The mean girl has been a classic Hollywood archetype for years. Chris Hargensen in Carrie. Blair Waldorf in Gossip Girl. Cheryl Blossom in Riverdale. We all know this girl. She's rich, beautiful, and out for emotional blood. On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Cordelia Chase was that girl. She puts the hell in Hellmouth. At the beginning of the series, it seemed like Cordelia's sole purpose was to terrorize the Scooby Gang, save for the times she needed to be rescued. Yet, over the course of the series, Cordelia evolves into a well-rounded, fully developed character.
Her edges never dull; her tongue is so sharp it has the ability to cut and slash as soon as she opens her mouth. But Cordelia also grows to care deeply about others, a trait that grows ten-fold when she moves over to Angel. Throughout her dramatic journey, Cordelia proves that she's one mean girl who should never be underestimated.
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10 Buffy: She Calls Buffy Out When Nobody Else Has The Guts To
Cordelia's had it out for Buffy since she declined to be a Cordette. It's not the first time Buffy's been hit with some harsh words from Cordelia, but it's the first time Cordy's been right. In Season 2, Buffy is still understandably traumatized from having been (briefly) killed by the Master. But taking it out on her friends? Not cool. While Cordelia may outwardly loathe the Scooby Gang, she recognizes that they're great friends who are lucky to have each other.
This is hardly the most pivotal moment of the show, but it's significant because not many people have the guts to stand up to Buffy, the strong and confident Slayer. Though Buffy will go on to have many confrontations with the gang throughout the series, her friends have to work up the guts to call her out. Not Cordelia. In her world, she's the Slayer.
9 Buffy: She Stakes A Vampire
Big whoop, right? Buffy stakes them all the time. Well, Buffy's the Slayer. It's kind of her job. In contrast, Cordelia has precious little incentive for putting her life on the line, but she does it anyway. Even when she was a member of the Scooby Gang, Cordelia was dismissed as dead weight. She certainly wasn't the strongest asset to the group, but she logged a considerable number of hours in the library or driving people around on various missions.
Throughout her Scooby tenure, Cordy never crossed killing a vampire off her list. Sure, she assisted many times, usually as bait, but that was about it. So when she stakes her first vamp on Graduation Day, it really marks her character arc. She has no Slayer strength nor a group of close-knit friends supporting her. Cordelia just kicks undead butt because it's the right thing to do.
8 Angel: She Founds Angel Investigations
Many see the Angel Investigations team as heroes for putting their lives on the line in order to help the helpless. That wasn't Cordelia's motivation for founding the agency. She was just a starving actress who needed a job. It may seem crass to monetize life-saving, but think about it—heroes have to eat, too.
Even if the whole endeavor started out as a way for Cordy to earn a couple bucks, it legitimately helped save a ton of lives. It was also a perpetual thorn in the side of Wolfram & Hart, the evil law firm. Sometimes to help the helpless, you have to help yourself first.
7 Buffy: She Schools Buffy In Loneliness
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is nothing if not a celebration of the outcast. It fully encapsulates what it feels like to be on the fringes. It gives the marginalized not just someone to root for, but an entire group of people. The nerds rule/cool kids drool theme is prevalent throughout most of Season 1...until the show flips that whole notion on its head.
"Out of Mind, Out of Sight" is Buffy's first Cordelia-centric episode. She finds herself in danger when a disgruntled classmate, now invisible, wants to kill her. As the Slayer, Buffy hangs around Cordelia for protection, leading the two enemies to have a heart-to-heart. Cordy confesses that just because she's popular doesn't mean she's not lonely. In fact, sometimes she feels the loneliest around her so-called friends. This is the first time Cordelia shows real depth. The interaction doesn't just humanize her to Buffy; it humanizes her to the viewer as well.
6 Buffy: She Breaks Up With Xander (The Second Time)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is seen as one of the most prominent feminist TV shows of all time, and with good reason. From the Slayer to her friends and even the villains, the females of this show are strong, independent, and powerful. However, as badass as these women may be, many of them have terrible taste in men. For example, every relationship Buffy has could be called problematic.
