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Cracks in the Icy Façade

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The world can be cold and hard. Some people feel that the best defense against that is to build up walls. High and thick walls to keep others out. This is where the Ice Queens, Stoics, and Broken Birds come from. They have vowed they will Never Be Hurt Again, and their defenses are thick and strong, and nigh impenetrable.

But what's this? Something happens early in the story that indicates that this character isn't as closed off as they would like us to believe. It could be a Pet the Dog moment. It could be them looking at a photograph of The Lost Lenore. It could be someone tumbling to a journal or diary entry indicating the actual anguish this person is feeling inside. Perhaps someone caught them laughing at a lighthearted moment, revealing themselves to be Not So Above It All and Not So Stoic after all.

Whatever the case, these tiny clues let us know that the character WILL be undergoing character development over the course of a work. The number of cracks in the emotional armor the audience is shown will be reciprocal to the length of the work. A longer work will take more opportunities to show these chinks in one's armor before launching into serious character development.

The Defroster is very keen to spot these moments, and realize that the person they're dealing with is just in need of some support and attention, and cue the Defrosting Ice Queen, sometimes culminating in Now Allowed to Hug or Humanizing Tears.

This trope is a type of Foreshadowing since it implies that the character has the possibility of opening up and changing before Character Development begins. May cross over with Hidden Depths, in which these cracks or traits about the character were previously unknown to the rest of the cast and the audience and can contribute to their subsequent defrosting.

Note that examples must show what the early indicators are what let audiences know that the character would be receiving Character Development down the road.

