.”

Six episodes felt far too short for the brilliant Derry Girls’ first season and I’m sure that myself and many others will be waiting with bated breath for its return. If you're in the mood for a binge watch between now and then, Channel 4's own streaming service All 4 has all the episodes waiting for you. It's free to join and to download from the App Store or on Google Play.

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