"It's already happening. You've reverted back to what you were. You've gotten soft. You're like one of those police dogs who's released into the wild and gets eaten by a deer or something."A sweet trope in which a Jerkass develops a nicer attitude over time and becomes a genuinely pleasant person (or, at worst, a Jerk with a Heart of Gold). Usually this can be due to Character Development. A Heel–Face Turn may be involved as well. In some cases this may be a case of Characterization Marches On; as the series progresses, the writers realized that a nicer character fit the changing tone better than the original idea. This trope also covers situations where a character with a Hidden Heart of Gold or a Jerkass Façade feels safe enough to show his gentler side (in the presence of the main characters, anyway). If done over the course of one episode or short story, this may have been to set up an Aesop. Also called a Jerk-to-Nice-Guy Plot. Contrast Took a Level in Jerkass. Compare to Defrosting Ice Queen, which focuses on a specific Love Interest bringing an unfriendly character out of her shell. When a character becomes nicer in an adaptation, that's Adaptational Nice Guy.
— NewsRadio, "Airport"
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- W.I.T.C.H.: In the original, comic book continuity (different of the animated series adaptation continuity), Vathek, one of the main villains of the first arc, is a cruel, aggressive and arrogant bastard. At the half of the arc, he's sent to spy on the good guys but ends up genuinely sympathizing with them and pulls a Heel–Face Turn. Character Development and Hidden Depths show their faces, and at the end of the arc, he's a real Gentle Giant.
- King Max Acorn in Sonic the Hedgehog, post-Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Collide. Once a fairly amiable guy, one trauma after another left him a crusty curmudgeon. When the Cosmic Retcon Button is hit by accident, he becomes completely mellowed out to the point where Sonic sees this change in attitude as a reason not to set things back to normal.
- It has been noted by many that, in the New 52, Batman of all people has taken a major level in kindness, while others have become bigger jerks. Bruce is actively rebuilding Gotham, trying to move on from his parents' death and even seems to be one of the nicer members of the Justice League. While some of this can be seen as the result of The Return of Bruce Wayne, where he came full circle from his previous epic Jerkass characterization, even stories set before that happened have him as one of the nicer guys.
- After mostly being an antagonist or even borderline villain in the Donald Duck comics he originated in, Scrooge McDuck had to be turned into a more heroic and sympathetic character when he began starring in his own spinoff title (though even in his own comics he always remained something of an antihero).
- In the Supergirl/Green Lantern crossover Red Daughter of Krypton, Red Lantern Bleez became somewhat kinder and nicer after joining Guy Gardner's group. Supergirl also matured in this storyline, getting over her anger and brattiness and becoming a better person.
- In Ms. Marvel (2014), Zoe Zimmer starts off as a mean and condescending bitch towards Kamala and Nakia, but over the course of the series, she slowly gets on better terms with them, culminating in her realizing that she has feelings for Nakia.
- Calvin and Hobbes: The Series’ iteration of Calvin is much more likely to do the right thing than his comic counterpart.
- In The Best Night Ever, a core focus of the story is Prince Blueblood taking several levels in kindness.
- A Crown of Stars: After arriving on Avalon, getting therapy and counselling, Asuka -who had previously been a mass of rage, cynicism and bitterness due to be psychologically broken- starts being nicer as she gradually gets over her worst issues and learns she can trust other people (specially Shinji).
- Advice and Trust: After she and Shinji get together, Asuka starts being nicer and kinder to Shinji and Rei because she knows she is not alone anymore and she does not need to push people away. Unfortunately she can not display it openly out of fear to be separated from Shinji in the event that someone finds out that they have become a couple.
- The Child of Love: Due to the changes she undergoes through her pregnancy, Asuka's behaviour becomes softer. After hooking up with Shinji she is way nicer to him, at the beginning privately but later openly. When Touji muses Asuka is nicer than she used to, Shinji replies that is the real Asuka and the mean girl was a façade.