No Real-Life Examples.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You: Nano continuously rebuffs Rentarou's attempts to approach her during their first day after she is revealed as one of his soulmates, claiming him to be an insignificant part of her routine. As soon as she gets home, however, she is unable to focus on her studies due to being swamped with thoughts about him. She takes up his offer of a date the following day with the expectation of proving his insignificance to her, but Rentarou instead proves that there is significance in being happy with the people you love by almost burning the photos he took during the date, causing her to snatch the photos from him and break down in tears.
  • EDENS ZERO: Hermit Mio is introduced as an emotionally broken and cold Robot Girl who detests humans because of how horribly her kindness was taken advantage of by humans who pretended to view androids as people. She initially treats Shiki with the same contempt, but willingly helps him and his friends against the Arc Villain when they need it, which allows her to witness just how much they genuinely care about her and others who wouldn't be considered "alive", leading to her defrosting by the end of the arc.
  • Fairy Tail: Erza Scarlet is introduced as a stone-faced disciplinarian and highly-trained badass who often reprimands her guildmates, especially Natsu, and acts too serious during peaceful moments, unlike the rest of her guild. When Natsu gets her and Erza thrown in a jail cell in a hair-brained attempt to take the heat for a crime she was blamed for, Erza tells him off as usual, but then warmly smiles and admits how happy he made her feel, the first of many hints that Erza is not as cold as she lets herself on to be. However, she doesn't truly begin to defrost until Gray calls her out for her Lack of Empathy towards a village of suffering people simply because she and her friends had no official approval from the guild to go on the mission to help them.
  • Martian Successor Nadesico: Ruri Hoshino is a Rei Ayanami Expy with a blank expression, a biting wit, and a penchant for referring to everyone around her as "baka/idiots". When they're retaking the ship from the UEF in an early episode, Megumi notes the first crack in Ruri's icy exterior, saying, "Did I just see you smile?" Ruri notes that it's a possibility, adding herself to the mix when she says, "I guess we're all idiots, here."
  • My Hero Academia: Shoto Todoroki was first introduced as a cold, aloof, and emotionally distant boy who hates his father and is limiting his potential with his quirk in order to spite him. He reveals to Midoriya before their match in the Sports Festival that the reason he hates his father is that he's an Abusive Parent who put him through Training from Hell while simultaneously beating his mother until eventually, the mother snaps and throws boiling water on his face giving him his scar. Then, during their match, Midoriya calls him out for not going all out like everyone else just to spite his father and how his powers are his and his alone. This sparks Shoto to be more willing to use both sides of his quirk, including his fire side, as well as try to be an overall more open and caring person. This even pushes him to (begrudgingly) accept help from his father to learn how to hone his fire side, and later on even give him the chance to be forgiven for his actions once he finally starts his redemption.
  • My-HiME: Natsuki starts out the series perfectly willing to use lethal force against anyone who gets in the way of her campaign against District One. Her first indicator that she could thaw varies. In publication order, starting with giving Mai a ride on her motorcycle to look for her missing brother after Nagi reveals that Orphans are chasing him, and during the Panty Thief episode, Natsuki decides that a sleeping Mai looks cold and drapes a coat over her. If you include the prequel novel Natsuki no Prelude, then chronologically it was offering to retrieve Akane's notes for her, telling her classmate Think Nothing of It.
  • In the beginning, the titular heroine of Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water was very abrasive towards Jean and mistrusting him due to the shell she had to build for herself during her abusive childhood in a circus. In the course of the series (barring parts of the Filler), she became more and more open to the others due to experimenting with friendship, affection, and love, even renouncing her Atlantean heritage if it means dropping them; even though, due to her Hair-Trigger Temper, she often disputes with Jean, she often apologises, by words or deeds, for harmful things she said to him. In the epilogue, she married Jean and presumably kept contact with the rest of the protagonists.
  • Another Studio Gainax work, Neon Genesis Evangelion, features Rei Ayanami, who started as an emotionless doll, only for the first sign of true emotion being when Shinji sees her smiling for Gendo Ikari. She even once stated she was ready to die for him. In the course of the series, she reflects more and more on her existence and Gendo, wondering what she really is and being more and more open to her fellow pilots; in End of Evangelion, she outright rebels against Gendo to save Shinji.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Homura Akemi starts the series off as a seemingly perfect, unflinching cold beauty who doesn't care for anyone but herself. However as the series goes on the cracks of her true nature start to show, slowly but surely, revealing someone who's far from as emotionally detached as she lets off.
  • SPY×FAMILY: The titular spy, Agent Twilight aka Loid Forger, is a cold and apathetic secret agent who's rather distant and devoid of feelings, and avoids forming bonds or having a normal life due to his line of work. When adopting Anya for his mission, Operation Strix, he displays impatience and disinterest in caring for her to the point he would leave her at home unattended. After she is abducted, he initially considers leaving Anya to her fate at the hands of the criminals to maintain his cover, only to infiltrate straight inside the enemy stronghold to rescue her despite being fully aware of the several risks. After fending off the criminals, he adopts Anya after realizing the amount of families that turned her away. This act of solace towards Anya is the first instance of Agent Twilight showing the secret empathy that lies deep within him.
