We asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us which movie/TV characters grew the most, and which ones should have gotten the chance to (but were ultimately done dirty). Here's what they had to say:
Warning: Potential movie/TV spoilers ahead. 🚨
Note: Some submissions include topics of child abuse, police brutality, and LGBTQ+ abuse. Please proceed with caution.
1. A character written carelessly: Maya from Pretty Little Liars (2010-2017)
"Emily and Maya from Pretty Little Liars were one of the first representations of a WLW relationship I ever saw as a closeted queer kid. Their relationship itself was awesome representation, but then they killed Maya in classic 'bury your gays' fashion. They did her so dirty."
2. A character written beautifully: Michael from The Good Place (2016-2020)
"He progressed from a literal demon fire squid to an angelic, good-hearted friend to Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, Jason, and Janet. Ted Danson played him SO beautifully, and I was bawling when he finally got his wish to be a human for a while."
3. A character written carelessly: Jenny Curran from Forrest Gump (1994)
"She was abused as a child by her own father, so she didn’t think she deserved happiness. Everyone thought she was just using Forrest, instead of believing she was a traumatized woman who needed help. Jenny had a lot of depth, and I wish they explored her character getting the help she deserved."
4. A character written beautifully: Santana Lopez from Glee (2009-2015)
In the beginning of the series, they wrote Santana as this deeply mean character who didn't care about anyone but herself (and Brittany). But, as the series progressed, they gave Santana a better story, and she really grew as a person — she lived happily "out of the closet" with Brittany, she came out to her abuela, and she got a better understanding of herself as a person. She's honestly one of the best TV characters, and I'm so glad they turned things around for her by the end of the series.
5. A character written carelessly: Angela Moore from Boy Meets World (1993-2000)
"Not only was Angela written off the show one episode before the finale (making her the only main cast member not in it), but she was also brought back for only one episode in Girl Meets World. They said she broke up with Shawn and their relationship wasn't authentic, which was false. They got through his dad's death, her abandonment issues, and their romantic problems to become a stronger couple. Angela's character deserved so much better."
6. A character written beautifully: Rosa Diaz from Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013-2021)
"Rosa Diaz from Brooklyn Nine-Nine grew so much from Season 1. She went from being a secretive and distant person to someone who wasn't afraid to confide in her friends. It was such a big moment when she asked Jake for his support because she was nervous about telling her parents she identified as bisexual. Stephanie Beatriz is so underrated, and Rosa is a goddess."
7. Two characters written carelessly: Idgie and Ruth from Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
"I grew up loving Fried Green Tomatoes, but never knew it was based on a book. I was so mad when I finally read it and found out I had been robbed of a WLW relationship — I felt like it was obvious in the movie that Idgie loved Ruth, but it would have been nice to know that the feeling was actually communicated in a clear way."
"The food fight scene in Fried Green Tomatoes was a metaphor for sex. Ruth’s son was, as in the book, given the surname Threadgoode. The reason they didn’t acknowledge it in the movie was executive meddling — Ruth and Idgie were just as in love with each other in the movie as they were in the book."
8. A character written beautifully: Therese Belivet from Carol (2015)
"Carol did a brilliant job portraying what it's like to fall in queer love for the first time through Therese's character. The journey of Therese questioning her sexuality to feeling very sure and 'never more awake in my life' was an accurate portrayal of many queer women. Falling in love can be fun, complicated, and meaningful all at the same time, and that's what we saw through Therese's eyes. Plus, this is one of few LGBTQ+ movies where the main characters actually had a happy ending, and I, for one, was relieved to watch Therese and Carol still alive by the end of the movie (without falling victim to the 'bury your gays' trope)."
9. A character written carelessly: Mercedes Jones from Glee (2009-2015)
"I could go on a whole rant about how much Mercedes deserved! She let Quinn move in with her after Quinn was kicked out of her house, she stood her ground and realized her worth in Season 3 when Mr. Schue was rude to her, and when she was robbed of the role of Maria, she started The Troubletones. She gave great advice, was a great friend all the time, and was talented as fuck. No one could sing like her — not even Rachel."
10. A character written beautifully: Will Smith from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)
"Will went from being an immature teen who was afraid to study and be vulnerable to a supportive cousin who knew his worth and had grown as a person, while still also keeping his cheekiness."
11. A character written carelessly: Stanley Hudson from The Office (US) (2005-2013)
"Stanley was amazing and had me rolling around in tears half the time, but he wasn't given enough attention. I know The Office is supposed to be satire, but there were too many race-centered jokes. In nearly every interaction Michael had with Stanley, he would always bring up his race, and I just got tired of it. I know we're meant to laugh AT Michael's character, but Stanley shouldn't have been done dirty because of it."
12. A character written beautifully: Dwight Schrute from The Office (US) (2005-2013)
"In the earlier seasons, Dwight rarely interacted warmly or shared a positive relationship with anyone except for Angela, and was socially inept in most moments. We saw a constant growth in him (highlighted MOST beautifully in his friendship with Pam), and by the finale, he had successfully cemented himself as a fan favorite for many seasons. Rainn Wilson was PERFECT as Dwight, and I can't think of anyone else who could've shown the strict, vulnerable, comedic, sensitive, socially awkward, and lovable facets of Dwight as well as he did."
13. Two characters written carelessly: Emma and Adèle from Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013)
"The sex scenes felt very much like they were made for men — I think I would have liked to see what a female director would have done with Emma and Adèle's characters through the graphic novel."
