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Are You There God? It’s Margarets, Ranked

Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos: ABC, Columbia Pictures, Lionsgate, Fox, Walt Disney

Puberty, periods, and preteen angst: not exactly Hollywood’s favorite subjects, yet all three are out in full force in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, the new movie based on Judy Blume’s classic novel. Relative newcomer Abby Ryder Fortson stars as the titular sixth-grader, a thoughtful, good-natured 11-year-old trying to figure out who she is during a tumultuous time in her life. Margaret may not be your typical onscreen heroine; she couldn’t be easier to root for.

But is she the best Margaret? That’s up for debate. Over the decades, a plethora of fictional Margarets (and Maggies, Megs, and Peggys) have graced our film and TV screens, from zombie-fighting warriors to thumb-sucking babies and everyone in between. Really, it’s Margaret’s world, we’re just living in it — but here’s how each of these characters with the moniker stacks up, Blume’s Margaret Simon included.

20. Margaret “Maggie” Walsh (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Portrayed by: Lindsay Crouse

Oh, Professor Walsh. At first, she seems fairly cool, the kind of ultrasmart, take-no-prisoners professor everyone at least respects, if not likes. But then she has to go and start creating part-demon, part-machine super-soldiers. When Buffy gets a bit too close to her dangerous secret plans, she sets some of those monsters on our girl to try to kill her. In the end, it’s Walsh who gets killed by Adam, one of her own creations, before he escapes the lab and causes all sorts of chaos. Couldn’t you have just kept on teaching psychology at UC Sunnydale, professor?

19. Margaret Wade (Dennis the Menace)

Portrayed by: Nicole Eggert (1980), Jeannie Elias (1986–2002)

A bratty, spoiled, self-absorbed kid who takes fun in messing around with Dennis’s feelings, Margaret Wade deserves one of the lowest rankings on our list. She gets a bit of leeway for being, well, a child and a cartoon one at that. Even so, Margaret’s the real menace here.

18. Margaret Tate (The Proposal)

Portrayed by: Sandra Bullock

As much as it pains us to rank any Sandra Bullock character this low, Margaret in The Proposal is pretty awful. At the beginning of the 2009 rom-com, she’s a demanding, intimidating publishing boss with no work-life balance to speak of and a litany of employees who hate her guts, including one she blackmails into getting married. By the end of the movie, she’s no less terrible, just slightly more open about her flaws and no longer in fear of being deported to Canada. Why the far-superior Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) chooses to stay with her is a mystery.

17. Margaret “Racetrack” Edmondson (Battlestar Galactica)

Portrayed by: Leah Cairns

A dark, bitter pilot with a not-so-subtle racist streak, Margaret “Racetrack” Edmonson isn’t exactly a barrel of fun during her tenure on the mid-aughts Syfy series. Over the course of her 30-odd episodes, Racetrack does some important work, like blowing up a Cylon Basestar and volunteering to serve as ECO, but her cynical, make-no-friends attitude doesn’t win her any favors. At least she (kind of) redeems herself in death by accidentally firing nukes that destroy the Cylons’ home base. She does save humanity, which would be a pro for a Margaret ranking, but it isn’t on purpose so it’s hard to give her too much credit. Thanks, I guess?

16. Margaret “Peg” Bundy (Married … With Children)

Portrayed by: Katey Sagal

All hail Peg Bundy, the queen of demanding everything and giving nothing. She refuses to take care of the house and instead spends her time binging TV and eating bonbons. She has money to spend but prefers to steal people’s purses. She’s so averse to hard work that she was once called “the laziest bitch in Chicago,” and she never runs out of insults for her husband. She’s a feminist anti-hero for the ages, emphasis on the anti.

15. Margaret “Meg” March (Little Women)

Portrayed by: Janet Leigh (1949), Trini Alvarado (1994), Emma Watson (2019), and more

Let’s be honest: Meg is the most boring of the March sisters. Jo’s a headstrong writer, Amy’s a self-assured artist, and even Beth’s a sweet peacemaker, but Meg’s just … Meg. She’s known for her beauty, her maturity, and not much else. Even when brought to life onscreen in multiple adaptations, she remains just as unremarkably bland. Sorry, Meg.

