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Jerk with a Heart of Jerk

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"So you're saying that I only write poetry to show that beneath this mean, callous, heartless exterior, I just want to be... loved? Well, you're completely wrong. I just write poetry to throw my mean callous heartless exterior into sharp relief."
Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Someone in the main cast discovers a shocking secret about the past of the resident Jerkass. Apparently, difficult as it may be to imagine, they may not be that bad of a guy. Somewhere, buried deep inside, there's a Pet the Dog moment showing they're a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.

Well, yeah, turns out that isn't true. There's a perfectly selfish explanation for why they saved the busload of burning orphans — they're his secret team of kid snitches. And now they're going to get a good laugh at your expense for ever thinking they could be so noble.

While one cannot be both a Jerk with a Heart of Gold and a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk simultaneously, a character can alternate between the two. For instance, this could be a result of Depending on the Writer, and Character Development can cause an evolution in either direction. However, these tropes are almost polar opposites by definition. The Jerk with a Heart of Gold is, when it comes to the crunch, a decent guy. The Jerk with a Heart of Jerk, on the other hand, might be capable of the occasional Pet the Dog moment, but they are, under all that meanness... an even worse person.

This trope also subverts Hidden Heart of Gold. An In-Universe example, where it was the jerk’s friend who thought they had Hidden Depths only to find out they didn’t, often leads to Post-Support Regret, as the betrayed friend has remained a faithful friend to the jerk on the basis that they thought the jerk was a good person deep down.

It can also serve as a Double Subversion of a straight-up Jerkass as well, since it does frequently involve misleading the audience and/or characters into believing that a Jerkass character might have a nicer side, but then shows he/she does not (though despite this, the Jerk with a Heart of Jerk is not an Exaggerated Jerkass).

It is one step more complex than Faux Affably Evil. Compare and contrast Bitch in Sheep's Clothing (this is Bitch In Bitch Clothing), Sheep in Sheep's Clothing, Subverted Suspicion Aesop, and Hidden Heart of Gold. For the more malicious, see Bait the Dog, Complete Monster (even if it's a YMMV trope), For the Evulz, The Sociopath, Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist, and Pragmatic Villainy.

May also go hand in hand with Good Flaws, Bad Flaws: a character may have a Good Flaw, then repent and apologize... only to turn out to have a Bad Flaw. A Fair-Weather Foe is often this towards their enemies. This character taken to their logical extreme would then become a particularly tragic Anti-Villain since such characters genuinely believe themselves reformed. In such cases, the character still fits this trope only if they're smug about their moral struggle, rather than anguished. The most dangerous example is the Knight Templar type, such as one who tries to reform their criminal past by murdering other criminals.

A common instigator for Jerks Are Worse Than Villains, when the audience hates the Jerkass more than they hate the villain.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Azumanga Daioh: Mr. Kimura is at first glance an obnoxious creep who pervs on teenage girls. Then it's shown that he donates to charity, picks up litter, wishes for world peace and has a wife who loves him. When the other characters think for a moment that perhaps he's not so bad after all, he immediately spews a disgusting comment or makes a pass as if that's all he knows how to do, showing all these good qualities mean nothing when the man himself is such a boorish pervert. It may actually just make him worse.
  • Berserk: Griffith is more of a bastard than a quasi-sympathetic jerkass, but every once in a while he releases the jerkass within. One moment happens when he rescues Princess Charlotte from the clutches of the Emperor Ganishka in a very romantic and fairytale-ish way. Unfortunately for her, Charlotte has been crazy in love with Griffith ever since she first lay eyes on him, and Griffith has been using her feelings for him ever since in order to get closer to the Midland throne.
  • Bleach: Mayuri has no hidden heart of gold because everything he does is For Science!. When Szayelaporro resurrects himself by draining Mayuri's daughter and lieutenant's life-force, Mayuri initially seems shocked and dismayed as he crouches over her withered body. A moment later, instead of showing remorse or swearing revenge, he grins broadly and compliments Szayelaporro on possessing such a fascinating technique. This gets zigzagged from there as what does basically set him off is Szayelaporro claiming to achieve perfection, as to him, science is about making further research and improvements, which can't be possible if something is already perfect. Later on, where he does actually show concern for her at some points and is genuinely shocked to see her actually get killed, prompting a small Heroic BSoD that inspires him to create a new daughter where he can further improve on what she managed to accomplish.
  • Death Note: Light Yagami; whenever he does a "good" act, it's just a front for his own selfish purposes or murder plots. He even goes so far as to think to himself he's willing to kill his sister or father if it will assist him in becoming the new God. While his father is killed, he's not the one who did it, but he does ultimately insult his memory near the end by remarking how his idealist nature made him a fool in such a Crapsack World, and ends up pissing off Matsuda for his trouble. But he was remorseful at the end of the anime.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Vegeta was very much like this after going into an Enemy Mine situation with the heroes but before undergoing a genuine Heel–Face Turn, several times surprisingly helping the heroes but only doing so for his gain. The most notable case is when he saves Gohan and Krillin from being killed by Guldo and Gohan thanks him — Vegeta specifies he wasn't saving them, but rather using the fact that Guldo's guard was down to eliminate one of the opposition.
    • Freeza, however, plays it straight. Even when forced to help Goku and the others in the Tournament of Power (to the point of even contributing energy for Goku's Genki Dama, and delivering the final blow against Jiren right alongside him), he's immediately back to his old tricks, conquering planets, trying to steal the Dragonballs, and recruiting Broly to try to kill Goku and Vegeta.
  • The Five Star Stories: Decors Weissmel is a complete dick, who just sometimes gives the Noble Demon vibes. But in the end, this is just because he's Lawful Evil, and has the principles that he tends to adhere to — not just some hidden nobleness of his thoroughly evil heart.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • When Mustang finds out King Bradley is a homunculus, he calls Bradley on a seeming Pet the Dog moment earlier in which Bradley was trembling at Hughes' funeral. Bradley reveals that rather than being sad, he was shaking with rage because Hughes' daughter was making such a scene. Ouch.
    • In Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), the Elric Brothers discover Psiren the Phantom Thief's Secret Identity to be a nurse. The brothers decide to let her go when she tells them she just steals to keep the hospital from closing down. Sometime later the hospital is torn down anyway and Psiren is now a nun claiming to steal to save a church from closing down. After that is demolished she's claiming the same thing as a teacher at a school, after which even Al won't deny that she's just stealing for herself. It's ultimately subverted in the end, though, as she is acting as a thief for a good cause, just not the one she initially claimed to be fighting for: the town she operates in is one with an incredibly poor economy, and her acts are such a spectacle that they've been drawing tourists in just to see her in action, which in turn helps keep the place afloat.
  • Ginga Densetsu Weed: Toward the end of the anime, Jerome sees Hougen dragging Reika back to land when they're caught in a raging river. It looks like Hougen may have a Pet the Dog moment...but then he uses Reika as a stepping object to get himself back onto land, leaving her to be swept away.
  • He Is My Master: While there are a few instances that might border on true Jerk with a Heart of Gold status in the anime (definitely not the manga), Yoshitaka pulls these moments all the time.
  • Hot Gimmick: Ryoki was already established as a Jerkass due to the cruel and abusive way he treats his girlfriend/slave Hatsumi. It seems like he's not so bad when he saves Hatsumi from being raped but his qualifying status is reinforced when he immediately forces a kiss on her afterward and habitually sexually assaults her.
  • Kimba the White Lion: Viper Snakely. Just when he was about to give up hunting and retire for the sake of his daughter (in the manga version), he finally earned a crumb of sympathy from the audience... and then proceeds to lose it entirely when we learn what his job was before he became a safari hunter; he was an SS Officer posted in an internment camp.
  • Kuroko's Basketball: Makoto Hanamiya. When Kuroko asks him why he uses such foul and underhanded tactics, he starts getting emotional, and it appears he is going to reveal some tragic backstory — then he interrupts himself and starts laughing, explaining that he only does it because he enjoys crushing people's dreams.
  • One Piece:
    • Klahadore, Kaya's butler. At first glance, he seems like a jerk who doesn't like Usopp, simply because Usopp's father is a pirate. Then it's revealed that he takes serving Kaya very seriously since her father took him in and gave him a job when he had nowhere else to turn, and he's overprotective of Kaya because he couldn't bear the thought of anything happening to Kaya. Then he turns out to be Captain Kuro, who'd been planning to murder Kaya and steal her inheritance to live comfortably, and when Kaya confronts him to negotiate with him, he reminisces about their time together before saying how humiliating it was for him.
    • Donquixote Doflamingo is introduced as the kind of villain who'd cut loose anyone who fails him or is no longer useful, and doesn't seem like the sort who'd inspire much loyalty. In the Punk Hazard and Dressrosa arcs, the readers see some of his higher-ranking followers, who seemingly treat him like family. Eventually, though, it's revealed that Doflamingo gathered together people who'd willingly sacrifice themselves for him, and sees no problem in using his Bird Cage to gradually crush the nation of Dressrosa, killing everyone inside — his enemies, innocent civilians, and even his companions.
  • Pokémon: The Original Series:
    • Charmander – The Stray Pokémon: Damien, Charmander's original trainer, abandoned Charmander for not meeting his exacting standards. He returned, but only because he saw Charmander defeat Team Rocket and thought he was useful.
    • Good 'Quil Hunting: Koji is searching for a Cyndaquil and aggressively demands that Ash stay of out his way (definitely an Entitled Bastard). When Ash ends up catching Cyndaquil first, Koji bullies him into battling for it. Ash wins, and Koji attempts to steal Cyndaquil in a net, which results in the small pokemon blasting him with Flamethrower.
  • Ramen Fighter Miki: A hilarious Deconstructive Parody of the Fighting Series and so it gives us protagonist Miki Onimaru, a Heroic Comedic Sociopath who has Chronic Hero Syndrome (so she can slack at her work), battle Delinquents (just For the Evulz), and is The Bully to her unfortunate friends.
  • Reborn! (2004): Kyouya Hibari. Half carrying Gokudera to find Tsuna in Kokuyo Land, how nice of him. Not. He throws Gokudera aside afterward, and it turns out he only helped the latter so they could be "even". Don't even get started on the countless times he turned up to kick enemy butt and then says 'They were crowding'.
  • Rent-A-Girlfriend: Mami Nanami, oh so much. Every single time it seems she's not so bad deep down, she takes everyone by a loop by showing she's even worse. Later chapters reveal she does have a Freudian Excuse (in the form of her controlling parents who forced her to break up her relationship to get her into an Arranged Marriage) but she's still twisted and manipulative to the core.
  • So I'm a Spider, So What?: The self-proclaimed Evil God "D" enjoys watching Kumoko struggle and is more than willing to mete out fear and pain if slandered. Despite this, she was responsible for creating the System meant to save the world, hinting she's not that bad. And then it's revealed she could have just fixed the problem instantly. The System was created solely to amuse "D" but she got bored and stopped paying attention, allowing multiple problems to grow out of control and result in the whole thing nearly collapsing.
  • SPY×FAMILY: Fiona Frost, AKA Agent Nightfall. At face value she is a Cold, Emotionless Spy who is abrasive towards others, but she is a member of <WISE>, one of the operatives helping Operation Strix and an ally of Loid Forger/Agent Twilight, whom she secretly loves. However, none of that changes the fact that deep-down Nightfall is a selfish, immoral, ruthless, and callous woman who doesn't give a rat's ass that her actions would harm others, and will do anything to get what she wants. She wants to be Loid/Twilight's wife, but she loathes Anya and Yor with a passion even though he's grown close to them and desires to break-up the family he created for the mission just to have him for herself.
    • In one of her earlier appearances, Fiona/Nightfall returns Anya's Magnifying Glass at the Forger Household... just so she could A) get Loid/Twilight's approval, B) enter the household to learn Yor and Anya's weaknesses to exploit, and C) lie to Yor claiming that Loid regularly badmouths her behind her back, which she hopes will convince Mrs. Forger to divorce him.
    • She is a bit of a Deconstruction of this trope. Because of her selfish and callous nature, the <WISE> Agents, including Twilight, unsurprisingly DO NOT think highly of her. Others are taken aback by her beauty... only to quickly dislike her after seeing how cold and ruthless she really is. Even Anya quickly begins to hate her after reading her mind and seeing both how she views her and how she intends to abuse her into becoming a good student.
  • A Timid Woman Longing For Her Delivery Girl: Aida, Takase's former coworker. When Takase starts, Aida appears rather friendly and supportive, telling off Kazama when he flirts with Aida. However, when Kazama pushes his luck too far and gets fired for sexually harassing Takase, Aida badmouths Takase behind her back, saying Takase should have been fired instead and being more concerned about how the incident affects her than about Takase. After Takase quits her job to become a freelancer, Aida encounters Takase by chance and claims to have been worried about her before making backhanded remarks about her using her looks to find a rich husband. By this point, Takase realzes that Aida doesn't care about her at all, and her new friend Rinko immediately realizes Aida is a bad person.
  • Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-: Fei-Wang Reed spends the entire series manipulating the main characters and making their lives a living hell, all while preparing to rip all of the space-time a new one to further his plans. Then it's revealed said plan is about bringing somebody back to life. With motivation like that, he probably has some kind of tragic, sympathetic backstory, right? Nope. He just wants to accomplish something that Clow Reed couldn't to prove his superiority.
  • Tweeny Witches: In episode 15, Sigma does save Eva from the warlock army, though he is not hesitant in telling Arusu and Sheila later on that she is The Load on the team. Saving her from the warlock army wasn't a genuine act of kindness; he only did that so he could win Sheila's trust. Subverted when he turns out to be Good All Along and Took a Level in Kindness for real.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Gozaburo Kaiba, Seto and Mokuba's adoptive father, is definitely one of these. Psychologically abusive in the extreme, his ego is matched only by his wealth, which he thinks makes him the most powerful person on the planet. While Seto is no saint himself, he does have a surprisingly ironclad moral code, and his love for Mokuba immediately places him a step above his stepfather.