- Children of an Elder God: After losing her mother and being ditched by her father Asuka's temper got real bad. Fortunately she got a decent foster mother raised her properly, and her behaviour softened after a while.
- Doing It Right This Time:
- Ritsuko, upon discovering Rei is actually a clone of her mother instead of one of Yui, starts being kinder to her, even going so far as to treat Rei like a little sister.
- Asuka, after returning to the past with full knowledge of how disastrous and self-defeating was her "drive everybody away in order to avoid pain" strategy, allows herself to be nicer.
- Evangelion 303: Getting together with Shinji worked wonders on Asuka's brittle temper. She calmed down -a bit- and started being nicer to people she previously declared she could not stand like Rei or Kaworu. Several characters note that she has changed and is kinder: after finding out Shinji and Asuka are iving together Misato mutters "Oh. So that is because she is nicer now". Shortly after Asuka praises Rei's performance during a volleybal match and Rei gets flustered and shocked.
- Ghosts of Evangelion: Asuka becomes a bit nicer after undergoing therapy and being in a healthy relationship. This is made clear when she refers Rei as “Miss Ayanami”.
- HERZ: Downplayed. Due to a being older, married and a mother, Asuka is nicer, less harsh and less mean that she used to when she was thirteen... although she is still pretty hot-tempered.
- Higher Learning: When Kaoru starts working in the pilots' school his lessons teach Asuka to be less angry and less confrontational, and help her to open up. Her temper gets nicer and less pushy progressively, to the point she is capable of confessing her feelings to Shinji (after a bottle of sake). From that point she becomes kinder.
- Last Child of Krypton: At the beginning Asuka was very angry and confrontational. However, exposure to Shinji -the nicest, kindest, less judgemental person that you will meet- helps her to improve her temper and let her nicer side out.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide: After hooking up with Shinji, Asuka stops pushing everyone away. She even tries to be nicer to Rei for Shinji's sake.
- Once More with Feeling: After returning to the past, Shinji knows exactly why Asuka is rude and and confrontational and what ticks her off. So that he makes sure showing her that he is there for her and not behaving as a wimp who apologises for everything, never stands up and always backs off, to avoid pressing her berserk buttons. The result is she becomes more sympathetic and nicer. This is specially obvious in several scenes where she admits to Rei she screwed up during a battle or where she says it would be unfair going to Okinawa alone while Shinji and Rei stay in Tokyo-3.
- The One I Love Is: Rei and Asuka start fighting over Shinji, forcing the latter girl to acknowledge and display her feelings openly. Since she has to stop pushing him away, Asuka starts being nicer and less harsh. In chapter 6 Shinji notes she is really kinder now.
- Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: This is in fact a plot point: When Asuka finds out about her powers and realizes what they entail, she strives to become a better, kinder person and be worthy of them.
- Soul Chess has Soifon of all people take a few levels in kindness. The reason? Yoruichi took Soifon with her when she left Soul Society.
- The Wizard in the Shadows has Denethor take one after a Heel Realisation.
- Precia in Game Theory (Fan Fic). At the very least, she makes an effort to act pleasant instead of abusing Fate, so she's already miles ahead of her canon counterpart, and she does seem to get somewhat genuinely nicer as the story progresses.
- In Address Unknown, Rainbow Dash grudgingly agrees to take care of a temporarily blinded Derpy, who has recently started a relationship with Twilight. While trying to get to sleep on Derpy's couch, she is forced to confront her responsibility for contributing to Derpy's lifelong misery, and makes a tearful apology the following morning. Derpy forgives her and the two agree to start over.
- In the Total Drama story, Legacy, both Heather and Duncan have grown up, figuratively as well as literally, in the ten years since they were on the show. Duncan has even learned basic precepts of chivalry.
- Bolt and Moondancer, two of Sylvia's brothers, in the story Sylvia the Sylveon.
- In Fate Zero Sanity, Kayneth Archibald El-Melloi starts off very similar to canon, but ultimately develops into a sympathetic character, culminating in feeling genuine sorrow when his Servant dies. His last act is to give Waver Velvet his Mystic Code and make some amends towards him. This makes his death all the more impactful.
