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Anime and Manga
- Prussia from Axis Powers Hetalia is hinted to be this.
- Asuka Langley Soryu from Neon Genesis Evangelion has a volatile temper and a massive Superiority Complex in order to compensate for the Parental Neglect she suffered at the hands of her mother who is The Ophelia. A whole new level of trauma is heaped on her when she found her mother's hanging body on the very day she became an Eva pilot.
- Naruto: Both Naruto and his best friend/enemy Sasuke have cases of this. Naruto is loud and boastful because he needs someone, anyone, to notice him as a person and not a thing. Sasuke, meanwhile, grew up in the shadow of his genius older brother, and arrogant pride in his own talent covers up some massive insecurity.
- Despite Oluo's arrogance in Attack on Titan, he greatly respects Levi (to the point of mimicking Levi's appearance and speaking style) and is very attached to his teammates.
- Under his sour exterior and massive ego, Rin Matsuoka from Free! is a deeply wounded young man who can barely cope with his father's death.
- The title character of Space Dandy is pretty much an alien hunting Johnny Bravo. He is also very principled when it comes to his job, refusing to take in sentient aliens because they usually have troubles of their own.
- Tenka from Laughing Under the Clouds is larger than life, and everyone loves him for it, but despite his ridiculously confident and carefree behavior he's actually deeply afraid of becoming a burden to his family and being hated and/or forgotten.
- Spider-Man has J. Jonah Jameson. Behind his gruff, skinflint exterior, Marvel has established that his hatred of Spider-Man stems from the fact that deep down, he knows Spidey is a selfless hero, and the fact that he can't compare makes him jealous. This close-up first happened towards the end of Amazing Spider-Man #1. I.e., he got his Big Ego, Hidden Depths in the issue he was introduced.
- In the "Spider-Island" story from 2011, JJ (like most of New York) temporarily gained spider-powers; he used them to help Spidey out in one fight, and at the end of the storyline he lights the windows of the Empire State Building in red and blue as a grudging "thank you".
- In one of his animated appearances, he argued that if Spider-Man was really a hero, he wouldn't need to hide his face with a mask — and backed this up by going out on the streets himself to track down a story.
- In Ultimate Spider-Man, it was established that Jameson disliked costumed heroes because his son died on a mission to the moon with relatively little fanfare. Jameson saw his son as a real hero and vigilantes as glory-hounds by comparison. Later, he came around and realized that Spider-Man and at least some heroes actually were the real deal.
- In the main Marvel continuity, it was made clear during a storyline about quasi-governmental crackdown on mutants that even though Jameson dislikes costumed heroes and is a borderline bigot against people with powers, he's genuinely reverential of rule of law and due process. His speech in that issue was so well-written that it almost justified the idea that he just doesn't like people taking the law into their own hands. Almost.
- Young Avengers also suggests that Jameson's hatred of superheroes stems from the fact that as a child, he idolized Captain America's Kid Sidekick Bucky. When Bucky was killed near the end of World War II (something Jameson saw as Cap's fault), Jonah became bitter and disillusioned with the very idea of costumed heroes.
- Also, the film version of Jameson doesn't hesitate to risk himself to protect others. He may be a cheapskate, hate Spidey, and have one hell of a mouth on him, but he's not all bad.
- Many RWBY fics interpret Weiss as this, if they don't change her character entirely. Weiss is rather petty and cruel in canon, so some changes from this outline are necessary to make her a sympathetic character.
- Advice and Trust: Shinji used to think that Asuka was an arrogant -although intelligent and brave- girl. Then they had a heart-to-heart talk and he found out about her painful past, her deep traumas, her nightly nightmares, and her feelings of inadequacy, helplessness and loneliness.
- Doing It Right This Time: After returning to the past, Shinji and Rei know that Asuka's bragging is a front to cover deep-seated issues and insecurities, so they try not to set her off (and she tries to be calmer and more open).
- Evangelion 303: Asuka seems obnoxiously arrogant and prideful, but in reality she's a very insecure person with trust issues (and it's implied that she attempted to kill herself before the beginning of the story). In a scene Misato tells that Asuka can look strong, but she's very fragile.
- In Ghosts of Evangelion Asuka comes across as a bad-tempered, selfish, irrational girl… though she's a certified genius and a soldier since she was four, survived the end of the world…
Asuka: You always gotta one-up me, eh?
