1. Logan Echolls (“Veronica Mars”)
Before he was Veronica’s main squeeze, Logan was just your typical rich kid jerk. He even organized bum fights — BUM FIGHTS, you guys. But it turned out he had an abusive (homicidal) dad and a fractured home life that made him such a dick. And love cures all!
2. Paris Geller (“Gilmore Girls”)
By the end of Gilmore Girls, Paris and Rory were so close it’s hard to remember where they started off. Yes, Paris was the worst kind of mean girl — a super smart competitive one. But wouldn’t you know it, a lot of that fear was really just social anxiety.
3. Sadie Saxton (“Awkward”)
Sadie is never going to stop being awful to Jenna: that’s just not in her nature. At the same time, she’s a bitch, not a heartless bitch, and there’s a lot of depth and pain to Sadie that only her closest friends (namely Matty) get to see. She’s hurting, too, even as she’s dishing out her “You’re welcome”s.
4. Nelson Muntz (“The Simpsons”)
Of all the bullies on The Simpsons, Nelson is the one with the most heart. Maybe it’s because we saw his depressing home life when Bart went to visit, maybe it’s because he and Lisa shared a brief romance — regardless, Nelson’s laugh is clearly the best thing he’s got going for him.
5. Kim Kelly (“Freaks and Geeks”)
Let’s get this out of the way: Kim Kelly is terrifying. But she’s also just misunderstood. Like just about every character on Freaks and Geeks, there’s more to Kim than meets the eye. So while it’s easy to cower in her presence, looking beyond that will show how much she’s really struggling with life.
6. Cordelia Chase (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”)
Cordelia’s arc is a fascinating one: she went from bully to ally to hero to prophet to higher being to destroyer of worlds to — OK, getting ahead of ourselves. The point is, she was never just a bully. And by the time she showed up on Angel, she was far from the Queen Bee of Sunnydale High.
7. Wayne Arnold (“The Wonder Years”)
It’s hard to imagine having an older brother like Wayne — unless you actually had an older brother like Wayne, in which case, congratulations on surviving your childhood. But beyond the name-calling and attitude, Wayne just wanted to be liked by his peers and family. Don’t we all.
8. Regina Mills (“Once Upon a Time”)
Is she an evil villain or a bully? Well, it depends on the episode. But more often than not, Regina is a thorn in everyone’s side, pushing the townspeople around because she can. As her relationship with Henry shows, however, she does want to be a kinder, more understanding person. Maybe.
9. Helga Pataki (“Hey Arnold”)
Helga wasn’t mean: she was just creepy. Remember her Arnold shrine? Like so many young people, Helga showed her affection for her crush by being totally awful to him all the time. And then she couldn’t figure out why he never liked her back. Being a kid is so hard!
10. Kelly Taylor (“Beverly Hills, 90210”)
Kelly’s stint as spoiled rich brat didn’t last too long — she was developed throughout the first season of 90210 to be interested in more than clothes and jewelry. Plus, she had an addict mom and a whole mess of other problems that contributed to her occasional awfulness. Poor Kelly.
11. Dave Karofsky (“Glee”)
Who would have guessed that McKinley high’s most homophobic bully was secretly a closet case? Um, a lot of people, actually. But it was still nice to see the softer side of Kurt’s frequent tormenter. Once his pain was turned inward, however, Karofsky nearly took his own life.
12. Nellie Oleson (“Little House on the Prairie”)
When you’ve got a wholesome protagonist like Laura Ingalls, you kind of need to balance her with the spoiled nasty girl. Nellie filled the latter role perfectly, but she did eventually soften. Turns out a lot of those bully traits just fade away with age. And again, she fell in love, which has a mellowing effect.
13. Mona Vanderwaal (“Pretty Little Liars”)
Before she was a mental patient — but after she was a nerd — Mona was a mean girl. Alison’s death let her step up in the ranks, and she was up to the challenge of tormenting Lucas. But as it turns out, Mona’s bullying was the result of something deeper: mental illness and a fear of losing Hanna.
14. Luke Ward (“The O.C.”)
“Welcome to the O.C., bitch.” That may have been our early introduction to Luke, but it wasn’t that long before he was friends with everyone. Being a bully gets lonely, especially when your cool jock friends start shunning you for having a gay dad. He ended up in Portland, where all sensitive bullies settle down.
15. Donna LaDonna (“The Carrie Diaries”)
She’s not mean — she’s just honest. OK, and also mean. But the more we learned about Donna, the more we liked her. She was the first person Walt came out to, and she took it well, proving herself to be a lot more compassionate than she’d let on. There’s a good person beneath those hoop earrings, honest.