From the tough ladies on Game of Thrones and Revenge to the recent additions of sardonic “gal pal” Jessa Johansson (Girls) and James Van Der Beek’s equally self-absorbed BFF Chloe (B—- in Apartment 23), audiences are quite taken with TV’s latest mean girl class. The “B” (of Apt. 23) has even been called “one of the first truly 21st century chicks on TV.” While we don’t endorse girl-on-girl hate in real life, striking that perfect balance of evilness and likability is a difficult thing for a character to do, and we’d like to give a shout out to the women who have done this with aplomb over the years. Click through to see the mean girls we not-so-secretly love, and please share your favorites in the comments!
Buffy/Angel: Cordelia Chase
Over the course of Buffy and then Angel, Cordelia Chase proved that queen bee cheerleaders can change, even become superheroes. But even as she became a more sympathetic character, dating Xander, helping the Scooby Gang, and using her vision power for good, she maintained her edge — proving that you can take the girl out of the cheerleading uniform, but never fully take the cheerleader out of the girl. This is, after all, the person whose jealousy warped the entire time-space continuum of Sunnydale.
RUNNER-UP: The OC‘s Summer Roberts is another queen bee who softened — also dating a nerd (Seth Cohen is to Xander) and sort of becoming a superhero (see Atomic County). At the same time she continued to disgust/enthrall us with her gratuitous use of the word “ew.”
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Sweet Dee
Sure, the guys pick on her (mostly for missing part of her scalp and being a woman), but don’t be fooled, she’s as cruel and unapologetic as the rest of them, abusing the welfare system, berating spin instructors, and destroying people’s lives (see Rickety Cricket). Also, she once beat a masturbating homeless man with a bat.
RUNNER-UP: 30 Rock‘s Jenna Maroney — our other favorite blonde sociopath — has almost killed Kenneth twice, is slowly poisoning Jenny McCarthy, ate the pig who played Babe, and truly enjoys humiliating children on national television. This, of course, is only a small sampling of the many morally questionable things we’ve seen her either do or mention in offhand conversation.
Arrested Development: Lucille Bluth
She is perhaps the most abrasive mother in TV history, and with this new wave of spineless parents out there who just want their kids to actually like them, this country needs Lucille Bluth more than ever. We are counting down the days to her return. In the meantime:
Michael: Buster got a medal, what for? Lucille: Oh who knows what they were saying? It’s probably because a seal ate his hand. Apparently, the army is giving out medals for being food now.
RUNNER-UP: Malory Archer, on Archer, because no one else can rival Lucille Bluth, except herself.
Freaks and Geeks: Kim Kelly
She was manipulative, hot-headed, and didn’t take crap from anyone, especially her boyfriend Daniel, despite his pretty-boy freak face. No wonder Lindsay Weir so desperately wanted to be her friend. You wouldn’t expect someone with such a tough exterior to keep a diary, but according to her mother, Kim wrote a “novel” in her own every day. We can only imagine the anger-writing that took place there.
RUNNER-UP: Another teenage freak of the ’90s, Roseanne‘s Darlene Conner had an attitude, but was more subtle than Kim Kelly, attacking with sarcasm and wit (usually directed at her mother or her sister Becky). She was also better at finding more intellectual/nerdy outlets for rejecting society, like reading, art, and creating a comic book with her boyfriend David. Then again, who’s to say Kim Kelly wasn’t penning her great memoir in those diary pages?
Parks and Recreation: Tammy Two
Anyone who can get Ron Swanson in cornrows, is clearly evil — and our hero. And while Tammy One has more power over their shared ex-husband, we give Tammy Two the win for her Pawnee Library Director powers, which she uses for bad (a secret dream of ours).
RUNNER-UP: Tammy One still, of course, deserves an honorable mention. She is so scary that she impresses April Ludgate, and what better mean-girl endorsement is there than that?
For more on the history of evil Tammys, check out our recent post, Why Are All the Mean Ladies on TV Named Tammy?
Robot Chicken: Bitch Puddin’
We considered putting BSG’s Starbuck on this list, but decided she’s more badass than mean girl (see our recent All-Time Most Powerful Women on TV compilation). Not to say mean girl, badass, and powerful are mutually exclusive characteristics, but that’s a conversation for another time. Instead, we’ve selected another cult role popularized by geek-fantasy chick Katee Sackhoff. She’s only appeared on Robot Chicken a handful of times, but has made a lasting impression on its fans. Watch the above clip to see why. You’ll be quoting Bitch Puddin’ in no time.