    Comic Books 
  • Deathstroke: In the DC Rebirth series, Slade is an awful human being who manipulates and cons everyone around him. Flashbacks show he was always an abusive deadbeat to his sons, and nearly every interaction he has in the modern day with Joseph and Rose is brimming with insults. It's outright stated that he is incapable of having a healthy relationship; and even if he does care about someone, doesn't mean he won't hurt them very, very badly. Among his other actions include putting a hit out on his own daughter because foiling it meant he could spend time with her; killing the dog of a teenage superheroine who had been unwittingly helping him in order to get her to hate him and burn whatever emotional ties he had with her; and risking time itself in an attempt to save his son.
  • Empowered: Oyuki-chan is a ninja who owes a debt to Ninjette, and has helped her more than once. She had to be blackmailed into helping further, and a brief Imagine Spot shows her gloating over Ninjette's "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation.
  • The graphic novel Exit Wounds. Koby Franco is a curmudgeonly cab driver who expresses indifference to the possibility that his estranged father might be dead. After spending much of the book with his father's girlfriend who insists that he was a good person (and his other relatives, who think Koby is too hard on him) and finding out he may very well be dead, Koby softens up a little. Only to discover that his father isn't dead — the handmade scarf the girlfriend made that they found at the scene of the bombing was a gift from him to another girlfriend. Koby realizes to his disgust that the reason for their poor relationship is that his father has always been a serial philanderer who doesn't care about how his actions affect the people around him. Which extends to the present day — his new wife, a devout Orthodox Jew, thinks he's out at night so often because of "prayer meetings".)
  • John Constantine from Hellblazer is often this to anyone he meets especially if they are a supernatural or authority figure. He may pretend to be different as a means to manipulate someone into doing what he wants only to betray or turn on them when it suits his purposes as former friends and/or allies Gary Lester, Zed, and the succubus Ellie found out. To his friends, he is usually a Jerk with a Heart of Gold but can turn on them too if he is in a bad mood or it again suits his purposes.
  • Iznogoud:
    • Often Played for Laughs, where the title character, an Evil Chancellor trying to overthrow his Caliph and possessing seemingly no redeeming qualities, often willingly saves his assistant Wa'at Alahf from certain death, only to reveal when thanked by him that he did so because he required his help for things such as carrying important files or cleaning his shoes. In contrast, he often is willing to use Wa'at as a lab rat for his various plans.
    • In "Iznogoud's Childhood", Wa'at Alahf asks him his motivations for being Caliph in the place of the Caliph:
      Iznogoud: To make reforms! For example, this law to cut off a fruit thief's hand is absurd! That will never stop him from stealing fruits: we need to cut off both of his hands!
    • During "Who Killed the Caliph", Iznogoud seems to care for Wa'at and saves him from execution after he has been mistaken for a spy. He catches the Executioner trying to get Wa'at to pay him for mercy, and angrily states that mercy should not be bought. He then notices a tortured prisoner and orders the Executioner to release him, causing Wa'at to wonder if he's having pity after all... then he appoints the prisoner new Executioner, and orders him to torture the former one.
  • Marshal Law: as stated in one story, when you first look at him he appears to be a brutal thug. But when you look under his tough exterior, you see that he's really... a brutal thug. Marshal Law is full of examples. At another point in the same story, when he's in a cemetery full of the bodies of his victims, he points out that he used to come there once a month... to "gloat", bringing a flask and a sandwich and "making a day of it."
  • Invoked. Nick Fury claimed this for himself back in the '70s Captain America comic. After he'd spent a whole issue getting The Falcon pardoned for his criminal past, Cap remarked, "Fury, under that rough, unshaven exterior..." Fury interrupted, "There's an even rougher, unshaven interior!" Of course, in this case, it's very blustering; while later writers did make Fury genuinely amoral, around this time he was still a pretty straightforward bleeding-heart hero.
  • PS238: Dax-Ra starts as a short-tempered and jerkish Knight Templar who imprisons Ron and attacks several of the children. Once Atlas shows up he cools down significantly and displays a much more reasonable side... Which turns out to have been mainly a front to manipulate Atlas. Once he depowers Ron as a hostage he goes full-on Smug Snake.
  • Another case of a legitimate Jerk with a Heart of Gold being described like this is in one of the Spider-Man guidebooks: J. Jonah Jameson is described as "Under his rough, crusty and rude exterior... You'll find that he's even worse!" Justified in that the Heart Of Gold is very much Depending on the Writer in his case.
  • Spider-Man: J. Jonah Jameson constantly flip-flops between this and Jerk with a Heart of Gold Depending on the Writer; Stan Lee himself referred to depict Jonah as a jerkish Scrooge who feels that appearing to have a heart of gold is the best way to make money. To drive this home, he was once offered a deal: if he stopped bashing Spidey every time he needed an editorial, he'd get an exclusivity deal with the New Avengers. He even got to hear Captain America tell him Spidey was a hero rather than a monster. His response? After shaking hands on the deal, he promptly went back to not only committing libel but making accusations of bribery and digging up things like "wanted murderer" (Wolverine), "terrorist" (Spider-Woman), and "convicted drug dealer" (Luke Cage, who was framed and exonerated).
  • Sub-Mariner: Namor the Sub-Mariner is all over the line between this trope, Jerk with a Heart of Gold, and Noble Demon.
    Doctor Strange: I've known you long enough... and well enough... to know that beneath that rude and arrogant exterior — lies an even ruder and more arrogant interior. But in all things, Namor — you are an honest.. and honorable... man.
  • Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade:
    • Belinda, the page image, seems to try and apologize for bullying Kara... But it was to bait her into ranting about how the whole class bullies her while she records the whole discussion, before broadcasting it in class to humiliate Kara further.
    • Mr. Mxyzptlk says he got heartbroken when Alura grounded Kara... and then he explains he took her from her parents because it suited his plans.
  • Superman:
    • In Kryptonite Nevermore, Superman used to think that Morgan Edge was a jerk. He has reassessed his judgment since their first meetings. Mr. Edge is a rotten, gigantic asshole. Subverted when it is revealed that Morgan Edge was a clone created by Darkseid, and the real Mr. Edge is a jerk with a heart of gold.
      Clark Kent: Edge is the kind of man you don't like at first... but gradually, you get to hate him!
    • In The Death of Superman (1961), Lex Luthor finds a cure for cancer, making people think he may not be completely evil after all. Then he reveals he cured cancer just to lull Superman into a false sense of security and kill him.
  • The Ultimates
    • When Tyrone Cash, who faked his death, is told his family misses him, he just casually brushes it off. He also grabs a plane mid-flight, smashes it against War Machine, and taunts him about it. When Fury instead tells him that he will personally let his family know that he's still alive... he timidly complies.
    • The Chitauri do not have time to harmonize earth anymore, so they'll blow it up, and good riddance. Herr Kleiser thinks that this is a terrible, terrible shame... now he won't be able to experiment shapeshifting into a female form.

    Fan Works 
  • Super Kami Guru from Dragon Ball Z Abridged. At first, he seems like a jerk. Then, when Freeza threatens to kill Nail, Guru passionately stands up for Nail (even if Nail initially doesn't want him to) and psyches him up, telling him he's The Paragon of the Namekians and challenges him to kick the crap out of Freeza. Nail, psyched up, challenges Freeza to a fight, only for Guru to reveal via Internal Monologue that he knows perfectly well Nail hasn't got a chance of winning and that Guru knows a technique that would let Nail have a chance but never taught him it because... Guru's a jerk. He also died while Gohan and Krillin were summoning the dragon simply because it would be "a dick move".
  • In Shazam! fanfiction Here There Be Monsters, Ibac and the Acrobat gang up on Captain Marvel and manage to make him pass out. In the wake of his victory, the Acrobat is going to kick Marvel's head, but Ibac stops him. It looks like he is showing respect towards a downed adversary... until it's stated he simply doesn't want Acrobat to rouse Marvel by accident.
  • The Ice Behind Bars: Jamie may claim that he is doing everything to Elsa for the "good of Arendelle" but it becomes more and more obvious to the readers that he just wants to punish her for his own petty reasons. When he finds out his other daughter, wife, and sister are still alive, all of which he claimed to love. Rather than being happy he is furious at them for letting him think they were dead and decided to torture/kill them all.
  • Pearl Necklace from Inner Demons. She makes a scene at her husband's funeral when Diamond Tiara's friends try to comfort her, then demands to leave before the ceremony's even over.
  • Junior Officers: Deborah's father, a notorious misogynist, immediately accepts his illegitimate granddaughter Stacy. Seems sweet...until you realize that he's only so understanding because it was his son David who brought her home and not either his eldest daughter Margaret or his youngest, Deborah.
  • Kara of Rokyn: Villain Blackflame, who has always been a manipulative jerkass, befriends Jara and claims to be trying to help her become the best wrestler, but it's soon made clear she is trying to manipulate her into killing Jara's rival and Blackflame's enemy Kara.
  • The Makings of Team CRME:
    • The Black Hearts: Marcus Black claims to be trying to train his son to survive on his own and thinks that Mercury won't make it, but Mercury quickly calls him out on it by saying that he's just a terrible teacher since he doesn't actually teach anything and only takes it as an opportunity to beat up Mercury. He's not trying to do the best for his son; he's just a dick. Even his acceptance of his son's homosexual behavior is just him not caring about him in general rather than actual acceptance of Mercury's sexuality.
    • Roman's Empire: Kincaid has a fondness for Roman and treats him nicely, but he sees right through it and knows it’s because she wants to get in his pants. She confirms this years later. She is also nice to Dwight, but it’s simply because he’s an associate of Roman’s, as he points out years later.
    • CRME:
      • Melanie Black comes back just as abrasive as ever, but then she reveals that she wants to take Mercury home to keep him from being an assassin like Marcus. This would be the first time that Mel has shown genuine care for Mercury... only slightly undercut by the fact that she threatens to kill him if he doesn't come with her.
      • When Roman brings up Kincaid's advice about going in and shooting your lover if they're held hostage to Cinder, she says she'd never do that to Emerald. Her Semblance is too useful to let go. In general, any altruism that Cinder shows is purely for her benefit.
  • Never Had a Friend Like Me: Amanda's parents are outrageously neglectful toward her. Amanda herself claims that they are just busy people who simply don't have time for her. Throughout the story, it becomes clear that they do have time and money to spend on Amanda, but they choose not to. After they coldly reject her Christmas present and make her cry, and then straight up admit that they only kept her to get an inheritance does it become clear they have no love for their daughter?
  • Benjamin Hares, the estranged husband of Grace Glossy from Old West. He charmed Grace to rush with him to the altar, but then he suddenly left his pregnant wife penniless to escape the debts he had hoarded as a Con Man. Ten years later, he suddenly appears back on her doorstep, acting like he's sorry and wants a chance to make up things with Grace and their son. He then tries to sell Grace's lands behind her back, claiming he wants what's best for her, but in reality, it's just so that the Big Bad would settle his debts. When Grace confronts him, he destroys any credibility of sincerity by returning to his old ways of trying to guilt-trip Grace over his undoings. When she tells him they're done and tries to throw him out, he assaults her without shame, proving himself worse than just a liar and a coward. It leads to his well-earned death at the vengeful fangs of Rattlesnake Jake.
  • On Trial: James the guard, full stop. He's a nasty person who uses his position as a guard as an excuse to abuse and terrorize the prisoners, believing that they all deserve the worst the justice system can offer and refusing to treat them like people. He beat up Varian when he was imprisoned and does the same to Cassandra when she's arrested. When he's later arrested after his crimes against Corona are revealed, he gets little to no sympathy from anyone (even though his treatment is better than what he gave to his prisoners).
  • Suikakasen: After Seiga's Establishing Character Moment, it is made very clear that she is very twisted deep down despite seeming friendly, but several moments suggest a possible change of heart. It doesn't come to pass. After Yoshika gets rejected her opportunity to become a hermit by the reikon and begs Seiga to help her so that she can keep her promise with Kasen to meet again as hermits, Seiga says that she will ask the reikon once more and returns with a red pill. Yoshika takes this red pill by Seiga's instruction and the episode's Creative Closing Credits begin to play, telling us information about the characters and related concepts like usual by starting with humanizing Seiga by detailing her falling in love with a man named Kan Kaku and being forced to leave him while being heartbroken... and then it tells us that the red pill is mercury sulfide poison. Things still don't look too bad, with the scene cutting back to Seiga beginning to cry at Yoshika's deathbed, suggesting that it was a regretful Mercy Kill... but then Seiga's tears turn into a Slasher Smile and she laughs. And then she calls Yoshika an idiot and mocks her for wanting to become a hermit for Kasen's sake, throwing away any possibility that she cared for her and is perfectly fine with ruining Yoshika's life despite being in a similar scenario of being separated from a loved one. All of this is just buildup for a certain Foregone Conclusion regarding Yoshika.
  • Himetsuru Ichimonji in Tales of the Undiscovered Swords bravely protects his friends from the enemies on his own while flat-out saying he does so because he still considers them beneath him and that it's his duty as a "princess" to protect his "people". To top it off, when he's treated for his injuries after the battle, he still acts like a petulant Royal Brat.
  • Vale's Underground portrays Cardin Winchester as a police officer, but he is by no means an Adaptational Nice Guy. The story still portrays him as a complete asshole. He constantly sexually harasses female co-workers, including lesbians Ruby and Blake, while not caring about anyone's feelings. He even calls them dykes when he rejects them and says that they'll turn around with "a good dick". In his introduction, he's already pretty bad. However, that's only part of the story. The reality is that he's actually worse. The next chapter reveals that he's also a Dirty Cop who works for the Big Bad.
  • Sora Hoshino of Where Talent Goes to Die is a brutally honest jerk who nevertheless has a fair number of good points about the killing game. In spite of that, he's still entirely out for himself, and murders two classmates who'd done nothing to deserve it in an attempt to graduate (which would result in the other students being executed), simply because he gave up hope of escaping.
  • In Danganronpa: Last Hurrah, there's Jirou Katashi, the Ultimate Mathematician. Early on, he establishes himself as an Insufferable Genius, but gradually reveals something of a redeeming side in his interactions with the others. However, he turns out to be the second murderer, and has the least sympathetic motive out of all of the killers. He seemingly redeems himself in his final moments by having a Heel Realization and giving the group a clue as to a murderer in their midst, but it later turns out that he faked his death and is the mastermind, meaning that his Heel Realization was a lie, and his clue was likely intended to incite another murder.
  • Dark Spectrum Public Enemy, The Changeling that was disguised as Rainbow appears to show genuine sympathy to Rainbow Dash, telling her she has great friends who care about her. It only said it to guilt trip her into turning herself in.

