When you're a kid, your first heroes usually aren't real people; they're relatable characters from TV shows. Looking back, there were so many amazing female characters worthy of looking up to on the small screen. And while some of these might have been actual heroes, like Sailor Moon, many of them were just outspoken, spunky preteens who had plenty of embarrassing growing pains that hit close to home. From Lizzie McGuire being forced to tell her mom she wants a bra in front of her friends and family, to Spinelli from Recess having to deal with her complex feelings after her first kiss, there were so many television characters and moments that helped guide kids through those awkward tween years.
Back then, many of the most popular TV shows actually showed some very realistic, painful experiences like dealing with heartbreak, insecurities, bullying, and family matters. But yes, many of the most relatable characters on TV did have some incredible, enviable experiences, like Lizzie kissing Aaron Carter, or Raven in That’s So Raven having psychic powers. But we also ended up learning so much from their experiences and feeling less alone after watching them go through the same things we were going through. These 17 characters will remind you just how relatable and groundbreaking they actually were.
1. Clarissa ('Clarissa Explains It All')
Clarissa walked so Lizzie McGuire could run, so to speak. She was super relatable when it came to her narrating her experiences with boys, pimples, applying for college, and dealing with an annoying little brother.
2. Lizzie McGuire ('Lizzie McGuire')
Lizzie definitely had plenty of amazing experiences, with everything that happens to her in The Lizzie McGuire Movie being the ultimate dream. But she was also so accessible as she dealt with bullies and finding herself during her teen years.
3. Tia and Tamera ('Sister Sister')
Okay, so the whole being separated at birth and then reuniting thing is definitely not part of typical adolescence, but they do go through some super relatable stuff on the show, including adjusting to a new school, boys, sibling drama, and other teen woes.
4. Topanga ('Boy Meets World')
Topanga evolves a lot throughout the show, but she's relatable from the start as the class outcast. She's always a driven, outspoken teen who tries not to care about what anyone thinks about her—even though that's challenging at times.
5. Ginger ('As Told By Ginger')
Ginger became a very empathetic character for anyone who has dealt with divorced parents as she tries to navigate how to deal with her parents' separation. Plus, her ambitions of wanting to be one of the popular girls while dealing with teenage insecurity feels so real.
6. Spinelli ('Recess')
Spinelli showed anyone who was a tomboy growing up that it's perfectly fine to eschew gender stereotypes by embracing her tough attitude and love for wresting. Plus, who can't relate to her constantly being embarrassed by her family?
7. Sailor Moon
Okay, yes, she saves the world. But Sailor Moon remains extremely accessible as she deals with body image issues, boys, and other stuff we still all struggle with.
8. Moze ('Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide')
Moze wasn't the most popular girl in school. She was just trying to survive high school with her friends, while having a crush on a cute jock who was totally wrong for her. What's more relatable than that?
9. Ren ('Even Stevens')
Ren represented all the overachievers who strive to be the best at everything, yet still have to deal with insecurities and not having their hard work be appreciated.
10. Lor ('The Weekenders')
Like Spinelli, Lor showed that it's totally okay to be a tomboy, and that it shouldn't make you feel any different from other girls.
11. Addie ('Unfabulous')
Addie's boy-crazy tendencies and trying to fit in at school make her one of the most relatable Nickelodeon characters ever.
12. Raven ('That's So Raven')
Though Raven being a psychic wasn't something many tweens have to deal with, she became a total icon of a character as she dealt with bullies, family drama, and even racial discrimination.
13. Penny ('The Proud Family')
Penny's way of trying to get through high school while dealing with bullies and so many responsibilities is super relatable. Plus, her desire for independence while dealing with her family still seeing her as a kid is something many can identify with.
14. Maddie ('Suite Life Of Zack And Cody')
Anyone who had to spend their teen years working a stressful job can relate to Maddie's struggle. Plus, who can't identify with her using sarcasm as a coping mechanism?
15. Lisa Simpson ('The Simpsons')
For some young people, Lisa Simpson marked their first introduction to feminism and progressive political views. If you related to her back in the day, you surely still strongly identify with her now.
16. Taina ('Taina')
Taina's big dreams of becoming a star, while dealing with mean girls, boy problems, and other teenage woes made her someone that kids could look up to.
17. Daria ('Daria')
You might not have gotten Daria then, but chances are you definitely consider her to be relatable now. Her frustrations with how simple-minded her peers could be, while also dealing with friend issues and relationships, still resonate strongly in adulthood. Plus, Daria has some killer one-liners you'll want to adopt.
Even though you're an adult now, there's still so many ways you can relate to these pivotal kids' TV characters.