As the third and final season of Derry Girls premieres on Netflix, Laura Molloy looks back on how one might explain the international and exponential success of the show.
The third and final season of Derry Girls has finally arrived on Netflix. Its global audience is now able to binge watch the series, one last time. Although it is set in the small city of Derry, the beloved show has managed to capture hearts from all around the world. Having grown up with family in Northern Ireland, it is surprising to see the show’s growing popularity.
You can’t anticipate seeing your friends love a show so much that they start using slang they don’t even understand. “Catch yourself on” and “wain” are not terms that are frequently used outside of Northern Ireland. And yet, the show has managed to expose a new audience to these expressions and helped make them sound cool. But it isn’t just Ian McElhinney’s accent they were intrigued by. It is the universal stories that Derry Girls tells that makes the show so special. Although the story is set against the backdrop of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, it addresses civilian life during ongoing conflict in a lighter tone.
The show does not only focus on political discussion and debate. Instead, it focuses on a hilarious albeit chaotic ragtag group of teenagers. The navigation through adolescence is at the focal point of the story that explores a variety of key issues teenagers face, thus making it appealing to a wider audience. The show chooses to bring forth serious topics such as the discovery of one’s sexuality, the pain of losing a loved one and feeling like an outsider in a new environment. Additionally, Derry Girls continuously explores the importance of different kinds of love: notably love between relatives, romantic love and platonic love.
Although the story is set against the backdrop of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, it addresses civilian life during ongoing conflict in a lighter tone.
This is shown for example through the character of Joe played by Ian McElhinney. His banter and borderline bullying of Tommy Tiernan’s character Gerry contrast with the love he gives to his granddaughters Erin and Orla, and has made him a fan favourite. Their dynamic can be summed up as such: a grandfather helping his grandchildren overcome their insecurities and supporting them in times of crisis. Not everyone can have the experience of a grandparent accompanying them to a school dance. Perhaps that explains why it is one of Derry Girls’ most beloved scenes, taking place in the fifth episode of season two.
However, the show is punctuated by more amusing scenes where the audience sees exactly what the teens get up to. From sneaking out behind their parents back to getting kicked out of the local takeaway, there’s a scene for everyone! Put simply, the show narrates the lives of a group of friends having the craic.
At times, it is easy to forget about the ongoing political violence happening around our beloved characters because the core five always appear more interested in climbing the popularity ladder at their school or selecting their next love interest.
News reports and political interviews regarding The Troubles are often heard in the background of the show. Although they are never the centre of the plot, they serve as a subtle reminder of the events the characters are living through. At times, it is easy to forget about the ongoing political violence happening around our beloved characters because the core five always appear more interested in climbing the popularity ladder at their school or selecting their next love interest.
However, Derry Girls is not just a comedy. These storylines are presented with a humorous tone while holding up a mirror to Irish Society. James is sent to a girls school because he is English, and an alcoholic nun is the principal of a Catholic school. During the third episode of the first season, Michelle berates her cousin James : “ (...) If your lot had stopped invading us for five minutes!”, as the gang prepare for their GCSE exams. This scene highlights the existing division between Catholics and Protestants, even though they are related.
Derry Girls is a beloved show for many reasons. The representation of a tight-knit community and witty lines are only a few reasons why the show is so comforting. Although the show is set during a troublesome time, it offers the audience a glimmer of hope. As these teens still manage to enjoy their formative years, we are reminded there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Season 3 of Derry Girls is now available to stream on Netflix, bringing us one step closer to the end of the Derry Girls Era. Hopefully this brings Erin and her friends one step closer to peace.