It’s no secret that TV shows don’t always realistically depict the life of a teenager. Countless shows and films are devoted to the trials and tribulations of high school and adolescence, but most of them embellish this period of life or play up hackneyed images that do not seem relevant to modern teenagers. It doesn’t help that in most teen TV shows there are actors who are about thirty (or so) years old who play sixteen-year-olds.
However, there is one show that manages to convey the experience of high school, which not many other shows are capable of. This is, of course, the Derry Girls. The action of Derry Girls takes place in the city of Derry in Northern Ireland in the 1990s during the riots, a period of civil unrest in the country. The show tells about a group of teenagers who are growing up, and riots in their country loom in the background. The show doesn’t try to romanticize the teenage experience like many other shows do. Instead, it relies on the awkwardness and unpleasant moments that come with adolescence.
Derry Girls is a comedy, but it’s also a coming—of-age story. The show is fun and contains a lot of clever and well-written jokes and situations in each episode. Nevertheless, he does not forget about the heart. For example, there is a moment in the series when adult characters learn about a great tragedy that means new excitement for Ireland, while children perform in a talent show. The frames of both scenes, interspersed with each other, are a fantastic juxtaposition showing the reality of that time: life goes on even in the midst of tragedy. It also becomes obvious how much the socio-political situation in which they find themselves will affect the teenage years of these children.
A common complaint about teen shows is that the actors are always older than the characters they are trying to portray. Basically, this is done so that productions do not have to deal with the legal subtleties of hiring minors and related child labor laws. However, this can distort the public perception of what a teenager really looks like when the actors who constantly portray them have long since reached puberty. Although the cast of “Derry Girls” is still much older than their characters (many actors are over 30), they still manage to look and feel like real teenagers, which many other series have failed to achieve.
The show achieves this by relying on the reality of a teenager, rather than trying to embellish it. The characters don’t dress as stylishly as their peers and aren’t particularly popular at school. The makeup and Costume department did a great job of equipping the actors to make them look like ordinary working-class teenagers of the 90s. Characters often make stupid decisions and can feel awkward and nervous around others, and all this corresponds to the experience of the average teenager.
Of course, the show is not just for teenagers. It is still interesting for an older audience. It can remind people of their own teenage experiences, especially if they grew up at the same time. At the same time, even if someone does not find that the show is related to their own teenage experience, they will still be able to appreciate the show because the script is so strong.
Derry Girls manage to hit all the signs of discussing teenage life without falling into hackneyed cliches. While the main team of kids have moments when they try to seem cooler and more popular, their attempts to gain popularity are not the only plot points of the show. Rather, their relationships with each other and the world around them are at the forefront of history. The typical images of popularity, bullying and dating that are often found in teen shows are not actually present in Derry Girls, which makes it not only unique, but also more related. Although bullying and rivalry for social status still occur in secondary schools, the way these things are portrayed in most media (that is, without any nuances or subtleties) does not reflect the experience that Generation Z high school students are experiencing today. . Although Derry Girls is set more than 30 years ago, it still seems more relevant today than many other teen shows.
The characters themselves are charming and funny in their own way, from Michelle’s audacity to Claire’s nervousness and Orla’s uniqueness. They’re all delightfully weird, which makes them feel like real people, not a teenage ideal. Their families, especially the family of the main character Erin, also feel realistic in how they interact with each other. They have their own weird quirks, they quarrel, and their financial problems reflect the reality of growing up working class in a way that seems plausible.
Derry Girls is a master class on how to create a show for teenagers that will be equally interesting and related. Obviously, if the show was exactly like real life, it would get boring, but Derry Girls managed to incorporate those elements that seem accurate for teenage life without sacrificing situational humor or how cute the characters are. The humor in the series itself is on top. Every joke hits the mark, especially because many of them rely on character dynamics, which the series perfectly reveals. This is a show that, above all, manages to convey the special awkwardness and anxiety of a teenager growing up in uncertain times, which is still incredibly relevant for both teenagers and adults.