Jerk with a Heart of Jerk
"So you're saying that I only write poetry to show that beneath this mean, callous, heartless exterior, I just want to be loved...? No, well you're completely wrong. I just write poetry to throw my mean callous heartless exterior into sharp relief."
Someone in the main cast discovers a shocking secret about the past of the resident Jerkass
. Apparently, difficult as it may be to imagine, he may actually not be that bad a guy. Somewhere, buried deep inside, there's a Pet the Dog
moment that shows he's really a Jerk with a Heart of Gold
Well, yeah, turns out that isn't really true. There's a perfectly selfish explanation for why he saved the busload of burning orphans - they're his secret team of kid snitches. And now he's going to get a good laugh at your expense for ever thinking he could be so noble
While one cannot
be both a Jerk with a Heart of Gold
AND a Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk simultaneously, it is possible for a character to alternate between the two (as a result of "Depending on the Writer
" for instance) and Character Development
can cause evolution in either direction.
That said, these tropes are almost polar opposites by definition. The former Jerkass is, when it comes to the crunch, a decent guy. The latter Jerkass is, under all that jerkassery...a bigger jerk/asshole. note
This trope also subverts Hidden Heart of Gold
. It is one step more complex than Faux Affably Evil
. Compare and contrast Bitch in Sheep's Clothing
and Sheep in Sheep's Clothing
. For the more malicious, see For the Evulz
, The Sociopath
and Pragmatic Villainy
. Also contrast Jerkass Façade
, also pretty much a polar opposite.
May also go hand in hand with Good Flaws, Bad Flaws
: a character may have a Good Flaw, then repent and apologize for it...only to turn out to have a Bad Flaw. This character taken to his/her logical extreme would then become a particularly tragic Anti-Villain
, since such characters genuinely believe themselves reformed
. In such cases, the character still fits this trope only if he/she is smug about his/her moral struggle
, rather than anguished.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Light Yagami in Death Note. Truly no redeeming qualities to his evil, as even his "good" acts are really just means for his own selfish purposes or murder plots. He even goes so far as to think to himself he's willing to kill his own sister or father if it will assist him in becoming the new God.
- D.Gray-Man's Yu Kanda may have a superlatively depressing past involving being used as a guinea pig by the Black Order and being forced to fight to the death with his best friend, but he's still a Jerkass. Informing him that said best friend is not dead gets very little reaction.
- While Kanda may have been this for the vast majority of the series so far, he subverts it towards the end of the Alma Karma arc. And with his return to the Black Order in chapter 207, his newfound Jerk with a Heart of Gold status is further reinforced.
- Katekyo Hitman Reborn!: Hibari Kyouya. Half carrying Gokudera to find Tsuna in Kokuyo Land, how nice of him. Not. He throws Gokudera aside afterward, and it turns out he only helped the latter so they could be "even". Don't even get started on the countless times he turned up to kick enemy butt and then says 'They were crowding'.
- Fullmetal Alchemist:
- When Mustang finds out King Bradley is a homunculus, he calls Bradley on a seeming Pet the Dog moment earlier in which Bradley was trembling at Hughes' funeral. Bradley reveals that rather than being sad, he was actually shaking with rage because Hughes' daughter was making such a scene. Ouch.
- In the 2003 anime version, the Elric Brothers discover Psiren the Phantom Thief's Secret Identity to be a nurse. The brothers decide to let her go when she tells them she just steals to keep the hospital from closing down. Some time later the hospital is torn down anyway and Psiren is now a nun claiming to steal to save a church from closing down. After that is demolished she's claiming the same thing as a teacher at a school, after which even Al won't deny that she's just stealing for herself. It's ultimately subverted in the end, though, as she actually is acting as a thief for a good cause, just not the one she initially claimed to be fighting for: the town she operates in is one with an incredibly poor economy, and her acts are such a spectacle that they've been drawing tourists in just to see her in action, which in turn helps keep the place afloat.
- Viper Snakely from Kimba the White Lion. Just when he was about to give up hunting and retire for the sake of his daughter (in the manga version), he finally earned a crumb of sympathy from the audience... and then proceeds to lose it entirely when we learn what his job was before he became a safari hunter; he was an SS Officer posted in an internment camp.
- Ryoki of Hot Gimmick was already established as a Jerkass due to the cruel and abusive way he treats his girlfriend/slave Hatsumi. It seems like he's not so bad when he saves Hatsumi from being raped but his qualifying status is reinforced when he immediately forces a kiss on her afterwards and habitually sexually assaults her.
- While there are a few instances that might border on true Jerk with a Heart of Gold status in the anime (definitely not the manga), Yoshitaka pulls these moments all the time.
- Muteki Kanban Musume is a hilarious Deconstructive Parody of the Fighting Series and so it give us protagonist Miki Onimaru, a Heroic Comedic Sociopath who has Chronic Hero Syndrome (so she can slack at her work), battle Delinquents (just For the Evulz), and is The Bully to her unfortunate friends.
- Fei-Wang Reed from Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle spends the entire series manipulating the main characters and making their lives a living hell, all while preparing to rip all of space-time a new one to further his plans. Then it's revealed said plan is about bringing somebody back to life. With a motivation like that, he probably has some kind of tragic, sympathetic backstory, right? Nope. He just wants to accomplish something that Clow Reed couldn't in order to prove his superiority.