Shinji: Says the woman who's fluent in three languages, has two Ph.D.s, and does guest lectures at MIT and Harvard and other places on a regular basis.
- HERZ: Asuka is a temperamental, prideful, boisterous woman, and some people wonder why Shinji married her. However she is a very fragile person who suffered terribly due to her mother's madness and suicide and her father abandonment, and Shinji knows that she is the only person who can understand him and help him.
- In Necessary To Win, Hiroe, like in Saki, is quite full of herself, yet also good-hearted (although as a tank commander, rather than a mahjong player). Here, it's revealed that she also cares for her teammates, because she believes that they're trying their best, and that she's good enough to make up for any mistakes they make. She also hopes to win against the Nishizumi school, both because it would be proof of her greatness, and because she wants to prove that Shiho's ruthless methods don't guarantee success.
- Trixie from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is typically portrayed in this manner in Fanon.
- In quite a number of Avatar: The Last Airbender fanfics, Zuko is portrayed as his usual arrogant self, but deep inside is actually desperate to regain his title as Crown Prince to protect the Fire Nation from the rule of his ruthless younger sister, Azula.
- In Thousand Shinji, Asuka has -apparently- a big ego, but Shinji thinks that she's earned the right to gloat because she was a beautiful, intelligent woman, an excellent warrior and a mecha pilot who had risen from her ashes after going through Hell when she was three.
- Asuka from Children of an Elder God came across to other people like as an arrogant, brash girl, but when they knew her a little better, most of them realized that she was trying to mask her insecurities and psychological issues, and she could be real nice.
- The Second Try: Asuka. Few people could guess that boastful, cranky, rash, childish teenager is in reality a mature young wife and mother who is trying to save the same world who took her family away from her again.
- In Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide, after having a long talk with Asuka about their mothers, where she tells him about her mother's death, her father remarrying and ditching her, her abandonment and loneliness issues... Shinji thinks her ego and anger issues are only a mask and she's more complex than people credits her for.
- In Last Child of Krypton, Asuka may come across as a braggart, but in Shinji’s words “she’s beautiful, smart and nicer than she believes she is.” She’s also the last Amazon.
- In Once More with Feeling, During Third Impact, Shinji saw Asuka’s mind and memories, and understood what she had built an arrogant, boastful, loud persona to hide her real, frightened and traumatized self, and her feelings for him.
- Randal's suddenly dramatic and heartfelt monologue at the climax of Clerks II.
- Mean Girls: Regina George acts like a stereotypical Alpha Bitch for nearly the entire film, but it's revealed by Gretchen that she's got family issues at home (such as her parents having marital problems to the point of sleeping in separate beds) and near the end of the movie, Regina seems genuinely surprised and hurt when she finally realizes just how much her schoolmates (and even some of her teachers) dislike her.
- From the outside, the title character in Eden Green comes off as an egotistical bitch, but since the story is first-person, she is revealed to be very uncomfortable with and afraid of the people around her.
Live Action TV
- WKRP in Cincinnati:
- "Put Up Or Shut Up": Bailey convinces Jennifer to accept a date with Herb in the hope that he'll get scared and back down.
- Lampshaded in the "Real Families" episode, where Herb signs his family up for the eponymous Show Within a Show, and completely fails to make them look good.
- This happened every once in a while with Alex on Family Ties.
- Dan Fielding on Night Court got the treatment a couple times.
- When he was misidentified by a lawyer as the father of a little boy, at first Dan was a complete jerk, but eventually started to warm up to the kid. Even after the mother straightened out the lawyer, Dan still went out of his way to track the little boy down when he ran off and gave the little family a check for $1000. The little boy really wanted a glove for baseball; Dan told him to let his mother handle the rest. She'd know what to do.
- Dan saved Roz's life once. Her blood sugar was too high (she's diabetic), making her act loopy and lost in the courthouse. Dan managed to talk her down from the edge of the courthouse roof and give her needed insulin, even though she half-clobbered him in the process.
- Whenever the Ferengi are featured in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Usually, Quark is the Small Name, Big Ego of the episode.
- Dr. Kelso's "His Story" episode was used as an opportunity to explore some of the softer sides of the character, ending with his character deciding that he was meant to be hated, and was satisfied with his place in the world.