  • Zombie Land Saga: The Idol Singer Ai Mizuno starts the series off as quite sour and cynical. After all, she's been dead for ten years, brought back as a zombie for a ludicrous plan to revitalize a niche prefecture, and has largely been relegated to obscurity despite being a national sensation in life. Seeing the determination of her groupmate Sakura shows hints that she might not be as done with idol work as she thought, first when Sakura saves an awry performance in episode 2, and later as the rest of the group is slowly coming together to officialize their new idol group, with Ai noting their optimism for what she thought was just a doomed pipe dream.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • Beauty and the Beast: Beast is unmoved by Belle's pleas to release her father until she offers to take his place. Despite his momentary surprise, he hurriedly drags Maurice away from Belle, not even giving them a chance to say their goodbyes. However, when he sees her crying, he looks ashamed for having hurt her feelings, and he lets her out of the dungeon, gives her an elegant room, and gives her free rein of the castle except the West Wing.
  • Frozen (2013): Kristoff is first shown to be an aloof, emotionally distant misanthrope whose only strongest connection he ever had is with Sven, his pet reindeer. When he first meets Anna, he acts very smugly toward her, saying that he'll only help her find Elsa if she pays him first. However, as he spends more time around Anna, he starts to see the good in her and the kindness that humans can have, allowing him to be more affectionate and attentive towards her. He also cares for Anna when she's hit by Elsa's powers and tries to get her back home in time to save her life. This is just the early part of his Character Development as he finally starts to see that not all humans are bad and begins to be more warm and caring towards others as well, and by the end of the first movie, becomes a Nice Guy.
  • Raya and the Last Dragon: The titular character Raya is shown to be aloof and distrustful of others because of her experience with Namaari and has a very cynical outlook on life as a result. However, she is shown to be (somewhat) caring and/or trusting of Little Noi, a con artist baby who, even after she tricked her, is shown to have a Hidden Heart of Gold. Raya also was shown feeling out over meeting Sisu and is very patient with her when she's starting to learn about current life in this post-Duun era, hinting at Ray's Heal the Cutie arc that she will go on during that movie.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Balibo: Roger East starts off as a gruff and selfish cynic who doesn't care about East Timor's plight. The first indicator he isn't as much of an asshole as he seems is when he kindly teaches a young child how to flip a coin. Sure enough, he eventually comes to genuinely care about what happens to the small country and ultimately chooses to remain in East Timor during the Indonesian invasion as a foreign correspondent.
  • In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man/Tony Stark is always shown to be self-centered, arrogant, and constantly using his heroics to massage his ego. However, over the course of Phases 1-3 of the Infinity Saga, Tony is revealed to have more and more of a Hidden Heart of Gold.
    • In Iron Man 3, it's shown that Tony Stark is suffering from PTSD from the events of The Avengers (2012), having nightmares, panic attacks and constantly obsessing over trying to protect what family he has left. This shows that even a "selfish" hero like him has vulnerable moments and doesn't always think he's invincible.
    • In Captain America: Civil War it's revealed that he has massive guilt for his custom-made weapons being used for terrorist attacks in Iron Man and that he thinks signing the Sokovia Accords will help rectify those mistakes. It's also revealed that he lost both of his parents and that Bucky aka the Winter Soldier was responsible for their deaths, with Captain America/Steve Rogers knowing about it since his talk with Arnim Zola in the previous movie.
    • In Spider-Man: Homecoming Tony is shown to be a responsible, caring father figure to Peter Parker, constantly looking out for his well-being and giving him advice about how to be a hero. This stems from the poor relationship he had with his own father and his desire to be a better parent or mentor to him, showing that he is capable of caring about others and putting their needs before his.
    • This reaches its peak in Avengers: Endgame, where Tony Stark sacrifices himself by taking the stones off of Thanos and using them to end the threat of Thanos at the cost of it killing him. This is the response to Steve Rogers accusing Tony in The Avengers (2012) that the one thing could never do is make a sacrifice play for the greater good of others even with nothing in return.
  • SHAZAM! (2019): Billy Batson was abandoned as a child and has spent the bulk of his childhood ditching foster homes. He seems to want nothing to do with anyone or anything that isn't his missing mother. The first clue that he isn't completely closed off is when he feels visibly guilty about hurting his new foster sister Darla's feelings. He follows it up by demonstrating that while he was initially standoffish to his foster family, he wasn't cool with watching a pair of bullies attack the crippled Freddie Freeman, and attacks them both with the crutch they took off of Freddie. This action is what earns him the attention of the Wizard, and gains him his powers.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Adventures of Superman: Perry White is the boss of Superman's alter ego Clark Kent. He is shown to be uptight towards his employees, complaining about how he has to keep them in line all the time, is very snappy and short with his entire staff, and is especially rude to Jimmy, his least favorite employee (for instance, telling Jimmy a million times to not call him chief, even though he is seemingly fine when everyone else does it). However, he does get soft moments at various points, such as trying to comfort Jimmy when the latter freaks out over a "ghost sighting", even though Perry thinks he dreamed it.
