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Informed Kindness

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Let's say you're meeting two characters for the first time and you find out that one character is nice, but the other character is kinda rude and unfriendly. Then the nice character (or other characters who have known the rude character) will tell you that the other character is really a nice person, often following up with explaining his rude behavior.

This is an Informed Attribute of a character who is said to be nice, although his actions show him to be anything but. This can be justified in many ways. The character may have a turbulent, yet healthy relationship with the rest of the characters. Maybe the character isn't too keen on socializing with others. Or maybe the character appears to be nice, but does have moments of anger. Whatever reason it may be, this trope can show that the story is focusing on the good of the character instead of the bad.

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On the downside of things, characters believing that the character is nice will appear to be too naive, especially if the rude character has absolutely no redeeming qualities. Should the character be called out for his rudeness? Shouldn't the rude character apologize for his abrasive behavior? In a strange sense, however, the character who was taken aback of their rudeness will find out that he does have a nice side. Of course, that's only between those two.

A form of Show, Don't Tell. This can be a way to best describe a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, a character with a Sugar-and-Ice Personality, a Good Is Not Nice character, or other characters who can be socially unapproachable at times. Often a Naïve Newcomer will become confused as to why people keep calling this Jerkass teammate "nice". This can be shown how the character is a Jerk Sue if the other characters ignore his/her mean qualities. Compare Villain with Good Publicity for another meaning of "informed kindness". Compare Designated Hero if the character is shilled as a heroic but his actions are anything but.

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Contrast Beware the Nice Ones. See also Horrible Judge of Character for those mistakenly believing this. Compare Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. Can be a form of Character Shilling. Can be Truth in Television, for the same reason it happens above.

Examples

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  • Segata Sanshiro is described in-universe as being a "great hero", but this is a little hard to believe considering the fact that all he does is beat anyone who doesn't happen to play Sega Saturn senseless. It's better shown in Project X Zone 2 where he is a good friend (and sometimes even patron) of the various Sega characters and encourages those who are unfamiliar with him to pursue whatever path they choose with the utmost of seriousness.

    Anime and Manga 
  • The main character in Ghost Sweeper Mikami sings in the ending of the anime about how, below her cold exterior, she's actually nice and kind...even though her kind moments can be counted with the fingers of one hand and her normal actions in both the manga and anime are cold-hearted, illegal, incredibly cruel, greedy, and abusive. This is even worse considering the anime ended before she started undergoing some Character Development where she actually had nicer moments.
  • Parodied early on in Hayate the Combat Butler: The yakuza loan-sharks bent on enslaving Hayate as settlement for his parents' debt are redundantly, near-exclusively and emphatically being referred to as "Exceptionally kind people".
  • Record of Grancrest War goes to great lengths to establish Marrine as a Tragic Villain who selflessly sacrifices her own happiness for the country's good...Except that she poison gasses a building full of innocent people, refuses to ally with people for the sole reason that they're more heroic than her, and tries to make a foreign warlord Emperor. In real life, people who've committed murder on that scale are very rarely contrite.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Vento Aureo: Bruno Bucciarati's character profile claims kindness to be the basis of his character. Such statements would be perfectly fine if not for the fact that Bucciarati himself is a ruthless mafiosi who has been murdering people as early as twelve years old, and even his Pet the Dog moments of granting several suffering teenagers (and one adult) a better life in the mafia look more like him taking advantage of their vulnerability that any genuine bout of altruism.
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    Comic Books 
  • In The Sandman, the Furies are not to be referred as such, it's better to call them the Kindly Ones: a Hecate Trio of witches who swore to get revenge on Orpheus for making them cry, which they achieved by having him killed by his father.
  • Wonder Woman comes off as this Depending on the Writer. She was originally intended to be the most compassionate and understanding member of the Justice League of America, and for a fairly long time she lived up to it. Then Kingdom Come happened. In that story, Diana was depicted as having become more violent and bitter as a result of her struggles, taking up a sword and being much more willing to kill enemies. This was intended to just be an element of the Bad Future, but Kingdom Come ended up being a lot of readers' first real impression of Wonder Woman and the "warrior" imagery caught on. Ever since than, writers have tried to portray both interpretations at the same time with predictably confusing and Narmful results; narration praising Wonder Woman for her kind and peaceful ways will be juxtaposed with her breaking necks or stabbing bad guys.
  • Batman's status as being one of the purest, most compassionate superheroes of the DC universe and one of its moral centers. A lot of heroes (and writers) often tend to exaggerate and gush on and on about how he's apparently one of the most heroic, purest and incorruptible superheroes to ever exist...despite the fact that even at his campiest and goofiest, he has quite a few moments of Jerkassery under his belt and that he tends to act like an asshole towards everyone, even his closest allies (which often leads to him getting berated by said allies). Or all the times when one of his plans ends up backfiring on him and almost kills his allies because he refused to trust them out of stubbornness and paranoia (Tower Of Babel or Brother Eye, for example). Or the way he treated the rest of the Bat-family (especially Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain) in the past. Or that he almost never listens to what his friends tell him, even when they try to warn him about something, because he tends to think that he's always right about everything and that he knows better than everyone else (like that time when he got tricked by Barbatos into releasing him from the Dark Multiverse and he didn’t listen to any of his teammates when they tried to warn him that what he was doing was a horrible idea).

