Nice, Mean and In-Between

In certain group dynamics, you will notice three characters with different mannerisms, attitudes, and personalities that are easy to identify with — a character who is nice and gentle, a character who is mean and tough, and the character who is caught in between the two other characters.

In villainous versions of this trope, this can consist of one villain who is nicer or more innocent than the other two and the other villain who is more villainous and meaner than the other two.

Note that this group dynamic can be a unique way to establish moments of how each character acts and what defines them. This is a snippet in the Power Trio explaining the basic makeup of trios — "Trait 1, Trait-opposite-of-Trait-1, Trait-Between-the-Two."


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Axis Powers Hetalia:
    • The Axis Powers, with Germany as the mean one (a Drill Sergeant Nasty with some less-than-pleasant ambitions), Italy as the nice one (a relatively good-natured - if easily manipulated - pasta-loving ditz), and Japan as the in-between (a socially awkward and somewhat strange The Stoic).
    • The Bad Touch/Friend Trio sometimes also qualifies as this (in Fandom at least). Prussia usually played off as the mean, arrogant jerk (usually ignoring all the nice things he does in canon). Spain is usually the super nice, I don't care what you do to me I will still be friends with you (loosely true when with Romano. But debunked with the whole 'armada' situation. And France is the middle ground.
  • Fairy Tail's First Generation Dragon Slayers (Laxus is a Second Generation so he doesn't count) fit this trope: Wendy Marvell is nice, Gajeel Redfox is mean (and even attacked the Fairy Tail members during his days as a part of Phantom Lord), and Natsu Dragneel, who is a good-hearted hero with a temper and a love of fighting, is in-between.
  • Shinji, Rei, and Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Shinji is the nicest guy in the series whereas Asuka is a very hot-tempered Jerkass. Rei sticks in the middle due to her cold and quiet demeanor.
  • The originally three Straw Hat Pirates from One Piece: Luffy is nice, Nami is mean, and Zoro is inbetween. Both Zoro and Nami can be said to be jerks with a heart of gold, but Nami is more actively unpleasant (beating up people when they act stupid, manipulating them for favors and money), while Zoro is just very reserved and slightly antisocial. Zoro and Nami's roles switch in more dramatic situations (such as the case of Usopp leaving the crew), when Nami is more likely to let compassionate feelings or worries take over, while Zoro keeps his cool and isn't afraid to state the harsh truth or threat people.
  • Pokémon's very own Team Rocket: while a villain, James is a mostly harmless Upper-Class Twit who forms a close bond with his Mons and prefers to give his opponents a fair fight when given a chance, Jessie is the mean, bossy, temperamental dog kicking one and Meowth is between the two, unscrupulous but kind of the Loveable Rogue/Traitor with some traits of The Philosopher.
  • From the first series of Sailor Moon, Usagi/Moon is nice and optimistic, Rei/Mars is a Tsundere who happens to be a Lovable Alpha Bitch, and Ami/Mercury is the textbook Shy Blue-Haired Girl.
  • A group example in Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches: Nancy's witch group is nice, with most of them being Nice Girls to some degree - only Nancy herself is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but the heart of gold is easy to find. Takuma's witch group is mean - most of them are villainous, and the only one who is on the side of good can still be a bit of jerk. Rika's witch group is inbetween - all of them (except Asuka) are on the side of good, but some of them acted villainous at their introduction, and they are generally more rough around the edges than Nancy's witches.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • In We Are All Pokémon Trainers we have:
    • Ammy (Nice), Herbert (Mean), Tagg (Inbetween)
    • Sakura (Nice), Lyuri (Mean), Hikari (Inbetween)
    • Zeal is a one man example with him representing nice, Red Eyes mean, and Zach the inbetween.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Despicable Me, all three of Gru's adoptive daughters are good girls. However Agnes is by far the most innocent and affectionate, Edith is a mischievous prankster, and Margo is the caring older sister but she can be cynical and snarky.
  • The three soldiers in Mulan. Yao is the mean one, short in temper as he is in stature; Gentle Giant Chien-Po is the nice one; and wise-cracking Ling is the in-between.
  • The villainous trio of the Dazzlings in My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks. Sonata Dusk is the nicest and dumbest one. Aria Blaze is mean and grumpy, always picking on Sonata. Adagio Dazzle is in-between, stopping the other two from bickering so that they'd focus on their Evil Plan. She's the most evil of the trio, but can put on a façade of niceness if need be.