- The Janitor in "His Story III", who spends the entire day keeping a patient with Lock-in Syndrome company, since the computer he used to communicate had broken. He reveals that he originally took the job because hospitals help people and by keeping it clean, he felt like he contributed to that. However because no-one has ever thanked him or made him feel like part of the team, he's become apathetic and pranks people out of sheer boredom.
- Several episodes of the US version of The Office have been dedicated to the fact that Michael Scott is really a sympathetic, nice guy. He's actually a phenomenal salesman... it's just that these skills don't translate well into his managerial position.
- The earlier Sawyer-centric Lost episodes fit, before Character Development made them moot.
- Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Also a former Trope Namers. (Ted Baxter Close-Up) This came about a couple of years after MTM became a success, and Ted Knight became concerned about Baxter becoming a one-dimensional buffoon. As such, the Ted Baxter character soon gained morals, got married and had a family ... all while his on-air buffoonery and over-the-top delivery was de-emphasized and his desire to be the best newscaster (despite his inherent lack of skill) was shown to be driven by more than his inflated ego.
- The episode of Taxi in which Louie loses his job after peeking at Elaine through a hole in the lady's room.
- Happens often on The Colbert Report, and usually results in the character talking himself out of it: "Snap out of it, Colbert!"
- Doctor Who:
- The Doctor, particularly his Sixth and Tenth incarnations. He's usually the smartest person in the room, knows it, and won't bother with much modesty under pressure, to the point that most random groups of people he happens to help out would probably tire of him before he could do them any good if he didn't have his various co-adventurers vouching for him and his usually heroic intentions. For all he might call us "stupid apes" or "pudding brains", he actually finds humanity and its indomitable will to live very impressive and much prefers us to his advanced, but stagnant homeworld. And, like many other examples on this list, he's not quite as confident as he acts and actually capable of quite a lot of self-hatred, especially after the Time War.
- Charles is usually the character that gets this treatment. Examples range from secretly giving candy to the orphanage on Christmas to sitting up with Hawkeye when his father is undergoing surgery back in the states to having an emotional meltdown when the Chinese POWs he was teaching Mozart to got killed.
- Although eventually plagued with Flanderization by the last few years of his run, Frank Burns (Charles' predecessor) could occasionally undergo this. It's revealed that it took the man twice as long to pass medical school as most people, that he mainly became a doctor to satisfy his mother, and that he became a snitch because "it was the only way for people to notice me". In fact, even in the end, his reaction to Margaret's engagement shows the audience that he really feels hurt by the loss of her.
- Foreman on House has moments of this. In "House Training", it's revealed that he acts like a jackass towards the poor or homeless because he knows he's Not So Different from the patient; the realization makes him contemplate what his life could have been and feel like he hasn't deserved anything he got since he started med school. Putting distance between himself and anything that reminds him of his old life is how he keeps himself from contemplating this.
- Papyrus from Undertale is a Large Ham who also thinks he's the greatest monster to ever live. He calls himself "the great Papyrus," and is always boasting about how great he is and how he will one day achieve everything he wants. However, he is far from malicious; indeed, he's one of the nicest characters in the entire setting. Even when the player is the darkest they can be on a Genocide playthrough, Papyrus still thinks they can be good if they really try. Papyrus is also easy to befriend, and losing to him in a boss battle just makes him capture you in a Cardboard Prison, because he doesn't want to kill the player.
- A few fan animations starring Cirno from Touhou. Chiruno Chiruno Chiruno...
- Miranda Lawson from Mass Effect comes across as extremely cocky and arrogant at points due to the genetic modifications made to her before birth to make her close to perfect. In reality, she's extremely insecure, with those genetic modifications only creating a severe inferiority complex. Her successes are attributed to her modifications, and only her failures are attributed to herself, and this is only made worse when she compares herself to Shepard, who has accomplished even more when s/he never had such modifications. Her father being a sociopathic perfectionist who threatened to dispose of her if she didn't live up to his near impossible standards didn't help. Along with owning up to her past mistakes, one of the biggest points of her Character Development is also learning to accept her successes as something that she still did herself through her choices.
- Dorian Pavus in Dragon Age: Inquisition is introduced as a snarky and arrogant aristocrat from the Tevinter Imperium who nearly everyone mistrusts. It's eventually revealed that he's the white sheep of his family who left after his father tried to change his sexuality with blood magic. He joined the Inquisition genuinely wanting to help and hopes to one day return to his homeland to change it for the better, and the end-game epilogue shows he's doing just that. On top of all that, he's kind and intelligent and ends up being one of the most loyal companions in the game.