    Films — Animation 
  • Judge Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame appears on the surface to be simply an arrogant, priggish, horrified-at-the-thought-of-anyone-having-fun theocratic dictator. But then, his belief that the world is full of wickedness is the reason he gives for keeping Quasimodo shut away in the cathedral bell tower, telling himself — and Quasimodo — that he's just keeping him safe from the outside world. But, of course, it becomes clear early on that Judge Frollo is a genocidal lunatic, scheming to kill all the Gypsies in Paris for their "thieving" and "witchcraft" — and the only reason he's taking care of Quasimodo is that he fears to go to Hell for his attempt to drown Quasi when he was a baby solely because of his appearance. Any torment Frollo ever feels — particularly about his lust for a Gypsy girl he's become obsessed with killing — evaporates pretty quickly.
  • Jack Horner from Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is an unrepentantly evil crime boss. However, when the Ethical Bug asks why he's so cruel and obliges, confiding what he believes is a Freudian Excuse and what he intends to use the titular wish for, only to reveal he's exactly as monstrous as he seems.
    Jack Horner: You know, I never had much growing up. Just loving parents, stability, a mansion, and a thriving baked goods enterprise for me to inherit. Useless crap like that. But I want to wish for the one thing that will make me happy!
    Ethical Bug: (perks up) Oh, well, what's that?
    Jack: All the magic in the world, for me. And no one else gets any. Is that so much?
    Ethical Bug: YES!
    Jack: Agree to disagree!
  • Shark Tale has Lola's paradoxical line, "Deep down, I'm really superficial."
  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie: Bowser appears to genuinely love Peach at first, even singing about her and acknowledging that she despises him. As the film progresses however, his love for Peach is revealed to be entirely possessive and self-serving, and it's so shallow that he has no problem trying to kill her the instant she turns him down during their wedding, only ever voicing affection for Peach again after his defeat, as a way to beg for mercy.
    Koopa Troopa 1: Doesn't she hate you?
    Bowser: Of course she hates me! But that makes me love her all the more. Her heart-shaped bangs, the way she floats in the breeze, her immovable tiara. And when she sees this star... Oh-ho-ho-ho, wedding bells!
    Koopa Troopa 2: Well what if she says no?
  • Mother Gothel in Tangled manipulates Rapunzel into staying in the tower not because the world is a dangerous place or because she loves Rapunzel, but merely so she can keep Rapunzel's fountain-of-youth hair to herself.
  • From The Willoughbys. It's the parents. For a minute, it looks like the Willoughby parents have finally decided to change their selfish ways and be better parents towards their children after they confess their feelings about their behavior towards them and how they long for a proper family, and even that they were the ones that "orphaned" themselves. But, as it turns out, they didn't.
  • King Candy from Wreck-It Ralph tells Ralph that he keeps Vanellope from racing to protect her. If she got to race and players saw her glitching, they would think the game was broken and it would get unplugged. As a glitch, she would not be able to leave her game, meaning she goes down with the ship. It's true that she'd go down, but that's not why he wants to keep her from racing. It turns out that Vanellope isn’t a glitch, she’s the rightful main character of Sugar Rush. King Candy in fact is actually Turbo, the lead character from an older, unplugged game from the arcade who snuck into Vanellope’s game, changed its code to usurp her, and hide everyone’s memories. If Vanellope manages to finish a race, then the game would reset and all of Turbo’s alterations would be undone.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Addison DeWitt in All About Eve. Don't let his smug, disdainful, misanthropic exterior fool you. Underneath it all, he's a sociopath.
  • Guy from Annie (2014). Unlike Grace, he never tries to get to know Annie for herself. He only sees her as points on the polls for Stacks, to the point of treating her almost like she's not even human at all.
    Guy: You don't pay me enough to worry about her.
  • Beyond Loch Ness: Brody bullies Josh and gets more handsy than appropriate with Zoe early on. He also risks his life by throwing rocks at the monster to divert it away from Chad and compliments Josh during his efforts to bring Bring Help Back. However, when he thinks Josh died and won't be back, he loses that sense of gratitude and calls him a "pansy."
  • Vanessa, the Wrong Girl First of the Adam Sandler megahit Big Daddy. From the very first moment we see her, she establishes herself as an angry and unpleasant person, to the point where one has to wonder what Sonny ever saw in her in the first place. Of course, the characters do mention that Vanessa "worshiped" Sonny back in college, and Sonny himself hints that even when things started to go sour between them, for a while she was antagonistic in more of a sexy way than an annoying way. In any case, the Wrong Genre Savvy Sonny is convinced that Vanessa's heart will melt as soon as he introduces her to the 5-year-old boy he has adopted for them to raise together — and, just for a second, it does look as if a Pet the Dog moment is about to occur — but then, less than a minute later, we learn that Vanessa left Sonny (without telling him they were permanently breaking up) not because she was fed up with his lifestyle and wanted to resolve their relationship, but because she wanted a much older and more financially responsible boyfriend, and is not sorry at all when Sonny finds out about this and even tells him that it's all his fault. Talk about a Bitch In Steel Wool... She's an interesting contrast to Corinne, Sonny's future sister-in-law, who is pretty much the direct opposite: polite to most people she encounters, rude to Sonny (since she can't stand him), but ultimately willing to admit that Sonny is a good father when he puts his mind to it.
  • The 2012 movie Chronicle manages to do this with Richard Detmer, Andrew's father, all in a single scene. He reveals Andrew's mom has died, cries... but then blames his son for "killing" her, and tries to attack Andrew. Who was not only in the hospital and apparently in a coma, but his retaliation is catastrophic. Also showing how much of a pathetic coward his dad is when he screams for mercy moments later.
  • Subverted in Cruel Intentions by Sebastian Valmont, who does become the Jerk with a Heart of Gold he's been pretending to be, because of Love Redeems.
  • Dead Poets Society: Neil Perry's father is intensely involved in his son's studies, insistent that he goes to Harvard and become a doctor and treats anything not directly part of that path as an obstacle. Nevertheless, Neil decides to pursue a longtime passion with acting, being cast as Puck in a local production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, despite his father's objections. And as Mr. Perry shows up, and sees his son get a standing ovation for his performance, instead of showing any support at all, he forcibly takes him home and tells him he's going to transfer him to a military school, instead. Neil, heartbroken that his father refuses to understand him, commits suicide shortly afterwards, and Mr. Perry blames it entirely on Neil's English professor, Mr. Keating, instead of admitting that he was wrong to have been so controlling of his son's life and so inconsiderate of his son's desires.
  • In The Help, Skeeter is set up on a date with an alcoholic, rude, arrogant soldier. After coming to her house to apologize for his behavior, they discover they have a lot in common. Their relationship goes well until Skeeter's book is published and he dumps her for supporting the rights of African-American maids and disrupting the status quo.
  • The Villain Protagonists of Neil LaBute's films tend to be this, notably Chad in In the Company of Men and his Distaff Counterpart, Evelyn in The Shape of Things.
  • The Iron Buddha, a wuxia martial arts film, have this trope as a major defining characteristic of it's main villain, Xiao Tian-Zun. Introduced as a thief and rapist stopped by a benevolent kung fu expert named Liu, who used to be a close friend of Tian-Zun's father, Master Liu accepts Tian-Zun's surrender and promise to turn over a new leaf. For three years, Tian-Zun follows a training regime of discipline in Liu's school, and after a three year-Time Skip with Tian-Zun graduating as one of Liu's top students, reveals his true colours that he never have any intentions to be good, immediately usurping Liu's position, having all his ex-classmates massacred, and going on a killing spree in the martial world. There are a few moments throughout the movie where it seems like Tian-Zun will stop being evil, but he quickly subvert it at the last minute.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service:
    • Charlie. In case you thought him training to be a Kingsman indicated some inherent need to do good in him, not only does he spill all their secrets to save his skin in a Secret Test of Character, but he also joins Valentine's faction in the end and gives up Eggsy who's managed to infiltrate Valentine's secret base.
    • Arthur. Even as the leader of the Kingsmen he comes across as very snobby and elitist, thinking the lower-class Eggsy shouldn't be included in their ranks. Following Harry's death, he offers Eggsy a glass of brandy that the Kingsmen use to toast fallen members despite it being against tradition for non-Kingsmen to drink. Then it's revealed the brandy is poisoned and Arthur's teamed up with Valentine.
  • Knives Out:
    • Hugh Ransom Drysdale is a loud-and-proud asshole when first introduced. Then, he seemingly earns the trust of Marta to help her get to the bottom of the case, only to be revealed later on to have framed her for the murder of Harlan Thrombey out of greed and never indicates that forcing Marta to kill her best friend/his grandfather which would ruin her life and then, when he finds out she avoided his trap, framing her for the crime is something he has any compunctions about.
    • Played with in regards to Walt Thrombey. He comes off as mostly pathetic and blind to his son's alt-right habits. He's a much less bad person than his racist wife, whom he attempts to stop from going on a racist rant, and Nazi son who he's willing to come to blows with Richard over. He even suggests bringing Marta into the family and taking care of her along with Meg and comforts a mourning Linda in one scene. He doesn't do anything wrong in the film until his conversation with Marta when it's clear he's threatening her with her mother's deportation, though a deleted scene indicates that even this is brought about more by desperation than outright villainy.
  • Lake Placid vs. Anaconda: After witnessing another girl getting crushed to death while hiding in her car, Alpha Bitch Tiffani appears to be horrified and distraught.
  • Mars Attacks!: After the president's big speech, the Martian Leader sheds a tear. He still kills the president anyway.
  • In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thaddeus Ross was very much a jerk in The Incredible Hulk (2008), but when he reappears in Captain America: Civil War he initially interacts with the Avengers by casually telling them a story of his heart attack during a round of golf and undergoing a triple bypass, seemingly appearing to have Took a Level in Kindness. As he lays out the Accords, he brings up good reasons behind them, such as the collateral damage the Avengers have caused on missions, but notably, he does not bring up his own mistake back during the events of Hulk that also caused collateral damage. Later on, he assigns Tony to arrest Captain America and Bucky, gives out a short deadline, and threatens to prosecute Stark if he fails. Even after Bucky is proven innocent of the bombing and Stark gives evidence that Zemo is behind it, Ross refuses to release the anti-Accords Avengers and go after Zemo. From there on it's clear that despite having better manners and being more subtle in attitude, Ross has not changed his mindset one bit. Avengers: Infinity War follows this with ordering Rhodey to arrest Captain America's team in spite of Thanos' forces already invading Earth. Rhodey then refuses, hangs up on their call, and takes the court-martial he immediately gets in stride. It isn't until Avengers: Endgame where he apparently really does something decent this time by attending Tony Stark's funeral alongside all the other heroes and not bothering to have any of them arrested.
  • Motherless Brooklyn: Tony constantly mocks Lionel and cares more about continuing to make money than investigating Frank's murder. He also tells Lionel to tell Julia Minna that her husband's last words were about her, stopped an abusive Catholic school teacher from beating up Lionel when they were kids, and begins to show some respect for Lionel's deductive skills. But at the end of the day, he's sleeping with Frank's wife, sells out to Frank's killers without a trace of remorse, and tries to strangle Lionel to keep him from warning Laura that her life is in danger.
  • My Super Psycho Sweet 16 has Madison Penrose, the Alpha Bitch holding the Sweet 16 party. During the climax, she and Skye have been tied up by the killer, Skye's father Charlie, who cuts Skye free and asks her to kill Madison. Madison desperately tries to apologize to Skye in order to convince her to instead kill Charlie and let her free, and it works, with Skye stabbing Charlie in the leg and letting Madison free. Then Madison pushes Skye out of the way in order to get to the door quicker. When Charlie grabs Madison's leg long enough for Skye to get to the door first, Skye decides to lock Madison in with Charlie and let him kill her in response.
  • Tyrone Power's character in Nightmare Alley (1947) is a hard-nosed jerk among his fellow carnies — but when he leaves the carnival with his loving wife, he displays new levels of deep jerkassery. (In dealing with the suckers, he plays the angel and is a master Bitch in Sheep's Clothing.)
  • Pain & Gain: Victor Kershaw shows moments of sympathy towards Paul to get him to care only to drop the act at the right moment. This is what causes Paul to snap and beat Victor.
  • The humans in Predators. Most characters have a few moments where you think they're not so bad, and then the movie calmly reminds us that they're all awful people with them calmly pointing out traps and discussing war crimes they've committed. Ultimately, only the two who are alive by the movie's end go beyond this into Jerk with a Heart of Gold, if only because they cared enough about someone else surviving (the Spetznaz man was one of the most outwardly moral among them, but he had pulled a Heroic Sacrifice near the end of Act 2).
  • Shoot to Kill: The killer has one moment of near-decency, which quickly turns into a major Kick the Dog moment. When Norman nearly falls off a cliff, the killer scrambles to save his life despite having nothing to gain from this. Then the killer murders him dropping the gun he's been hiding in front of Norman. Seconds later, he kills the other three fishermen even though they bought his story about Norman's death being an accident. He has an opportunity to kill them (relatively) quickly and painlessly with his gun but instead sadistically throws them over the cliff one by one to save bullets.
  • Star Wars:
  • Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines: Downplayed with Major Digby in the sequel. He's not a villainous character, but he spends most of the time being haughty and mildly xenophobic. Then he sacrifices a lead to save Scofield's life, only to say later that it was a mistake after failing to regain his lost position.
  • Caledon Hockley in Titanic (1997), who saves an abandoned, crying child for his selfish purposes.
  • Tremors 6: A Cold Day in Hell: Cutts is introduced as an abrasive, shifty government agent suspected of bio-engineering Graboids as weapons. Then it turns out that he has nothing to do with the Graboids and is in the Arctic trying to find a way to harvest Arctic ice to decrease the risks of global warming and provide a bigger supply of drinking water. He also is outraged when his best scientist is eaten by a Graboid and sets out to seek revenge and help the trapped heroes. Then he admits that he is interested in using Graboids as bio-weapons now that Burt has suggested it and cowardly kicks away one of his men who grabs at Cutts for help while being dragged to his death.
  • For a humorous example, Naomi of Waiting... is a constantly ticked-off, misanthropic, 'been at this too long' server who's always going off at coworkers and belittling customers behind their backs. Bishop, the dishwasher, offers her some genuine advice, and for a moment it seems like her angry personality is based on exhaustion and substance abuse...until she mockingly thanks him and screams at him to do her dishes.
  • The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz: Assistant Minister Klaus is introduced as a snide, slightly misogynistic man who is bored by Paula's efforts to talk for herself. Later, he tells her that he agrees with her about feeling stifled by East Germany's society, but this is just part of a sleazy effort to trick her into being his mistress.
  • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, after Young Magneto gets into a fight with Young Charles on the plane over the events and aftermath of First Class (and Mags losing control of his powers when he loses his temper nearly causes it to crash), Wolverine remarks that he's always been an asshole. Which is pretty funny, considering who it's coming from. Not that Wolverine isn't perfectly aware of the implication.