"I HATED Blue Is the Warmest Colour for exactly that reason — the sex scenes [and characters] were so over-the-top and unrealistic, I completely lost interest."
14. A character written beautifully: Nick from Heartstopper (2022)
"Honestly, everyone from Heartstopper was written beautifully, but I can speak best to bisexual narratives, and Nick was able to go on that journey without being hindered by the 'you're just gay and pretending to be bi' narrative. It was really refreshing to see a young person be able to find and accept himself through a relationship with another man without having to erase the part of himself that is also interested in women. He made mistakes in his journey and owned every single one of them, even while being so confused about who he was. This was an excellent depiction of a young person learning themselves through queer *joy* instead of trauma, and it was beautiful."
15. A character written carelessly: Poussey Washington from Orange Is the New Black (2013-2019)
"It was six years ago, and I'm still devastated by her death. For one, she was one of the few Black lesbian characters on the show, and this was amid the discussion of LGBTQ+ characters always being killed. The writers clearly intended for it to be a commentary on the Black Lives Matter movement, but made the white guard who killed her sympathetic and portrayed him as having done it by accident. It was awful."
16. A character written beautifully: Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren from Orange Is the New Black (2013-2019)
"At the start of the show, she was the oddball everyone called 'Crazy Eyes.' Over the course of the show, she became one of the most perceptive and self-aware characters, despite the women constantly making fun of her."
17. A character written carelessly: Charlie Wheeler from Friends (1994-2004)
"Charlie was portrayed to be this kind of careless character who was so unlikable. Plus, she was smart as hell, but that was always painted as a negative. We had a smart, successful Black woman in a white show, yet they still made her a horrible character who was written off quickly."
18. A character written beautifully: Adrian Monk from Monk (2002-2009)
"He went from refusing to leave his house to confronting the man who killed his wife. His journey with his OCD and to get reinstated as a police officer was truly inspiring, and it was amazing to see him step out of his comfort zone, take chances in life, and find people who supported him."
19. A character written carelessly: Storm from X-Men (2000)
"Storm had a badass backstory, which the movies played down way too much. She was a proud African living in America who figured out a way to uphold her culture while living in a country where she was a double minority: Black AND mutant."
20. A character written beautifully: Gabrielle Solis from Desperate Housewives (2004-2012)
"At the start of the series, Gabrielle was a glamorous housewife who valued material things more than relationships, and she was cheating on her husband. By the end of the series, she was a much better person. She learned the value of family and had become a mother who fought tooth and nail for her kids."
21. A character written carelessly: Celie Harris from The Color Purple (1985)
"Celie from the film adaptation of The Color Purple. The main character in Alice Walker's 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was based on Walker's grandmother who followed a lifetime of abuse and 'was not attracted to men.' Director Steven Spielberg was criticized for significantly toning down Celie's love affair with her abusive husband's mistress in the 1985 film adaptation. By his own admission, Spielberg 'took something that was extremely erotic and very intentional, and reduced it to a simple kiss.' In the same interview, Spielberg stated that he wouldn't change this if he were to remake the film today."
22. A character written beautifully: Chiron from Moonlight (2016)
"Chiron from Moonlight has to be one of the best depictions I’ve ever seen as a queer character. Here we had a Black, queer man living in the South, discovering and defining for himself what manhood meant. Though his road was rough, he still stood up for himself — oftentimes, we've seen Black, queer characters being portrayed as 'overly feminine,' and Chiron reminded us that queerness doesn’t have just one look."
23. A character written carelessly: The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz (1939)
"Dorothy killed her sister with a house, took her sister's ruby slippers, refused to return them, then snuck into her home and stole her broom because the fake wizard told her to. The Wicked Witch of the West was wronged!"
24. A character written beautifully: Cece Parekh from New Girl (2011-2018)
"I rewatched New Girl during the pandemic, and I was deeply in awe of Cece's personal growth! She went from being Jess's standoffish model friend to a woman who went back to school to get her degree and pursued her dreams. She was always bluntly honest with the gang, but by the end of the series, she was honest with herself and what she wanted."
25. A character written carelessly: Adam Torres from Degrassi: The Next Generation (2001-2015)
"To an extent, I think they screwed up a bit with Adam from Degrassi — it was groundbreaking for its time, but looking back, they did him kind of dirty. They didn't give him a proper binder, he didn't have much of a story arc besides being forcefully outed and his parents not accepting him, and he got killed in a car accident. In my opinion, his character felt like it was written for cis audiences."
"Degrassi: Next Class was also awful when it came to Tristan and Miles' relationship, mostly because Tristan sucked as a character, and he didn't accept Miles being bisexual. Their characters and relationship were toxic overall."
26. A character written beautifully: Elektra Wintour from Pose (2018-2021)
"Though she didn't become nicer, we've gotten a better understanding of why she is the way she is. Dominique Jackson did such a wonderful job of making Elektra a multifaceted character, and has been robbed of some awards, y’all!"
27. A character written carelessly: Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
"SEASONS of character buildup, only for Daenerys to go out the window with that trash last season. I have never been more heartbroken to see a character who had come so far to just be screwed over by the writers in the end. Daenerys deserved the sun, the moon, and the stars, and she never got them! I’m still not over it."
28. And a character written beautifully: Alexis Rose from Schitt's Creek (2015-2020)
"In the beginning of the series, Alexis was ready to leave her family behind in Schitt's Creek and hop on Stavros's jet to live a luxurious life. But by the end, she was an independent businessperson who turned down money from Twyla in order to make it on her own. I love that journey for her!"
Note: Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.