Of the show's most significant relationships, very few women end things. Often they're waiting to be left. Still, Cordelia is always one to buck the trend and create a new one. When she catches Xander making out with Willow, that's it. Game over. No going back. Of course, before Cordelia has a chance to dump him, she gets impaled. This injury could have taken her life, but instead gives her some fresh perspective: Xander was a terrible boyfriend. The cheating wasn't cool, but that's the least of it. He regularly belittled Cordy and took her for granted. When Cordy dumps you, you stay dumped. Buffy, you should be taking notes.
5 Angel: She Declines An Alternate Reality Where Her Dreams Came True
Most of the Scoobies would be lost without a demon to fight. Cordelia is the opposite. At least, she starts off that way. Even when fighting alongside Buffy, Angel, and the others, one gets the sense that Cordelia would be happy if all the demons just fell off the face of the earth. On Angel, Skip, a demon cast out of the Powers That Be, offers Cordelia the chance to escape her debilitating visions and live the life she always wanted. He rewrites history so that instead of working for Angel, Cordy becomes the famous actress she once aspired to be.
This is all well and fabulous until she discovers that Angel was given the visions instead, which tormented him. Old Cordelia would likely have shrugged this off and continued to live her lavish new life. New Cordelia shows that she really has changed and gets Skip to reverse his magic. As the titular character, people think of Angel as the show's hero but he would be lost without Cordelia.
4 Buffy: She Leaves The Cordettes
This isn't some tantalizing spell dangled in front of Cordelia by some mystical creature; she makes this decision entirely on her own. A Queen Bee can only rule if she has followers, so by Cordy giving hers the kiss-off, she's abdicating the high school throne. Xander is hardly worthy of such a grand gesture, but he's not really the point here.
The point is that the Cordettes are the worst and that nobody should dictate who their friends date. Hellmouth help the person who tries to tell Cordelia Chase what to do. True to ice queen form, when Cordy breaks up with her friends, she takes snarkiness to a higher plane.
3 Angel: She Sacrifices Herself To Stop Jasmine
When a person is willing to die for the good of the world, they truly become a hero. When Jasmine possesses Cordelia, the world is truly in danger. Using Cordelia as a host, Jasmine was able to manipulate Angel and the others into removing Angel's soul. The only way to force Jasmine out of Cordelia is to reduce Cordy to a vegetative state.
The spell is performed and she's rendered comatose. A vision temporarily allows Cordelia to wake from her coma. Her time back on Earth is memorable, heartbreaking, and all too short. She dies in order to become a higher power. You're welcome.
2 Buffy And Angel: She Tells It Like It Is
There's a thin line between brutal honesty and downright meanness, and Cordelia flirts with it constantly. However, sometimes people need an ice-cold splash of reality, and that's especially true for those in the saving-the-world business. A lot of the time, Cordy's lack of a filter is used primarily for comedic effect. A perfect example is in "Earshot", when Buffy hears people's thoughts and every one of Cordy's is spoken aloud moments later.
Sometimes, Cordelia's straight-forwardness makes her the voice of the audience; when she laments that human sacrifices are almost always female virgins, for instance. Bottom line, when it comes to fighting bad guys, there's no time to beat around the bush. Cordelia thinks it, she says it. It's her way.
1 Angel: She Becomes Vision Girl
What is this, Bizarro World? When Doyle dies, he passes his gift of visions off to Cordelia. Isn't she one of the most selfish people on the planet, though? This makes no sense. Or does it? Before he died, Doyle was in love with Cordelia, and saw the big heart she so often hides from the rest of the world. When she receives the visions, Cordelia becomes the ultimate empathizer because she can actually feel the pain of what others are going through.
In retrospect, Doyle could have used a little more foresight. He was a half-demon, whereas Cordelia is mortal and doesn't have the magical strength to handle the visions. But throughout the excruciating pain, Cordelia is more determined than ever to help protect and rescue others. She is a true champion.