Netflix Life Lessons Part 2

Life Lessons From ‘Derry Girls’

The Irish Troubles were a time of violence, political unrest, and conflict that lasted from the 60s to late 90s and took approximately 3,500 lives — an unlikely time to set a teenage comedy.

But it is exactly this juxtaposition that makes Derry Girls work so well. This Irish comedy follows a group of teenage girls: Erin, Michelle, Clare, and Orla, and their ‘wee English fella’ friend James, in mid-90s Derry (‘or London Derry’ depending on your persuasion’). Though the Troubles lurk in the background in the form of traffic blockades, protests, and looming violence, it’s the girl’s hilarious Catholic school drama, boy troubles, and unconventional friendships take centre stage.

The series will have you in stitches laughing from the first episode with its quick wit and quirky characters — but as well as the laughs, there are many lessons to be learnt. Not only about this turbulent time in Irish history, but on how ordinary life and laughter carries on even in the most extraordinary times.

Stop here if you’ve not watched it yet and want to avoid spoilers! If you have, here are 4 life-lessons to take away from Derry Girls:

1. Life Goes On

The political backdrop is always going to be there, but so are ordinary lives and typical teenage concerns.

This is evident from the very first episode when soldiers enter the girls’ school bus; though shocking to the viewer, the response lightens the mood as Michelle remarks ‘do you think if I told him I’d an incendiary device down my knickers, he’d have a look?’. Typical of Derry Girls, a tense situation is met with a light-hearted laugh.

Even when times are strange, life goes on and you’ve got to laugh through it.

2. Friendship is Valuable

In the last episode of the first series, Claire comes out to her friends as a ‘wee lesbian’, which is met with a range of responses and Erin initially urging her to go back in the closet. This isn’t necessarily out of homophobia, but simply as a naïve, self-centred, and a shocked teen girl who fears the dynamics of her friendship group.

In a moving final scene, all of the group come together to support each other at the school talent show. The group know they need each other and learn the important life-lesson that friendships always come first.

3. Pay Attention to The History You’re Not Taught in School

I didn’t know about the Troubles in Ireland until University, and even then, it was short clips of context on my Literature Degree. Derry Girls has taught me more about Irish history than I ever learnt in school.

And this can be applied to so many parts of history we’ve missed learning about. It’s important to remember there’s more to history than our high school textbooks, particularly religious and racial histories schools like to skirt around, so don’t stop learning once you leave school.

4. Pay Attention to the History We’re Living Through

In one episode Aunt Sarah says she’s ‘not enjoying the bomb’ that’s causing traffic meaning she’ll be late to her salon appointment, to which Erin replies ‘I’m pretty sure interfering with your sunbed sessions isn’t very high up on anyone’s political agenda, Aunt Sarah’.

The hilarious incongruity shows perfectly how big historical events manifest in inconveniences in everyday lives.

The madness of 2020 has meant that, like the Derry Girls, we’re all trying to live our ordinary lives in extraordinary circumstances. They were living in historic times — so are we, so pay attention to what’s going on, how your life has altered, because one day someone will want to hear your story.

Have the Derry girls (and the wee English fella of course) taught you any life lessons?

English Literature MA Student. Wellbeing & sustainability. Find me on insta @writtenbyheatherr and read more

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