  • Robert Penn Warren's novel All the King's Men has a classic example with Willie Stark, a candidate for governor in Louisiana who comes to feel remorse about cooperating with an elitist and very crooked political machine. So he rebrands himself as a "man of the people" and wins the election by promising to improve the lives of the lower classes...and then turns into a largely selfish and power-mad dictator once he's in office. He does still have some good left in him, but it's really submerged.
  • In American Dirt, Lydia comes across Lorenzo, a teenage sicario for the very cartel she and her young son are trying to flee from. Instead of killing her, Lorenzo tells her that he's leaving Los Jardineros behind, and is just another migrant to el notre like her. Lydia is very hesitant to believe him, especially with his brash and uncaring attitude. Even so, she comes to believe his story of being a teenage boy who just got involved with the wrong group. When she warns him that Los Jardineros are near them and he seems to show genuine fear, it solidifies her trust in him. Then in the last leg of his journey, he tries to rape Rebeca. After Soledad kills him, Lydia discovers by looking through his phone that he was selling her and Luca out to the cartel boss the whole time.
  • Dex in Below comes off like a wild psychopath, but he plays it up to hide the fact that he's a pretty good self-taught amateur in a field normally controlled by a guild. He ends up helping the party in multiple ways even his boss didn't expect. Yet he's still a complete Jerkass to the core, and can't be trusted around women.
  • Bret King Mysteries: While most villains are quickly established as rotten people, many of them go on to act like they might be Red Herrings with some grace and affability before it turns out that is an act, and they are indeed unrepentant criminal Jerkasses. Perhaps the most notable example is the Big Bad of Blizzard Mesa, who is introduced nearly causing a plane crash and not even bothering to apologize or help, then does apologize during his next scene while pledging to help a business associate through tough times before it becomes clear that he caused those tough times and is deliberately making them worse for his own benefit.
  • Cat Chaser: Mary decided to marry Andres because she assumed there was a soft side underneath his cold personality, unaware of his past as a war criminal. It turns out he was just as bad as he seemed.
    Mary: I thought, well, assuming there's a person under that cold, formal exterior, why don't I try to bring him out?
    Moran: How'd you do?
    Mary: Well, the only thing I can figure out, he puts on the front so no one will know what an asshole he really is.
  • In the Christopher Anvil novella The Day The Machines Stopped, Carl Jackson is introduced cruelly taunting his romantic rival Brian over Carl's higher salary. Carl quickly admits this was a low blow, though, and displays a lot of bravery after the fall of society. Then he knocks Brian unconscious and leaves him behind as their group heads for Montana while spreading lies that Brian abandoned him when a mob attacked them. After a warlord takes their friends prisoner, it seems like Carl will redeem himself by helping Brian rescue them, only for him to knock Brian unconscious, abandon him again, and steal the credit for the rescue.
  • In the Discworld series, Death's manservant Albert claims to be one of these: "It's no good thinking you can appeal to my better nature under this here crusty exterior, 'cos my interior's pretty damn crusty as well."
  • Earth's Children: For one small moment in The Clan of the Cave Bear, it seems that Broud might be able to let go of his Irrational Hatred of Ayla after he learns she saved his son's life, even expressing gratitude for it. But when he learns that Ayla saw him being chewed out by Zoug when she watched the hunters practicing to learn how to use a sling (which is how she was able to save his son), he swiftly loses any sliver of respect or goodwill he had started to feel towards fact, he arguably hates her even more. He pushes for Ayla to be cursed with death as punishment for using a weapon and later rapes her multiple times purely to spite her.
  • The Everything Box: Nelson is first framed as a jaded Cowboy Cop with a Hidden Heart of Gold to go with his rookie By-the-Book Cop partner. However, it soon becomes obvious that he's every bit the obnoxious, drunken, spiteful, amoral asshole he looks like, and his misbehaviour escalates until he pulls a gun on Coop and gets shot dead by his own partner.
  • In the original trilogy of The First Law series, there's Bayaz. He has a bit of an ego and can be quite demanding of others at times, but the fact that he opposes Khalul, who is the true leader of an empire that partakes in slavery and plans to destroy the Union, and is responsible for the creation of an army of Humanoid Abominations, shows him in a more positive light. That is until The Reveal comes along and we find out that the First of the Magi is just as bad, if not worse than his nemesis.
  • Harry Potter
    • As per Word of God, Severus Snape. He bullies Harry, Neville, and other students, outs Remus Lupin as a werewolf (forcing him to resign and live in poverty), mocks members of both the Order of the Phoenix and Death Eaters, and invented new methods of Dark Magic, etc. Though the seventh book reveals he loved Harry's mother and did everything he could to honor her memory and sacrifice. J. K. Rowling affirms that he unfairly hated and resented Harry and would have done nothing to help him if it weren't for his mother. Snape himself affirms the same to Dumbledore. To sum it up, Snape is an absolute dick to everyone not named Lily Evans.
      J.K. Rowling: I don't really see him as a hero. He's spiteful, he's a bully, all of these things are true of Snape, even at the end of the book.
    • Draco Malfoy. Despite a few Jerkass Woobie moments in the later books, Malfoy is still an unrepentant Upper-Class Twit Dirty Coward school bully, even when the war against Voldemort begins raging. When the chips are down, Malfoy runs to hide behind someone else, whether it be his two burly cronies or his father. The only time Draco shows any sort of respect to Harry Potter at all is when Harry saves Draco's life three times in the final book, and even then, it's a Grudging "Thank You". Hasn't stopped the fans, though.
  • Edmund Pevensie for the first half of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Some people might think he has some forgivable excuse for bullying his little sister and betraying his siblings to the Big Bad, but he hasn't. Just as he reveals, he's just sick of his oldest siblings being the ones who give all the orders and make all the decisions. He's just a vicious, greedy, spiteful kid who believes he'll get up to the level of the other two by putting down Lucy. Fortunately, he does a Heel–Face Turn after he discovers evil doesn't taste so good after all.
  • While Jace from The Mortal Instruments unquestionably cares for some people, he also considers hurting them emotionally an acceptable outlet for his own Mangst. Also, he can remain prejudiced easily even if the basis of his prejudice towards the target changes. For example, he seamlessly switches from calling Simon "mundane" to "vampire" as if he simply cannot remember the personal names of anyone who is not a Shadowhunter.
  • New Jedi Order: Drathul is introduced as a power-hungry jerk amidst the Yuuzhan Vong upper echelons. The final book reveals that he's part of a faction that opposed going to war in the first place (and was largely purged for that belief) and that he hates his master. Nonetheless, none of that stops him from opposing the Shamed Ones rebels and trying to have the Solos killed on a sacrificial altar.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Tybalt. Whenever he gets even remotely close to petting the dog, he finds another one to kick.
  • Torol Sadeas from The Stormlight Archive. He's ruthless, racist towards darkeyes, and frequently sacrifices his own men without batting an eye. However, he appears to be genuinely loyal to his kingdom and has a mutual friendship with Dalinar. However, Sadeas later attempts to have Dalinar killed and reveals he intends to do the same to the current king, and it's revealed he was only friends with Dalinar because he had been a ruthless warmonger prior to being given Laser-Guided Amnesia.
  • Teen Power Inc.:
    • In The Ghost of Raven Hill, Terry Bigge is a greedy developer who makes some condescending remarks about the kids, but he loaned a lot of money to his old acquaintance Zim and seems to be his ally throughout difficult times. He is really pitilessly betraying Zim, planning to use the loan to take over his paper and sell it to Zim's hated rival. And if that's not bad enough, he caused Elmo's grandfather to have a fatal heart attack while trying to steal a Lost Will and Testament from him.
    • In The Missing Millionaire, rude and miserly hotelier Bruce Piggot seems to have a soft spot for his neighbor, the cheerful and generous plasterer Albie, whom he plays cards with and speculates on lottery numbers with. However, however real their Odd Friendship may have been beforehand, it does not survive their lottery ticket winning $2,000,000 while Albie is laid up in bed. Piggot decides to hide the fact that their ticket won and keep Albie's half of the money for himself. He acts like a caring friend who wants to make sure Albie gets better through rest, when he really just wants to keep Albie in bed until the lottery number stops appearing on the news.
    • In Dirty Tricks, Mr. Kelly the assistant librarian is often rude, arrogant, and humorless, but he accepts a painting that his fired colleague Mark Raven made even when no one else likes it and says that he knew his boss, Ms. Spicer, was pulling literary-themed pranks to attract tourists and that a lot of his tirades about the prankster were a subtle way of trying to warn her to stop before she got into trouble. Then it turns out that he has been trying to get Ms. Spicer fired through unethical means the whole time, and one of his schemes involves destroying Mr. Raven's's painting (which Kelly likely only accepted for the library in the first place because he knew Ms. Spicer would hate it).
  • In the Vita Nuova, Dante maintains that anyone who does not remember Beatrice and mourn must have a heart made of granite with no space for goodness.
  • In Warrior Cats, several of Tigerclaw's followers in ThunderClan were generally jerks, but they remained in the Clan when his treachery was revealed: Dustpelt and Longtail proved to be loyal warriors and grew to treat Fireheart with respect. Darkstripe, however, only refused to join Tigerclaw because Tigerclaw hadn't told him about conspiring with Brokenstar, and later continued to work for him while still in ThunderClan, until he was caught and exiled himself. After Tigerstar's death, Darkstripe joined up with Tigerstar's killer, Scourge, to destroy the Clans.
  • Near the end of Wonder, Julian's friends seem to warm up to deformed August, and you'd think he would eventually too, but nope! He ends up being the only kid in the school to still resent August. At least until the next school year, anyway.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24 usually has whoever is in charge of either CTU or someone else in the government be a complete pain in the ass for several episodes before either revealing that despite their controversial decisions they are a good person trying to do their best to stop the terrorist attack of the day, or undergoing a tough set of circumstances that ultimately sees them become more sympathetic. Then Day 5 comes in and gives us Miles, who is brought in from Homeland Security to take over CTU after it gets hit by a terrorist attack. He follows the usual pattern: gets in the way of Jack and Chloe, gets Bill Buchanan fired from CTU, and generally acts like a dick. But his Homeland partner Karen Hayes insists that when the chips are down he is someone who can be counted on, and when it comes down to it brings him into the loop so he can help expose President Logan as the true mastermind of Day 5, and it looks like he's going to mellow out. Instead, he almost immediately switches sides and destroys the evidence that could expose Logan all so he can get a promotion.
  • When Peter Dragon, the Jerkass protagonist of Action, finds out that he might have cancer, he gives a touching speech to God about wanting to see his daughter grow up and wanting to go out on a hit and promises to turn his life around. He also throws out a tobacco executive who wants to use product placement to market cigarettes to teenagers. After he finds out that his mole is benign, Peter tracks down the executive and makes the deal.
  • Vera Claythorne in And Then There Were None (2015). She's accused by U.N. Owen of murdering her lover Hugo's nephew Cyril so that Hugo would gain Cyril's inheritance, but her flashbacks of frantically running out into the ocean after him imply that she had second thoughts about her plan and genuinely tried her best to save Cyril and lived with soul-crushing guilt when she failed to do so. This is likely what happened with Vera in the original book... but in this miniseries, a later flashback shows that Vera swam out after Cyril only after she'd deliberately waited a very long time until it was certain he'd already drowned and she was even the one who verbally encouraged him to swim out as far as he could. Her true Manipulative Bitch nature only becomes even clearer when the Poetic Serial Killer confronts her and she, in a desperate bid to save her skin, offers to help them pin all their murders on Lombard, her lover who had tried to genuinely help her mere minutes ago, and makes it clear that she knowingly lied through her teeth to the police about Cyril's death and would do it all again in a heartbeat to save herself.
  • Best Friends Whenever: Shelby believes she was responsible for The Rob being the jerk he is now when she found out he had a crush on her once and she unknowingly turned him down. After accidentally creating a Alternate Timeline where she dated him whilst trying to undo her mistake, it turns out he was a jerk all along.
  • Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory held a grudge after Wil Wheaton snubbed him at a convention in The '90s, and was determined to get back at him in a Mystic Warlords of Ka'a tournament. During their match, Wheaton said that he couldn't make the convention because his grandmother had died and he had to be with his family. Sheldon forgives Wheaton and throws the game, then Wheaton tells him he made the story up just to get Sheldon's guard down.
    • He comes back, too.
      Wil: What, you think I'd break up a couple just to win a bowling match?
      Sheldon: Well, I guess not...
      Wil: Good. Keep thinking that.
    • Jossed in Season 5, when Wil Wheaton apologizes to Sheldon, causing them to become buddies. He still shows some meanness, however, when a video he recorded almost ended Wolowitz and Bernadette's engagement.
  • Discussed in Blackadder's Christmas Carol:
    Ebenezer Blackadder: My what a jolly fellow.
    Baldrick: Looked like a fat git to me.
    Ebenezer Blackadder: Yes Baldrick, but if one peels away the layers of a 'fat git' you'll probably find a...
    Baldrick: Thin git!
    • Lord Flashheart of Blackadder Goes Forth.
      Lord Flashheart: I think I'm beginning to understand.
      Captain Blackadder: Are . . . are you?
      Lord Flashheart: Just because I can give multiple orgasms to the furniture just by sitting on it, doesn't mean that I'm not sick of this damn war: the blood, the noise, the endless poetry.
      Captain Blackadder: Is that really what you think, Flashheart?
      Lord Flashheart: [while holding his pistol at Blackadder] Course it's not what I think. Now get out that door before I redecorate that wall an interesting new colour called 'hint of the brain'!
  • In The Boys, Arc Villain and Fake Ultimate Hero Soldier Boy tries to convince Hughie that he's not the monster everyone says he is, but not too long after this he mocks M.M. over his role in his family's death before maiming multiple bystanders during his Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Things only get worse from there as he's revealed to be an even worse narcissist than his son Homelander as he had a long line of physical and emotional abuse directed towards everyone in his life, before attempting to kill his own grandson. Well-Intentioned Extremist Butcher in the end decides that his Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Homelander isn't worth letting a monster like him run loose anymore.
  • Control Z: Pablo is worried when Isabela tells him that she intends to tell Natalia and María about her gender identity, arguing that if one knows then the whole school will. Later on, when the hacker leaks Isabela's secret before she herself has a chance to do it, Pablo pushes Isabela away and publicly breaks up with her feigning ignorance about knowing her secret all along. He also does the same to María, who turns out to be the Honey Bunny, after breaking the news to him that she's pregnant and that the baby is his. In response, he cruelly ditches her and tells her that she's far from being a saint for "stealing" him from Isabela. In addition, he willingly admits to being an "asshole" after being called this by María.
  • In Season 3 of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rebecca tries to convince her coworkers that Nathaniel is this (in practice he is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but he's closer to this trope than most):
    He's the new guy, you can't trust him.