  • Arrowverse: Snart (a.k.a. Captain Cold) and his partner Mick (a.k.a. Heatwave) are both introduced as ruthless and cold-hearted master thieves who don't care about anything other than themselves and money. Even their interactions with each other seem distant despite them seemingly having a close relationship. Over time, Snart is shown to love and care for his sister Lisa and has an honor code of never abandoning his teammates/associates, dating back to the first season of The Flash (2014). Mick, in turn, is shown to view Snart as a hero (to him, anyway) and a confidant, grieving him when he sacrifices himself at the end of the first season of Legends of Tomorrow, and is much more aware of others' thoughts and feelings than he lets on.
  • Babylon 5: Londo and G'Kar both have moments of this throughout the first season that hint at their future Character Development:
    • For the show's duration thus far, Londo has been on the receiving end of G'Kar's bullying. When Londo has a chance to acquire a rare plant G'Kar needs for a religious ritual in "By Any Means Necessary", Londo shows that he's capable of just as much cruelty, and G'Kar shows some humility for once.
    • The very next episode, "Signs and Portents", sees the mysterious Morden ask the same question of each of them: "What do you want?".
      G'Kar: Wait. What do I want? The Centauri stripped my world. I want justice.
      Morden: But what do you want?
      G'Kar: To suck the marrow from their bones and grind their skulls into powder.
      Morden: What do you want?
      G'Kar: To tear down their cities, blacken their sky, sow the ground with completely, utterly erase them.
      Morden: And then what?
      [dramatic pause]
      G'Kar: ...I don't know. As long as my homeworld's safety is guaranteed, I don't know that it matters.
      Londo: ...All right. Fine. You really want to know what I want? You really want to know the truth? I want my people to reclaim their rightful place in the galaxy! I want to see the Centauri stretch forth their hand again and command the stars! I want a rebirth of glory, a renaissance of power! I want to stop running through life like a man late for an appointment, afraid to look back, or to look forward! I want us to be what we used to be. I want... I want it all back, the way that it was! Does that answer your question?
  • Doctor Who: In "A Christmas Carol", the first indicator that the Doctor has that Kazran Sardick is not irredeemable is that he stops himself from hitting a child that threw a lump of coal at him. A quick Sherlock Scan and some Awesomeness by Analysis, and the Doctor realizes Kazaran's Freudian Excuse, and determines to make him a nicer person, by changing his past.
  • Gilmore Girls: Jess is introduced as Luke's troubled teenage nephew, going From New York to Nowhere and being thoroughly jaded and unimpressed by his new surroundings. He spends much of his first few episodes being a jerk, especially to Luke, and pulling pranks to alleviate his boredom. He goes a little too far and draws a chalk outline to simulate a murder, throwing the town into a tizzy. The first sign that he's capable of Character Development comes when Rory gives him a What the Hell, Hero? over it, since the townsfolk taking their anger out on Luke for allowing him to stay, rather than just getting mad at Jess. This seems to be something Jess hadn't considered, and the end of the episode has Luke finding that the broken diner toaster is now working, with Jess adamantly denying he had anything to do with it. Jess would eventually shed most of his cynical, bad boy image by the end of the series, not only expressing to Luke how much his support meant to him, but becoming a Self-Made Man and successful author, as well as a Positive Friend Influence on Rory.
  • House of Anubis: Jerome is initially introduced as an arrogant, manipulative Jerkass who joins Patricia in tormenting Nina for the giggles. But, when Amber thoughtlessly asks Nina why she wasn't raised by her parents instead of her grandmother, Jerome gets genuinely upset for a moment and mumbles that she's "the queen of tact". He's also shown to be horrified later on when Alfie is hospitalized, on the verge of tears when talking to Victor. These moments serve as early signs that he's actually a Jerk with a Heart of Gold with Parental Abandonment issues and legitimate, if grudging, concern for others — a side of him that Mara soon notices and works to help him show off more often, even if the rest of the House still sees him as a jerk.
  • Night Court: Dan Fielding is introduced as a self-interested jerk with a perverse streak a mile wide. Several episodes point to him having a hidden soft side, though. The first major example is when he falls in love with a wealthy but homely woman, and then decides he still wants to be with her when her father threatens to cut her off if she's with Dan. Unfortunately, she decides she can't live without the money, and leaves him. Over the course of the series, he becomes a much more selfless and philanthropic person.
  • Ruth of Snowpiercer began the series as a Wilford loyalist, not batting an eye when freezing limbs of insurgent passengers, including children. In the course of the series, Andrew's optimism starts to rub more and more on them, and starts reflecting on her past, the first time when meeting the little daughter of the woman she mutilated (said mother having volunteered to protect her daughter Ruth originally wanted to punish). At the end of the series, she joined Andrew's colony in East Africa.
  • Seojun from True Beauty (2020) starts off as an asshole who wants to mess with Jugyeong just to torment Suho because he thinks the latter is responsible for their friend's suicide. By episode 5 he begins to feel guilt over his treatment of both of them when he witnesses Suho having a breakdown and remembers that Jugyeong helped his sister. His actual Character Development takes place in episode 8.