    Fan Fiction 
  • Belldandy in This Time Around is played up by others as being incredibly selfless, all-loving, and generally can do no wrong. They story starts with Belldandy interfering with the multiverse to insure she marries Keiichi in every single universe, even in ones where he's already in a relationship with someone else. Both Urd and Belldandy claim she's "not taking anything away and is only adding" because she'll allow anyone Keiichi's already dating to be his second wife. Clearly, someone missed that what Belldandy's doing is the very definition of selfish: she refuses to ever let someone else have Keiichi to themselves. Even the alternate universe Belldandy is treated as never being in the wrong despite the fact she frequently tries to hook up with Keiichi, even though he's already dating Urd.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Room's protagonist, Johnny, is ostensibly an emotionally fragile Nice Guy who buys Lisa red roses often enough to be the flower shop lady's favorite customer, and would do anything for Lisa and seems to only want to make her happy. He also pays for Denny's college and tuition without asking for anything in return, and is constantly admired and praised by everyone (except Lisa) wherever he goes. This shilling is kind of undermined by some of the other kinks in his character, such as laughing at domestic abuse that landed someone in the hospital, his covert taping of Lisa to determine whether or not she was having an affair instead of coming out and asking her about it, shoving Lisa onto a couch at one point and later getting into a physical confrontation with Mark in front of all his party guests, and his destructive meltdown at the end where he completely trashes his apartment.
  • Played for laughs in The Departed: after Staff Sergeant Dignam gives an extremely rude briefing, his colleague, Ellerby unconvincingly says: "Normally, he's a very, uh... nice guy. Don't judge him from this meeting alone". Dignam isn't nice by any stretch of the imagination, but he's honest and dutiful.
  • In Godzilla (1998) the other characters frequently talk up Audrey as being 'too nice'. This is despite the fact that she rejected Nick's proposal in favor of furthering her own career, and also steals top secret information from him to give to the press, throwing him under the bus. While she is remorseful that her actions got him fired, it doesn't come across as the Out-of-Character Moment it's meant to be.
  • The titular character of The Book of Henry is stated by the characters to be an incredibly kind person. Even the creators claimed him to be a subversion of the old Insufferable Genius saw. This contrasts with his actions, where he comes across as a pretty textbook case of that trope. Even his motivation, which is meant to be selfless, is so clumsily executed that it comes across as needlessly violent and cruel.
  • In The Invention of Lying, Mark refers to Anna as the kindest person he knows and his best friend, despite her being openly shallow and lukewarm towards him, and not showing any warmth until the third act of the film.
  • In Friends Til The End, guitarist Sammy's girlfriend Allison talks about what a nice guy he is in spite of him mostly acting like an insensitive jerk throughout the film.