  • On Deadwood this was, perhaps, the crucial difference between Al Swearengen and Cy Tolliver, both jerkasses capable of incredible cruelty. Al might not have qualified as a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but little moments sprinkled through the series suggested that he did care about Trixie, Dan, Jewel, etc. Cy, however, even when he tries to seem caring, comes across as faking it so people will continue to do what he wants. His Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk qualities leads to disloyalty among some of his people.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Margaret the Slitheen in "Boom Town". She spares a pregnant woman and later when the Doctor is about to lead her to her execution, she brings this incident to prove that she can change for the better. The Doctor correctly deduces that she only did it to counterbalance the murders she committed and is going to. And indeed, she was trying to destroy the Earth to get back home.
    • "Voyage of the Damned": In the end, Rickston Slade solemnly thanks the Doctor and hugs Mr. Copper, then proceeds to gloat about how rich the Titanic disaster has made him before leaving. The Doctor can't help but be disgusted at Slade's behavior.
  • Sherlock of Elementary warns Watson at one point that if she's looking for his softer, inner personality, she'll be disappointed. He is a jerk, through and through, and the only reason he relates so well with her is that, because he finds her "exceptional", he makes a significant attempt to be personable with her.
  • Wil Wheaton again. His character on Eureka, Dr. Parrish, is a jackass and a half; if he can say something to get Fargo's goat, or try to sleaze his way in between Fargo and Dr. Martin, he'll do it, and if he can do it in a way that makes it look like he was about to have a Jerk with a Heart of Gold moment, he'll enjoy it.
  • Marie from Everybody Loves Raymond is this, at her worst. At times she'll play up Jerk with a Heart of Gold persona to guilt people into doing what she wants. In "Thank You Notes", Marie tries to guilt Amy into writing thank you notes to Lee and Stan who bought candles for Amy and Robert's wedding. At the end of the episode, it's revealed Marie helped Lee and Stan pick out the candles in the first place.
  • Basil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers. Basil desires to move up in social standing and attract a better class of customer to his hotel. But he's also verbally abusive to the help, only superficially nice to his guests, and his Hair-Trigger Temper and persistent zany schemes built on webs of lies keep getting him into all kinds of trouble. The few times it looks like Basil is trying to do something nice — such as plan a party for his wife or treat a guest with genuine respect — there's always some ulterior motive behind it. And the moment that Basil's plans begin to unravel, his true colors come out to show what a petty, shallow, self-centered gasbag he really is. Were Basil simply more honest and maybe a little cooler-headed, most of his problems would disappear, but any attempts to dig beneath the surface show there's not much else to him besides a barely-contained contempt for the world around him. However, all of this is Played for Laughs since Basil is an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist who always gets his just desserts for his attitude.
  • Sunny Capaduca on 15/Love. Occasional Pet the Dog moments aside, anything decent that Sunny did was inevitably revealed to have sinister motives, while her usual persona was half Spoiled Brat half Creepy Child.
  • Lou Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air abandoned Will when he was only four years old then returns to him fourteen years later to fix their strained relationship. Will openly accepts him and believes that his father has changed. Then, Lou bails on his son again when some "important business" comes up and he can't make time for his son. After completely abandoning Will for the second time in his life, the audience gets the most heart-wrenching scene in the series.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Tywin Lannister occasionally says something that might indicate that he's not as bad as people think but he usually tells them in no uncertain terms his entirely pragmatic reasons for saying it if he's questioned about it.
    • Cersei Lannister is vicious and hostile by default, petty, vindictive, and an overall despicable person to be around. It goes without saying that she Hates Small Talk and openly hates anyone that's not her children or her Lannister family (with the exception of Tyrion, of course). In the second half of the final season, she decides to let Tyrion have an audience with her in an effort to end the war before innocents are slaughtered in King's Landing, with both of them knowing that Cersei has contempt for her subjects. She stops for a moment to consider his words, and specifically his promise that she and her unborn child will be protected if she steps down. She even refuses to take the opportunity to kill her hated brother right then and there. And then, following a brief moment of consideration, she executes Missandei and dooms the city to violence, just in case you needed a reminder about what kind of person she is.
  • The George Lopez Show: Zack Powers is a nasty little prick who smashed up his father's factory to spite him (costing people their wages), got a girl pregnant, and gambled with company money. Of course, he had a pretty awful home life, which causes Carmen to fall for him, thinking there is some good underneath him. In reality, he is just playing this up just to screw Carmen and then ditch her, something he smugly admits to George.
  • House: Dr. House. Just when it looks like he's about to Pet the Dog he'll add a moment of unbelievable jerkassery. Some people (in story and out) believed that his crankiness is because of his leg problem — and then it's shown that he was a jerk even before that. He has later gone through therapy, gotten clean, and has become slightly but consistently less of a jerk who even starts subconsciously manipulating others to their benefit, rather than his own.
  • Happens to Barney often in How I Met Your Mother, and usually it's Lily who temporarily thinks he's done something caring. For example, the time he's detailing all the subtle signs that indicate that a nearby girl at the bar has been recently crying, and he seems sympathetic at first, but it turns out he's just analyzing her vulnerability to being manipulated into sex. There's also a particularly good example in one Thanksgiving episode. Ted and Robin decide to help out at a homeless shelter on the holiday, where they find that Barney is the model volunteer there in his spare time. They spend the entire episode completely dumbfounded by the fact that he is capable of good deeds until they discover that he's there as part of court-mandated community service for drunkenly urinating on a church.
    Ted: You are evil!
    Robin: All is right with the world!
    • Also, in one episode he tells his friends how he went to see the woman who broke his heart years ago and quite wistfully talks about how she's a mother now, how she was sorry for what she did to him, and how all he has is a closet full of suits and a string of one-night stands. When his friends show sympathy towards him, he laughs and says that what he meant was that she had become incredibly lame and he is still awesome, reveals that he had sex with her afterward and secretly recorded the tryst, and then forces his disgusted friends to listen to her moans and screams.
    • "The Scuba Diver" play is based pretty much entirely on this. In one of the most magnificent Magnificent Bastard plots Barney's ever conceived, he tells Lily in advance about a play he's going to run, which she uses by getting a friend to pretend to fall for it to steal the Playbook. Then he announces that he's going to run a play called "The Scuba Diver", which Marshall notes isn't anywhere in the book, piquing their curiosity. They run down to the bar to inquire about it, and he only points out his target, who Lily decides to warn off. But after the rest of the gang relates the story to the girl, they still want to know what the play is, so they approach Barney, who starts in on some spiel, stops, and says some stuff about how the plays were just a way to get his mind off his breakup with Robin. Then Lily talks Barney up, saying he's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, and he leaves with the girl, then texts the gang telling them to look under the table, where the play is taped to the underside, describing all of this. All that just to invoke this trope.
  • Jay from The Inbetweeners switches between this trope and Jerk with a Heart of Gold. At the start of the show, he is mostly this trope, and at the end of the third series, he is mostly the latter (by the time of The Movie, he seems to have become a permanent Jerk with a Heart of Gold). The formula is usually like this: Will thinks Jay has finally done something just slightly thoughtful or said something non-stupid, and Jay proves him wrong or follows the thoughtful action up with something that is assholish. However, it is largely Played for Laughs, so Jay is in general more sympathetic than many examples of this trope.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The Gang is a group of five utter scumbags who are entirely self-centered. Whenever they do something even remotely heroic, it is always for purely selfish reasons.
  • Finch on Just Shoot Me!. In one episode, he admits to Maya that he has to hide his sensitive side in public. She hugs him and he takes the opportunity to feel her up. When she looks shocked, he just smirks and says "it's me!"
  • The Last of Us (2023): Lee is a Smug Snake even when he's trying to act nice, but he expresses seemingly genuine concern for Joel and warns him to lay low while FEDRA cracks down on the Fireflies. Then he catches Joel, Tess, and Ellie outside the border and threatens to execute them all on the spot if they don't bribe him. He tops it off by to trying to murder Ellie (a teenager) out of spite when she stabs him in the leg to stop him from killing Joe..
  • Anthony Cooper, Locke's dad from Lost. He can screw Locke over again and again because he's very good at faking Pet the Dog moments. To say nothing of the whole Sawyer incident.
  • Marina on The Magicians is this. She claims to try to help Julia while having selfish motivations and Chronic Backstabbing Disorder. Later, timeline 23 Marina claims to be helping because it's the right thing to do, then blackmails the group by threatening to turn them in to the Library if they don't steal more magic for her than she'd get as a reward.
  • M*A*S*H: Frank Burns is a thoroughly unpleasant individual, with a poor bedside manner who treats patients and other members of the 4077 with contempt, except for Margaret Houlihan for the first couple seasons. After Houlihan dumps him and marries another officer Burns becomes even more unpleasant, especially towards Houlihan. Suffering a mental breakdown after Houlihan's wedding, he is transferred back to the states.note 
  • The Mentalist, although Patrick Jane usually has a heart of gold, his amnesiac version in Fugue In Red falls into this trope. Basically this version of Patrick Jane is based on when he was a scammer, but without taking into account the love for his family, to the point that he has no problems abusing Cho's trust to escape, nor does he have problems stealing half of the money that he was supposed to return.
  • In one moment of The Middle, a lazy teenage guy named Axel is dateless on Valentine's Day. He says he doesn't care because he's with the woman that means the most to him, his mother. His mom is so happy, and then he bursts out laughing and says he can't believe she believed that.
  • Once Upon a Time: Both Regina (The Evil Queen) and Gold (Rumpelstiltskin) show signs of this. Both genuinely do care for certain people (Henry and her father for Regina and Belle and Baelfire for Gold), but both often treat these people cruelly (Regina even kills her father). They are also Magnificent Bastards who managed to trap all of the fairy tale characters from their world in an Identity Amnesia curse, both acting for selfish reasons, and every time they have Pet the Dog moments it's ruined either in the same episode or in the very next.
  • Oz:
    • Kenny Wangler is set up as having the potential for redemption, but it eventually becomes clear that he's little more than a bullying thug. Any sympathetic moments he gets are quickly subverted; even his love for his infant son is undercut when he yells at the boy to "be a man" die crying.
    • All of Vern Schillinger's redeeming qualities are shown to be either shallow or overridden by his disgusting racism. Even his various attempts at redemption are shown to be ultimately shallow and self-serving.
  • The Sheriff of the 2000s Robin Hood series, in his own words. At one point, he tells an underling he suspects of betrayal that a confession might prompt some mercy. "Underneath this harsh surface, I'm deeply sensitive." One confession later, he stabs the guy. "I Lied. Underneath this harsh surface, there's just more harsh surface."
  • A Saturday Night Live skit had Jon Bon Jovi and Ritchie Sambora (playing themselves) acting this way toward the DeMarco Brothers (Chris Kattan and Chris Parnell) when they are auditioning to be backup dancers for the band. After repeatedly insulting the brothers' rehearsal and finally driving them to tears, Bon Jovi and Sambora appear to feel bad about what they have done and called the brothers back... only to tell them to "take [their] boombox and get out." Then they do this to them three more times. Worst of all, they get no comeuppance for this and the audience (as always) just laughs at the DeMarcos.
  • Scrubs: This is Dr. Cox's view of most people, himself included:
    Dr. Clock: Oh, Dr. Kelso's all bluster. I bet underneath it all, he's a sweetheart.
    Dr. Cox: Oh no. underneath it all, he is pure evil.
    Dr. Clock: Perry, no one's pure evil. I mean, yeah, some people have a hard outer shell, but inside, everybody has a creamy center.
    Dr. Cox: There are plenty of people here, on this particular planet, who are hard on the outside and hard on the inside!
    Dr. Clock: So they have more of a nougaty center?
    Dr. Cox: Lady. People aren't chocolates. Do you know what they are mostly? Bastards. Bastard-coated bastards with bastard filling.
  • Harry Mudd in Star Trek: Discovery. Unlike the Lovable Rogue he would become in Star Trek: The Original Series, this younger version of him is perfectly happy to spy on his cellmates for the Klingons and steal their food. Later on, he goes murder-happy all over the Discovery and spends 54 of his "Groundhog Day" Loop cycles killing Lorca in increasingly creative (and painful) ways. It seems initially that he's just pining for his lost love Stella, but it's eventually revealed that he ran away from Stella, as he only wanted her father's money. It's at least known he'll eventually grow out of this.
  • Supernatural:
    • Zachariah and Ruby. Zachariah is a smug douchebag but gets a Pet the Dog moment when he tries to show Dean that his life's not as bad as he thinks and get him to accept his mission to save the world. Ruby is as snarky and manipulative as demons are expected to be but are willing to lay down her life to protect Sam and Dean. And then it turns out both of them were Evil All Along and were trying to get Sam and Dean to start the Apocalypse the whole time.
    • But the biggest example of this trope by far, which is seriously saying something, is none other than Lucifer himself, probably to no one's surprise considering he's the friggin Devil himself. Every time he seems to show a humanizing or sympathetic quality he subverts by doing something utterly heinous. For example, in Season 5, he says that he genuinely cares for Sam and wants him to be happy, but it's revealed in Season 11 that he never really liked him. Near the end of the same season, he seemingly reconciles with God and makes a Heel–Face Turn… but then when God leaves earth with his sister The Darkness, what does he do? Possesses a Rockstar and kill dozens of people for fun. When asked why he is doing this, he says that he's pissed because God didn't say goodbye to him when left, and is taking out his anger on innocent humans. But by far the biggest instance of this trope happens in Season 13 when he fathers a Nephilim son named Jack, which once again brings up the possibility that he has some humanity in him, and is even willing to join forces with the heroes once more, so he can bond with him. But in the season finale, Jack finds out that he killed an innocent girl named Maggie and even enjoyed doing it proving once and for all to Jack (and the audience) that Lucifer is nothing more but a pure evil monster. How does Lucifer react when his son rightfully calls him out? By stealing his grace and then abducting both Jack and Sam, and attempting to force a Sadistic Choice upon them by trying to have the two kill each other, even stating to his son, right to his face, that he can always have another child.
  • True Blood has Maxine Fortenberry. Once in a while, she'll show her soft side, such as genuinely loving Tommy and attending his funeral and consoling his brother Sam. But Maxine is a very cruel racist person who would rather kill a non-human (vampire, shifter, etc.) with a big smile on her face when given a chance, regardless of who they are. Such as Sam whom she sold out and attempted to murder with the rioting townsfolk in Season 7, despite telling him that he is part of the family a few seasons ago.
  • In the Waking the Dead episode 'Waterloo' shady property developer Martin Barlow becomes a foster father to an orphan and then raises him to be a mole inside the police force.
  • The Governor in The Walking Dead (2010) was previously established as one of the most feared villains in the series, but after losing to Rick and his group of heroes he becomes a broken man struggling to survive the Zombie Apocalypse. When he runs into a family who opens up their hearts to him and forms a new group with him as the leader he... uses the new group to get revenge on Rick and his friends. He even kills one of the family members who took pity on him in front of everyone.
  • Mr. Diperna, the bullying junior high assistant principal on The Wonder Years. It's not unusual for Diperna to listen to Kevin's (or someone else's) explanation with a thoughtful look, only to then tear into that person, often for a very minor infraction.