- Faith and Cordelia both accomplish this in Faith: The Series much faster than in canon. The former due to being Happily Adopted by Giles. The latter due to being saved by Jesse, who she then started dating.
- Escape From The Hokage's Hat: Played with in that while Sakura wasn't a complete Jerkass, she still wasn't a nice person either. Suffice to say after a few Break the Haughty moments and several reality checks, she reevaluates herself and tries to be both a better person and ninja even going as far as asking Lee out on a date and having a much needed Sorkin Relationship Moment with Naruto where she practically begs him to find someone who'll reciprocate his feelings rather than be her Hopeless Suitor.
- Fallout: Equestria: Starlight: Not that she was a jerk before, but Homage comes off as much nicer then she is in Fallout: Equestria, often ending her broadcasts with saying how one can best help others.
- The shinigami Umbra in And The Story Continues is a strange case. He's become much warmer and more cooperative since his transformation from L, especially towards Sidoh, Erin and kids like Near. But he's also become much more amoral compared to his human persona—for example, he doesn't hesitate to offer to kill Kimiko for running over Erin's cat while driving drunk, although he does promptly back off when Erin refuses his offer.
- Bonnie in the Kim Possible fanfic Vacation From The Norm is much kinder than she was in the series, largely due to her marriage to Senor Senior Jr. and the father/daughter bond that developed between her and her father-in-law Senor Senior Sr., who happily indulged her passion for refurbishing motorcycles. Bonnie, in turn, convinced SSS to do a Heel–Face Turn, and the Senior family formed their own hero team called the Upperclassmen to help Kim Possible out.
- In Wonderful, Sophia is a jerkass, but she becomes gradually kinder and more tolerable after meeting Taylor.
- In Thousand Shinji, Shinji goes from being a Manipulative Bastard and an unrepentant, selfish Jerkass to being a Jerk with a Heart of Gold and developing pity and empathy after getting a girlfriend, family and friends.
- In The Second Try, after Third Impact, Asuka gradually gets over her issues, matures and becomes a mother, and in the process she becomes nicer and less bratty.
- In Shinji's Nightmare, some time after Shinji returns from his month in Unit 01 as an Alicorn, Nightmare Moon develops from a former Big Bad into a surrogate mother for the boy. It helps that she created his new body, built in her image and gifted with her power, so functionally she is his mother.
- Ritsuko warms up to Shinji considerably after he extends an open invitation to talk to him about anything or just to have a shoulder to cry on, even knowing that she's sleeping with his father.
- In This Bites!, due to the conveniently timed SBS broadcast, Boa Hancock spares Marguerite after the latter reasons that she has Devil Fruit powers and that it was due to a Dark and Troubled Past. Thinking about the whole thing more, she realizes just how many of the World Nobles' habits she and her sisters had adopted, and decides she should listen to Elder Nyon and seek therapy.
- In Sodorthe Early Years, this happens with a fair amount of characters, but Diesel is definitely the most notable. He's close to his The Railway Series counterpart in the first few seasons, but as the seasons get more and more deep and complex, Diesel really becomes one of the family. He even apologises to Henry, Gordon and James in 'Bad Apple', much to their shock. He also apologises to Duck the following day on a maintenance of way train (swapping duties with Bear just to do so), only to find Duck had forgiven him, much to his shock.
- In Dueling Trigger Finger this trope befalls Kaiba of all people, likely to the absolute shock of no one. After watching Sonia get savaged by the Winged Dragon of Ra and administering some failed tests on Obelisk, he has decided to lock the god cards away forever, rather than want them for his deck. This is especially noteworthy, because it's something his anime counterpart would never even think of doing. Inherently though, on top of that, Kaiba is also highly respectful of Chiaki and even seems to have a soft spot for Chihiro Fujisaki. Chiaki states that she believes it's because Yugi and his friends piss Kaiba off so he's always in a sour mood when it comes to them.
