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Nice, Mean, and In-Between

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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.

  • Nice Character: This character is simply what they are — nice, polite, friendly, and helpful. They show everybody a great deal of respect and kindness, even to their worst enemies. They're the kind who never loses their temper nor resort to violence, although they do when pushed too far. Other variations would have them to be seen as naive and gullible due to seeing no reason to be justifiably angry with others and always believes there's some goodness in them, and often at times, they can appear to be too nice. They'll most definitely be the peacemaker when the mean and in-between characters get into fights, which can qualify them as The Chick or The Heart. If they're the dumb one, he'll easily be a Kindhearted Simpleton. In a trio of siblings, they'll most likely be the youngest. They can be the Token Good Teammate if they're a part of a villainous trio or if the in-between character is more mean than nice. In a Freudian Trio, they're commonly either The McCoy or The Kirk.
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  • Mean Character: The polar opposite of the Nice Character. Simply put, this character is rude, unfriendly, harsh, and abrasive. They're the one that the nice and the in-between character have trouble getting along with. The mean character will usually bully the nice character and will engage in fierce arguments with the in-between character. While they may turn out to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, they will put a heavy emphasis on "Jerk", and their heart of gold will appear on a few occasions. In a trio of heroes, they'll be a gritty and violent Anti-Hero who will show no mercy to anyone who gets in their way, or at least a Good Is Not Nice hero who genuinely does good, but is nevertheless rude and rough. They may be grouchy and cynical, always seeing the worst in everything and everyone. If they're the leader, expect them to be either strict and no-nonsense or bossy and egotistical. If not, he'll be The Lancer who will be the first to criticize The Hero's leadership or decision-makings. In a trio of siblings, they'll most likely be either the middle; rebellious and grumpy due to their placement of birth, or the eldest, if they resort to bullying their younger siblings. If the "mean" aspect goes too far, they can be the Token Evil Teammate. In a Freudian Trio, they're commonly either The McCoy or The Spock.
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  • In-Between Character: This character isn't as well-mannered as the nice character as they have a few negative traits, but they aren't as abrasive and unpleasant as the mean character. They may be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold with a heavy emphasis on "Heart of Gold". If they're not a jerk, they will most likely have a Sugar-and-Ice Personality who can either be too aloof, quiet, or serious to be nice or mean. If they're indeed a Nice Guy, it won't be to a naively idealistic extreme, and not to the point of being a pushover. With the nice and mean character being respectively optimistic and pessimistic, the in-between character stands on the realistic side of things. If the nice and mean characters have a certain serious flaw such as being too naive or too rebellious and brash, the in-between character will often be the Only Sane Man trying to keep them in check. If they're the dumb one, this means that their niceness and meanness will vary from time to time due to their stupidity. They'll commonly have a close brotherly/sisterly relationship with the nice character and will have a rivalry with the mean character. In common ways, they will be The Leader or the mentor of the group who shows respect for their comrades while keeping the two in line in one way or another, mostly the mean one. For this case, the character will most likely be The Hero. In a trio of siblings, they're most likely to be either the middle, or the eldest; as they are lawful and charming as they care for their siblings, but can be judgemental. In a Freudian Trio, they're commonly either The Kirk or The Spock.

Darker versions of this trope can qualify. For example, if there is a trio of villains or jerks, there will be one who is nicer or more innocent than the other two and the other villain/jerk who is more villainous and meaner than the other two.

If this trope applies to three female characters, they'll typically be Town Girls too, with the nice one as the Girly Girl (unless she is an Alpha Bitch), the mean one as the Tomboy (Unless the Girly Girl is mean, then she’ll likely be in-between) and the in-between one as neither.

If there are 6 characters in a group, the dynamic will come in 3 pairs, meaning that there will be a nice pair, a mean pair, and an in-between pair.

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."

Compare The Good, the Bad, and the Evil, a scenario in which the trio gets into conflict with each other.


Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield: Odie (nice) is nothing but friendly and passive towards Garfield. Garfield (mean) is constantly selfish and lazy, and loves to bully both Jon and Odie. Jon (in-between) is usually a Nice Guy but is often arrogant and sometimes unfair to Garfield (although knowing how he treats him, it can be justified, most of the time).
  • Charlie, Lucy and Linus from Peanuts. Charlie (nice) is a sweet, helpful kid in spite of his constant Butt-Monkey and Failure Hero status. Lucy (mean) is a bossy fussbucket who often delights in putting Charlie Brown down, though she does have a good side. Linus (in-between) is an Innocent Prodigy who always goes to Charlie Brown's support when he needs it, but he does have his moments of assertiveness.

    Fan Works 
  • Pokémon Crossing: Fly Me to the Moon: The three main characters:
    • Tank is the Nice (most friendly and outgoing, least likely to snark)
    • Kidd is the Mean (most sarcastic and has the rudest insults)
    • Benedict is their In-Between (rude to villains like Team Cottage, but affable with other Pokemon trainers)
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: What Came After: Popplio, Riolu, and Alesia respectively. Alesia isn't as short-tempered or sarcastic as Riolu, but laughs along with him at Toucannon's insult at Trevenant while Popplio refrains from doing so, and when Riolu gets bitten by a Magikarp, Alesia is busy laughing her ass off while Popplio assists Riolu.
  • In We Are All Pokémon Trainers we have:
    • Ammy (Nice), Herbert (Mean), Tagg (In between)
    • Sakura (Nice), Lyuri (Mean), Hikari (In between)
    • Zeal is a one man example with him representing nice, Red Eyes mean, and Zach the in between.
  • In Where Talent Goes to Die, the sixteen students are divided into groups of four in order to explore the school, and Kaori Miura's three companions fall into this trope. Sae Edogawa is the Nice one, as she's a kind and understanding individual who's already taken a liking to Miura. Shiro Kurogane is the Mean one, as he holds a lingering grudge against Miura for defeating him in a game of shogi. Akito Sakuragi is the In-Between one, as he doesn't particularly care for Kurogane's attitude, but isn't as active in speaking up for Miura. The "mean" and "in-between" roles switch after the first murder. Sakuragi kills Kurogane in a bid to escape without even needing a "motive." Meanwhile, Kurogane, despite his dislike of Miura, claims that he'd never seriously consider killing her.
  • Wonder Girl, Robin and Superboy, known In-Universe as the "Junior Trinity", in the Teen Titans Our Own League novels. Wonder Girl is a Spoiled Sweet, compassionate, and idealistic princess (Nice). Robin is an aloof, pragmatic Control Freak with a Hidden Heart of Gold (Mean). Superboy, although very friendly and a loyal friend, can be flippant, an Attention Whore, and tends to invite disaster with his recklessness (In-Between). As Beast Boy puts it:
    Beast Boy: [Points to Wonder Girl] You're fun, [points to Robin] you're no fun, [points to Superboy] and you're fun whether we want it or not.
  • Seth in the Pokécity: The Barney-related characters. Vinny is an Extreme Doormat who simply goes along with Flosshead's schemes (nice). Flosshead is a complete Jerkass who has no real qualms about raising hell for fun (mean). Barney, while an abusive asshole in his own right, is usually more occupied in television and booze (in-between).
  • Ask White Pearl and Steven (almost!) anything has Amethyst, Pearl and Garnet fill these roles after they learn that Steven is a Diamond:
    • Since Amethyst has been Locked Out of the Loop and wasn't part of the Rebellion, she lacks the sort of history and baggage the other Crystal Gems have regarding the Diamonds. As a result, she's the most willing to judge Steven on his own merits, and is the only one to continue treating him like her adoptive younger brother figure.
    • Pearl, by contrast, is utterly convinced that he's White Diamond in disguise (given how she's the only one who knows that Rose is really Pink Diamond). She also believes that White Pearl/Earl is Brainwashed, trying to spur her to turn against him and rejecting the notion that Earl legitimately cares.
    • Garnet, meanwhile, is caught In-Between. While she distances herself from Steven, she also makes an effort to understand him rather than simply rejecting him outright as Pearl has, and strives to keep the peace between her and Amethyst.
  • Life Fiber Hunters in Natural Selection follow this dynamic, with Ira as the nice, Nonon as the mean, and Satsuki as the in-between. Ira tends to act like an honorable knight with a strong devotion to both justice as well as Satsuki herself. Nonon is by far the most sarcastic and blunt of the three and gives no quarter when dishing out insults even at her own teammates expense (though usually always with good reason). Satsuki, while devoted to her mission of saving the world from the Life Fibers and is polite with her fellow teammates, is also incredibly stoic with a strong case of Good Is Not Nice as well.
  • The Red Lotus Trio in Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail. Atticus is the Nice for being a kind and loyal corgi king, Lexi is Mean for having a hatred for passengers ("free-riders") and Chloe is the In-Between shown to be a kind and caring girl yet is known to have plenty of resentment issues.
  • Ash and Serena's Atomic Odyssey: Serena's rivals in the Tandor Contests fit the bill. Vitor is the most easygoing and friendly (Nice), Sayaka is rude and arrogant (Mean), and Aisha is nice for the most part but can be pretty rough around the edges when angered (In-Between).

