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'Beverly Hills, 90210' epic showdown: Brenda vs. Kelly

Has there ever been a rivalry as fierce as Beverly Hills, 90210’s Brenda Walsh and Kelly Taylor? Perhaps these characters spent more time as friends than enemies, but their fans have been embattled in an intense competition for over two decades. Many viewers of the show had a favorite from the beginning, but it wasn’t until Brenda left for France and Dylan found comfort in Kelly’s arms that the great divide truly formed. It comes down to more than who makes the better partner for Dylan (though that’s a big part of it).

Who was the better woman? Brenda may have only been around for four seasons, but to her loyal followers, that was enough. For others, Kelly’s always been the girl, and her longevity only helped seal her fate as the reigning queen of the ZIP code.

Here, EW Community writers Tamar Barbash (Team Brenda) and Joanna Skrabala (Team Kelly) hash it out.

Who’s your pick? Make sure to vote!

BRENDA WALSH

Brenda walshFrom the moment the Walsh family arrived in Beverly Hills, Brenda Walsh won the hearts of girls (and boys) across America. A stark contrast to the snobby blondes of her fancy new neighborhood, Brenda was the girl next door whom everyone could relate to.

Watching Brenda adjust to life in California was exhilarating. It was the ultimate fantasy; the cool (rich) friends, the hot guys, the insanely fabulous ’90s clothes. Brenda’s successes in Beverly Hills felt like wins for all of us. Nothing was more exciting than her first date with Dylan McKay.brenda dylan

It wasn’t just about getting the guy. Brenda’s relationship with Dylan signified that she was making a real home for herself. Where she once stood out as a foreigner, she now truly fit in. As the years went on, Brenda’s relationship with Dylan provided her with many obstacles to overcome. A pregnancy scare (which forced her to slow things down with Dylan—he was DEVASTATED); Dylan’s struggles with substance abuse; her parents’ growing disapproval of the relationship.

The unrest between Brenda and her parents led to some less-than-wise decisions on Brenda’s part, including sneaking off to Mexico and ultimately moving in with Dylan. Even as Brenda behaved like a child, it was easy to empathize with her. The deep love that she and Dylan shared was so blatantly obvious, it was impossible not to be angry at the Walshes for getting in the way.brenda dylan gif

In addition to her compelling relationship with Dylan, Brenda was appealing on her own. Her passion for acting was one of the best (and most consistent) parts of the character, and her performance as “Lavoine” will go down as one of the greatest scenes in 90210 history. Brenda also worked hard to get through some terrifying ordeals—including a breast cancer scare and being held at gunpoint at the Peach Pit.

Still, it was Kelly and Dylan’s betrayal that was the hardest for Brenda to overcome. Going to France for the summer seemed like the perfect opportunity for Brenda and Dylan to get some space. Who could have predicted that Brenda’s “best friend” would move right in? Kelly’s entire relationship with Dylan was based solely on Kelly taking advantage of Brenda’s absence. Their original union, the night Dylan officially chose Kelly, and their extended courtship throughout the series only happened because Brenda couldn’t be there.

Due to unfortunate real-life circumstances, Brenda’s time in Beverly Hills came to an end after just four seasons. Though the show continued for another six, it never again had the magic of those early years. With a piece missing in the Walsh puzzle—and the loss of the energy and talent that Shannen Doherty brought to the table—90210 began its steady decline. In Brenda’s last shot of the series, she is standing in Dylan’s living room asking him to give her something to come back to. And he does.

Brenda, for the win.

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KELLY TAYLOR

Kelly TaylorIn the beginning, Kelly Taylor was a mere supporting character. She was the blond rich girl from Beverly Hills—the contrast to the supposedly relatable brunette beauty, Brenda Walsh. Kelly was the one you envied, the one who had it all—the money, the clothes, the car. However, in the first season’s “Perfect Mom” episode, we learned that Kelly’s life wasn’t so perfect—and this is where we rightly began our 10-year relationship with this girl.

Let’s be honest—Kelly and Brenda had a “fake” best friend relationship. And things got worse when Kelly became romantically involved with Brenda’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, Dylan … while Brenda was in Paris for the summer. Okay, some might say this was morally reprehensible—how DARE Kelly do that to her friend? But truthfully, by this point, Brenda had morphed into the horrible, grating figure whom everyone remembers—and fans were rooting for a Kelly-Dylan hookup. One of my absolute favorite TV moments of all time is when Kelly and Dylan tell Brenda the truth about their summer fling (WATCH IT NOW). As Brenda gets crushed, it’s delightfully hysterical. I hate you both! Never talk to me again! #SorryNotSorry

kelly-dylanBut enough Brenda bashing (as fun as it is)—back to Kelly …

As far as TV folks go, Kelly Taylor is definitely in the top 10—maybe top five—for “most tortured characters of all time.” Let’s list out some of her struggles: druggie mother; absentee father who makes promises he can’t keep; body issues (she ODs on diet pills); severely burned in a fire; joins a cult; gets kidnapped and almost murdered by a stalker; is cheated on by BRANDON; suffers from her own drug addiction; has a miscarriage; becomes the victim of rape; and later kills her rapist. Yeesh. The girl bears so much—and yet she pushes forward, and with each trial she becomes a more evolved person.

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So, you have Brenda Walsh, who was essentially written out as the leading lady because no one liked her—and you have Kelly Taylor, who emerged from the sidelines to become our primary girl. While Brenda’s four-season run is totally fun to hate-watch, Kelly was there for the long haul, continually bettering herself as a person—and Jennie Garth as an actress. Plus, let’s not forget—in the bitter end, Kelly got the guy. She wins.

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