14. Margaret “Maggie” Pierce (Grey’s Anatomy)

Portrayed by: Kelly McCreary

A cardiothoracic surgeon who joined Grey’s back in Season ten (and just wrapped her last episode), Maggie is a lot. She’s an impressively smart, ambitious, and passionate doctor who would do anything for her patients and her sisters, Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Amelia (Caterina Scorsone). But she’s neurotic, condescending, and so hyperfocused on her job that she’s willing to lose her marriage over it. Maggie may not be the person you want to grab a beer with, though she’s certainly the one you’d want in the operating room.

13. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan (M*A*S*H)

Portrayed by: Loretta Swit

Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, the head nurse and highest-ranking female officer of the 4077th, is a complicated woman: stern, disapproving, and generally anti-fun if it’s not the service of getting her own way. A bit of a hypocrite, she maintains a prudish attitude about others yet has no qualms about using her sex appeal to get ahead (as with the tryst that earns her the nickname). Over time, the character mellows a bit, revealing an inner loneliness and insecurity that lets her finally make some friends and not be such a constant buzzkill.

12. Margaret Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility)

Portrayed by: Emilie François

While Margaret, the youngest Dashwood daughter, has a fairly minor role in the 1995 Sense and Sensibility adaptation, she makes a notable impact — thanks in large part to star and writer Emma Thompson’s decision to expand the role from Jane Austen’s novel. As a more curious and studious teenager, this version of Margaret asks her sisters the tough questions about romance, womanhood, and societal expectations, and she isn’t always pleased with the answers. We feel for ya, Margaret.

11. Margaret “Maggie” Sheffield (The Nanny)

Portrayed by: Nicholle Tom

Maggie is a good kid. The eldest Sheffield daughter starts off the series as an awkward introvert afraid of most social interactions because of her father’s overprotectiveness. But when Fran (Fran Drescher) enters the picture, the teen comes out of her shell and ends up a vivacious, confident woman who marries an underwear model who’s related to Barbra Streisand. Not a bad character arc!

10. Margaret Simon (Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret)

Portrayed by: Abby Ryder Fortson

In both Judy Blume’s beloved 1970 novel and the new film adaptation, Margaret is a smart, curious, kindhearted preteen with the same goals as any kid her age: to fit in, be happy, and not die from embarrassment. She’s not perfect — her insecurities cause her to pick on another girl in her grade, she cares too much about what others think, and it takes her a long time to find her sense of self — but who is at 11? Margaret means well, and for the most part, she succeeds. Plus, by the end of the movie (very minor, 40-year-old spoiler alert), she has apologized to the girl she bullied and has (mostly) stopped comparing herself to everyone around her, finally content to be her own, perfectly good-enough self. Margaret would be fine with being the tenth-best Margaret.

9. Margaret “Kit” Kittredge (Kit Kittredge: An American Girl)

Portrayed by: Abigail Breslin

Samantha and Molly may get the most recognition from American Girl fans, but Kit — the Depression-era doll played by Breslin in the 2008 screen adaptation — deserves a spotlight of her own. At 10 years old, she’s an aspiring journalist who publishes her own newspaper full of gossip about her neighbors’ various crimes and goings-on. Does it get her in trouble? Of course. Should someone be babysitting her? Definitely. But you gotta root for a girl who knows what she wants and goes after it from a tender age, in killer print dresses to boot.

8. Margaret “Maggie” Simpson (The Simpsons)

Portrayed by: Nancy Cartwright

Yes, Maggie is a baby. And no, she doesn’t talk. But somehow, she’s still the secret weapon of The Simpsons. There’s much more to Maggie than her trademark pacifier and tendency to trip and fall on her own clothes with a thump. She may secretly be the smartest member of the family. (Sorry, Lisa.) And of course, there’s the time she shot Mr. Burns after he tried to steal her candy during his attempt to block out the sun in Springfield and make the citizens rely on his nuclear plant. For that action alone, she wins our utmost respect.

