Took a Level in Kindness

"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."
NewsRadio, "Airport"

A Jerkass softens over time, and becomes either a Jerk with a Heart of Gold or not a jerk at all. Usually this can be due to Character Development. 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.

If done over the course of one episode or short-story, this may have been to set up an Aesop.

Naturally, the Counter Trope of Took a Level in Jerkass. Compare to Defrosting Ice Queen, which focuses on a specific Love Interest bringing a character out of their shell.

Example subpages:

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    Comic Books 
  • 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. A real jerk who is a massive Disco Dan, when the Cosmic Retcon Button is hit by accident, he's completely mellowed out to the point where Sonic, whose been looked down on by the now-formerly senile ruler, sees this 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 characterisation, 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).

    Fan Works 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Films — Animation 

    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 becames 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 but he risks his life to save Jane Foster.

  • 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).

    Professional Wrestling 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Web Original 
  • 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.