  • Shrek: The first movie has the nice and proper Princess Fiona, if a bit private and easily embarrassed; the "mean" ogre Shrek, mostly standoffish and uninhibited tendency to say what's in his mind; and Donkey, whose criticism comes out easily (like Shrek) but the most social of the three.
  • Sleeping Beauty has the Three Good Fairies: Fauna (nice), Merryweather (mean), and Flora (inbetween).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Played with in The Good The Bad And The Ugly. The Good is an Unscrupulous Hero, The Bad is pure evil, and The Ugly is a thoroughly despicable person who is by far the most human character in the whole movie, made likable by how funny and childish he is and caught between the other two outlaws, who act like forces of nature rather than people.
  • The Plastics in Mean Girls: Karen is the nicest one (if only because she's too dumb to be truly malicious), Alpha Bitch Regina is the mean one, and Gretchen is in-between (fairly nice, only acting mean under the influence of Regina).
  • Star Wars:
    • The Original Trilogy: Luke (nice), Han (mean), Leia (in-between).
    • The Prequel Trilogy: Padme (nice), Anakin (mean), Obi-Wan (in-between).
    • The Sequel Trilogy: Rey (nice), Poe (mean), Finn (in-between).
  • The Three Stooges: Curly (nice), Moe (mean), Larry (in-between).


    Live-Action TV 
  • All in the Family: Edith is the motherly, warm-hearted one in contrast to her cranky, bigoted, Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist husband, Archie, who bickers with his son-in-law Michael who can be opinionated, but is nicer than Archie.
  • As far as judging is concerned, the early seasons of American Idol have Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell, and Paula Abdul. Paula is more supportive, but Simon is very critical, though he really does mean well, and Randy is a balance.
  • From The Big Bang Theory, Leonard is the nice one, Sheldon a grade-A vain and pompous genius, and Penny mediates with her sweetness, average intelligence, and occasionally bitchy tendencies.
  • Blakes Seven starts off with this between the three main characters: Avon is cynical, arrogant, treacherous and willing to do whatever it takes to come off well, Blake is moralistic, a believer in the big picture and wants to accomplish his goals through the most reasonable means, and Jenna believes in ideals and doing what's right but is definitely willing to Shoot the Dog without thinking twice about it.
  • From Gilligan's Island, Gilligan is the dumb, but nice one, The Professor is heavily prideful of his own intelligence, and The Skipper is a little nicer than The Professor; for he always loses his temper for Gilligan's incompetence, but does show he can be a nice guy every now and then.
  • Glee: Brittany is the dumb but sweet one, Santana is bitchy and cruel, and Quinn is in the middle.
  • H2O: Just Add Water initially has meek but kind Cleo as Nice, hot-tempered Deadpan Snarker Rikki as Mean, and bossy yet well-meaning Emma as In-Between. Occasionally Rikki and Emma will swap around, with Emma getting so bossy she's condescending and Rikki proving to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • House: Wilson is the most caring and compassionate, Dr. Jerk House is clearly the mean one, and Cuddy is the no-nonsense boss and the mediator.
  • From How I Met Your Mother, Gentle Giant Marshall is the nice one, Barney is a manipulative womanizer, and Ted is a romantic Nice Guy but he has his jerk moments.
  • I Carly: Carly is the nice one due to her being a Morality Pet to Sam, who happens to bully Freddie all the time. Freddie is the mediator since he is nice to Carly while finding it hard to get along with her best friend who treats him with zero respect even while they're temporarily in a romantic relationship.
  • The Middle: The studious, inoffensive Brick and spirited, encourager Sue; the vain, pompous, opinionated and tyrannical coolness policeman Axl, who cracks down on all "dorks"; and the parents in the middle, each in a unique way: the major McCoy-like Frankie and the stoic, distant Mike.
  • Rudy's Literal Split Personalities are this in Misfits. Rudy's 3 personalities embody Freud's 3 functions of the brain, with himself, the womanising and a slight Jerkass character as the ego and the inbetween, the sensitive, idealistic and compassionate Rudy 2 as the superego and the nice and Rudy 3, the violent psychopath and much bigger Jerkass as the Id and the mean. Rudy 1 and Rudy 2 have a troubled but close relationship while the two had to have Rudy 3 arrested, implying Rudy before the split was more in touch with his good side than with his bad.