7. Margaret “Meg” Murray (A Wrinkle in Time)

Portrayed by: Storm Reid

Although Ava DuVernay’s 2018 adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time didn’t win over many critics, its protagonist, 13-year-old Meg Murray, is a heroine worth celebrating. A brilliant but insecure teen who rankles at even a whisper of authority, Meg is no pushover. During her universe-crossing journey to find her missing father, she learns to silence her inner critic and take pride in her cleverness and uniqueness. Sure, the movie may not hold a candle to Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 novel, but thanks in no small part to Storm Reid’s portrayal of the inspirational Meg, it’s still well worth a watch.

6. Margaret Hooper (The West Wing)

Portrayed by: NiCole Robinson

The senior assistant to chief of staff Leo McGarry (John Spencer), Margaret is one of the most entertaining characters on The West Wing. Her eccentric, unpredictable personality may occasionally grate on Leo’s nerves (as when she eavesdrops on meetings and “practices” the president’s signature), but her clear competency at her job and her high intelligence make her beloved by all, even after Leo sadly passes away. And while Margaret never becomes a main character, her presence improves every scene she’s in — even when she’s off-camera, nosily listening from behind a wall.

5. Margaret

Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan

There may not be any actual character named Margaret in Kenneth Lonergan’s 2011 masterpiece — the film’s name comes from a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem about youth and death that’s a topic of discussion in Lisa’s (Anna Paquin) English class — but we’re ranking Margarets, and by golly if Margaret isn’t a great Margaret! A psychological drama about the aftermath of a New York City high schooler witnessing a stranger’s sudden death, Margaret is a stunning, unforgettable look at grief, trauma, and coming of age. Its star-studded cast also features Allison Janney, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, and not one but two future Succession stars, Kieran Culkin and J. Smith-Cameron. What’s not to love?

4. Margaret “Maggie” Greene (The Walking Dead)

Portrayed by: Lauren Cohan

Maggie may start out the AMC series sheltered and unhelpful to the others, but time and the apocalypse eventually turn her into a skilled fighter who knows how to be a true leader. Her romance with Glenn (Steven Yeun) serves to soften her edges too, while still giving her room to be a badass, strong-willed commander who will do whatever it takes to survive. Of all The Walking Dead’s characters, Maggie experiences perhaps the most growth over the series, as aided by Cohan’s excellent, nuanced performance. Seeing her (spoiler) end the show coming out on top in the leadership position she has so earned? That feels damn good.

3. Margaret “Peggy” Carter (the Marvel Cinematic Universe)

Portrayed by: Hayley Atwell

A no-nonsense, tough-as-nails member of S.H.I.E.L.D. who’s always dressed to perfection, Peggy is a Marvel fan favorite. It doesn’t hurt that she’s the one true love of Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America (Chris Evans) — and his equal. Unlike many romantic interests in the MCU, she’s no damsel in distress or one-dimensional side character but a fully-formed human whose inner strength and determination not to be underestimated act as her superpowers. We can sing Peggy’s praises all day.

2. Margaret “Peggy” Hill (King of the Hill)

Portrayed by: Kathy Najimy

Is Peggy perfect? Absolutely not. She’s as stubborn as they come, always refusing to back down even when she’s clearly in the wrong; she gets angry when people challenge her and then takes it out on her well-meaning loved ones; she’s severely narcissistic and obsessed with her image and self-worth; and to top it all off, she’s certainly not the sharpest crayon in the box. But does any of that really matter when she’s so damn likable? Regardless of her faults, it’s impossible not to root for Peggy. She’s devoted to her family, strong as anything, and, occasionally, she’s even right.

1. Margaret “Peggy” Olson (Mad Men)

Portrayed by: Elisabeth Moss

Another Peggy takes the top spot on our list, and it’s none other than Mad Men’s beloved secretary turned copywriter and all-around icon Peggy Olson. With her refusal to be treated as less than the men she works with, her genius marketing ideas that lead her to finally be taken seriously, and her totally enviable outfits, everything about Peggy is utter perfection — including her forever memed walk through the hallways with a cigarette in her mouth and a box in her hands containing a NSFW Japanese woodcut and other trinkets. There’s no one cooler than Peggy, and while she may not realize that at the beginning of the series, she certainly does by the end. That’s why she’s both our top Margaret and one of our all-time favorite TV characters.

Are You There God? It’s Margarets, Ranked