    Literature 
  • A villainous example in The Adventures of Petrushka by Margarita Fadeyeva and Anatoly Smirnov, with the three servants of Stencil. The Breath-Measurer is the Nice, as he is much less active in oppressing Stencil's subjects than his two colleagues and, unlike them, has a family that he really loves. The Word-Catcher is the Mean, delighting in every tyrannical whim of Stencil's and sadistic towards the commons. The Step-Counter is the In-Between: he is wicked enough but doesn't take bribes and isn't sadistic, and he is so stupid that, with some Insane Troll Logic, Petrushka persuades him to stop serving Stencil in all but name – without the Step-Counter even realizing it.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - The three boys who won a Golden Ticket consists of: Soft-spoken, kind and selfless Charlie Bucket, disruptive bratty smartmouth Mike Teavee and Augustus Gloop, who isn’t as bad as Mike but is still considered a brat.
  • The three Heffley brothers from Diary of a Wimpy Kid. All three have their jerk moments, but Greg is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, making him the nice one, while Manny borderline crosses the Moral Event Horizon at the end of Cabin Fever, making him the mean one. Rodrick is mostly a bully to Greg, but never even comes close to the Moral Event Horizon, making him the in-between one.
  • Ender's Game has the three Wiggin children: Peter (mean), Valentine (nice), Ender (in-between).
  • The Scott siblings in the Generation V series. Due to their mother experimenting with their upbringings, Prudence is a typical heartless bloodthirsty vampire, Chivalry is somewhat more sympathetic to humans and frequently falls in love with them, and Fortitude (raised as human as possible) is the most similar to and sympathetic to humans.
  • Grimoire’s Soul: During Part 3, Harper's the most openly friendly even with the issue of a language barrier (Nice), Reiner's cynical and cantankerous (Mean), and Ceyda's between the two.
  • Harry Potter:
  • Pride and Prejudice: This trope applies to the three more plot-relevant Bennett sisters, who also happen to be the only three to get married during the story. Jane (nice) is incredibly sweet-natured and always wants to see the best in others, Lydia (mean) is a careless brat who almost ruins her family without a qualm, and the heroine Elizabeth (in-between) is well-intentioned but not so idealistic as Jane and prone to jump to conclusions (setting the scene for her Character Development). Their corresponding husbands likewise fit the trope: Nice Guy Mr Bingley (nice), Bitch in Sheep's Clothing Mr Wickham (mean), and Jerk with a Heart of Gold Mr Darcy (in-between).
  • In The Princess Bride, Fezzik is a nice Gentle Giant, Vizzini is a mean Evil Genius, and Inigo is in-between as he's charming and polite but also obsessed with revenge.
  • Secret Santa (2007): Popular girls Celia, Amber, and Shawna. Celia is a Nice Girl who wants to be friends with kids from other cliques. Amber is an uncomplicated Alpha Bitch. Shawna is vain and entitled, but she isn't malicious and has a Defrosting the Ice Queen arc.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • The three Lannister siblings fit this. While not exactly good, Tyrion is by far the one having the most morals, has plenty of Pet the Dog moments despite siding with the "evil Lannister" side, and is definitely the one that the readers are supposed to root for (nice). Cersei is unabashedly vile, with no redeeming features barring her love for her children, and she never changes one bit (mean). Jaime starts out just as evil as Cersei, but undergoes a slow Character Development that eventually sees him becoming a proper knight (in-between).