    Professional Wrestling 

  • Sir Gregory, the head of General Assistance Department in The Men from the Ministry is one in and out. While he may be pleased and friendly in some episodes, it's only because of some outside event giving him a good mood and makes no secret that he hates One and Two for their incompetence.
  • On the surface, Thomas Quentin Crimp in Old Harry's Game appears to be a selfish, greedy, and petty businessman. But underneath all that, he's a pervert and a murderer as well. At one point, the other characters think they have found a Freudian Excuse in Thomas' childhood as an unpopular schoolboy... until they learn that, while still a child, he murdered all the kids who considered him unpopular.

    Tabletop Gaming 
  • From the looks of things this applies to the Emperor of Mankind himself in Warhammer 40,000, the Horus Heresy novel Master of Mankind in particular. In it he is callous and uncaring, his affection for his sons being just an act to maintain their loyalty while mentally he refers to them by their legion numbers.

  • Melissa in Abandon All Hope starts off this way — her brash demeanor seems to stand in contrast with her social advocacy and humanitarian ideals, but when push comes to shove, she's ultimately just looking out for herself. She gets better.
  • Professor Callahan in Legally Blonde starts as a textbook Amoral Attorney, cold, condescending, and dismissive. Over time, he seems to soften towards Elle, and even stands up for her a couple times... only to turn right around and kiss her against her will, implying heavily that the only reason he wanted her on the team of interns was that she was a hot, leggy blonde.
  • Demetrius in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Sure, he goes back to Helena and repents of the inhuman way he treated her — but that's just the love potion talking.
  • In A Streetcar Named Desire just when it seems that Stanley might not be as much of an asshole as he seemed to be at first he goes and rapes Blanche to insanity and then lies that he never once touched her afterward.