- Vegeta was very much like this in Dragon Ball Z after going into an Enemy Mine situation with the heroes but before undergoing a genuine Heel-Face Turn, several times surprisingly helping the heroes but only doing so for his own gain. The most notable case is when he saves Gohan and Krillin from being killed by Guldo and Gohan thanks him— Vegeta specifies he wasn't saving them, but rather using the fact that Guldo's guard was down to eliminate one of the opposition.
- Griffith, from Berserk, is more of bastard than a quasi-sympathetic jerkass, but every once in awhile he releases the inner jerkass within. One moment happens when he rescues Princess Charlotte from the clutches of the Emperor Ganishka in a very romantic and fairytale-ish way. Unfortunately for the her, Charlotte has been crazy in love with Griffith ever since she first lay eyes on him, and Griffith has been using her feelings for him ever since in order to get closer to the Midland throne.
- Bleach: Mayuri has no hidden heart of gold because everything he does is For Science!. When Szayel resurrects himself by draining Mayuri's daughter and lieuteant's life-force, Mayuri initially seems shocked and dismayed as he crouches over her withered body. A moment later, instead of showing remorse or swearing revenge, he grins broadly and compliments Szayel on possessing such a fascinating technique.
- Kuroko no Basuke: Makoto Hanamiya. When Kuroko asks him why he uses such foul and underhanded tactics, he starts getting emotional, and it appears he is going to reveal some tragic backstory - then he interrupts himself and starts laughing, explaining that he only does it because he enjoys crushing people's dreams.
- Sasuske Uchiha of Naruto fame, particularly after his Face-Heel Turn and subsequently Took a Level in Jerkass. He was originally a rather straight Jerk with a Heart of Gold towards his teammates, but as he became more obsessed with revenge and attaining power he pretty much throws all of his morals out of the window, willing to kill even his new teammates to accomplish his goal. And what goal you may ask? Killing everybody in his old village of course, including his former classmates and teachers. And no, he is not the slight bit repented about his actions either. This trope is spelled out when he shows up in the final battle to help Naruto defeat the Big Bad; no, he didn't pull a Heel-Face Turn, or was even trying to atone for his actions, the villains were just in the way of accomplishing his goal and makes it perfectly clear that he intends to kill Naruto when the battle is over and more than willing to sacrifice anyone he considers expendable.
- Decors Weissmel in The Five Star Stories is a complete dick, who just sometimes gives the Noble Demon vibes. But in the end this is just because he's Lawful Evil, and has the principles that he tends to adhere to — not just some hidden nobleness of his thoroughly evil heart.
- Sora from Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V. He's blunt, insanely smug about his skills, and boasts about his Fusion skills being vastly superior to those of Leo Duel School. But he is willing to teach Yuzu how to Fusion summon, even putting in a lot of effort to see her improve. But then he reveals his past in a duel with Shun: he was indeed part of the Fusion faction that destroyed his hometown and hunted down his allies. And not only that, but he did it for fun.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: In the manga, Gendo Ikari is a prick who tells Shinji he loves him, only to turn around seconds later and claim that, even if he says that, it's only to motivate Shinji to help him—in reality Gendo hates him and blames him for Yui's death.
- The graphic novel Exit Wounds. Koby Franco is a curmudgeonly cab driver who expresses indifference at the possibility that his estranged father might be dead. After spending much of the book with his father's girlfriend who insists that he was a good person (and his other relatives, who think Koby is too hard on him) and finding out he may very well be dead, Koby softens up a little. Only to discover that his father isn't dead- the handmade scarf the girlfriend made that they found at the scene of the bombing was a gift from him to another girlfriend. Koby realizes to his disgust that the reason for their poor relationship is because his father has always been a serial philanderer who doesn't care about how his actions affect the people around him. Which extends to the present day- his new wife, a devout Orthodox Jew, thinks he's out at night so often because of "prayer meetings".)
- Nick Fury claimed this for himself in a comic roughly 20 years ago. He'd done something that seemed kindhearted, and someone (possibly Captain America) said, "Fury, under that rough, unshaven exterior..." Fury interrupted, "There's an even rougher, unshaven interior!" Another case of a legitimate Jerk with a Heart of Gold being described like this is in one of the Spider-Man guidebooks: J. Jonah Jameson is described as "Under his rough, crusty and rude exterior... You'll find that he's even worse!" Justified in that the Heart Of Gold is very much Depending on the Writer in his case.
- Marshal Law: as stated in one story, when you first look at him he appears to be a brutal thug. But when you look under his tough exterior, you see that he's really... a brutal thug. Marshal Law is actually full of examples. At another point in the same story, when he's in a cemetery full of the bodies of his victims, he points out that he used to come there once a month... to "gloat," bringing a flask and a sandwich and "making a day of it."
- Often played for laughs in Iznogoud, where the titular character, an Evil Chancellor trying to overthrow his Caliph and possessing seemingly no redeeming qualities, often willingly saves his assistant Dilat Larat from certain death, only to reveal when thanked by him that he did so because he required his help for things such as carrying important files or cleaning his shoes. In contrast, he often is willing to use Dilat as a lab rat for his various plans.
- Empowered: Oyuki-chan is a ninja who owes a debt to Ninjette, and has helped her more than once. She had to be blackmailed into helping further, and a brief Imagine Spot shows her gloating over Ninjette's "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation.
