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Jerkasswoobie
She just wants a hug. She won't admit it though.

"It's amazing how I can feel sorry for you and hate you at the same time."

Normally, The Woobie is a sufficiently Moe character that:
  • You'd want to sympathize with, sometimes to the point of wanting them broken to like them more.
  • You'd like to hug or otherwise care for or help them.
  • You want to see any villain who hurts them get hammered by Laser-Guided Karma.

The Jerkass Woobie produces a different visceral reaction: you'd like to punch them in the face yourself and you also want to hug them and say, "I'm so sorry that your life is such a mess."

This character type is defined by three elements:
  • First, the character must be a jerk. Even if they help people, they're not just selfish or insensitive - they're outright cruel, insufferable, immoral, amoral and/or the villain. They have a mean streak that tends toward the sadistic; they delight in hurting others, whether emotionally or physically, and often have little patience for anyone who disagrees with them. Also, keep in mind that sometimes, any sympathetic character does act like a jerk at some point, such as when a normal Woobie gets pushed too far, but this does not make them into this trope.
  • They have a hidden, softer side. Many are clearly capable of being downright friendly, courteous, and kind, but either are too angry and impatient inside, or fear showing their softer side when not behind closed doors. Others are clearly Troubled, but Cute, with a Freudian Excuse.
  • As if in return for their bad behavior, the author seems to delight in placing them in unpleasant situations, and yet continue to show that they are sympathetic. Basically, the universe hates them so we don't have to.

This isn't a case of Defrosting Ice Queen, Sugar and Ice Personality, or Flanderization. The character is just that complex. From both the fans and the other characters' point of view, the character can come across as an Anti-Hero of the worst sort, or just plain nuts, and there may even be a Broken Base over whether they are a Karma Houdini, got what they had coming, or were more victim than villain. They likely think of themselves as a Butt Monkey, Cosmic Plaything, etc. It also helps if the audience gets to see just why the character is always in such a bad mood. Being the Only Sane Man or Surrounded by Idiots can take its toll on even the most patient of souls. Typically, the trope is Played for Drama or Played for Laughs as a justification for Jerk Justifications or Jerkass Dissonance.

This character type may:

The difference between this and an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain is that an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain is often a borderline Harmless Villain and their nasty schemes fail so miserably that you start rooting for the author to Throw the Dog a Bone while this character's evil is often less about schemes and more just a mean streak. The character's woobie nature may also play a factor in the phenomenon of All Girls Want Bad Boys.

Contrast Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, where a pathetic but less cruel character destroys everything around them because they have already been broken. Not to be confused with Put Them All Out of My Misery, where a sympathetic villain seeks large scale destruction out of a desire to end misery. See also Draco in Leather Pants, where one of these happens accidentally.

Jerk Sue is a failed attempt at this trope, where the author attempts to make his/her mean OC sympathetic by laying out a stock tragic backstory for him or her then having the rest of the cast ooh and aah about it unless they are the Designated Villain, in which case they will act extremely petty for no reason and probably be revealed as Just Jealous before dying in an over-the-top "comedic" fashion so Sue can be "right all along". A true Jerkass Woobie, even if they truly suffered in their past may still not get sympathy from all of the people around them and certain types of characters probably wouldn't be quick to forgive them for their behavior either. Just because the audience has knowledge about something doesn't mean that every character should know and it doesn't make the character a "bad guy" for calling out another character for being a jerk even if they are intended as sympathetic.

No Real Life Examples, Please!

Examples


Iron WoobieSadness TropesStoic Woobie
Iron WoobieThis Index Has Had a Hard LifeStoic Woobie
Crosses the Line TwiceOverdosed TropesHarsher in Hindsight
Ineffectual Sympathetic VillainAnti-VillainKnight Templar
The WoobieJustForFun/Tropes of Legend    
Jerk with a Heart of JerkVillainsMade Out to Be a Jerkass
Jerkass RealizationThe Jerk IndexJerk Jock
Jerk with a Heart of JerkCharacters as DeviceThe Jester
Jerkass FašadeIndex with a Heart of GoldJerk with a Heart of Gold
JerkassIce QueenJerk with a Heart of Gold
Impromptu TracheotomyImageSource/Anime & MangaLeave the Camera Running
Jerkass Has a PointCharacterization TropesJewish and Nerdy
Jerkass Has a PointAdministrivia/No Real Life Examples, Please!Jerk Jock
Jerkass DissonanceYMMVJerk Sue
Jerkass DissonanceYMMV/Home PageJerk Sue

alternative title(s): Jerk Woobie; Asshole Woobie
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