Teen televisions shows have been around for decades but it’s only recently that the teenagers on these shows have actually started to resemble actual, real-life teenagers. Sure, it’s fun to watch the ultra-perfect teen character, with no acne and an amazing life win Homecoming Queen, but it’s so much more fun (and realistic) to watch teenage characters make mistakes, share their struggles, and get into trouble.
Thanks to the rise in streaming platforms, teen shows have gotten quite a makeover and are now willing to center entire shows around messy, impulsive, and imperfect characters. From sneaking out to getting arrested, these teen characters definitely aren’t perfect, which is what makes them so beloved.
10 Amy Juergens – The Secret Life Of An American Teenager (2008 – 2013)
The Secret Life Of An American Teenager helped usher in a new brand of teen dramas for ABC Family, becoming one of Freeform’s best original series. The series centered on Amy Juergens (Shailene Woodley), who unexpectedly becomes pregnant after losing her virginity at band camp.
One of Amy’s biggest flaws is her need for the world to revolve around her. When things don’t go Amy’s way, she lashes out – like when she explodes at her own mother after revealing that she is pregnant, or when she lashes out at Ben for taking a summer job in Italy. Though Amy tends to have a short fuse, her anger does stem from a good place in that she really just wants to be loved and supported by those around her.
9 Callie Adams-Foster – The Fosters (2013 – 2018)
Everyone on The Fosters is imperfect, but Callie Adams-Foster (Maia Mitchell) definitely takes the cake as the most imperfect character. Callie’s biggest character flaw is her impulsive nature, which causes her to not always make the best decisions, like when she runs away from the family to ensure her brother gets adopted.
Though Callie makes tons of the same mistakes over the course of the show’s run, fans couldn’t help but root for her because Callie truly just wanted to help others. It’s her immense empathy that led her to pursue a career as a lawyer to help those in need the right way.
8 Clay Jensen – 13 Reasons Why (2017 – 2020)
13 Reasons Why is a highly controversial Netflix teen drama, but the controversy didn’t stop millions of people from tuning in to the over-the-top show.
Much of Clay’s poor decisions are a product of his impulsive nature. Blinded by his love for Hannah, Clay regularly puts himself in danger in the hopes of getting justice for her, which becomes a reoccurring character arc for him. Though Clay doesn’t always think out his plans to save his friends, like when he jumps in front of Tyler who has a gun, fans can overlook his impulsiveness because of how much he truly cares about the people in his life.
7 Devi Vishwakumar – Never Have I Ever (2020 – )
When it comes to authentic teen characters, especially teen female characters, Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) from Never Have I Ever is one of the best of all time.
Devi’s biggest flaw keeping her from being a perfect character is her selfishness. In season one, she’s so concerned with having sex and becoming popular that she completely abandoned her friends when they need her most. In season 2, she gets worse as she reveals a personal secret about a friend to the school and cheats in her relationship out of selfishness. Every teenager is a little selfish from time to time, which is what makes Devi so relatable. Plus, she’s still mourning the loss of her father, which causes her to understandably act out.
6 Elena Cañero-Reed – Diary Of A Future President (2020 – )
Diary Of A Future President is one of Disney Plus’s best new original shows and has given viewers one of the best young teenage characters of all time: Elena Cañero-Reed (Tess Romero). Elena has high hopes for her life considering she grows up to be President but she makes a lot of mistakes on the way to that goal.
Her impatience causes her to vandalize her school’s mascot instead of waiting for her petition to be reviewed. And in season 2, she becomes viral after hosting several vlogs where she talks poorly about her mother. However, every mistake Elena makes is out of the goodness of her heart in the hopes of connecting with her peers and making middle school a better place.
5 Elodie Davis – Trinkets (2019 – 2020)
Based on the young adult novel, Trinkets was adapted for the screen for Netflix giving the shoplifters anonymous drama series a home. At the center of the series is Elodie Davis (Brianna Hildebrand), who is forced to move in with her estranged father after her mother’s passing.
As if being a shoplifter isn’t a big enough concern, Elodie continues to act out and runs away with a woman she falls in love with. Though Elodie is definitely reckless, many fans empathized with her because she had just lost her mother. Elodie also redeems herself by being an extremely caring character who regularly looks out for her friends and younger brother, keeping them out of harm’s way.
4 Ginny Miller – Georgia & Ginny (2021 – )
Ginny Miller (Antonia Gentry) is the resident “responsible” one of the Miller family in Netflix’s drama, Georgia & Ginny. Her role in her family made many fans feel bad for Ginny, but her reckless behavior did create some conflict.
While Ginny often means well, she makes selfish and self-absorbed decisions largely to get under her mother’s skin. This is exactly what happens when she sleeps with her next-door neighbor after Georgie warned her not to. Acting out to make a parent mad is typical teenage behavior, which is why so many young fans love Ginny. Ginny also gains points for being fiercely defensive of her younger brother, whom she runs away with to protect him.
3 John B. Routledge – Outer Banks (2020 – )
When Outer Banks premiered in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it became one of Netflix’s biggest teen dramas. The series follows a tight-knit group of friends who are determined to find a legendary treasure, but John B (Chase Stokes) is the imperfect main character.
John B definitely has a lot going for him since he’s a caring young man, but he becomes consumed with finding out what happened to his father, who went missing a year ago. Impulsive and ready for revenge, John B doesn’t always make the right decisions, like when he steals scuba equipment from his boss or runs away after witnessing a murder out of fear of being blamed. However, every poor decision he makes stems from him honoring his father’s legacy, and that’s something that should be celebrated.
2 Victor Salazar – Love, Victor (2020 – )
Love, Simon is one of the best romantic comedy films of the 2010s, so it’s no surprise the film inspired a spin-off television series for Hulu titled Love, Victor. Of course, Victor Salazar (Michael Cimino) serves as the main character for the series and finds himself in all sorts of trouble.
A huge reason why Victor is an imperfect character is that he worries too much about hurting other people’s feelings. Victor cheats on Mia because he doesn’t want to break up with her at the dance and he refuses to confront his mom when she makes Benji uncomfortable because he doesn’t want to cause any more problems. The same reason Victor makes these mistakes is the same reason why fans love Victor: he cares so deeply about everyone around him.
1 Zoey Johnson – Grown-ish (2018 – )
Zoey Johnson (Yara Shahidi) was first introduced to television audiences in the ABC family sitcom Black-ish before landing her own spin-off on Freeform titled Grown-ish. Zoey was definitely the most self-absorbed Johnson child, and that’s a trait she took to college.
Zoey thinks the world revolves around her, which gets her into huge trouble, especially with her friends who feel like she doesn’t always listen to them. She is also extremely impulsive, leading her to cheat on a test after partying instead of studying, drop out of college, and even get married while in Mexico. Watching Zoey make these mistakes is hard because they’re mistakes many teenagers make themselves and that’s what makes Zoey such an amazing teen character.
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