- Namor the Sub-Mariner is all over the line between this trope, Jerk with a Heart of Gold, and Noble Demon.
: I've known you long enough... and well enough... to know that beneath that rude and arrogant exterior — lies an even ruder and more arrogant interior
. But in all things, Namor — you are an honest.. and honorable... man.
- PS238: Dax-Ra starts out as a short-tempered and jerkish Knight Templar who imprisons Ron and attacks several of the children. Once Atlas shows up he cools down significantly and displays a much more reasonable side... Which turns out to have been mainly a front to manipulate Atlas. Once he depowers Ron as a hostage he goes full-on Smug Snake.
- John Constantine from Hellblazer is often this to anyone he meets especially if they are a supernatural or authority figure. He may pretend to be different as a means to manipulate someone into doing what he wants only to betray or turn on them when it suits his purposes as former friends and/or allies Gary Lester, Zed and the succubus Ellie found out. To his friends, he is usually a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but can turn on them as well if he is in a bad mood or it again suits his purposes.
- Super Kami Guru from Dragon Ball Z Abridged. At first, he seems like a jerk. Then, when Freeza threatens to kill Nail, Guru passionately stands up for Nail (even if Nail initially doesn't want him to) and psyches him up, telling him he's The Paragon of the Namekians and challenges him to kick the crap out of Freeza. Nail, psyched up, challenges Freeza to a fight, only for Guru to reveal via Internal Monologue that he knows perfectly well Nail hasn't got a chance of winning, and furthermore that Guru knows a technique that would let Nail have a chance but never taught him it because... Guru's a jerk.
Films — Animation
- Shark Tale has Lola's paradoxical line, "Deep down, I'm really superficial."
- King Candy from Wreck-It Ralph tells Ralph that he keeps Vanellope from racing to protect her. If she got to race and players saw her glitching, they would think the game was broken and it would get unplugged. As a glitch, she would not be able to leave her game, meaning she goes down with the ship. It's true that she'd go down, but that's not why he wants to keep her from racing...
- Mother Gothel in Tangled manipulates Rapunzel into staying in the tower not because the world is a dangerous place or because she loves Rapunzel, but merely so she can keep Rapunzel's fountain-of-youth hair to herself.
- Judge Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame appears on the surface to be simply a really arrogant, priggish, horrified-at-the-thought-of-anyone-having-fun theocratic dictator. But then, his belief that the world is full of wickedness is the reason he gives for keeping Quasimodo shut away in the cathedral belltower, telling himself — and Quasimodo — that he's just keeping him safe from the outside world. But, of course, it becomes clear early on that Judge Frollo is a genocidal lunatic, scheming to kill all the Gypsies in Paris for their "thieving" and "witchcraft" — and the only reason he's taking care of Quasimodo is because he fears going to Hell for his attempt to drown Quasi when he was a baby solely because of his appearance. Any torment Frollo ever feels — particularly about his lust for a Gypsy girl he's become obsessed with killing — evaporates pretty quickly.
Films — Live-Action
- In The Help, Skeeter is set up on a date with an alcoholic, rude, arrogant soldier. After coming to her house to apologize for his behavior, they discover they have a lot in common. Their relationship goes well until Skeeter's book is published and he dumps her for supporting the rights of African-American maids and disrupting the status quo.
- In the Discworld series, Death's manservant Albert claims to be one of these: "It's no good thinking you can appeal to my better nature under this here crusty exterior, 'cos my interior's pretty damn crusty as well."
- Edmund Pevensie for the first half of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Some people might think he has some forgivable excuse for bullying his little sister and betraying his siblings to the Big Bad, but, really... he hasn't. Just as he reveals, he's just sick of his oldest siblings being the ones who make all the order and take all the decisions. He's just a vicious, greedy, spiteful kid who believes he'll get up to the level of the other two by putting down Lucy. Fortunately, he does a Heel-Face Turn after he discovers evil doesn't taste so good after all.
- Near the end of Wonder, Julian's friends seem to warm up to deformed August, and you'd think he would eventually too, but nope! He ends up being the only kid in the school to still resent August.
- Sick Boy by the end of Porno. Whilst he does have some redeeming qualities in Skagboys, they're pretty much all gone by Porno. Renton notes in the film of Trainspotting that after Dawn died, all the good in Sick Boy was lost forever.
- Harry Potter
- As per Word of God, Severus Snape. He bullies Harry, Neville and other students, outs Remus Lupin as a werewolf (forcing him to resign and live in poverty), mocks members of both the Order of the Phoenix and Death Eaters, invented new methods of Dark Magic, etc. Though the seventh book reveals he loved Harry's mother and did everything he could to honor her memory and sacrifice, J.K. Rowling affirms that he unfairly hated and resented Harry and would have done nothing to help him if it weren't for his mother. Snape himself affirms the same to Dumbledore. To sum it up, Snape is an absolute dick to everyone not named Lily Evans.
J.K. Rowling: I don't really see him as a hero. He's spiteful, he's a bully, all of these things are true of Snape, even at the end of the book.