  • Pink Floyd: A darker (and fairly late) example occurs on the album fittingly called The Wall. The first disc is devoted to the circumstances that lead Pink to build his titular metaphorical wall separating himself from the outside world, ending with its completion. However, disc two starts with Pink immediately regretting his decision on "Hey You" and trying in vain to get back out, hinting at his eventual reconciliation with his past traumas and present flaws in "The Trial", culminating in the wall's destruction.

  • Adventures in Odyssey: When Connie Kendal is first introduced, she is bitter and cynical after her parents' divorce, with her being dragged from her former home in California to the small town of Odyssey. She stops by Whit's End looking for a shop that had advertised a job because she wanted to earn enough money to go back to California to live with her father. Hearing her story, Mr. Whitaker offers to hire her on the spot and pay her the same amount that she would have made at the other shop. He had noticed that despite her cynical demeanor, she had a soft spot for kids.

    Video Games 
  • Dr. Brigid Tennenbaum of BioShock started as a former Nazi collaborator who helped Mengele in Auschwitz due to scientific curiosity and only complained because Nazis didn't do interesting things in these experiences. In Rapture, while working with Little Sisters, her heart awoke to the atrocities visited on them and, by the end, fled to protect and save the Little Sisters. The first time Jack meets her is when she shoots a splicer attempting to murder a Little Sister for her ADAM.
  • Sonic Adventure 2: Throughout the game, Shadow the Hedgehog shows an apathetic and superior nature to everyone around him. He has occasional flashbacks to a girl named Maria, whom he promises revenge for. Partway through the game, he finds out his assigned partner, Rouge, is locked in a room with the Chaos Emeralds as the island is about to explode. He gains a brief flashback to Maria and saves her. While he justifies to her and himself he was only after the Chaos Emeralds, Rouge calls this in to question. He has another flashback to his time with Maria as he questions his purpose, showing he is more vulnerable than he's letting on. This comes to a head in the final story, where Amy unintentionally helps him realize what Maria really wanted, to give the people of the planet hope.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2: While she is appalled by the rest of Torna's plans to use the Aegis to destroy the world, Nia is still introduced as being snarky and quick to anger. When she first travels with Rex, Nia is The Drag-Along who only travels with him because he's on the way to her hometown of Torigoth. When they get there, Nia is captured by Ardanian soldiers. She is genuinely grateful when Rex rescues her, even if she has a hard time showing it. When they escape, Rex asks Nia to continue to accompany him, and although she hesitates, she eventually accepts. This foreshadows how Nia is starting to open up to Rex and friends, and how, near the end of the game, her trust in them is what ultimately leads Nia to reveal that she's a Flesh Eater, and even confesses her love to Rex, not that he seems to realize this note .