- Sebastian Debeste from Ace Attorney Investigations 2 is an arrogant, self-satisfied rookie prosecutor who calls himself "The Best" despite always mixing up his words and arriving at the most absurd conclusions. He constantly boasts of his own perceived greatness even though nobody takes him seriously (his own father even habitually refers to him as his "idiot son"). Then, in case 4, he gets broken pretty badly when his father tells him that everything he thought he achieved is a lie and that he was really only ever being used as a pawn for him. As it turns out, Sebastian's biggest goal was to impress his former-chief-prosecutor father by surpassing him in greatness, and this revelation sends him so far over the edge that it takes an entire Logic Chess session to pull him out of it, the only time in the game where Logic Chess is used to build someone up rather than take them apart. After Edgeworth convinces him that he's better than his corrupt father, Sebastian Takes a Level in Badass and resolves to become a better prosecutor.
- Vriska in Homestuck is very arrogant and convinced of her superiority, but it's clear that's because she had a horrible childhood where she was forced by her parent figure to murder people to survive. In this case, the audience is soon made aware of what her deal is, but Vriska herself is too emotionally tone-deaf to work it out, and over the course of her journey she realises what happened to her.
- Radon in Wasted Away starts out as a negligent social climber - but when he actually has to confront his issues after losing his family, he starts to rethink things.
- An episode of Family Guy (where Peter gets amnesia) featured this with Quagmire, where after flirting with Lois after Peter dumps her, he gets her into bed, only for her to reveal that she likes Quagmire and feels like she can trust him. This causes him to have a played-with close-up, culminating in an Overly Long Gag of him going through increasingly painful and absurd attempts to get himself erect again.
- The Futurama episode "In-a-Gadda-da-Leela" seems to be this for Zapp, when he's shown to be kind and caring towards Leela (in his own inept way) when she's stuck under a log and it appears that they're the last two humans alive. Subverted near the end, when every last good thing he's done in the episode is peeled back to be part of a charade to get back into her pants, even going as far as to show that he trapped her under the log and also managed to make an elaborate hoax of Earth's destruction.
- Xiaolin Showdown
- Three of the four main characters undergo this trope: Omi, the truest Small Name, Big Ego of the show; Raimundo, the Brilliant, but Lazy Jerk with a Heart of Gold; and Kimiko, the Tsundere with the Hair-Trigger Temper.
- Many episodes (particularly ones where the Xiaolin Dragons have strained relations) suggest that Omi fears being alone and believes that if he is perfect, he will be surrounded by adulating friends and admirers
- As shown during the events leading to his betrayal, Rai becomes angry whenever he feels helpless or inadequate. It's straight-up stated in "Dream Stalker" that his lazy, jerk-ish attitude results from his fear of not being good enough and letting others down.
- And as early as the third episode, it's revealed that Kimiko deeply fears needing others' help and wants to prove that she can keep up with the boys.
- In Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show, it's revealed that Eddy's behavior is all a Jerkass Façade due to him believing that if he acted more like his brother (who is an even bigger Jerkass), he'd be more popular. After he apologizes to everyone, the Eds are finally accepted by the community.
- Darkwing Duck: "Inside Binkie's Brain" shows that while Darkwing Duck's 'inner hero' is fairly small, his ego is enormous. But this is a guy who puts his own life in danger for those he loves on a regular basis, adopted a little girl who desperately needed a father who understood her, and he even puts up with his royally annoying neighbors, Quackerware and all. "Life, the Negaverse, and Everything" shows how vitally important his role as father is to him.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Rainbow Dash is generally portrayed as having a rather inflated opinion of herself and constantly reminds everyone how awesome she is, but most of her focus episodes reveal that she has a bit of an Inferiority Superiority Complex and despite being very protective of her reputation, she's loyal to a fault where her friends are concerned. Similarly, in most episodes Rarity sits halfway between a Drama Queen and an Attention Whore, but most episodes that are focused on her reveal that under the facade she's actually one of the most emotionally mature members of the cast and she just has a tendency toward histrionics.
- It hasn't really been explored, but this is hinted with Lance from Voltron: Legendary Defender. He has a an overinflated opinion of himself, but there's more to him than meets the eye.
- It is thought that superiority complexes often stem from inferiority complexes.