- Draco Malfoy. Despite a few Jerkass Woobie moments in the later books, Malfoy is still an unrepentant Upper-Class Twit Dirty Coward school bully, even when the war against Voldemort begins raging. When the chips are down, Maloy runs to hide behind someone else, whether it be his two burly cronies or his father. The only time Draco shows any sort of respect to Harry Potter at all is when Harry saves Draco's life three times in the final book, and even then, it's a Grudging Thank You. Hasn't stopped the fans, though.
- The Reynard Cycle: Tybalt. Whenever he gets even remotely close to petting the dog, he finds another one to kick.
- While Jace from The Mortal Instruments unquestionably cares for some people, he also considers hurting them emotionally an acceptable outlet for his own Mangst. Also, can remain prejudiced easily even if the basis of his prejudice towards the target changes. For example, he seamlessly switches from calling Simon "mundane" to "vampire" as if he simply cannot remember the personal names of anyone who is not a Shadowhunter.
- Robert Penn Warren's novel All the King's Men has a classic example with Willie Stark, a candidate for governor in Louisiana who comes to feel remorse about cooperating with an elitist and very crooked political machine. So he rebrands himself as a "man of the people" and wins the election by promising to improve the lives of the lower classes...and then turns into a largely selfish and power-mad dictator once he's in office. He does still have some good left in him, but it's really submerged.
- Locke's dad from LOST. He's nice to his son just long enough to snatch his kidney, and let's not mention the whole Sawyer incident.
- Dr. House. Just when it looks like he's about to Pet the Dog he'll add a moment of unbelievable jerkassery. Some people in (in story and out) believed that his crankyness is because of his leg problem. And then we see get to know that he was a Jerk even before that. He has later gone through therapy, gotten clean, and has become slightly but consistently less of a jerk who even starts subconsciously manipulating others to their own benefit, rather than his own.
- Aside from the fact that he has Pet the Dog on several occasions, and he does have an excuse for being bitter besides his leg.
- He also knows that Wilson is looking for proof he has a heart, so as often as not his Kick the Dog moment after what should be a Pet the Dog moment is him screwing with Wilson (and/or his team), and under that layer is a relatively... less jerk than the jerk he's- Look, the point is Jerkception.
- Happens to Barney often in How I Met Your Mother, and usually it's Lily who temporarily thinks he's done something caring. For example, the time he's detailing all the subtle signs that indicate that a nearby girl at the bar has been recently crying, and he seems sympathetic at first, but it turns out he's just analyzing her vulnerability to being manipulated into sex.
- There's a particularly good example in one Thanksgiving episode. Ted and Robin decide to help out at a homeless shelter on the holiday, where they find that Barney is the model volunteer there in his spare time. They spend the entire episode completely dumbfounded by the fact that he is capable of good deeds until they discover that he's there as part of court-mandated community service for drunkenly urinating on a church.
Ted: You are evil!
Robin: All is right with the world again!
- On Deadwood this was, perhaps, the crucial difference between Al Swearengen and Cy Tolliver, both jerkasses capable of incredible cruelty. Al might not have qualified as a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but little moments sprinkled through the series suggested that he really did care about Trixie, Dan, Jewel, etc. Cy, on the other hand, even when he tries to seem caring, comes across as faking it so people will continue to do what he wants. His Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk qualities lead to disloyalty among some of his people.
- Discussed in Blackadder's Christmas Carol:
Ebenezer Blackadder: My what a jolly fellow.
Baldrick: Looked like a fat git to me.
Ebenezer Blackadder: Yes Baldrick, but if one peels away the layers of a 'fat git' you'll probably find a...
Baldrick: Thin git!
Lord Flashheart: I think I'm beginning to understand.
Captain Blackadder: Are . . . are you?
Lord Flashheart: Just because I can give multiple orgasms to the furniture just by sitting on it, doesn't mean that I'm not sick of this damn war: the blood, the noise, the endless poetry.
Captain Blackadder: Is that really what you think, Flashheart?
Lord Flashheart: *While holding his pistol at Blackadder* Course it's not what I think. Now get out that door before I redecorate that wall an interesting new colour called `hint of brain'!
- When Peter Dragon, the Jerkass protagonist of Action, finds out that he might have cancer, he gives a touching speech to God about wanting to see his daughter grow up and wanting to go out on a hit, and promises to turn his life around. He also throws out a tobacco executive who wants to use product placement to market cigarettes to teenagers. After he finds out that his mole is benign, Peter tracks down the executive and makes the deal.
- In one moment of The Middle, lazy teenage guy named Axel is dateless on Valentine's Day. He says he doesn't care because he's with the woman that means the most to him, his mother. His mom is so happy, and then he bursts out laughing and says he can't believe she believed that.
- This is Dr. Cox's view of most people, himself included:
Dr. Clock: Oh, Dr. Kelso's all bluster. I bet underneath it all he's a sweetheart.
Dr. Cox: Oh no, underneath it all he is pure evil.
Dr. Clock: Perry, no one's pure evil, I mean yeah some people have a hard outer shell, but inside everybody has a creamy center.
Dr. Cox: There are plenty of people here, on this particular planet, who are hard on the outside and hard on the inside!
Dr. Clock: So they have more of a nougaty center?
Dr. Cox: Lady. People aren't chocolates. Do you know what they are mostly? Bastards. Bastard-coated bastards with bastard filling.