- A Fantastic Upheaval of Previously Held Notions: In the case of Strickler and Angor Rot. When Barbara learns the full story behind Angor Rot and the Inferna Copula, she has Strickler begrudgingly return the ring to Angor in exchange for him leaving the Trollhunter, his friends and his family alone. While confused at first, Angor agrees, offering Barbra the option to sever the magical link between her and Strickler should she ever need it and the Kill Stone as a sign of solidarity to Jim.
Films — Animation
- The whole point of everything Lightning McQueen goes through in Cars is to persuade him to do this.
- Anastasia does this in the sequels Cinderella II: Dreams Come True and Cinderella III: A Twist in Time, to the point where she eventually pulls a Heel–Face Turn.
- Mr. Peabody & Sherman: Penny starts as an extremely abusive Alpha Bitch who tries to humiliate Sherman into acting like a dog; through her experiences with Sherman in the WABAC, she grows to see him in a new light and becomes a softer and kinder person as a result.
- 'Baby' Brent in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, who starts being The Bully towards Flint, having also a Small Name, Big Ego personality. After his popularity fades away thanks to the FLDSMDFR, he decides to help the main characters in the most critical moment and eventually befriends them.
- And in the second film, the FLDSMDFR itself has a Heel–Face Turn,starting to make life rather than trying to destroy it.
- Zootopia has Gideon Gray, a fox bully who picked on Judy and other prey animals when they were kids. But when Judy sees him again when they're adults, Gideon now owns a bakery and is already working alongside Judy's parents. Much to her surprise, he even sincerely apologizes for bullying her.
- The Land Before Time: Cera started out as a stubborn, rude, egotistical and prejudiced brat. She even had the nerve to call Littlefoot's mother "stupid", despite the fact that she sacrificed her life to save her and Littlefoot. She spends most of the first film bragging about how she can take care of herself...until she nearly gets everyone killed following her way. In the sequels, while still egotistical and hot-headed, she has mellowed out greatly.
Films — Live-Action
- Ruthless People. Barbara. Even granting the understandable stresses she's put under she's a pretty horrible person at the beginning of the movie, and it's heavily suggested that her unpleasant personality was a factor long before she was kidnapped. Spending time with the Kesslers, however, and losing weight has an improving effect on her personality and she gradually becomes a much nicer person.
- Onkel Sofus in most incarnations of the Father of Four movies, as his Character Development.
- In Bad Santa, the main character starts being a complete Jerk Ass, but eventually becomes a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
- Had Phil Connors of Groundhog Day not done so, he probably would never have broken out of his temporal prison.
- The film Son of Godzilla is the start of showing the King Of The Monster's more loving fatherly side. Especially towards the end where he embraces his new son to keep him from freezing to death.
- The whole point of the Film Thor, which is an inversion of Captain America: The First Avenger. Whereas Captain Rogers was granted power because of his kindness and decency, Thor had to learn kindness and decency first to be worthy of his power.
- Thor: The Dark World: Downplayed with Loki. He is still evil, but is less evil than in The Avengers and he risks his life to save Jane Foster.
- Mad Max: Fury Road: Max starts the film looking out only for #1. He only agrees to aid Furiosa in her quest to rescue Immortan Joe's Wives out of a need for survival. Over the course of the story, he subtly becomes more protective of all of them, culminating in throwing everything has to keep them safe during the final chase and eventually giving some of his blood to save the life of a nearly mortally wounded Furiosa.
- Pretty much a recurring theme for the character, except in the original where he went in the opposite direction.
- Compared to his other appearances, the Alan Partridge who appears in Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is just a little bit nicer. While he's still a large Jerkass, he's not quite the enormous Jerkass of his other appearances and seems more capable of empathy and kindness. The ending, where he shows clear pity for Pat on learning of the death of his wife, is one of the few times we ever see him show sympathy for someone else.
- This happens to the protagonist in the Ozzy Osbourne song "No More Tears." In the first two verses, he happily murders a prostitute. However, during the bridge and third verse, he finds himself feeling very guilty about what he did. By the end of the song, he actually falls in love with her (even though she's already dead).