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia: Sasha Waybright is first introduced in flashbacks of season one as a manipulative, tough, cocky, and controlling friend of Marcy and Anne who feels as though she's doing what's right for the friendship by being a Control Freak and Toxic Friend Influence. However, it's revealed that after Anne defeats her in the season 1 finale, she misses Anne and Marcy and is angry that things will never be the same again. She is also shown to genuinely care about her friends and thinks she doing what's best for all of them to get back home, and when she realizes how much Anne has changed, she struggles to accept it, since she always was the one who needed to protect her (and Marcy) when they were little. After Marcy reveals how she practically tricked her and Anne into taking the box and taking them away from their home and gets subsequently stabbed in the back by Andreas, as well as Anne calling off their friendship, Sasha begins to feel an immense amount of guilt for her role in the events that occurred. She starts to be more humble and compassionate towards, openly shows her affections for Anne, and later forgives Marcy for her actions of keeping her in Amphibia, promising to be a much better friend and person overall after this experience.
  • The Dragon Prince: In the first arc of the show, Lord Viren at first appears to be your typical ruthless Evil Chancellor who'll make trouble for the heroes out of personal ambition as he secretly steals the egg containing the Dragon Prince without the knowledge of the King, however a private conversation with his daughter reveals he holds genuine feelings of brotherhood for King Harrow, with the implication he was willing to perform a Heroic Sacrifice for him, before ill-timed words from a frustrated Harrow derail those plans. Later on, his veneer of a ruthless pragmatist breaks in a rant in front of a mirror, (after using a potion of true sight), which reveals him to be an insecure, self-doubting, man desperate to be seen as important by others.
  • Futurama: In the pilot, Leela is introduced as snarky, serious, and completely unimpressed with Fry's behavior, and relentlessly chases him down to give him a career chip. However, after he gives up and vents about his plight being stuck in the future, Leela opens up about her own history as an orphaned alien and relates to his loneliness, even illegally removing her career chip to show solidarity with him. While it takes several more episodes before we formally explore Leela's backstory and relationship issues, this is the first sign of her traumatizing loneliness and her related connection with Fry.
  • Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts: Wolf started out as a cold, aloof young Knight in Sour Armor who's had to fight and look out for herself in order to survive. When she first met Kipo, she was set on leaving her when she finally found her burrow. But over time, as she learns to loosen up and open up to others she starts to become more attached to her, and the gang as a whole. It got to the point that in "Mulholland" she actually hid the only map that would Kipo to her father because she was afraid of having to say goodbye to her. By the end of the series, Wolf grows to become more kind-hearted and trusting and is able to shed the wolf hood that she used to hide from the other mutes, symbolizing how she let go of her trauma and moved on from the past.
  • The Loud House : Lucy is introduced as a gloomy, aloof, cynical girl who is often portrayed as The Stoic around her siblings, initially seeming to only be interested in all things dark, mysterious, and grim, and often frightened or put off her siblings with her creepy habits and distant attitude towards everyone. But over time, Lucy is revealed to have more sides to her than her family realizes. She was also shown hiding the fact that she actually enjoys taking a break from the brood and gloom persona and reading bright and cherry books like Princess Pony.
  • The Owl House: In "Covention", Amity Blight starts as a total Jerkass, smashing King's cupcake and using Luz's challenge to keep her from studying magic. However, as soon as Eda reveals that Lilith cheated by increasing Amity's powers with a coven adhesive, the girl runs away ashamed, and later frees Luz from her "everlasting oath".
  • Samurai Jack: In season 5 of Samurai Jack, Ashi is introduced as cold, cunning, and blindly loyal to Aku as the last surviving daughter after Jack had to kill most of them in self-defense. But as she begins to spend more and more time with Jack, she sees how caring he is for life on the planet, like seeing him care for a ladybug while her mother just squashed it. She also seems to be intrigued by his stories when he talks about how the world actually came to be. And by the end of the season, she becomes willing to sacrifice her existence in time to help Jack finally kill Aku once and for all.
  • Total Drama: Gwen is introduced as an aloof, antisocial goth girl who ignores the other campers, but when Trent arrives, we see her turn away and smile for the first time. This is the first sign of the Defrosting Ice Queen plot she undergoes via her summer romance with Trent.