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.
Alternatively, a Jerkass may repay someone's kindness towards them by being an genuinely Ungrateful Bastard; no matter how much danger/trouble said Jerkass was in.
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.
This trope also subverts Hidden Heart of Gold. Compare and contrast Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. For the more malicious, see For the Evulz. Also contrast Jerkass Fašade, also pretty much a polar opposite.
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Anime and Manga
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 Jerk Ass. 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'.
Dark example in Fullmetal Alchemist. The audience already knows that Bradley is a hommunculus, and when Mustang finds out, he calls Bradley on a seeming earlier Pet the Dog, in which Bradley was shaking with emotion at Hughes' funeral. Bradley reveals that rather being sad, he was actually shaking with rage, because he was disgusted at Hughes' daughter making 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.
Ultimately subverted 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 is helping to keep the place afloat.
Neon Genesis Evangelion - A question constantly asked about Gendo Ikari is if he's this trope, as he has his Pet the Dog moments but is otherwise a complete prick. The anime and films run with the Well-Intentioned Extremist angle, revealing he thinks he's doing what Yui would want and is regretful of his actions when he realizes otherwise. The manga is much less ambiguous — in his Kick the Dog moment Gendo 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.
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 Jerk Ass 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 Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk 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.
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.
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 Chancellortrying 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.
In "Iznogoud's Childhood", Dilat asks him his motivations for being Caliph in the place of the Caliph:
Iznogoud: "To make reforms! For example, this law to cut off a fruits thief's hand is totally absurd! That will never stop him from stealing fruits: we need to cut off both of his hands!"
During "Who Killed the Caliph", Iznogoud seems to actually care for Dilat and saves him from execution after he has been mistaken for a spy. He catches the Executioner trying to get Dilat to pay him for mercy, and angrily states that mercy should not be bought. He then notices a tortured prisoner and orders the Executioner to release him, causing Dilat to wonder if he's having pity after all... then he appoints the prisoner new Executioner, and orders him to torture the former one.
Empowered: ████ing 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.
Doctor Strange: 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.
Film - 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 turns out that King Candy is actually Turbo, an envious video game character who crashes other games more popular than his. He abducted the throne from her after failing to kill her and if she completes a race, she'll be back to ruling Sugar Rush and will no longer be a glitch.
Film - 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.
The 2012 movie Chronicle manages to do this with Richard Detmer, Andrew's father, all in a single scene.
Caledon Hockley in Titanic, who saves an abandoned, crying child for his own selfish purposes.
The humans in Predators. Most characters have a few moments where you think they're not so bad, and then the movie calmly reminds us that they're all awful people with them calmly pointing out traps and discussing war crimes they've committed.
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.
Live Action TV
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 recently 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 hasPet 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.
"The Scuba Diver" play is based pretty much entirely on this.
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.
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, Flasheart? 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 Jerk Ass 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 Warlordsof 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.
More often than not, the eponymous character of Call Me Fitz.
Several others even moreso, especially Fitz's dad.
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.
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.
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 textbookAmoral 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.
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 spends a nightmarish stretch in a hideous monsters 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.
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.
And of course also comes Pulaski, he is even more unpleasant than Ryder, especially in the mission "High Noon".
Ambassador Udina in Mass Effect is perfectly happy to compliment Shepard on a job well done right before he gets back to the backstabbing.
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.
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.
The above quote refers to Captain Hammer, who Dr. Horrible/Billy's crush 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.
Penny (confused): "What?"
Billy: "...like with pie."
Penny (earlier): "I thought he was kinda cheesy at first-"
Billy: "Trust your instincts."
Billy (later): "So how are things with Cheesy-on-the-outside?"
Super Kami Guru from Dragonball 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.
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. Eridan takes this to the next level when his crossing of the Moral Event Horizon is completely unforeshadowed.
Be fair with Eridan. The genocide bit is true, but he was by no means trying to strike up a hatemance with everyone else. Also, although he was a bit desperate to have someone else for a red (love) romance with after Feferi broke up with him, keep in mind how long they'd been together. This would be like being with a romantic partner for years and years, and then suddenly they break it off because they don't need your help anymore (Feferi only kept up the moirailhood for as long as she did because Gl'bgolyb was now dead- she'd wanted to cut it off before but couldn't). He felt used. And in the Moral Event Horizon described, he comes to the group trying to SAVE everyone- he just had an awful way to do it, which they disagreed with. Sollux and Eridan fought, and when Eridan won Feferi jumped in, trident in hand. Eridan shoots her through the heart before she reaches him. While it is by no means acceptable for Eridan to have killed her, it was pretty clearly a self defense thing- he was literally trying to save all of them, her especially, all of two minutes ago.
And now it's pretty clear that Vriska is what a Jerk with a Heart of Gold would look like in a Crapsack World. She does many awful, terrible things without showing any remorse, but that's because, as a blueblood, that is precisely how she would be expected to behave, and is precisely how her idol, Mindfang, acted. It doesn't help that Kanaya, her Morality Chain and only real friend left, stopped talking to her shortly before their session ended. After she kills Tavros, she finally does show genuine remorse, seems receptive to John's encouragement to be good, and flies off to battle Jack in the hopes that this act of sacrifice will make up for her past deeds. This does not succeed.
Played straight, and then subverted, by the highly sarcasticKing 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."
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 TheaterBLACK 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.
In Beavis And Butthead, this trope is played strongly in characters like Butthead himself, Todd and Coach Buzzcut.
In Futurama, Zapp Brannigan shows himself as one on this very first appearance: 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 then gloats over it for the rest of the series.
In 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.
Jeff Fecalman as well, and he is the worst one.
Peter Griffin, mainly in the later seasons.
In The Spectacular Spider ManNorman 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 Sponge Bob Square Pants 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's 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.
And Saddam Hussein, who is the clearest example in the series.
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.
Roger of American Dad frequently teases a sympathetic depth to his usually sociopathic self, the large majority of times it is complete lies (eg. 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. He apparently just goes around the world turning people into giant body parts simply for not "appreciating" how much of a jerk he is. Also he turns a bird inside out for no readily apparent reason. In "Sons of Mars", we learn he was exiled from the planet Mars because he's such a Jerk Ass, and his behavior has something to do withwhat happened to his girlfriend.
And in "The Best Night Ever", Rarity expects Prince Blueblood to be Prince Charming, and then when his actions fit Prince Charmless, she is still infatuated enough to think he's just a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. Turns out he's a grade A dick, whom she gives a richly deserved bawling-out just before the gala goes completely ashcan.
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.
Whenever Mr. Burns shows any sign of a softer side, he almost always ends up reverting to form by the end of the episode.