- Shawn Michaels Took a Level in Jerkass after kicking Marty Jannetty through a window and became an even bigger jerkass after the screw job against Bret Hart. Then he retired. Then he came out of retirement to fight the seemingly never ending reign of Triple H, gradually becoming a nice guy who would try to help younger wrestlers.
- More or less a case of Real Life Writes the Plot. He quit drugs, got married, had kids, and found religion. He doesn't deny his past, but has grown up and moved on. It's highlighted in him being one of the few wrestlers of his stature to actually stay retired.
- Annie Social changed much in the four five years between her WEW debut and the rise of new all women's promotions SHIMMER and WSU. She started out as a petty criminal out to cause as much ruin as possible, to finding a like minded friend in pro wrestling, then another, then before you know it she's best known for managing hot prospects and her tag team runs.
- William Winsbury in Gunnerkrigg Court is introduced as an abrasive, bullying twelve-year-old brat. As he gets older and spends more time with his classmates, he loses his antagonistic streak, and is on friendly terms with them by the cruise at the end of Annie's third year.
- Karkat in Homestuck becomes less of a Troll and more interested in the success of his prior antagonists. And if he's not a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, at least he's a shrewd enough leader to know when to play Team Mom for the other trolls.
- Over the course of Act 6 Dave gradually drops his obsession with cool-guy irony and starts trying to focus on being a decent person instead.
- Similarly, after Dirk recognizes that he's been a real asshole (especially to Jake), and also hears about how awful his alt-universe self was, he resolves not to turn into that person and becomes much nicer.
- In Noob, Fantöm started out with an attitude about his high-level player status that bordered on Insufferable Genius. The franchise's Wham Episode enventually led him to let go of the insufferable part in the webseries and novels, while the comic is currently doing an Adaptation Expansion of the arc that led to the change.
- Weiss Schnee of RWBY started out as a bratty Rich Bitch who looked down on all of her classmates. She begins to show a softer side after losing the Team RWBY leadership race to Ruby. By Volume 2, she loses the more abhorrent aspects of her personality and becomes friendlier and more supportive to her teammates, most notably showing concern for Blake's moping. By Volume 3, she offers to treat her teammates to noodles, willingly risks herself to shove Flynt into a flame vent to stop him taking out Yang, and is the first of team RWBY to stick up for Yang against Ironwood after the villains frame Yang for assault. The only time she is shown getting angry in that volume is when another person's (a Faunus at that, the very people she ranted about in "The Stray") hurt by a robot, and she rushes at it armed with only her sword, to see her summoning abilities awaken for the first time.
- Agent Carolina from Red vs. Blue was originally a supportive leader for the other Freelancers, but constantly being overshadowed by Tex caused her to take a few levels in Jerkass, and almost getting killed by the Meta drove her straight towards Ax-Crazy. When she first encounters the Reds and Blues in the present, she is harsh, overbearing, and makes it perfectly clear she thinks they're expendable. Later, though, she gets a chance to open up to Church when he plays a few recordings of her old teammate Agent York, and it genuinely thankful to the Blood Gulch Crew when they help her with her encounter with the Director. By Season 12, she sees the teams as something of a second family, and while she is a bit blunt at times she is absolutely terrified of the possibility of losing them.
- Downplayed with Max in Camp Camp, who starts out hating David and the camp, acting like a Jerk Ass to pretty much everyone, and showing little to no care about anyone. But by season two, while he still acts like a jerk a large amount of the time, he's shown to care about the other campers, at least somewhat and while he still hardly sees eye-to-eye with David, he doesn't seem to outright hate him anymore, and by the second to last scene of season two, he begrudgingly gives David a hug.
- DSBT InsaniT: Lisa is a bit less antagonistic in 'The Camping Webisode', even going as far as to protect Koden's friends against Killer Monster, although she tries to justify it by saying she knows what he is going through. By 'Store Story', she has lost her violent tendancies and just sticks to being a Troll.