The 2000s was a decade filled with juicy teen dramas, from shows that featured affluent teen queens residing everywhere from Orange County, California, to New York City's Upper East Side. In honor of Rachel Bilson's 40th birthday on Aug. 25, 2021, Wonderwall.com is taking a look at our favorite female teen characters from '00s teen dramas… Rachel's "The O.C." character, Summer Roberts, was introduced to us as Seth Cohen's (Adam Brody) object of affection and Marissa Cooper's (Mischa Barton) best friend. Though the character was initially meant to be a minor one, Rachel's charisma led to more screen time. Over the course of the series, we saw Summer transform from shallow, popular kid to impassioned environmentalist in college. Consistently dishing out biting one-liners ("You know, it only seems like you want me when you can't have me…"), she was the kind of friend you wanted in your corner. Her relationship with Seth was also the best on "The O.C." (We all remember the Spider-Man kiss, right?)
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Serena Van Der Woodsen on "Gossip Girl"
Upper East Side reformed bad girl Serena Van Der Woodsen (Blake Lively) sent the posh neighborhood into a frenzy with her unexpected return in the "Gossip Girl" pilot. Wherever Serena went, drama inevitably followed, from hooking up with her best friend's boyfriend at the time (yikes) to nearly putting her own mother behind bars to partying too hard with illegal substances in a hotel room with her frenemy. If there's one thing we can commend the Park Avenue princess for, though, it's the fact that she spent practically the entire series trying to repair her damaged reputation. And there was also something really sweet about her relationship with Brooklyn's Lonely Boy, Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley). Love knows no boroughs — we mean bounds.
Cordelia Chase on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
From her quippy comebacks to her unmatched sense of style, Cordelia Chase was one of the Buffyverse's best characters. Played expertly by Charisma Carpenter, Cordelia's arc is also among the best we've witnessed — she went from being a superficial popular girl to an integral member of the Scooby Gang (and then of Angel Investigations on the "BTVS" spinoff series "Angel"). Still, despite all the obstacles that were thrown her way (i.e., when Xander was less than faithful to her with Willow), she managed to pick herself back up with grace and continue on. Sunnydale High without Cordy? We couldn't even imagine.
Veronica Mars on "Veronica Mars"
In a sea of teen dramas that give audiences an inside look at the lives of America's most elite zip codes, what makes "Veronica Mars" stand out from the bunch is the perspective through which we entered this world. The series' titular character, played by Kristen Bell, was different from other teen leads of her time — Veronica was snappy, witty and, unlike her ex-boyfriend and on-off flame, was lower middle class. She wasn't the child of a software billionaire or movie star — she was the daughter of a disgraced former sheriff and a runaway mom. Veronica was resilient — she never backed down from a fight — and she didn't care about fitting in. She was her own person with a ton of agency who seldom needed (or wanted) saving.
Brooke Davis on "One Tree Hill"
If there's one fictional character from the aughts who's undergone the most compelling arc, it's Brooke Davis from "One Tree Hill." Brooke, played by Sophia Bush, was easily one of the most complex, down-to-earth characters on any teen drama… period. She started off as an insecure party girl who relied on her looks as a means of validation and ended the series as a self-assured 20-something whose value was no longer derived from meaningless flings. She was passionate, loyal and incredibly self-aware — Brooke recognized she was flawed, and (though sometimes catty) she also owned up to her mistakes. The teen queen afraid of entering the real world-turned-owner of a mega-successful clothing line with a supportive beau to match, B Davis was who we all aspired to be.
Blair Waldorf on "Gossip Girl"
No one knows sabotage quite like Blair Waldorf. Played to perfection on "Gossip Girl" by Leighton Meester, Blair was defined by her status-hungry ways and vengeful schemes. It didn't matter if you were her best friend or the man she was in love with — the moment Blair felt wronged or personally attacked, she'd work ceaselessly to ensure her wrath was felt. While her machinations were entertaining to watch play out, it's the depth of this privileged New Yorker that kept fans hooked. Her manipulative ways were really just a result of her feelings of insufficiency — having long lived in the shadow of her mother, Eleanor, and her golden girl bestie, Serena, everything Blair did was in an effort to stand out. Beneath the diabolical plans and ruthless one-liners was a girl who yearned for validation. She was complex and cunning, and against her better judgment, often led with her heart. Case in point: "Three words, eight letters…. Say it and I'm yours."
