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.

    Fan Fiction 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.
    • John, too. As he becomes more of an All-Loving Hero — especially when contrasted with the other kids' Character Development, which often took them in darker directions — it can be hard to remember that this is the same guy that who, in his first pesterlog, responded to Dave's gleeful discovery of a bottle of apple juice by joking that it might actually be full of pee.
    EB: all im saying is don't you think monster howie mandel has the power to do something as simple as reseal a bottle?
    EB: try using your brain numbnuts.

    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.