    Literature 
  • Played with in Discworld: Nanny Ogg will insist that her incredibly mean and evil cat Greebo (which once raped a she-bear), is "a big softie, really". Only once did she confess "between you and me, he's a fiend from Hell".
  • Subverted with Raymond Shaw in The Manchurian Candidate. The novel repeatedly states "Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life." Keep in mind that this is because his squad has been brainwashed into saying this anytime they're asked about him. In point of fact, he's something of a cold jerk and No Hero to His Valet.
  • Played deliberately in Lewis Carroll's long poem "Peter and Paul" from Sylvie and Bruno, in which the rich Paul agrees to lend his poorer friend Peter some money, never actually gives it to him, then starves him by calling in the loan. Paul is referred to as "noble", "kind" and "honest" throughout.
  • Twilight
    • Bella is frequently considered a very loving person who, in Midnight Sun, Edward starts to warm to because he thinks "All the other things added up to that whole - kind and self-effacing and unselfish and loving and brave - she was good through and through." Bella, however, spends most of her time mentally complaining about everything, seeing the worst in people (for example, believing the students at Forks have ulterior motives for befriending her, with no evidence), and insisting on having her way whenever she can. This could actually make sense when you consider that Bella is the one person whose mind he cannot read; therefore he takes everything she does at face-value because he doesn't know her thoughts.
    • Inversely, Bella seems convinced that the Cullens - Edward especially - truly are moral and good people. This is despite them being withdrawn from society, viewing humans as only just worth noticing, with moments like Edward declaring a newborn attacking Seattle as none of their business. While Carlisle and Esme are held up as rare instances of vampires capable of deeper love, neither apparently did anything to stop the other Cullens from killing humans in their past, nor do they protest loaning cars to human-killing vampires in Breaking Dawn, just so long as those vampires don't kill anyone they personally know. While Bella's opinion on the Cullens could be a case of Unreliable Narrator, Bree Tanner also considers the Cullens to be kind and selfless towards her after only knowing them for a very brief period of time (and despite them leaving her in the care of the only one of their group who repeatedly demands they kill her) and Stephanie Meyer wrote a lengthy rebuttal to a fan who brought up how the Cullens don't seem to care that much about their past victims.
  • Left Behind features a wide array of what the authors tell us are saved, admirable characters... who are every bit as selfish, smug, aggressively insecure, and generally unpleasant as when they were unsaved. Sometimes it's accidental little things and sometimes it's things like Buck threatening and blackmailing his former boss and Rayford getting people killed for being rude to him. And being rude to people who are about to die, and griping when fewer people die than he was hoping. At one point, a character walks into this trope by name by saying that all the adults who were Raptured were "very nice people" when the ones the readers have seen (Irene Steele, the former New Hope pastor) were actually shown as self-righteous, aloof, and insensitive. On the rare occasions the authors show signs of noticing, they deal with it not by making them nicer but by shilling furiously, which is about as effective as it sounds.
  • Ender's Game: We're told over and over that Ender is a good person, extremely empathic, and loves even his enemies. This is based entirely on the fact that he always feels bad after he brutally murders someone (which is damn near every other scene). His guilt is never strong enough to make him show even the slightest bit of restraint in the next confrontation, though. Just enough to mope about it for a bit and then keep doing exactly the same thing.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: In "Sanctuary", Faith remarks that Buffy was the only person in Sunnydale who was there for her and tried to be her friend. As shown throughout Buffy Season 3, even before the events of "Bad Girls" and "Consequences", Buffy generally treated Faith more like a commodity than an actual friend, picking a fight with her on their very first patrol together, having to be talked into including her on several different gatherings, and dumping all of her responsibility for Alan Finch's death onto her, all of which contributed to Faith's Face–Heel Turn.
  • In Breaking Bad, characters have a tendency to say that Walter White is nice, a good, decent person, etc. If you pay attention, however, from the beginning, you'll notice that all of Walt's kind-seeming actions are either forced for the sake of manipulation or for that of a facade, or him trying to fulfill his role as a parent. Never does he go out of his way to do anything nice for anyone. As the series advances, he goes downhill from there, both retroactively as we discover his backstory, and by Jumping Off the Slippery Slope.
  • In BBC's Robin Hood, Kate gets shilled as "kind and compassionate" after insisting that Isabella her romatic rival be left to die at the hands of her psycopathic husband.
  • Charmed:
    • Prue is said to be a selfless and moral person who spent her teen years being a Team Mom to her sisters. She spends most of the first season forcing her advice on Phoebe, complaining about her job, sniping at Andy and reminding her sisters of everything she's done for them. Prue does eventually mellow out in the second season, and the show starts playing up that her sisters resent her endless nosiness in their personal lives.
    • Around the fifth season, Piper tells Phoebe that she doesn't have a mean bone in her body. This is after several episodes of Phoebe blaming Cole for everything that went wrong in her life, completely ignoring her own actions and refusing to take responsibility.
  • Hester Crane, mother of Frasier and Niles Crane, is often talked up by Frasier, Niles and Martin as a loving, remarkable woman. But what the audience is shown of her paints her in a much different light. In her appearance on Cheers, she threatened to kill Diane Chambers if she didn't break up with Frasier and even after apologizing, Hester tried to bribe Sam Malone to take Diane back. Then on Frasier after she has passed away, it's revealed that she cheated on Martin in the past and it has been implied that her method of raising Frasier and Niles was ultimately damaging to the both of them. Then there's Frasier's mental manifestation of Hester in "Don Juan in Hell" portraying her as clingy with her son and outright cruel to Frasier's manifestations of his main love interests (Lilith, Diane and Nanny G), implying that even Frasier knew deep down that his mother wasn't the warmest person. Though, it's possible that Never Speak Ill of the Dead was in play.
  • Game of Thrones: Rhaegar Targaryen's noble qualities of The Wise Prince are only ever told to the audience by people like Barristan Selmy and Jorah Mormont. While he never abducted and raped Lyanna Stark as Robert suspected, he still endangered the realm for his own personal desires, as well as humiliating Elia and endangering her children by annulling his marriage to her. Also, in the end, he still fought for his mad father, not against him.