Buffy Summers on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
Being the chosen one who fights the forces of darkness is no simple feat, but Buffy Summers made it look easy. Sarah Michelle Gellar played the titular teen in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," a once carefree kid from Los Angeles whose life was turned upside down upon finding out that the fate of the world was on her shoulders. There's a lot to be said about why Buffy is one of if not the most well-crafted female heroine of the early aughts, but if there's one aspect of her character that's to be acknowledged here, it's her sacrifice. Throughout the series, life doesn't get any easier for Buffy — sure, she better learns how to balance her slayer duties with being a regular girl — but the sacrifices she makes on a daily basis still remain. She's kept grounded by the company she keeps, but these people also serve as a reminder of how her life will never be normal. She's tasked with protecting the entire world from utter decimation, and to have that responsibility bestowed on you at 15 sounds completely unbearable — but Buffy trudged along, making the best of a less-than-ideal situation. She really did save the world a lot.
Rory Gilmore on "Gilmore Girls"
Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) isn't without her flaws: She was a major jerk to Dean (Jared Padalecki) when she left him for Jess (Milo Ventimiglia). She made that terrible decision to spend the night with a married Dean later in the series. And she had a falling out with Lorelai after throwing a fit and ditching college. That being said, she still was, for the most part, a smart character with impressively high aspirations. She'd always dreamed of attending an Ivy League college — which she did — and for the majority of the series, her studies and love of books were defining traits. As a young girl, Rory showed that being bookish didn't make you uncool and having big dreams didn't make you delusional. She was as flawed as they come, but perhaps that's why we all loved her — at times, Rory was childish, lost, irrational but her imperfections made her more relatable.
Peyton Sawyer on "One Tree Hill"
Played by Hilarie Burton, "One Tree Hill" character Peyton Sawyer was a '00s poster child for teen angst. From her extensive record collection that included emo artists like Jimmy Eat World to her vulnerable sketches depicting those who'd left her, it was evident from the get-go that she wasn't like the other cheerleaders. She lacked the pep and enthusiasm of your typical high school "it" girl and although her life seemed perfect on the surface, there was a ton of emotional trauma she was dealing with beneath it all. She was a tortured soul (much like her love, Lucas Scott), had killer taste in music and threw a stereotype completely on its head.
Marissa Cooper on "The O.C."
What can be said about Marissa Cooper? Other than the fact that she had serious issues, an incredibly toxic relationship with her mother and a need for rebellion and self-destruction. She's often the punchline of every "The O.C."-related joke (do we all remember the scene where she literally throws a chair into the pool?), but she wasn't all bad. Sure, she was no stranger to making incredibly questionable decisions — i.e., the entire Oliver Trask (Taylor Handley) storyline — but she was actually a really loyal friend and she did love Ryan (Ben McKenzie) a whole lot. Say what you want about Coop, but Mischa Barton's departure from "The O.C." was definitely felt in the final season. Guess Marissa was more essential than we thought.
Jackie Cook on "Veronica Mars"
Though her presence on the hit series "Veronica Mars" might have been short-lived, there was something special about Jackie Cook we won't forget. As the new kid at Neptune High, Jackie (played by Tessa Thompson) initially struggled to find her place in a new environment, though it didn't take long for her to strike up a friendship with Veronica and an eventual friendship-turned-romance with Wallace. Charismatic and well-intentioned, she seemed like the perfect fit for Veronica's bestie! Of course, as we soon learned, Jackie made the decision to leave California and return to New York City to reunite with — surprise! — her 2-year-old son. Alas, she was greatly missed.
Faith Lehane on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
Before season 3 of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," we'd only ever viewed a slayer as a quippy, hardworking teen who handles her responsibilities with a ton of care — it had never crossed our minds that a slayer could be frivolous and blissfully unaware of her blatant disregard for anyone but herself… that is, until Faith (Eliza Dushku) entered the picture. While the Scoobies were initially entranced by her bad-girl antics, it didn't take long for Faith's reckless actions to bring about some serious consequences (i.e., when she staked a human instead of a vamp). From that pivotal point forward, we saw a noticeable shift in the once "five by five" free spirit, and rather than own up to her mistake, she relinquished herself entirely to the dark side. Perhaps her most revealing moment was in the season 4 episode "Who Are You," which sees her switch bodies with Buffy. At the episode's climax, we see Faith break down, berating and wailing on Buffy, who is actually in Faith's body. When she returns in the show's final season, it's clear that the once lost teenager had found her way… or at the very least, was trying to.
Tyra Collette on "Friday Night Lights"
In a world of Lyla Garritys, be a Tyra Collette! Played by Adrianne Palicki "Friday Night Lights," Tyra was beloved for her fiery personality — she was unapologetically herself and couldn't care less about what anyone else thought of her and her family. She seldom backed down from a face-off with even Dillon, Texas's most cherished darlings (ahem, Lyla), and as the series progressed, we witnessed her transition from frivolous bad girl to hardworking college student. The first of her family to get a college education, Tyra proved that where you come from is no deterrent to who you can actually be.
