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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 gentlea 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."

Anime & Manga

Comic Books

Fan Works

Films- Animation

  • Mulan: Out of the Comic Trio, Gentle Giant Chien-Po is the nice one, Yao is the mean one, short in temper as he is in stature and wise-cracking Ling is the in-between.
  • 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.

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.

Literature

Live-Action TV

  • Doctor Who: The Paternoster Gang qualify for this. Jenny is a Nice Girl, albeit a bit sarcastic, Strax is a Trigger Happy, Anti-Heroic Blood Knight and Vastra is kind-hearted but also aloof and prone to Brutal Honesty. This is justified, however, as Jenny is just a normal human, while Vastra and Strax are a Silurian and Sontaran, respectively, two hostile aliens who only became good as a result of the Doctor's influence.
  • Father Ted: The three main priests. Dougal is a Kindhearted Simpleton (with emphasis on the 'simpleton'), Jack is a drunken, obnoxious Jerkass and Ted himself is smug and corrupt but still a saint in comparison to Jack.
  • How I Met Your Mother: The three main male characters, 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.
  • The Middle: The studious, inoffensive Brick and spirited, encourager Sue; the vain, pompous, opinionated and tyrannical 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.
  • 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.

Video Games

Web Original

Western Animation

  • 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, alternating between keeping Pesto in check and getting a good laugh at Pesto beating up Squit.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The main trio consisting of Aang, Katara, and Sokka. 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 and 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.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: The show's main male operatives: Numbuhs 1, 2 and 4. Numbuh 2 is easily the nice one out of the three boys, since he always cracks one joke too many, much to the annoyance of Numbuh 5, let alone everyone else at Gallagher Elementary School. Numbuh 4 would easily be the mean one, since he had always been labeled a bully, as noted in the episodes Operation: F.U.T.U.R.E. and M.A.T.A.D.O.R., not to mention his hatred for Rainbow Monkeys and the time he accidentally destroyed Numbuh 3's Mr. Huggykins doll. Numbuh 1 is in-between, being that he is the leader of his sector.
  • Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy: The Eds: 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 in-between, 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.
  • 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.
    • Mom's sons. Oldest brother Walt is the mean one (frequently abusing the other two), Igner is the dumbest but nicest one, and sniveling and shy Larry is the inbetween.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: Jackie (nice), Uncle (mean), and Jade (in-between).
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