    • Cersei's children form these as well. Joffrey is a monster who is even viler than his mother (mean). Tommen is far too nice and naive for his own good (nice). Myrcella is just as nice as Tommen, but is more assertive, and has political acumen that is noted by several characters, despite her age and gender (in-between).
  • From The Silmarillion:
    • Out of the three sons of Finwë the youngest, Finarfin, is the nice one, the "fairest and wisest" son who tries to persuade the Noldor not to rebel against the Valar; the eldest, Fëanor, is the mean one who succumbs to his own pride and greed and instigates untold suffering by binding himself and his sons to the dreadful Oath, while middle son Fingolfin is in-between, prideful to a lesser extent than Fëanor and with nobler intentions.
    • The seven sons of Fëanor also fall into these three categories. The M-brothers (Maedhros and Maglor) are the nice ones, being the closest to repenting of their evil, and the most heroic when not being compelled by the evil Oath of their father. The C-brothers (Celegorm, Caranthir and Curufin) are the mean ones, being hot-blooded Jerkasses who, in addition to following the Oath, became outright antagonists to the more heroic characters, although Caranthir attains some measure of redemption later on. The A-twins (Amrod and Amras) are in-between, with less of their character-defining traits spelled out other than that they are close to each other and follow the Oath along with their brothers.
  • In the fairy tale St. Joseph in the Forest, three daughters, one at a time, enter the woods and discover the cottage of St. Joseph. He lets them stay for a night, asks for a portion of their food, and offers to let them sleep in his bed while he sleeps in the straw. The youngest child (nice) gives him the biggest portion of food, despite not having much to begin with, says she will be fine with sleeping in the straw, and gets a big sack of money. The middle child (in-between) shares the food equally with St. Joseph, offers to share the bed with him, and gets a small bag of money. The oldest child (mean) eats almost all the food despite having enough to share, readily sleeps in the bed while letting St. Joseph sleep in the straw, and gets stung to death by lizards and snakes.
  • Warrior Cats: For the first few books of Power Of Three, the prophesied three start out this way. Hollypaw(leaf) starts out as the nice one who is the most courageous and sociable of the three ( until when she finds out Squirrelflight isn't their biological mother). Jaypaw(feather) is the mean one due to being the most rude and sarcastic out of all the them. And Lionpaw(blaze) is the in-between due to being a bit arrogant but also friendly.
  • In Wings of Fire, we have the guardians of the Dragonets Of Destiny. Webs is the kindest to the dragonets and doesn't hate Glory for being a RainWing, but he's too jaded and cowardly to stop the other guardians from trying to kill her. Kestrel is the cruelest out of the three, verbally and physically abusing the dragonets, even chaining them to stalagmites if they misbehaved. Dune is the dragon in the middle, not being as friendly to the dragonets as Webs but not as abusive as Kestrel, even having occasional moments of kindness.
  • The Witches of Lancre from Discworld. Magrat Garlick is the sweet and naive one, albeit shy, Granny Weatherwax is the grumpy mean one, and Nanny Ogg mediates between with her friendly attitude and constantly bickers with Granny.