  • Gilmore Girls: Dean is often said to be a Nice Guy who loves Rory and treats her well. This ignores the fact that when they are together, he is extremely petty and jealous whenever Rory's around other guys, with many of their conversations ending with him yelling at her even after their breakup. After telling Rory he loves her for the first time, he gets mad and breaks up with her because she isn't ready to say it back. This only gets worse when bad boy Jess comes to town, with Dean being slotted into the "Betty" role in a Betty and Veronica situation. Then of course in season four Dean is married and cheats on his wife with Rory...
  • In Gavin & Stacey, Stacey and Jason's dad Trevor is dead before the series begins, and everybody describes him as a lovely, kind man... which doesn't line up at all with any of the stories we hear about him, from which it is apparent that he was a very poor parent who resented his kids, had a Hair-Trigger Temper and was prone to violence. Though the tearjerker scene when Bryn surprises Stacey on her wedding day with a letter from Trevor does at least suggest he had a Heel Realization before his death.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • In The Proud Family, Dijonay reunites with her old friend Lacieniga for the first time in years. Dijonay tells her current best friend Penny that Lacieniga is the best person ever, but Lacieniga only proceeds to do nothing but selfishly disrespect Penny. Penny calls Dijonay out on her judgement saying that it's possible her old friend has changed, but Dijonay doesn't see any of it.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode, "Giant Squidward", the townspeople ask Squidward if he is a friendly giant like the one in a little boy's storybook. When SpongeBob and Patrick tell them that he is and ask him to name instances, Squidward yells at them.
  • Thomas the Tank Engine:
    • In a "A Bad Day for Sir Handel". Peter Sam and Sir Handel arrive to the Skarloey Railway with Sir Handel complaining about leaving the railway they previously worked at and insults Skarloey. Peter Sam rebukes him and tells Skarloey that he's a nice person, he's only a bit homesick. The narration then states that Skarloey felt sorry for Peter Sam.
    • Peter Sam says the same about Duncan in "Home At Last" supposing that he probably does mean well, but is rather rude and careless. While we do see shades of his softer side in the following episode, the current story has Duncan act like a thoroughly arrogant Jerkass.
    • In the episode "Kevin's Cranky Friend", Salty reminds Kevin that despite Cranky's nature, he has a heart of gold, and he was good as his word when Cranky took the blame for causing Kevin to fall off the sea.

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