    Video Games 
  • Absented Age: Squarebound: The vice principal is harsh on the Sado Band Club for causing noise with their activity even though they're supposed to be doing tea ceremony instead of music. While he initially seems like a strict school official who is just doing his job, he turns out to have an ulterior motive. He wants to tear down the Sado building in order to make room for a campus museum, and went as far as to frame the club for smoking. Even when Mr. Minami counters all of the vice principal's arguments about the Sado Band Club's activities, the latter still tries to threaten to suspend the club members and ruin their permanent records.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition: Magister Livius Erimond, Smug Snake par excellence who happily aids Corypheus so he can rule as a god-king. When one of your companions asks Cole (Spirit of Compassion and All-Loving Hero who can find something to sympathize with in Corypheus) if Erimond has some hidden pain motivating him, Cole bluntly states that no, he's just "an arsehole."
  • Dyztopia: Post-Human RPG: President Zazz is presented as a demanding and controlling boss, but he seems to at least have a benevolent goal of vanquishing demons and reviving the original humans. He even pays for Akira's party despite being irritated by their desire to retire. Then he reveals that he intends to displace the non-human citizens in favor of the humans, and that he plans on conquering other countries to further expand his human supremacist state.
  • Preceptor Seluvis in Elden Ring starts out as a pompous, irritating mage and the least friendly of Ranni's allies - though doing him certain favours will have him warm up to you more...and when he does, you realize that he's even worse than he appears to be at first, as he's a freaky pervert and a "puppet botherer", and those 'favours' involve unwittingly tricking you into drugging a girl in the depths of despair so that he can turn her into a puppet and his personal Sex Slave, as he already has on several other people, and one path of his questline involves trying to do the same to Ranni, the demi-god he serves. Thankfully, regardless of how you conclude his questline, he gets his just desserts one way or another.
  • Master Neloth in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim's Dragonborn DLC. He's an Insufferable Genius and magical Mad Scientist who truly believes Its All About Him, and even believes that the return of the Dragons is an attempt to kill him by one of his many enemies. Much of what he does is simply For Science! and he has very little respect for any other mortal, including a world-saving hero like the Dragonborn, who is forced to aid him significantly in the DLC's main quest. If you visit him after ending the DLC questline, he will immediately examine you to ensure you don't have any remains of Hermaeus Mora's influence. When you answer him he doesn't need to worry about you, he will quickly respond that he wasn't worried, just interested.
  • Fallout:
    • John Bishop, one of The Dons of the Wretched Hive of New Reno in Fallout 2. He's a terrible person and an even worse husband & father, but through a little digging, the player can learn that he's a steadfast ally of the New California Republic. However, he cares little for the nation itself; he only sides with them because he'll become more powerful by doing so and arranges the assassination of both a congressman and their Vice President to facilitate this. In the end, the Bishops canonically became a powerful NCR family who use their influence to protect gambling and prostitution rights for the city.
    • Caesar of Fallout: New Vegas. At first, his Legion appears to be nothing more than a band of arrogant and brutal organized raiders. But then the big man himself invites you to his fort for a chat and pardons you for any crimes you have committed against them, and the man sounds like an intellectual Anti-Villain who has an elaborate plan to create a civilization that won't destroy itself... And then you find out that behind the veneer is an ill-tempered sadist who commits genocide over minor slights, has tortured people to death for disturbing his sleep, and berates you for not executing a defenseless (though hardly undeserving) man.
  • Caius from Frozen Essence. He initially appears to be a typical Troubled, but Cute Loveable Rogue who claims that he's helping the protagonist Mina just because it benefits him and doesn't care if she gets herself hurt or not only because of his Dark and Troubled Past. Except that in most paths, it turns out that he wasn't lying about looking out for only himself and killing being the only thing he cares about after he joins the enemy's side and attempts to kill his former companions without a shred of hesitation or remorse. He does prevent the Big Bad Oryon from recapturing Mina and Rune in Rune's path, but only because he wants revenge on Oryon and to be the one who kills Rune in the end.
    • Even in his path where he takes Mina to a safe place and nurses her back to health after she saves him, he makes it quite clear to her that he's keeping her alive as a "hostage" to deter the White Order from killing him and mocks her for believing that he would thank her for saving him. When he seems to be developing genuine feelings for her after becoming frantic when she's severely injured and having a heartfelt conversation with her about their similar situations, he immediately begins plotting to use Mina's power to kill people more effectively the moment he learns about it and comes close to crossing the Moral Event Horizon when he begins draining her of her life essence while taunting her and ignoring her screams of pain. However, in his Lightpath, he does become a Jerk with a Heart of Gold at almost the last minute when it looks like Mina is going to die partly because of what he did.
  • Ryder in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is one of the more troublesome members of the Grove Street Families, often high, always sarcastic, and excessively rude to everyone, especially CJ. However, he puts in work for the gang and does his part (though he always seems like that guy people keep around to kick around). And then it turns out he had betrayed the Grove Street Families and Big Smoke, had a hand in the death of Sweet and CJ's mother, and has been arming the gang's enemies the entire time. CJ easily takes him out either alongside Cesar or by himself after a boat chase. Even if he still feels a little bad about having to kill him.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep: The Big Bad, Master Xehanort, is said to be a formerly well-meaning Fallen Hero... yet ruins his one opportunity to show said sympathetic traits. During a flashback, his Training from Hell experiments on Ven leave the latter in a near-death state — so Xehanort, despite being the one to abuse him to that point, takes him to the serene Destiny Islands so he can at least die in peace. However, after Ven soon recovers, Xehanort doesn't hesitate to just continue exploiting him as usual.
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds: Yuga is supposedly loyal to Hilda who wanted to save her world despite his actions, but in reality, he wants the entire Triforce for himself with no regard for what happens to Hyrule or Lorule.
  • Lonely Wolf Treat: In the sixth game, when Mochi returns to Frosting to investigate a crime, she is joined by Juju, her overprotective and racist cousin who caused Mochi and her friends a lot of trouble in the past. Juju seems to show genuine concern for Mochi when she suggests they get help from Senbei, a popular rabbit who knows everybody in Frosting. At Senbei's house, however, Juju makes an excuse to leave Mochi behind so she can talk to Senbei in private. When she comes back, it turns out she was just enjoying a romantic moment with Senbei and didn't ask him about the crime at all. To say that Mochi gets a bit upset would be an understatement.
  • Manafinder: Azain is very insulting towards the recently deceased Soren, but he gives Lambda a manastone seemingly out of goodwill. It turns out he tampered with the manastone so that it would allow him and the nomads to breach the Settlement's defenses.
  • Ambassador Udina in Mass Effect is perfectly happy to compliment Shepard on a job well done right before he gets back to the backstabbing. Goes all the way in the third installment, wherein Udina seemingly devotes himself fully to aiding Shepard against the Reapers instead of furthering his political ambitions, but then he decides to use Cerberus to assassinate the other Councillors so he'd be the sole surviving head of the Council is a better idea than going along with Shepard's alliance-building.
    • Maybe true in the first two games, but the clinching third game example is subject to Alternative Character Interpretation both by fans and in-universe; no characters seem to truly think he acted from pure ambition, and it's perfectly possible that he took part in the Cerberus coup attempt because he was desperate to get reinforcements to Earth, and the other races were refusing to help. It's also not clear whether he was trying to kill the Council or just capture them to force their compliance, or whether he knew how bloody the coup would be. Granted, even the best interpretation of his actions leaves him guilty of errors in judgment and callousness towards the other races, but such a perspective would put him into Well-Intentioned Extremist territory rather than this trope.
      • The characters also wonder if Udina may have been indoctrinated, which would mean that his actions may not have been his choice in the first place.
  • Harvey from Octopath Traveler II burns down Osvald's house and steals his research out of petty jealousy. However, he's later shown musing over what he should get his daughter for her birthday, suggesting that he's at least a decent father underneath everything else. Except it turns out that "his" daughter is actually Osvald's daughter, who Harvey has brainwashed into forgetting about her real dad so he can use her blood in an experiment.
  • In Persona 5, Principal Kobayakawa is aware of Kamoshida's abuses but turns a blind eye to them. After Kamoshida is exposed in the Royal Updated Re-release, the principal hires a school councillor, ostensibly to help the students through their trauma... but it's clearly just a desperate attempt to save face and salvage the school's reputation. And that's before he's revealed to be part of The Conspiracy, though he was killed not only for his failure, but also planned on telling the truth about them to the authorities. While it's possible he could have been a Dirty Coward who was too afraid to face them anymore, his exact reasons remain a mystery.
  • The Voice from Pyre starts as hostile and rude to the Player Character. As the game progresses, he begins to warm up to you and encourages the Nightwings to keep competing, making him seem like a Defrosting Ice Queen. Then Volfred joins your party and the Voice loses his shit. For the rest of the game, he does nothing but hurls cruel insults and threats at the Nightwings, and once you learn you learn who he is and why he hates Volfred, it becomes nearly impossible to see him in a sympathetic light.
  • Hiro from Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair. He's rather narcissistic and arrogant, but one might imagine that he does have some redeeming qualities since Momoko and Runa love him. However, in the good ending, it's revealed that he not only callously dumped Runa when he found out her family was poor, but he was planning to do the same with Momoko to get together with her best friend Kamen and sent text messages to Kamen even after she refused. Momoko finding those text messages was what led her to plot a Murder-Suicide with herself and Hiro to frame Kamen for the murders.
  • Good Ol' Wario. He fights an evil army, takes a demon pirate king in single combat, and even though he wants his money, still spares the Queen of the world a smi—wait what DUDE. She just spent a nightmarish stretch in a hideous monster's captivity, and Wario introduces her to the paneling up-close when she keeps him from his money just five seconds more. Princess Shokora, this is not. However, he can also be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, as seen when he helps Luigi and co. (including Wario's rival, Mario) rescue Princess Peach after being saved by Luigi in Super Mario 64 DS.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, Aifread gives you quite the runaround during an optional quest, but it turns out that he wants Colette to understand what her decision to abandon the journey of regeneration has cost Sylvarant and apologize to his crew, who died when the great Kharlan tree went out of control, something that the party caused. It's a harsh but understandable point, even if Aifread is completely unwilling to listen to Lloyd's side of the story, and establishes that Aifread's a decent person. But then he has one last letter to give to his apparent girlfriend Lyla. It turns out that Lyla's a loan shark, and the letter claims that the party will pay off Aifread's debts with their money, showing that Aifread's motives are perhaps not as selfless as he let on.
  • Eric Sparrow from Tony Hawk's Underground. Just when you think he'll have a change of heart, he'll leave you behind once more for the sake of his career, which he puts above all else.
  • Sebastian LaCroix from Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines starts the game on very bad terms with the Player Character. Viewing you as a blight on his reputation, LaCroix tries to kill you twice in the game's opening (once by beheading and then with a blatant Uriah Gambit) and only fails because the Anarchs stick up for you. Once you come back from his first few missions LaCroix begins opening more up and begins viewing you as Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder, giving you several vital missions on his behalf he wants you to survive. Then, late in the game, you piece together that you were an Unwitting Pawn in a scheme to ally with the Kuei-Jin to throw the Anarchs under the bus, and then became his main hitman in a scheme to backstab the Kuei-Jin to obtain the Ankharan Sarcophagus. When LaCroix realizes you know too much of his dirty secrets he immediately goes back to sending you on another Uriah Gambit, calls a Blood Hunt on you, and becomes the Final Boss for three of the games' Multiple Endings.
  • Dio from Virtue's Last Reward. From the moment he first opens his mouth, he makes it clear to absolutely everyone that he is a huge asshole. He does have a few apparent Pet the Dog moments like his apparent care for Quark after he caught Radical-6, but it's all just a facade. In reality he's even worse than he initially seems. Not only did he murder the old lady in order to take her place in the Nonary Game, but he's also a devout cultist and terrorist who rigged the entire facility to blow up. In one route, he even holds the cure to Quark's Radical-6 hostage unless Sigma agrees to vote Ally against his Betray, even though this will drop Sigma below 0 BP and kill him.
  • Dickson from Xenoblade Chronicles 1 comes off as a gruff asshole, but one who is dedicated to helping his war buddy, his adopted son, and the people of Bionis. Eventually, he shoots his adopted son and reveals he was only supporting the party to manipulate them into reviving his megalomaniacal god, Zanza.
  • The Laughably Evil Nopon villain Bana from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is shown to care greatly for his father and even regularly sends him money. Until a late-game sidequest reveals his father is an even worse crime boss than he is, and all those donations were directly financing terrorism.

    Web Animation 
  • Felix from Red vs. Blue. He initially comes across as a Stepford Smiler Broken Bird to the teams, with some abrasive and greedy moments, and different priorities than his employer, but ultimately willing to see the war through. Turns out he's working for the then-unknown third faction who intends to kill all life on the planet, and he is having the time of his life doing so. When his status as a False Friend comes out, he mocks the Reds and Blues for buying his "charismatic mercenary with a heart of gold" act.
  • Let Me Explain Studios: Rebecca's High School Drama Teacher, nicknamed "Medusa". note  Throughout Becca's time in High School, Medusa had a tight grip on the theatre department; she had a Hair-Trigger Temper, was prone to mood-swings, and often was verbally abusive towards several of her students, especially towards Rebecca, whom she regularly overlooked in castings. But she always gave Becca Straight-A's for being a good student & actress. Then during Senior Year, when Rebecca was auditioning for the lead-role that she greatly desired in a play, was the most qualified for in the entire school, fit every necessary criteria, had senior-year student casting priority, AND was the only senior-year girl in the class... Medusa still refused to cast her in ANY part out of sheer contempt for her, which she casually tells other students. Upon learning this, Rebecca quit her class then-&-there.
  • RWBY
    • Adam Taurus, a high-ranking member of the terrorist organization, the White Fang. During the Black Trailer, he's painted as having a sympathetic side towards his partner, Blake, who he saves from being crushed by a giant spider robot. Then during Season 3, he's revealed to be violently possessive of Blake and now seeks to kill her and her loved ones as retribution for her defection, showing that his earlier rescue of her was done in service of his possessiveness.
    • Whenever Cinder Fall does something decent, it's all for her own selfish purposes. She recruited Emerald on the promise of never going hungry again solely to use her Semblance to carry out Salem's mission; despite Emerald's loyalty, Cinder treats her abusively, including hitting her if she's disobedient. At the end of Volume 8, Cinder apologizes to Neo for denying her a chance to gain revenge on Ruby and compliments Watts' hacking skills. This is a ruse to gain their cooperation; as soon as she's achieved her objectives and no longer needs them, Cinder personally throws Neo into the Void Between the Worlds and traps Watts in Atlas' Command Center to burn to death.

  • 8-Bit Theater BLACK MAGE. He subverts any attempts to redeem himself. He found in the Castle of Ordeals that the only thing that could represent the weight of his sins was... himself. He then began to remind his 'evil' self of further atrocities that he had recently accomplished, thus making his doppelganger grow even more powerful until even it started thinking like Black Mage himself. BM then killed it with a sneak attack and wondered for a moment if killing the personification of his sins meant that he had cleansed his soul. He then promptly absorbed all the powers of his evil self, gleefully lampshading the fact that this would deny him any chance of redemption later. He then had sex with the corpse, solely because he wanted to find a way to turn self-love into a crime. Wow.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court revealed little about Anthony Carver for a good while in the comic's run. Hints were occasionally dropped that he was a Well-Intentioned Extremist, some characters placed trust in him being a good guy. Then he finally appeared in Chapter 51 with an opening of total dick move towards Annie, seemingly landing right in this trope... And then later yet we saw why he did that — part of it was the best he could do for her as she would've been expelled otherwise, part of it was him being unable to deal with his complexes in her presence, and he knows he's in the wrong for the latter.
  • Doc Worth of Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name described this way on the cast page description.
    "Worth is obnoxious, crude, abrasive, and borderline disgusting, and underneath his grungy exterior and antagonistic behavior he still is just a dick."
  • Played straight, and then subverted, by King Marcus Quimby in the semi-canon forum game. In describing General Esteban, he says that "underneath that loud, grouchy exterior is another angry person. Underneath that is a kitten though."
  • The Order of the Stick has Xykon, who is irredeemable through and through. Author Rich Burlew commented on this in the introduction of the book detailing Xykon's origin story, noting that such things tended to make the villain more sympathetic, and he wanted the opposite to happen. It worked.
  • In Phoebe and Her Unicorn, Phoebe asks Dakota why she bullies her. Turns out that there is no reason for it (beyond mere malice) or deep-rooted psychological issue that motivates her; she's just a jerk who doesn't care or think about how she hurts others. And she's equally cruel to her "friends".
  • Mike Warner of the Walkyverse. Although fans would like to think otherwise, Word of God insists that he's just an asshole with no justification. This is somewhat muddled by the fact that he becomes nice when he's drunk. One example of this is when Ethan quits the store and walks out. Mike calls after him to wait, making it seem like he wants him to stay... then simply kicks him in the nuts. "Okay, now you can go".
  • Hyeonjin from Weak Hero, Gerard's bandmate back when he was in middle school. His genuine love and talent for music make it seem like he might have a more sentimental side underneath his insufferable persona... right up until he quits the band and confides in Gerard that he never gave a shit about it in the first place. Though it's later muddied with the revelation that he went out of his way to save Gerard from a burning building, injuring his hands to the point that he can't perform for a year. So even more of a jerk than initially presented, but not completely irredeemable.

    Web Original 
  • Jake Hurwitz, one of the hosts of If I Were You, describes himself as a "peanut M&M" on the show. In his words, to most girls, he's a heartless womanizer with a hard, rough exterior, like a candy shell. But any girl brave enough to dig deeper will find that beneath that hard shell is a soft, warm chocolatey center. However, they'll also find that beneath that is a shitty little peanut.
  • July of May Xnocens wants to keep Idius March from killing all the ogres. Because if they're dead July can't use them as his underpaid henchmen.
  • Gaea from Noob is showing a pattern of doing this:
    • The webseries version of the death of Sparadrap's pets, which was a Break the Cutie moment for her Manchild guildmate, had her call the culprits monsters... because they had just destroyed something she was planning to steal and sell for a fortune at some point.
    • The comic had her promise Sparadrap to get him a pet for each point he scores in a Fluxball game. She quickly explains to another character that she has no intention of paying for the pets herself but using the (constantly in Perpetual Poverty) guild's common fund.
    • In the novels, she promises that she showed up to help restart the guild after Arthéon disbanded it in a fit of rage by pure friendship. It doesn't take long for the narration to reveal that she still has every intention to treat the guild common fund as her bank.

