Sinn Féin: The War of Teenage Rebellion


Adam Lawrence

Clare Devlin (Nicola Coughlan), Michelle Mallon (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell), James Maguire (Dylan Llewellyn), Orla McCool (Louisa Clare Harland), Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson)

Mariam Azeez B, Staff Writer

Derry Girls” is a Netflix original that takes place in Londonderry, the central location for decade-long conflicts in Northern Ireland. Through the eyes of a teenage friend group, the Derry Girls experience the challenges of growing up as Irish, Catholic women (well… mostly women) in Derry during the Northern Ireland sectarian conflict, commonly known as “the Troubles.” “The Troubles” was a war rooted in ethno-nationalist sectarian conflict between the Protestant government and the Catholic minority from the 1960s to the 1990s. While the politics of it all fade into the background, the Derry Girls begin to realize that their lives and identities are being shaped by the conflict-ridden environment that surrounds their homes.

The Derry Girls: Netflix

“Derry Girls” follows the life of the self-titled wordsmith, Erin, and her family, as well as her friend group: her oddball cousin Orla, scholar Clare, promiscuous Michelle, and Michelle’s London-born cousin, who begins to attend their all-girls Catholic school, “Our Lady Immaculate College,” due to concerns for his safety raised about his English accent constituting grounds for bullying. Every friend plays an important role in the lack of success at teenage rebellion.

Michelle, assertive but almost always wrong, provides the group with a creative variety of ideas on how to challenge the world. Fierce and unafraid of authority, the group admires Michelle’s determination against all odds.

Orla is the oddball, but still loved by all. Unable to grasp most social cues, Orla often ends up inadvertently revealing the (possibly illegal) activities the group takes on.

Erin, though thoughtful, is often described by her friends as “lacking in dignity” and “arrogant.” Despite having dreams bigger than Derry, Erin is timid and deeply cares for her friends. While Erin makes many mistakes in the show, she feels guilty for most and always tries her best to make up for them and learn from her mistakes. Erin’s family dynamic is also highlighted. Her anxious mother, Mary, vain aunt Sarah, average dad Gerry, and anti-Gerry Granda Joe all contribute to the formation of Erin’s personality and her perspective on the world.

Clare is an academic scholar and constantly sacrifices her mental health for better grades. Despite her constant anxiety, possibly being the only character who contemplates consequences in the show, Clare does things that make her appear braver than most would expect. She often takes extreme political stances in war-stricken Northern Ireland and advocates for peace not only between Protestant and Catholic groups but also between the English and Irish. Clare struggles with her identity in the show, being the only person who emphasizes the shared humanity among all groups. Although grades are important to Clare, the show often depicts her sacrificing them for the sake of her friends.

Like Clare, the London-born boy James struggles with his own identity. Abandoned by his mother in a foreign country he has nothing but ethnic ties to and an accent disliked by all, James often feels left out. He is also the first boy to ever attend Our Lady Immaculate College, adding further to the isolation he feels. Despite the group’s nitpicking about his accent and his strange dislike of fried foods, the group deeply cares about James and makes him feel like he has a place. As the seasons progress, James can be found opening up more about his feelings and becoming more assertive in conversations. When faced with the opportunity to go back home to London or stay stuck in Derry, James chooses his friends and even calls himself a “Derry Girl.”

The show “Derry Girls” is well-received by all groups of viewers. Although each of the Derry Girls’ imperfections is highlighted for comedic value, the show does an exceptional job of depicting the lives of honest, average people in Northern Ireland amidst the presence of violence. The conflict does not consistently take direct positions in the show, highlighting the integration of violence and the desensitization to bus explosions, military checkpoints, and ceasefires. While circumstances are bleak in the world of politics, life goes on. Sometimes, the violence plays in the background, as observed through the eyes of teenagers who grew up in a world where lives simply count as numbers. However, the Derry Girls, much like every resident of Derry and every human being, have a story to tell.

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