- Jayne Cobb of Firefly, particularly in the episode "Jaynestown," in which the crew makes a stopover in a mining town that reveres Jayne as a local hero for dropping a crate full of money on them years ago and allowing them to recover from poverty and oppression. This was an accident (his craft was losing altitude and he was trying to trim weight to stay aloft). Subverted at the end, however, when a local boy takes a bullet for Jayne, who expresses surprise and dismay that someone should do that for him.
- Jayne does have his Pet the Dog moments (or at least, pet the fuzzy hat moments), particularly when it is revealed that his ill-gotten gains all go home to his impoverished family.
- Jayne's main problem is that whatever good intentions make their way into his brain are tripped up by his questionable intelligence.
- Finch on Just Shoot Me!. In one episode, he admits to Maya that he has to hide his sensitive side in public. She gives him a hug and he takes the opportunity to feel her up. When she looks shocked, he just smirks and says "it's me!"
- Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory held a grudge after Wil Wheaton snubbed him at a convention in The Nineties, and was determined to get back at him in a Mystic Warlords of Ka'a tournament. During their match Wheaton said that he couldn't make the convention because his grandmother had died and he had to be with his family. Sheldon forgives Wheaton and throws the game, then Wheaton tells him he made the story up just to get Sheldon's guard down.
- He comes back, too.
Wil: What, you think I'd break up a couple just to win a bowling match?
Sheldon: Well, I guess not...
Wil: Good. Keep thinking that.
- Jossed in Season 5, when Wil Wheaton apologizes to Sheldon, causing them to become buddies. He still shows some meanness however, when a video he recorded almost ended Wolowitz and Bernadette's engagement.
- Wil Wheaton again. His character on Eureka, Dr. Parrish, is a jackass and a half; if he can possibly say something to get Fargo's goat, or try to sleaze his way in between Fargo and Dr. Martin, he'll do it, and if he can do it in a way that makes it look like he was about to have a Jerk with a Heart of Gold moment, he'll enjoy it.
- Sunny Capaduca on 15/Love. Occasional Pet the Dog moments aside, anything decent that Sunny did was inevitably revealed to have sinister motives, while her usual persona was half Spoiled Brat half Creepy Child.
- In the Waking the Dead episode 'Waterloo' shady property developer Martin Barlow becomes foster father to an orphan and then raises him to be a mole inside the police force.
- Once Upon a Time: Both Regina (The Evil Queen) and Gold (Rumpelstiltskin) show signs of this. Both genuinely do care for certain people (Henry and her father for Regina and Belle and Baelfire for Gold), but both often treat these people cruelly (Regina even kills her father). They are also Magnificent Bastards who managed to trap all of the fairy tale characters from their world in an Identity Amnesia curse, both acting for selfish reasons, and every time they have Pet the Dog moments it's ruined either in the same episode or in the very next.
- 24 usually has whoever is in charge of either CTU or someone else in the government be a complete pain in the ass for several episodes before either revealing that despite their controversial decisions they are in fact a good person trying to do their best to stop the terrorist attack of the day, or undergoing a tough set of circumstances that ultimately sees them become more sympathetic. Then Day 5 comes in and gives us Miles, who is brought in from Homeland Security to take over CTU after it gets hit by a terrorist attack. He follows the usual pattern: gets in the way of Jack and Chloe, gets Bill Buchanan fired from CTU, and generally acts like a dick. But his Homeland partner Karen Hayes insists that when the chips are down he is someone who can be counted on, and when it comes down to it brings him into the loop so he can help expose President Logan as the true mastermind of Day 5, and it looks like he's going to mellow out. Instead, he almost immediately switches sides and destroys the evidence that could expose Logan all so he can get a promotion.
- A staple of the Heel-Face Revolving Door trope endemic to Professional Wrestling: a long-term villain will begin to have Pet the Dog moments, or perhaps show a slightly softer side, maybe even defending their family's honor or confronting an ally who's going too far. Then, whoop, it turns out it was all a big scheme to get the good guy to lower his guard and as a matter of fact they're not only still the scum-bag they always were, they've been hiding HOW much of a horrible person they actually are. A great example of this was TNA's Bully Ray. After being arguably the worst of all the villains in TNA for the past two years or so, he gets jumped by the Aces & Eights gang and joins the babyfaces in an Enemy Mine scenario. He teams with Sting and other faces for several months, slowly making a face turn (while still officially being a heel because he's dating Hulk Hogan's daughter, much to the disapproval of the Hulkster). Then, when he gets an opportunity at Jeff Hardy's world championship and Aces & Eights appears on the scene to throw him a weapon, he takes his opportunity and steals the title, revealing that he was controlling Aces & Eights all the time and had secretly ordered them to attack him multiple times in a very un-Heroic Sacrifice.
- Mr. Diperna, the bullying junior high assistant principal on The Wonder Years. It's not unusual for Diperna to listen to Kevin's (or someone else's) explanation with a thoughtful look, only to then tear into that person, often for a very minor infraction.
- Jay from The Inbetweeners switches between this trope and Jerk with a Heart of Gold. At the start of the show, he is mostly this trope, and at the end of third series, he is mostly the latter (by the time of The Movie, he seems to have become a permanent Jerk with a Heart of Gold). The formula is usually like this: Will thinks Jay has finally done something just slightly thoughtful or said something non-stupid, and Jay proves him wrong or follows the thoughtful action up with something that is definitely assholish. However, it is largely Played for Laughs, so Jay is in general more sympathetic than many examples of this trope.
