“Derry Girls” Celebrates Clare’s Lesbianism in One of the Best Prom Episodes Ever

Derry Girls is quickly approaching the top of my favorite ever comedies list and season two’s penultimate episode, “The Prom,” showcases exactly why. After a rousing performance of an original song called “Monday Morning, I Love You” by Jenny’s a capella group, Sister Michael introduces a new student named Mae all the way from Donegal and announces the upcoming ’50s-themed prom. Everyone’s eager to add Mae to their friend group because she’s a fresh face and also because she’s Chinese. She shoots down Jenny & Co., but is intrigued by Erin & Co., after Orla casually tells Mae it doesn’t matter if she joins their friend group because they already have a lesbian.

Clare’s sexuality hasn’t been mentioned much this season, outside the group’s rainbow pins — Clare wears two because she’s a power gay — but this week it takes center stage. She considers asking James to prom because her options are limited, but Erin says she’d be proud to be on Clare’s arm as her date. A promise that lasts about two minutes as Erin notices a guy she once had a crush on breaking up with his girlfriend and coerces him into agreeing to go to the dance with her. Clare’s disappointment doesn’t last long: Almost immediately, Mae shows up and says she’ll go with Clare.

Michelle, of course, ends up with two dates. Orla, of course, brings a very dapper Granda Joe to the dance. And Erin’s crush, of course, stands her up. It’s predictable, but also perfect — including James rushing in wearing Doctor Who cosplay to save Erin’s night.

What’s not predictable, but is somehow still so cathartic is seeing what a non-issue Clare’s sexuality continues to be, and in the ’90s. It’d be excellent if she had a real date (though she does seem to have a legit crush on Mae at first), but up until the moment James swoops in to whisk Clare off to prom in her Easter dress, there’s never been a real romantic situation on the series, which revolves always around these girls and their friendship. It’s an especially amazing feat on a show that skewers everything in sight — there are plenty of jokes around Clare’s lesbianism, but never about Clare’s lesbianism. (It’s something actress Nicola Coughlan noted in an interview between seasons: “It would have been a lot easier if it was that scene in a drama series, because you would have played it totally straight. But we were like, ‘How are we going to do this without it seeming like we’re making fun of the wrong parts of it, and not honouring the fact that this is a struggle that so many people go through?’”)

Mae, it turns out, is nuts. She decides to exercise vindication on Jenny for buying the dress she wanted by Carrie-ing her when she accepts her Prom Queen trophy. James is the first one to realize what’s happening, and everyone springs into action to save her once they get it. Clare tries to fight off Mae; Michelle and Erin try to pull Jenny (and her trophy) off-stage — but it’s too late. Buckets of tomato juice come splashing down from the rafters and soak them all.

While that’s happening, Gerry finally fixes the TV that’s been broken in the living room all episode, and everyone finds out about the Good Friday Agreement. As the teens wrestle on stage at prom, the adults rushed into the streets to celebrate peace — and The Cranberries sing the world’s most famous protest song.

Shows that make you belly laugh every week are rare. Lesbian characters on comedies even more so. Marrying representation, humor and hope, in 2019? Well, that’s a gift.

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Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle managing editor who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 883 articles for us.

19 Comments

  1. Couldn’t agree more.

    Mostly had chills because of the reveal that this happened during GFA. On the week where every day we’re all refreshing our webpages because every five minutes the parliament has pushed back on no deal again even though it still feels inevitable.

  2. This show hits so close to home! I went to an all girls Catholic (sort of) school in a place where everyone sounds kind of Irish, with an Scottish/Irish sense of humour. I just die laughing every time

  3. Somehow, in the seven days between Derry Girls episodes, I literally forget how funny it is. Every week, I’m shocked by how much I laugh; these last two episodes in particular *chef’s kiss*.

  4. Totally agree. Every time I watch the show I not only laugh but always come away with such a warm-hearted feeling about these characters. Their friendship and combination of characters feels natural and even though Michelle is such a big character she doesn’t overpower the others in the show. Honestly, I could rave about this show all day. My only gripe? I wish there were more episodes in the season because I’m not ready for it to be over.

  5. This show is genuinely the funniest thing to come out in years- the hitchhike to Belfast episode had me rolling and I’m so excited to see this prom one! Thank god Women directors are being greenlit more often now because they’re just funnier.

  6. I love this show so much! Every character is unique and funny in their own way, but none of them are caricatures. It’s so refreshing to watch a comedy that doesn’t resort to stereotypes and tropes to get the laughs.

    And I love that Clare’s lesbianism is a non-issue for everyone around her, and how much her friends support her. It’s exactly what I would’ve wished for for myself had I had the self-awareness and courage to come out in high school.

  7. I want to say something. I don’t think it is a matter of them supporting Claire, they just don’t treat her any different. She is still a craic killer, overeager, runs and tells her mother everything friend. And it is great. Her queerness isn’t treated like an issue anyone needs to overcome…it just is. It is refreshing to see on TV. Besides that one line…Clare is not the “lesbian friend”…she is the friend who is over-invested in school. This may not be a popular opinion, but I like everything about her is not about her being “the gay teenager”, she is just a teenager navigating life. Like her friends are just teenagers navigating life. They do it in a way that does not negate any part of who they all are – including Clare.

    And I love that James was wearing the 4th Doctor’s scarf to the prom. It was being true to who he is, while not negating his sci-fi nerdiness.

    I am sad we are down to the last episode!

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