  • Out of the Outnumbered children, at least in the early seasons, Jake is the nice one, Ben is the biggest 'problem child' due to his constant lying, and Karen is in the middle.
  • The famous Freudian Trio from Star Trek: The Original Series. Kirk is the kind-hearted one, Spock is logic-oriented and stoic which can make him come across as rude, and McCoy is in between where he can be grumpy, but does show more compassion than Spock.
  • In The Vampire Diaries, Elena is a nice, friendly Girl Next Door, Damon is a violent, dangerous vampire, and Stefan is a stoic, brooding vampire, who is much more reasonable than his brother Damon.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place has the Russo siblings: responsible and nice (but Not So Above It All) Justin, sneaky and mischievous Alex, and Max is the inbetween.

    Video Games 
  • In BlazBlue the three main characters, Noel, Ragna. and Jin fit this. Noel is a kind girl, while Ragna is a bit hard around the edges, and Jin is named the god of being a Jerkass.
  • Final Fantasy VII's initial trio of fighters: Tifa is the sweet, compassionate one, Barret while devoted to the cause, is the loud, aggressive one, who has to be frequently restrained to punch people who just stand in his way, and Cloud, while aloof and cynical, is far less confrontational and seems to have a sort of a "live and let live" mindset. Even their respective weapons appear to translate it: Tifa fights with her fists, Barret with a Gatling machine gun and Cloud with a sword.
  • Grand Theft Auto V has Michael, Trevor, and Franklin fulfilling these roles respectively. Michael is a Noble Demon who prefers to let people go if he can. Trevor is the most violent and aggressive of the three and is likely to kill either out of blind rage or just for kicks. And Franklin is the in-between due to being the most pragmatic of three; while not as merciful or gentlemanly as Michael is, he's also far less temperamental than Trevor.
  • In Mega Man, Rock/Mega Man is the nice one, rivaled by Forte/Bass, the mean one who fights usually just for his own sake, while Blues/Proto Man, though excessively independent, strives to live by the idealism and optimism of his younger "brother" robot.
    • In the X series, X is the nice one who is pacifistic and somewhat gullible, if a bit easily guilt-ridden and no ball of sunshine. Even so, Zero is the mean one who is cold, snarky and cynical and calls out X for his idealism. Axl mediates between, as not as gullibly pacifistic as X, but doesn't have the same extent of a shoot-first-questions-later mentality like Zero.
  • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, we have the Shadow Sirens; Beldam, Vivian and Marilyn. Beldam, the leader, treats the other two members horribly, verbally berating them and punishing them for the slightest transgressions. Vivian is kind and non-confrontational, and she pulls a Heel–Face Turn mid-game due to her treatment at the hands of Beldam. Then we have Marilyn, whose personality is sort of an enigma due to her tendency to speak in grunts and moans, rather than actual words.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • We have the trio of Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles. Tails is the mild-mannered best friend of Sonic, Knuckles is the tough, hot-headed friendly rival, and Sonic mediates the two, combining the kind-hearted attitude with his cocky and snarky attitude (although it's mostly geared towards his foes).
    • In the OVA, however, while Tails is still the nice one, Sonic and Knuckles' roles have been switched, where it's Sonic who's a trademark Jerk with a Heart of Gold while Knuckles mediates where he's more friendly than his game portrayal but retains his seriousness.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks:
    • Theodore is the nicest of the chipmunks, serving as the Morality Pet to Alvin, who is an egotistical Attention Whore. Simon stays in-between due to him being the smart one and his constant bickering with Alvin.
    • Their Distaff Counterparts, The Chipettes, are this, too. Jeanette is sweet-natured but shy, Brittany is hot-headed and selfish, and Eleanor is caring but more assertive than Jeanette.
  • The Goodfeathers from Animaniacs. Squit is the friendly Naïve Newcomer in contrast to Pesto, who has a violent temper and would always beat Squit up. Bobby is the leader and mediator often keeping Pesto in check or just get a good laugh at him beating up Squit.