- Sherlock of Elementary warns Watson at one point that if she's looking for his softer, inner personality, she'll be disappointed. He is a jerk, through and through, and the only reason he relates so well with her is that, because he finds her "exceptional", he makes a significant attempt to be personable with her.
- Marie from Everybody Loves Raymond is arguably this, at her worst. At times she'll play up Jerk with a Heart of Gold persona to guilt people into doing what she wants. In "Thank You Notes", Marie tries to guilt Amy into writing thank you notes to Lee and Stan who bought candles for Amy and Robert's wedding. At the end of the episode, it's revealed Marie helped Lee and Stan pick out the candles in the first place.
- The Sheriff of the 2000s Robin Hood series, in his own words. At one point, he tells an underling he suspects of betrayal that a confession might prompt some mercy. "Underneath this harsh surface, I'm deeply sensitive." One confession later, he stabs the guy. "I Lied. Underneath this harsh surface, there's just more harsh surface."
- A Saturday Night Live skit had Jon Bon Jovi and Ritchie Sambora (playing themselves) acting this way toward the DeMarco Brothers (Chris Kattan and Chris Parnell) when they are auditioning to be backup dancers for the band. After repeatedly insulting the brothers' rehearsal and finally driving them to tears, Bon Jovi and Sambora appear to feel bad about what they have done and call the brothers back...only to tell them to "take [their] boombox and get out." Then they do this to them three more times. Worst of all, they get no comeuppance for this and the audience (as always) just laughs at the DeMarcos.
- Margaret the Slitheen in the Doctor Who episode "Boom Town". She spares a pregnant woman and later when the Doctor is about to lead her to her execution, she brings this incident to prove that she can change for the better. The Doctor correctly deduces that she only did it to conterbalance the murders she committed and going to. And indeed, she was trying to destroy the earth to get back home.
- The George Lopez Show: Zack Powers is a nasty little prick who smashed up his father's factory to spite him (costing people their wages), got a girl pregnant, and gambled with company money. Of course, he had a pretty awful home life, which causes Carmen to fall for him, thinking there is some good underneath him. In reality, he is just playing this up just to screw Carmen and then ditch her, something he smugly admits to George.
- Demetrius in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Sure, he goes back to Helena and repents of the inhuman way he treated her—but that's just the love potion talking.
- In A Streetcar Named Desire just when it seems that Stanley might not be as much of an asshole as he seemed to be at first he goes and rapes Blanche to insanity and then lies that he never once touched her afterwards.
- Professor Callahan in Legally Blonde starts off as a textbook Amoral Attorney, cold, condescending, and dismissive. Over time, he seems to soften towards Elle, and even stands up for her a couple times... only to turn right around and kiss her against her will, implying heavily that the only reason he wanted her on the team of interns was because she was a hot, leggy blonde.
- Fiyero Tiggular in Wicked happens to be "deeply shallow and genuinely self-absorbed". As the story progresses, however, he acquires morals and eventually true compassion.
- Good Ol' Wario. He fights an evil army, takes a demon pirate king in single combat, and even though he wants his money, still spares the Queen of the world a smi—wait what DUDE. She just spent a nightmarish stretch in a hideous monster's captivity, and Wario introduces her to the paneling up-close when she keeps him from his money just five seconds more. Princess Shokora, this is not. However, he can also be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, as seen when he helps Luigi and co. (including Wario's rival, Mario) rescue Princess Peach after being saved by Luigi in Super Mario 64 DS.
- Ryder in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is one of the more troublesome members of the Grove Street Families, often high, always sarcastic, and excessively rude to everyone, especially CJ. However, he puts in work for the gang and does his part (though he always seems like that guy people keep around to kick around). And then it turns out he had betrayed the Grove Street Families along with Big Smoke, had a hand in the death of Sweet and CJ's mother, and has been arming the gang's enemies the entire time.
- Ambassador Udina in Mass Effect is perfectly happy to compliment Shepard on a job well done right before he gets back to the backstabbing. Goes all the way in the third installment, wherein Udina seemingly devotes himself fully to aiding Shepard against the Reapers instead of furthering his own political ambitions, but then he decides using Cerberus to assassinate the other Councillors so he'd be the sole surviving head of the Council is a better idea than going along with Shepard's alliance-building.
- May be true in the first two games, but the clinching third game example is subject to Alternative Character Interpretation both by fans and in-universe; no characters seem to truly think he acted from pure ambition, and it's perfectly possible that he took part in the Cerberus coup attempt because he was desperate to get reinforcements to Earth, and the other races were refusing to help. It's also not clear whether he was trying to kill the Council or just capture them to force their compliance, or whether he knew how bloody the coup would be. Granted, even the best interpretation of his actions leaves him guilty of What an Idiot-level errors in judgement and callousness towards the other races, but such a perspective would put him into Well-Intentioned Extremist territory rather than this trope.
- The characters also wonder if Udina may have been indoctrinated, which would mean that his actions may not have been his choice in the first place.
- Eric Sparrow from Tony Hawk's Underground. Just when you think he'll have a change of heart, he'll leave you behind once more for the sake of his career, which he puts above all else.