    Radio 

    Theatre 
  • King Lear:
    • Lear's daughters. Cordelia is the saintly, kind-hearted Nice Girl. Regan is the Blood Knight who murders and dishes out torture. Goneril is less outwardly vicious than Regan, and more of a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. It is easy to interpret Goneril as actually feeling remorse for her crimes, while Regan has no such regrets.
    • The sisters' three husbands each correspond to this as well. Cordelia's the King of France is a Nice Guy who marries Cordy even when she is disinherited. Regan's the Duke of Cornwall is a sociopath who gouges Gloucester's eyes out. Goneril's the Duke of Albany turns a blind eye to any suffering for the first half of the play, before finally pulling a Heel–Face Turn.
  • The three sons of Rowland de Bois in As You Like It, in order of appearance: the gentle-natured Orlando (nice), his abusive older brother Oliver (mean) and Jacques (in-between by default simply because we don't find out much about him.)
  • In Spooksville: Of the main three, Adam is the nice (being a kind, friendly, and idealistic) Sally is the mean (being rather sarcastic and cynical, but still ultimately a brave and good-hearted girl, and Watch is the In-between (He's not quite as nice as or heroic as Adam but still a decent kid in general.)

    Web Animation 
  • FreezeFlame:
    • The Larry, Wendy, and Ludwig trio from Bowser's Koopalings follow this trope. Larry is the nice one, as he's shown to be the nicest Koopaling, doesn't tend to make fun of people (except call them a "jerkhole" when they treat him like shit), and loves to have fun, Ludwig is the mean one, as he's shown to be selfish, often looks down upon his siblings and likes to think he's better than all of them, and even makes fun of them at times (mostly towards Larry), and Wendy is in-between as she sometimes tends to mock others and call people names at times, but still has a good heart and she's also the more sane Koopaling.
    • Wendy's three friends, Camilla, Lauren and Ally, also have this dynamic. Camilla is a wealthy, stuck-up Spoiled Brat who treats everyone, including her closest friends, like dirt, Ally is a very friendly person, if a bit of an airhead, while Lauren is more friendlier than Camilla, but unlike Ally her patience has a limit.
  • Helluva Boss:
    • I.M.P has Millie (nice), Moxxie (mean) and Blitzo (in-between) in the pilot. But in the series, it changed to Moxxie (nice), Blitzo (mean) and Millie (in-between). Though, Millie and Moxxie do swap places depending on the episode.
    • Their angelic parrallers, C.H.E.R.U.B has Collin (nice), Keenie (mean) and Cletus (in-between).
  • Homestar Runner: Out of the Brothers Strong, we have the depressed Strong Sad (nice), Jerkass Narcissist Strong Bad (mean), and Dumb Muscle Strong Mad (in-between).
  • Starter Squad has Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur: Charmander is Mean, being a Combat Pragmatist who often acts like a Jerkass to both Squirtle and Bulbasaur, Bulbasaur is Nice aside from the occasional psychotic moment, and Squirtle is In-Between, being nicer than Charmander but much more willing to challenge Charmander's authority than Bulbasaur.
  • RWBY: Ruby's a bubbly and positive Plucky Girl, Weiss is an Academic Alpha Bitch with a tendency to think highly of herself, and Blake is more coolheaded than Weiss but more aloof than Ruby.
  • Eddsworld: Edd is a down-to-earth Nice Guy, Tom is a cynical grouch and Matt is a narcissistic ditz. During his time on the show, trigger-happy Token Evil Teammate Tord was also in the "Mean" category.
  • Hazbin Hotel gives us TWO examples:
    • Out of the original three Hotel crew, we have All-Loving Hero Charlie (Nice), snarky and rude Jerkwitha Heartof Gold Angel Dust (Mean), and Vaggie, who is abrasive and grumpy but much nicer than Angel (In-Between)
    • Out of the three newcomers, we have the cute and friendly Niffty (Nice), the gruffy, Sir Swearsa Lot Husk (Mean), and the gentlemanly but still rather abrasive Alastor (In-Between)
  • Red vs. Blue:

    Webcomics 
  • In Megan Kearney's Beauty and the Beast, Beauty and her two sisters superficially comform to this trope. Virtue is sweet, domestic and motherly, Temperance is a prickly, sharp-tongued intellectual who was a Big Sister Bully to Beauty when they were little, and Beauty, whose temperament lies in-between the two, often feels inferior because she's neither as sweet as Virtue nor as clever as Temperance. All three sisters are more complex than they seem at first glance, though. Virtue's "niceness" can be unintentionally harmful, as she avoids dealing with problems and negative emotions, and encourages her younger sisters to do the same. Temperance truly loves Beauty and is ultimately the one who persuades the family to let Beauty follow her heart when she confesses her love for the Beast to them. And Beauty's balance between sweetness and pragmatism makes her, in their father's words, "the very heart of the family."
  • The Peanut Butter Monster sisters in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! Molly is incredibly sweet and cheerful and wouldn't hurt a fly. Golly is arrogant and paranoid and has a penchant for schemes that border on outright villainy. Jolly is eagerly friendly the way only a very lonely person can be, but she's perfectly capable of dishing out violence if you irritate her enough.
  • The three main male characters in Hypergamouse. Stoke is patient, polite and basically decent (just don't tell Jami he's "nice"). Doof is an unjustifiably arrogant buttinski who thinks he's nice but has a latent vicious streak. Apex has a wandering eye and his internet history is not one to be proud of, but he isn't malicious or abusive. Additionally, he is willing and able to refuse, calmly but resolutely, to give Mindy whatever she wants.

    Web Original 
  • On the Dream SMP, we have Ranboo as the mild-mannered and polite Nice Guy, Tommy as the abrasive and hot-headed Jerk with a Heart of Gold (mean), and Tubbo is the friendly yet chaotic In-Between.
  • The Drinking With Goosebumps channel has this trope with the main three guys. Jason is the Nice, Bob is the Mean, and Ned is the In-Between. Jason is usually respectful and understanding when it comes to treating other people and reviewing the books, Bob is very raunchy and obnoxious and has never given any of the books a 10, and Ned can be a little polite but also apathetic towards the books and Jason.
  • In Noob, the main guild has its male membership consist of Sparadrap, poster boy for Kindhearted Simpleton, Omega Zell who's both a jerk and a bigot and Arthéon, the guild's leader and Only Sane Man.
  • SuperMarioLogan:
    • Cody is the nice one for being smart, sane and calm, the mean one is downplayed with Bowser Junior since he can sometimes throw a fit when he plays with Joseph and Cody along with being cruel to Cody at times, and Joseph is in-between due to sometimes being the sanest at times and being rude to Cody by calling him weird and making fun of him with Junior.
    • The Bowser Junior, Bowser and Chef Pee Pee trio follow this trope too, but this time, Junior's role is different; Junior is the nice one who likes to play with toys and annoys Bowser and Chef Pee Pee, where it's Bowser who's the mean one for yelling at Chef Pee Pee nonstop and causing additional chores for him, beating Junior up and being a trademark Jerkass, while Chef Pee Pee mediates in-between where he's smarter than Bowser and Junior and being much saner than them, but can sometimes act grumpy towards them when they annoy him, even though Bowser and Junior both start it.
    • The Rosalina, Jeffy, and Mario trio follow this trope as well. Rosalina is the nice one for treating Jeffy with respect and sticking up for him if Mario abuses him in any way, Jeffy is the mean one for throwing temper tantrums and generally annoying Mario, and Mario is the in-between one for being the Straight Man who disciplines Jeffy when he misbehaves.

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

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