Amy Abbott on "Everwood"
On "Everwood," girl next door Amy Abbott (Emily VanCamp) was forced to leave her glamorous New York City life to move to a small town in Colorado. From her relationship with Colin (Mike Erwin) that ended in tragedy to her angst-ridden relationship with enemy-turned-lover Ephram (Gregory Smith), there was no shortage of drama in this young teen's life. Still, with all that she'd been through, Amy managed to overcome whatever was thrown at her. Among the most notable instances of this was her season 2 arc — "Everwood" showed teenage depression in a way that felt true to life.
Liz Parker on "Roswell"
Played to perfection by Shiri Appleby, "Roswell" lead Liz Parker has long been regarded as many fans' favorite character of the series — and for good reason! As well as being academically gifted and striving to become a scientist, Liz exhibits strength, loyalty and compassion. She's beautifully imperfect — she doesn't always have it together but she continues to carry on even in the most difficult and darkest of times.
Paris Geller on "Gilmore Girls"
Competitive, hardworking and incredibly ruthless if you ever posed a threat to her academic future, Paris Geller (Liza Weil) was Rory's foe-turned-loyal companion on "Gilmore Girls." In earlier seasons, Paris took it upon herself to show the youngest Gilmore girl that crossing her would result in some serious repercussions. She was a refreshing addition to the show because she was all about making her own dreams come true. She hated the idea of dating and didn't want to be saddled by any romantic relationships — yes, she did fall victim to love's relentless ways at different points in the series, but she was a character who always prided herself on her intelligence and self-sufficiency. She was strong-willed, quick-witted and had a persistence that was truly unmatched.
Felicity Porter on "Felicity"
OK, so maybe completely forgoing your college plans so you can follow your high school crush to New York City isn't the most rational thing to do… but Felicity Porter at least owns up to it! Keri Russell played the titular role on the J.J. Abrams series — a recent high school grad who, after having what appears to be her first actual conversation with longtime crush Ben Covington (Scott Speedman), makes the radical decision to say "no" to Stanford pre-med and "hello" to the Big Apple. Of course, even in the pilot we come to realize that Felicity was running away from something (the control of her parents) just as much as she was running toward something else (the idea of Ben). Over the course of the series, we were given an inside look at Felicity's neurosis and the decisions that came from her introspection. She goes from a naive, lovestruck teen to an empowered 20-something, having learned that while getting the guy might be cool, there's more to life than chasing after someone in hopes that they one day decide to want you back.
Willow Rosenberg on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
Sunnydale's most beloved Wiccan, Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan), has long been a fan favorite on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." When we first met her, she was a shy, bookish teen who thought even Buffy didn't want to befriend her. But as the series went on, she established herself as an imperative member of the Scooby Gang. While Willow's inherent charm and earnest ways were among her most cherished qualities, it was her turn to the dark side in the show's sixth season that stands out. After losing Tara (Amber Benson), the love of her life, Willow fully leaned into her dangerous addiction to magic. Intelligent, conflicted and capable of going rogue, she was one of the Buffyverse's most compelling characters. Her relationship with Tara also broke boundaries — they were one of American television's first on-screen lesbian couples.
Naomi Clark on "90210"
Like many of the former bad girls on this list, AnnaLynne McCord's Naomi Clark on "90210" is another character who revealed herself to be way more than meets the eye. Despite initially being perceived as a shallow, self-absorbed rich girl on the series, Naomi proved that she was actually a pretty loyal friend. And while she's certainly unafraid to use manipulative tactics as a means of exacting revenge when she feels she's been wronged, she still arguably inhibits the show's most complex character. Love her or hate her, Naomi Clark does what it takes to survive — whether that means acting with kindness or taking ruthless measures whenever she sees fit.
Haley James Scott on "One Tree Hill"
From tutor girl to an international rock star, Haley James Scott (Bethany Joy Lenz) accomplished more before senior year than many do in a lifetime. While she's another "One Tree Hill" character who has certainly made her fair share of mistakes (basically all of her questionable interactions with Chris Keller in season 2), it's the fact that she returned home to Tree Hill to try to make amends with the people she hurt most that counts. Giving up a burgeoning career in music in an attempt to repair her failing marriage? We gotta give credit where credit is due!
Jen Lindley on "Dawson's Creek"
Everyone loves a reformed bad girl! From the moment we met her, it was clear that Jen Lindley (Michelle Williams) would make waves in the otherwise lackluster fictional port city in Cape Cod on "Dawson's Creek." Complex, cool and quippy, she wasn't afraid to speak her mind even if that meant suffering consequences. Still, she was able to shed her rebellious ways though unfortunately met a tragic, truly unfair end.