- Caius from Frozen Essence. He initially appears to be a typical Troubled, but Cute Loveable Rogue who claims that he's helping the protagonist Mina just because it benefits him and doesn't care if she gets herself hurt or not only because of his Dark and Troubled Past. Except that in most paths, it turns out that he wasn't lying about looking out for only himself and killing being the only thing he cares about after he joins the enemy's side and attempts to kill his former companions without a shred of hesitation or remorse. He does prevent the Big Bad Oryon from recapturing Mina and Rune in Rune's path, but only because he wants revenge on Oryon and to be the one who kills Rune in the end.
- Even in his path where he takes Mina to a safe place and nurses her back to health after she saves him, he makes it quite clear to her that he's keeping her alive as a "hostage" to deter the White Order from killing him and mocks her for believing that he would thank her for saving him. When he seems to be developing genuine feelings for her after becoming frantic when she's severely injured and having a heartfelt conversation with her about their similar situations, he immediately begins plotting to use Mina's power to kill people more effectively the moment he learns about it and comes close to crossing the Moral Event Horizon when he begins draining her of her life essence while taunting her and ignoring her screams of pain. However, in his Light path, he does become a Jerk with a Heart of Gold at almost the last minute when it looks like Mina is going to die partly because of what he did.
- Although he does seem to have some sort of soft spot for Hanna, at least enough to join an effort to save his life. But he's still be a dick while doing it.
- In Homestuck, Vriska was often thought to be The Atoner and was shown to be genuinely helpful a few times, but soon enough, this was Jossed when she proceeded to brutally murder one of her teammates that she had previously tortured.
- Played straight, and then subverted, by the highly sarcastic King Marcus Quimby in the semi-canon forum game. In describing General Esteban, he says that "underneath that loud, grouchy exterior is another angry person. Underneath that is a kitten though."
- Mike Warner of the Walkyverse. Although fans would like to think otherwise, Word of God insists that he's just an asshole with no justification. This is somewhat muddled by the fact that he becomes nice when he's drunk. One example of this is when Ethan quits the store and walks out. Mike calls after him to wait, making it seem like he wants him to stay...then simply kicks him in the nuts. "Okay, now you can go".
- 8-Bit Theater BLACK MAGE. He subverts any and all attempts to redeem himself. He found in the Castle of Ordeals that the only thing that could possibly represent the weight of his sins was... himself. He then began to remind his 'evil' self of further atrocities that he had recently accomplished, thus making his doppelganger grow even more powerful, until even it started thinking like Black Mage himself. BM then killed it with a sneak attack, and wondered for a moment if killing the personification of his sins meant that he had cleansed his soul. He then promptly absorbed all the powers of his evil self, gleefully lampshading the fact that this would deny him any chance of redemption later. He then had sex with the corpse, solely because he wanted to find a way to turn self-love into a crime. Wow.
- The Order of the Stick has Xykon, who is irredeemable through and through. Author Rich Burlew commented on this in the introduction of the book detailing Xykon's origin story, noting that such things tended to make the villain more sympathetic, and he wanted the opposite to happen. It worked.
- Gunnerkrigg Court revealed little about Annie's absentee father, save for her insistence that he was a good person. Hints were occasionally dropped that he was a Well-Intentioned Extremist. Then Chapter 51 showed that, no, he really was just an abusive douche.
- In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog Captain Hammer, who Dr. Horrible/Billy's crush, Penny, thinks of as really sweet on the inside, despite being a bit full of himself. The truth is Captain Hammer is only being nice to Penny to get in her pants and simultaneously piss off the eponymous character. Lampshaded when Penny states that he must have a deeper layer that's totally different from the one on the surface, Bily replies that he sometimes there's a third, even deeper level, and that one's exactly the same as the top surface level... like pie.
- This DeviantArt stamp.
- July of May Xnocens wants to keep Idius March from killing all the ogres. Because if they're dead July can't use them as his underpaid henchmen.
- Gaea from Noob is showing a pattern of doing this:
- The webseries version of the death of Sparadrap's pets, which was a Break the Cutie moment for her Man Child guildmate, had her call the culprits monsters... because they had just destroyed something she was planning to steal and sell for a fortune at some point.
- The comic had her promise Sparadrap to get him a pet for each point he scores in a Fluxball game. She quickly explains to another character that she has no intention of paying for the pets herself, but using the (constantly in Perpetual Poverty) guild's common fund.
- In the novels, she promises that she showed up to help restart the guild after Arthéon disbanded it in a fit of rage by pure friendship. It doesn't take long for the narration to reveal that she still has every intention to treat the guild common fund as her personal bank.
- Epics Gameshows had DevinWithDevin, who was a relentless bully who showed no signs of kindness or an improved attitude as the season went on.
- In Futurama, Zapp Brannigan exposes himself as one in the very first episode in which he appears: after he breaks down to Leela and admits he's just an idiot who had no idea what he's doing, he uses her sympathy to get her to have sex with him, and gloats about it every time he encounters her afterwards. Leela ultimately concludes that while there is a side to Zapp that doesn't disgust her, his normal personality is so repellent that she just doesn't care.
- In Season 7, Zapp marries Leelas's mother. We become increasingly certain that he really cares about her. And then it turns out that he was ultimately attracted to her ability to speak alien languages fluently, and wanted to use this to his advantage in negociations with non-English-speaking aliens. In the end, in episodes where he features heavily, we're waiting for the point at which it turns out he was being a manipulative Jerk Ass all along.
