Mean Girls on TV

"Downton Abbey", "Mad Men" and "Glee" are among this year's top TV shows with vicious female leads

Images loading...

The mean monarch

Lena Headey as Queen Cersei


Annoyed at her husband for calling her by another woman’s name on their wedding night, Cersei took a lover: her twin brother (who also fathered her children). She lies with élan, manipulates other women and tolerates her son’s sexual sadism. Whatever it takes, this broad’s gaming for the throne. (Game of Thrones' season three debuts on HBO March 31.)

Helen Sloan/HBO

The mean mom

January Jones as Betty Draper


Forget mad men; this is one mad mama. Don Draper’s ex has called their daughter Sally fat, locked her in a closet and slapped her face for cutting her own hair. Son Bobby’s spending his entire childhood being sent to his room. And baby Eugene? Well, for starters, his mother named him Eugene. (Mad Men’s season six debuts on AMC April 7.) 

© 2013 Amc Network Inc., all rights reserved

The mean maid

Siobhan Finneran as Sarah O’Brien


When the downer of Downton Abbey thought that her position as lady’s maid was in danger, she let Countess Cora slip on a bar of soap—and miscarry a possible heir. Seriously, Cora: Is having help with your dress buttons really worth all this.

Gary Moyes/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 For Masterpiece

The mean mom-in-law

Mary Beth Peil as Jackie Florrick


How did The Good Wife end up with a bad mother-in-law? Jackie snoops; she shows up at inappropriate times (Alicia, never give her a key again!); she’s dipped into her grandkids’ trust fund; and she bought Alicia’s dream house right out from under her. Oh, and she believes her son, Peter the cheater, can do no wrong!

© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc., all rights reserved

The mean rival

Hayden Panettiere as Juliette Barnes


OK, so you belt out those Nashville songs nicely and you are glorious in a sequined miniskirt, but how can anyone be mean to Connie Britton? Quit flaunting that cleavage, you little whippersnapper, and go rent the complete DVD set of Friday Night Lights.


The mean coach

Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester


Determined to knock the joy out of Glee, Coach Sylvester trashes the self-esteem of high school kids and teachers alike. She’s run for office on a platform of defunding the arts and stolen everybody’s Secret Santa gifts—all in the name of education. “You’re dealing with children,” says Sue. “They need to be terrified.”

Beth Dubber/Fox

The mean biker

Katey Sagal as Gemma Teller Morrow


With a chip on her shoulder and a tattoo on her breast, Sons of Anarchy’s motorcycling matriarch has gunned down enemies and held an orphaned baby hostage and might have killed her first husband to clear the way for husband No. 2. To add to the anarchy, she also meddles in her son’s love life.

Prashant Gupta/FX

The mean jailbait

Madeline Zima as Mia Lewis


She puts the calculation in Californication. Overcoming her revulsion (“He could be my grandfather!”), Mia slept with Hank Moody (David Duchovny), then blackmailed him with her underage status—and stole his novel.


Next: TV's Fiercest Fashion


Want MORE? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Jordin Althaus/Showtime.

First published in the April 2013 issue of More

Share Your Thoughts!


Post new comment

Click to add a comment
Member Voices
Shoes & Accessories
Woman of Style and Substance
Swim & Lingerie