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Here's how Derry Girls captures a zeitgeist, but transcends generations

‘We all know these people.’

THE FIRST SEASON of Derry Girls hadn’t even come to an end when news broke that Channel 4 had commissioned a second series.

In fact, it hadn’t even released its second episode.

Just days into the show’s launch, it was abundantly clear that Lisa McGee’s creation had struck a chord.

Critics clamoured to shower praise, social media was awash with references and in-jokes, and a group of relatively unknown young actors found themselves at the centre of a televisual whirlwind.

Filming for the highly-anticipated second season recently wrapped, and Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, who plays Michelle, is confident that it is even stronger than its predecessor.

Asserting that the show’s creator had ‘outdone’ herself, Jamie-Lee explained her reasoning, telling RTÉ:

I think, personally, how Lisa has written the relationships between the characters, with us and with the family, and all those different interactions is so universal.

Derry Girls is a rare gem; it speaks to those who came of age in the early 90s, provides a snapshot for those who didn’t, and thereby manages to be nostalgic and illuminating in equal measure.

It captures a zeitgeist, and yet ultimately transcends generations.

I entered my teenage years at the beginning of the noughties, so I spent much of the 90s idolising the teenagers whose lives I orbited; neighbours, cousins, friends of the family.

Their taste in clothes, the music they listened to, the things they talked about; I absorbed it and desperately attempted to emulate it at every opportunity. 

And so in that regard, Derry Girls is like catnip to me; reminding me of the fashion, fads and trends I revered and had yet to follow, but as Jamie-Lee says, it’s the relationships at the heart of the show which resonate most soundly.

Regardless of generation, every group had a Michelle, every class had an Erin, and everyone knew they didn’t want to be an individual by themselves.

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Derry, you were a delight. Till next time💚

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Derry Girls may be set against the backdrop of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, but it’s a snapshot into more than just a time and place.

It’s an examination of a dynamic, a perspective on a period of life we’ve all endured and enjoyed in equal measure, and a reminder that no matter how your teenage years may have seemed or, indeed, what decade you navigated them, they were as thrilling and as tedious as everyone else’s.

“It just happens to be set in Derry, but I think if you took the Derry accent off and the Derry backdrop and put it somewhere else it would work just as well because those relationships,” Jamie-Lee continues.

I think we’ve all been in those situations. We all know these people; we’ve all been around these types of people. I think that’s why it’s done so well and really hit the nail on the head.

On the surface, the show seems quintessentially Irish and 90s, but at its core, it’s as far-reaching and ubiquitous as you are likely to find.

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About the author:

Niamh McClelland

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