RUNNER-UP: According to Urban Dictionary, bitch pudding is “A referance to when a woman is being generaly mean and cranky to EVERYBODY around in the proximity of her voice.” This definition could also be applied to Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s Susie Essman, one of our all-time favorite Larry David nemeses. And P.S., she has a book, chock-full of mean-girl advice: What Would Susie Say?: Bullsh*t Wisdom about Love, Life and Comedy.
Gossip Girl: Blair Waldorf
The queen of scheming and public takedowns might be having a minor identity crisis these days, but even if she never finds herself again, old-school Blair will always have a place in our hearts. As previously mentioned, we don’t approve of girl-on-girl hate in real life, but in precocious teen dramas, nothing’s funnier than a jealous mean girl. See:
Blair (to Serena during Ivy Week at Constance Billard): Aww, too bad you missed the assembly. Not that it matters. Brown doesn’t offer degrees in slut.
RUNNER-UP: Jackie Burkhart of That ‘70s Show was an equally self-absorbed princess who fluctuated between whiny rich girl voice and sharp tongue (although her zingers pale in comparison). Similar to Blair, she dated everyone on the show, including a man well below her station (Hyde = Dan Humphrey; Eric’s basement = Brooklyn).
Ugly Betty: Wilhelmina Vivian Slater
A former supermodel turned Creative Director at Mode magazine, Wilhelmina Vivian Slater (who the media once called a “meaner Hilter”) had a strong distaste for poverty and average people. Think campy Devil Wears Prada (see the above clip in which she fires an employee for wearing gladiator sandals). Most importantly, Wilhelmina proved she would do anything to take over Mode magazine (spawning one of the most twisted stolen sperm/surrogate baby plotlines in TV history) and refused to be overruled by “silly white boys.” Swoon.
RUNNER-UP: Just Shoot Me‘s Nina Van Horn, also a supermodel turned style arbiter at a top fashion magazine, matches Slater’s ridiculous self-absorption, but lacks her career ambition — her greatest concerns on the show seemed to be booze and her weight. Still, she had an impressive repertoire of mean girl behavior, including: criticizing a handicapped actor’s shoes on national television, leaving Elliot for dead after hitting him with her car, and wearing red to funerals. For more, check out the Nina Van Horn Biography on A&E.
Dowton Abbey: The Dowager Countess
Violet always has an opinion, she always gets her way, and until recently she had a monopoly over both Downton Hospital and the annual Village Flower Show. She hates foreigners, the middle class, electricity, literature, and swivel chairs. Shirley MacLaine recently signed on to play Martha Levinson, Cora’s American mother, and we can’t wait for the verbal sparring to begin.
RUNNER-UP: 30 Rock‘s Colleen Donaghy is another conservative-minded matriarch who is used to getting what she wants (she once got JetBlue to accept an Amtrak ticket!). She even has been known to use her mortality as a weapon, once faking a heart attack to get even with her son. Just recently, Colleen pulled the battery out of her pacemaker to get Liz to stop talking. She scares the bejesus out of us.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show: Sue Ann Nivens
Today we are more than aware of Betty White’s versatility (if you haven’t seen her shoot Jeff Winger, please do so now), and her role as Sue Ann Nivens started it all. The “Happy Homemaker” with a dark side, Mary Tyler Moore writers originally conceived the Nivens character as a guest spot, thinking she would be too intolerable to audiences for an ongoing story arc. They were, of course, wrong, and network television never doubted us again.
RUNNER-UP: Before Weeds did a complete reboot in Season 4, Nancy Botwin was the epitome of duplicitous “homemaker” – even opening a bakery as a front for her suburban pot dealing operation (the promotional ads pretty much say it all). But unlike Nivens, this woman can’t even feign sweet; she’s cold, selfish, and has a habit of stringing along the people who love her most. And having accumulated three dead husbands over the course of the series (not to mention a string of tangled affairs), she takes Nevins’ “man-eating,” to a whole new level. If you haven’t watched the show, and are looking for a new mean girl to love, we recommend sticking with the first three seasons, before Nancy’s likable/evil balance starts to tip and it becomes difficult to care about her at all.