- Family Guy
- It seemed Connie and the rest of her friends would warm up to Meg after she did them some favors and treated them nicely despite them pulling a mean prank. However, they then just decide to pull another mean prank on her.
- At the end of "Tiegs for Two", it appears Brian and Glen Quagmire, who had previously announced his hatred for and nearly beat the former to death finally set aside their differences when the latter accepts the former's apology and offers a ride home... only to drive off and back up to run him over.
- In The Spectacular Spiderman Norman Osborn spent the entire series portrayed as a Jerk with a Heart of Gold regarding his behavior towards his son Harry. In season 1 he asked Spider-Man not to reveal the (apparent) identity of the Green Goblin/Harry, as his enemies would seek retribution. The Grand Finale of season 2 reveals that Norman was the real Green Goblin and had gone as far as to damage his own son's leg and stuff him into the goblin suit to keep his secret. Peter was furious.
- Plankton in the SpongeBob episode "F.U.N". SpongeBob tries to befriend him thinking that if he had at least one friend, Plankton wouldn't be so mean. Plankton goes along to try and get a Krabby Patty, but he appears to turn around and become friendlier. Then SpongeBob finds out about Plankton's plan and confronts him. Plankton tears up and confesses, adding that "then you showed me friendship, and I realized... that's all I ever really wanted." "Really?", goes SpongeBob, but then Plankton takes the Krabby Patty and says, "No, not really! Being evil is too much fun!"
- A Buzz Lightyear of Star Command episode featured Buzz Lightyear and his Evil Counterpart Warp Darkmatter being kidnapped by aliens who wanted to study good and evil. During their escape attempt, Warp seemingly leaves Buzz behind, but then returns to rescue Buzz, saying that he just couldn't leave without him. Literally; he doesn't know how to fly Buzz's spaceship ("I can't drive a stick."); hence, he couldn't leave without Buzz's help. However, Buzz doesn't buy it.
- South Park
- Cartman seems to always have an ulterior motive for any good actions, despite what he has led the audience or other characters to believe. In "Major Boobage" when he wants to save the town's cats from being taken away, it's so bizarrely and honestly charitable that it felt like a Meta Twist.
- Saddam Hussein in The Movie gets a whole musical number telling Satan that he can change, but it's all just a shallow lie to manipulate him.
- Stephen and Linda Stotch have both treated Butters pretty shoddily. Then you see times when they obviously love Butters. Unfortunately these displays of affection never last, as Stephen's authoritarian nature tends to bounce back before the episode even ends.
- Shelly Marsh spends her debut beating up her little brother while hiding it from her parents. Near the end of the episode, she sticks up for him when he nearly gets in trouble for what his clone did, only to beat him up moments later.
- American Dad!
- Roger frequently teases a sympathetic depth to his usually sociopathic self, the large majority of times it is complete lies (e.g. a convoluted scheme in which he claims to have a shy crush on a girl, this reverts to him being attracted to Hayley and Francine instead, leading to a violent feud, that Roger tapes for a competition to get a free T-shirt). He does show Jerk with a Heart of Gold moments on rare occasions however.
- Stan flip flops with this. There are times he will give pretense that he has learned from his mistakes, only to genuinely learn it later on. There are also instances he learns an Aesop at exactly the wrong moment.
- The aptly named "Magic Man", from Adventure Time. In his first appearance he goes around the world turning people into giant body parts. Finn thought it was to teach them some sort of lesson (Finn had helped Magic Man when he appeared as a starving old man, but only because he figured he would be rewarded), but it appears it was simply for not "appreciating" how much of a jerk he is.
- Pete in Goof Troop. Sometimes he may seem almost nice, but it's ultimately overwhelmed by his selfishness. He doesn't even bother to cross his fingers before making a promise he plans to break. He almost never has any Jerk with a Heart of Gold moments that aren't subverted except when his family are in danger, and even then, he goes back to mistreating them and everyone else around him afterward.
- In The Simpsons, whenever Mr. Burns shows any sign of a softer side, he almost always ends up reverting to form by the end of the episode. Homer notes, "I guess some people never change. Or they quickly change and then quickly change back."
- In As Told by Ginger, Ginger becomes concerned about the pranks that her fellow classmates are planning to pull on their evil substitute teacher Mrs. Grimley. Ginger tries to talk them out of it, saying that Mrs. Grimley doesn't deserve to be pelted with raw eggs. On the night of the pranks, Ginger defends Mrs. Grimley from the other kids throwing raw eggs. It turns out that Mrs. Grimley doesn't care at all and punishes the entire class on Monday (including the students not involved in the prank). Ginger stands up for her class by delivering a "The Reason You Suck" Speech and promptly getting detention. Mrs. Grimley is never shown being punished for her harsh treatment of Ginger's class.
- In Ben 10: Omniverse episode "Vilgax Must Croak" Ben and his allies must protect Vilgax from Attea and her bounty hunters as they transfer him to a new prison for the sake of Vilgaxia. During the battle, Attea shoots at Ben, only for Vilgax to jump between them (Complete with slow-mo and Big NO). But by Taking the Bullet, Vilgax's manacles were damaged, allowing him to knock Ben out and escape.