  • The trio of Master Shake, Frylock and Meatwad in Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Meatwad is child-like, (usually) kindhearted and frequently abused by Shake, who is a greedy and cruel sociopath. Frylock is inbetween due to him being the smart Only Sane Man, often annoyed by Shake, with a few Not So Above It All moments.
  • Avatar The Last Airbender:
    • The trio of Aang, Katara, and Sokka in season 1. Aang is easily the nicest character of the group, although he can be quite scary when pushed too far. Sokka is a full-on sarcastic, cynical, Insufferable Genius, but he does has his moments. Katara is nice and reasonable, but she has mood swings and can have a quite nasty, vengeful side when betrayed by those who were close to her.
    • There's also Azula (the mean one), Ty Lee (the nice one) and Mai (the inbetween one; mostly because of her Sugar and Ice Personality).
  • Ben, Gwen, and Kevin from Ben 10: Alien Force and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien. Kevin is clearly the mean one, while the nice and the inbetween are Ben or Gwen, Depending on the Writer.
  • Dan Vs. Chris, Dan, and Elise. Chris is a mild-mannered pushover. "Anger Management" suggests that he eats a lot as a way of repressing his anger. Dan is a vengeful, hateful Anti-Hero/Villain Protagonist with a Hidden Heart of Gold. And Elise is much nicer than Dan and often shows disdain for Dan's antics, but is shown on occasion to have a vengeful streak herself.
  • DuckTales: Some incarnations of Mickey, Donald, and Goofy are like this; Goofy as the nice one, Donald as the irritable one, and Mickey as the mostly nice but sometimes snarky mediator/leader.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: Edd is the nice one, always trying to find a reasonable, non-violent solution and apologizing for his friend's behavior. Eddy is the mean one, always getting the two others involved in his scams and screaming at them when he doesn't get his way. Ed is inbetween, not as mean as Eddy, but more impulsive than Edd. On occasion, this can switch to Ed (nice) and Edd (in-between), since Edd has been known to lose it a couple of times, and Ed doesn't have a malicious bone in his body. That is, unless there is a malicious rock in his shoe. The Kids Jonny and Nazz (nice), Kevin and Sarah (mean), and Jimmy and Rolf (inbetween), also the Kanker Sisters Lee (mean) Marie (inbetween) and May (nice).
  • Futurama:
    • The trio of Fry, Leela, and Bender. Fry is the nicest guy of the group, albeit a bit dumb. Bender is the loud-mouthed, abrasive jerk who likes to drink and smoke a lot. Leela mediates between the two for she's calm and level-headed, although she would often appear as a nag to others if they did something immoral.
    • Also from Futurama, Mom's sons. Walt is the mean one, Igner is the nice one, and Larry is the inbetween.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy has the main trio, mostly in early seasons. Happy-go-lucky Billy is the nice one (mostly because Dumb Is Good, but he has his Jerkass moments too). Mandy is a devious, cold-hearted Villain Protagonist. And surprisingly Grim mediates between the two, despite being the Grim Reaper, he's not nearly as evil as Mandy.
  • Hercules TV series' Three Amigos: hero wannabe Hercules is nice, Snark Knight Cassandra is mean and unpredictable, Cloudcuckoolander Icarus is in-between.
  • In Jimmy Two-Shoes, Jimmy is friendly and optimistic and the Morality Pet to Heloise, a sadistic Mad Scientist who has a crush on him. Jimmy's other best friend Beezy is the inbetween, being the lazy one who constantly fights with Heloise.
  • In The Looney Tunes Show, Extreme Doormat Porky is the nice one, Daffy is the selfish, mean one, and level-headed, snarky, confident Bugs is inbetween.
  • Mixels has the Infernites, Vulk is the nice one, Zorch is the mean one and Flain meditates between the two.
    • Also the Flexers, Kraw is the mean one, while Tentro is the nice one, while Balk meditates between the two, but the latter two switch roles.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, we have the Cutie Mark Crusaders: Sweetie Belle is the nice one, Scootaloo the mean/tough one, and Apple Bloom the one who is the middle point between the two. Season 4 seems to be shuffling the roles by making Apple Bloom the nice one, Scootaloo the in-between one, and Sweetie Belle the mean one. Sweetie Took a Level in Jerkass during "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils" when she convinces herself that Rarity is being a Spotlight-Stealing Squad instead of a Cool Big Sis and deliberately ruins a hat Rarity makes for a client. Luna has to set her straight. "Twilight Time" also has Sweetie Belle's revenge fantasy where she uses magic solely to mess with Diamond Tiara. Sweetie also takes the lead in the CMC's push for popularity, showing her potential to act like an Alpha Bitch if given the opportunity.
  • The main siblings from Phineas and Ferb. Phineas is the most nicest and optimistic guy in the series aside from formerly being a Bratty Half-Pint from the pilot episode. Candace is always mean to her brothers and always wants to bust them for their everyday activities. Ferb is inbetween, for he doesn't say much, although he'll speak a line at the end of every episode.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: Bubbles is the most nicest and gentle of the three girls, though she can come across as naive. Buttercup is the aggressive one who constantly argues with Blossom and picks on Bubbles, though she does have a soft spot on occasions. Blossom, the leader, mediates between the two, where she can be mild-mannered, but can come across as bossy at times.
  • Sonic Sat AM formed one in the second season. Princess Sally is gentle and rational, Antoine is a pompous Dirty Coward, while Sonic is altruistic but arrogant and hot headed. Antoine and Sonic sometimes interchange, Depending on the Writer (in some episodes Antoine is more just harmlessly stupid, with Sonic as a bullying Greek Chorus to his antics). Sally can also sometimes be snarky and easily agitated, but usually still maintains the 'nicer' role in comparison.
  • Sponge Bob Square Pants:
    • The trio of SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward. SpongeBob is pretty much the kindest and idealistic character of the series, often to the point where others are annoyed about it, taken for granted, and to the point of being naive. Squidward is the grouchy Jerkass who barely shows his heart of gold, but this is because of having to deal with Spongebob and Patrick as neighbors. Finally, Patrick mediates between the two, but this is mainly because of his stupidity.
    • The trio of SpongeBob, Squidward, and Mr. Krabs in the earlier seasons. While Spongebob and Squidward kept their respective personalities, Mr. Krabs plays the mediator where he can be nice on occasions, but is a bit of a money-grubbing boss. In post-movie episodes, Krabs and Squidward switched places. The former became a ruthless bureaucrat while the latter remained the Snark Knight Anti-Hero he's always been.
  • Thomas the Tank Engine:
    • Thomas, Percy, and Toby from the earlier seasons. Toby is nice and respectful, Thomas is cheeky, arrogant and a bit troublesome, (although he has become nicer and kind-hearted later on the series). Percy mediates between the two where he can be nice, but has moments of being cheeky and troublesome like Thomas.
    • There's also the Terrible Trio of Gordon, James, and Henry. Henry is nicer and more sympathetic than the other two while James is more vain and arrogant than Gordon, who occasionally shows his soft and humble side more than James does.
    • Before James came along, there was the trio of Edward, Henry, and Gordon from the The Three Railway Engines book as well as the episodes "The Sad Story of Henry" and "Edward, Gordon, and Henry". Edward is the nice and friendly, Gordon is pompous and haughty, and Henry is in between due to realizing his mistake in refusing to leave the tunnel.
    • Some later episodes such as King of the Railway make Thomas, James and Percy into this. Thomas is now more altruistic and idealistic, James is the narcissistic Jerk with a Heart of Gold, while Percy is pretty much the same as before. Thomas and Percy sometimes interchange, due to still having shades of earlier cheekier forms.
  • In Time Warp Trio, the main male trio has: Sam, the nice and nerdy one, Fred, the mean and tough one, and Joe, the inbetween and well-meaning leader of the group. For the female trio, we have: Freddi, the Shrinking Violet, Jodie, the snobby and needy one, and Samantha, the Brilliant, but Lazy one who remains inbetween most of the time. Jodie is the leader, despite being the mean one.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: Similar to Bugs, Daffy, and Porky in The Looney Tunes Show , there are their Spiritual Successors who actually played it in this previous show: the trio of Buster, Plucky, and Hampton. Hampton is the nice Adorkable one, Plucky is the narcissistic Attention Whore, and Buster mediates between where he can be level-headed, but still has the trickster side similar to his counterpart.
  • Sam, Alex, and Clover from Totally Spies!: Alex is the nice one, Clover is the Lovable Alpha Bitch (in contrast to the series' Alpha Bitch Mandy), and Sam is the leader and mediator.

Alternative Title(s): Nice And Mean And In Between