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • The aptly named "Magic Man" from Adventure Time. In his first appearance, he goes around the world turning people into giant body parts. Finn thought it was to teach them some sort of lesson (Finn had helped Magic Man when he appeared as a starving old man, but only because he figured he would be rewarded), but it appears it was simply for not "appreciating" how much of a jerk he is. It's not until he accidentally loses his powers in the Season 6 episode "You Forgot Your Floaties" that he starts to mellow out.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: "The Wicked" focuses on Darwin trying to find something good about Margaret Robinson or some sympathetic reason she would be so horrible. He finds out she's been awful since she was a baby, and when he pretends to choke as a Secret Test of Character (and ends up actually choking because of her), instead of helping him, she just watches him suffocate with glee. Summarized by her husband Mr. Robinson: "Sometimes man just wants to watch the world burn."
  • American Dad!:
    • Roger Smith frequently teases a sympathetic depth to his usually sociopathic self, but the large majority of times it is complete lies (e.g. a convoluted scheme in which he claims to have a shy crush on a girl, this reverts to him being attracted to Hayley and Francine instead, leading to a violent feud, that Roger tapes for a competition to get a free T-shirt). He does have genuine Pet the Dog moments on rare occasions, however.
      • "Ricky Spanish" applies this trope to one of Roger's fake personas. Ricky is a pariah because he has personally wronged nearly everyone in town. Steve decides to help redeem "Ricky" by helping him do good deeds for the people he harmed in the past. As soon as "Ricky's" reputation is rehabilitated, he teams up with a former partner in crime to perpetrate a heist and frame Steve for it.
  • In As Told by Ginger, Ginger becomes concerned about the pranks that her classmates are planning to pull on their evil substitute teacher Mrs. Grimley. Ginger tries to talk them out of it, saying that Mrs. Grimley doesn't deserve to be pelted with raw eggs. On the night of the pranks, Ginger defends Mrs. Grimley from the other kids throwing raw eggs. It turns out that Mrs. Grimley doesn't care at all and punishes the entire class on Monday (including the students not involved in the prank). Ginger stands up for her class by delivering a "The Reason You Suck" Speech and promptly getting detention. Mrs. Grimley is never showed being punished for her harsh treatment of Ginger's class.
  • Batman Beyond displays this perfectly with Derek Powers/Blight. Whenever he does something "decent", it's all for his self-serving goals, and he's just as likely to turn around and Kick the Dog.
    • In Meltdown he not only funds the project that gives Mr. Freeze a new body but also personally oversees his rehabilitation into this new world. However, he's only doing it as a test run to see if he can transfer his own mind into a clone body due to his own condition worsening. When Freeze starts to deteriorate, Blight has no problem with having an unscrupulous scientist biopsy Freeze's organs.
    • While he tells Walter Shreeve his invention is ultimately impractical and redundant, he's still willing to give him another way to use his talents...provided he kills Bruce Wayne first.
    • When it becomes clear how much worse his condition is growing, he brings his distant son out of exile, tells the truth about him, and steps down as chairman so his son can take over. Except that's only because he wants to use his son as a puppet through which he can control the company from the shadows. Unfortunately for Blight, his son is just as ruthless as him and orchestrates a way to take out his old man for good.
  • In Ben 10: Omniverse episode "Vilgax Must Croak" Ben and his allies must protect Vilgax from Attea and her bounty hunters as they transfer him to a new prison for the sake of Vilgaxia. During the battle, Attea shoots at Ben, only for Vilgax to jump between them (Complete with slow-mo and Big "NO!"). But by Taking the Bullet, Vilgax's manacles were damaged, allowing him to knock Ben out and escape.
  • A Buzz Lightyear of Star Command episode featured Buzz Lightyear and his Evil Counterpart Warp Darkmatter being kidnapped by aliens who wanted to study good and evil. During their escape attempt, Warp seemingly leaves Buzz behind, but then returns to rescue Buzz, saying that he just couldn't leave without him. Literally; he doesn't know how to fly Buzz's spaceship ("I can't drive a stick."); hence, he couldn't leave without Buzz's help. However, Buzz doesn't buy it.
  • Whilst some episodes of Courage the Cowardly Dog either imply he is bitter due to a traumatic childhood and/or does have redeeming qualities deep down, whenever Eustace Bagge gets an opportunity to show he isn't all-jerk, expect him to botch it. A great example is in the episode "The Curse of Shirley", where Eustace is cursed with a Personal Raincloud that won't leave unless he does something generous. Despite multiple opportunities to do so, Eustace consistent refuses to do anything generous. The worst being when he encounters a man named Floyd being attacked by some unseen monster that is trying to drag him into the sewer; Floyd uses the last of his strength to give Eustace a love letter to his fiancée and ask him to pass on his dying apologies for missing their wedding and a final declaration of love, and he then gets dragged into the sewer. Not only does Eustace not try to help Floyd escape his apparent demise, he throws the letter away as junk. Laser-Guided Karma ensues several episodes later in "Curtain of Cruelty", where the now-mutated Floyd returns as the Villain of the Week.
  • In The Cuphead Show! Ludwig is introduced as Mugman's piano teacher and a pompous prick who can't even get his students' names right. But he does seem to be a strict but sincere tutor who wants his pupils to succeed. All of that goes right out the window when he ditches Mugman in favour of Cuphead's raw natural talent without missing a beat. And then it's revealed he only took him under his wing so he could pass Cuphead's song off as his own.
  • Danny Phantom: Vlad Masters/Plasmius, as demonstrated in "Masters of All Time." Even without the accident that gave him his powers and overall contempt for Jack for being married to Maddie, Vlad still grew up to become the same controlling and domineering sociopath seen in the present timeline. Even still being rich, married to Maddie, and having Jack as a disfigured outcast didn't make him a better person, showing his malevolent traits are a core part of his character.
  • Family Guy:
    • It seemed Connie and the rest of her friends would warm up to Meg after she did them some favors and treated them nicely despite them pulling a mean prank. However, they then just decide to pull another mean prank on her.
    • At the end of "Tiegs for Two", it appears Brian and Glen Quagmire, who had previously announced his hatred for and nearly beat the former to death finally set aside their differences when the latter accepts the former's apology and offers a ride home... only to drive off and back up to run him over.
  • Futurama:
    • Zapp Brannigan qualifies:
      • He exposes himself as one in the very first episode in which he appears: after he breaks down to Leela and admits he's just an idiot who had no idea what he's doing, he uses her sympathy to get her to have sex with him, and gloats about it every time he encounters her afterward. Leela ultimately concludes that while there is a side to Zapp that doesn't disgust her, his normal personality is so repellent that she just doesn't care.
      • In Season 7, he hooks up with Leela's mother. We become increasingly certain that he cares about her. And then it turns out that he was ultimately attracted to her ability to speak alien languages fluently, and wanted to use this to his advantage in negotiations with non-English-speaking aliens. Specifically, he wanted to use her skills to pass off a declaration of war to a non-English-speaking alien race as a peace treaty, giving him the justification to invade and bomb their homeworld to rubble. In the end, in episodes where he features heavily, we're waiting for the point at which it turns out he was being a manipulative jerk all along.
    • Bender has his moments. In "Xmas Story" all the others are surprised when Bender says he wants to volunteer at a liquor kitchen for homeless robots. It turns out he just wants to pose as a homeless robot to get free booze.
  • Pete in Goof Troop. Sometimes he may seem almost nice, but it's ultimately overwhelmed by his selfishness. He doesn't even bother to cross his fingers before making a promise he plans to break. He rarely has any Pet the Dog moments that aren't subverted except when his family are in danger, and even then, he goes back to mistreating them and everyone else around him afterward.
  • Kick Buttowski: Kick finds out that Brad’s new girlfriend Kelly thinks he’s a gross, unhip loser and is only dating him for a week as a cheer squad initiation task. When some of the other cheerleaders suggest that she dump him in public after the allotted time period, Kelly says she can’t do that, and Kick takes it as a sign that she has a heart deep down...until she immediately follows that she can’t break up with Brad in public without dumping garbage on him.
  • Donald Duck acts this way a couple of times in Mickey Mouse (2013).
    • In "Bronco Busted", he, Mickey, and Goofy needed money to fix their car, and get the idea to compete in a rodeo to get the necessary money, with Donald pretending to be a horse. A millionaire offers to give Mickey and Goofy money in exchange for Donald due to mistaking him for an actual horse. Mickey is about to correct the millionaire until Donald eagerly accepts his offer, but he did it more because of the millionaire's promise to treat the "horse" like a king. After happily giving the money to Mickey and Goofy on behalf of the millionaire, Donald's parting words to them at the end of the short are even "So long, suckers".
    • "Wonders of the Deep" has him comfort Mickey when he blames himself for Professor Ludwig Von Drake being shot into the sea, only to agree with him that it is his fault.
  • Miraculous Ladybug:
    • Gabriel Agreste is both a neglectful parent and Control Freak who does everything he can get away with to isolate his son Adrien from other people, trapping him in constant lessons and modeling jobs. However, on a very rare occasion, he shows that he does care for his son and it's strongly implied that he's just being overprotective. Of course, since he is Hawk Moth, all of those "rare occasions" become incredibly suspect as he's the one who is endangering Paris. In the Bad Future of "Cat Blanc", his response to finding out that his son is Cat Noir is to turn Adrien into another pawn in his plan.
    • Chloé Bourgeois is a total Alpha Bitch and Spoiled Brat whose cruel behavior has caused multiple Akumazations throughout the series. In Season 2, her character is fleshed out a bit, showing her Freudian Excuse, and that, very rarely, she can do some good. She is even allowed to use a Miraculous once or twice to become Queen Bee. Unfortunately, in between those moments, she's still a relentless bitch. Season 3 has Chloé benched from heroics because her identity is public, and therefore her family is endangered. Rather than understand and accept, Chloé grows resentful of Ladybug, and when Hawk Moth offers her the Bee Miraculous permanently in exchange for the Ladybug and Black Cat Miraculous, she accepts without being Akumatized.
  • In the episode "No Second Prances" of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Trixie makes friends with newly-redeemed antagonist Starlight Glimmer, owing to their shared background as former antagonists. While there seems to be some genuine friendship building Trixie lets slip towards the end of the episode that she wanted to make friends with Starlight mostly because Twilight Sparkle would get annoyed by it. Starlight doesn't take this information very well and is distraught. Ends up being subverted in that Trixie admits that there was a true sense of camaraderie that she felt and, being aware of how out of whack her priorities were when revisiting her original plan, has a Heel Realization.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power:
    • Every time Shadow Weaver seems to be showing a moment of kindness, it's swiftly revealed that she's spinning a line of bullshit. As an example, in "Light Spinner", she seems to be reaching out to Catra, telling her former ward that she was only so hard on her because they were similar, and she wanted Catra to be strong; this is shown, within minutes, to be a complete copper-bottomed lie, told to trick Catra into bringing Shadow Weaver a key tool for her escape. It's also shown in the same episode that her long-past mentorship of Micah was at least in part an attempt to use his vast magical talent in service to her hunger for power.
  • In The Simpsons, whenever Mr. Burns shows any sign of a softer side, he almost always ends up reverting to form by the end of the episode. Homer notes, "I guess some people never change. Or they quickly change and then quickly change back." However, ultimately subverted when he reforms for real — or at least for a longer period than usual — after the death of his old girlfriend just as they are about to get back together, she had left him years ago when he told her he'd never give up being selfish for anyone, even her.
  • South Park:
    • Eric Cartman seems to always have an ulterior motive for any good actions, despite what he has led the audience or other characters to believe. In "Major Boobage", when he wants to save the town's cats from being taken away, it's so bizarrely and honestly charitable that it felt like a Meta Twist. Of course, Cartman does manage to rack up some jerk points when Kyle insinuates that Cartman is a hypocrite for wanting to keep cats hidden in his attic and yet sympathizing with the Nazis while they hunted down European Jews similarly hiding in attics — and Cartman, who knows full well what Kyle means, gives a completely disingenuous response.
    • Saddam Hussein in The Movie gets a whole musical number telling Satan that he can change, but it's all just a shallow lie to manipulate him.
    • Stephen and Linda Stotch have both treated Butters pretty shoddily. Then you see times when they love Butters. Unfortunately, these displays of affection never last, as Stephen's authoritarian nature tends to bounce back before the episode even ends.
    • Shelly Marsh spends her debut beating up her little brother while hiding it from her parents. Near the end of the episode, she sticks up for him when he nearly gets in trouble for what his clone did, only to beat him up moments later.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In the episode "F.U.N.", SpongeBob tries to befriend him thinking that if he had at least one friend, Sheldon Plankton wouldn't be so mean. Plankton goes along to try and get a Krabby Patty, but he appears to turn around and become friendlier. Then SpongeBob finds out about Plankton's plan and confronts him. Plankton tears up and confesses, adding that "then you showed me friendship, and I realized... that's all I ever really wanted."
      SpongeBob: Really?
      Plankton: No, not really! Being evil is too much fun!
    • In "What Ever Happened to SpongeBob?", Squidward Tentacles is the only member of the group who's happy that SpongeBob has run away from Bikini Bottom, and even fakes out missing him.
      Squidward: If I knew that was the last time I'd see SpongeBob... I would have slammed the door in his face even harder!
  • The Diviner in Star Trek: Prodigy hints that he's more than a simple Evil Overlord from time to time. He expresses affection (though highly muted) for Gwyn—and then he abandons her on a Death World in order to reclaim the Protostar. His desperation to get the ship back has something to do with saving his people. His people destroyed themselves when contact with the Federation split them into those who wanted to associate with other cultures and xenophobic isolationists... like the Diviner. He came back in time to save his people not by preventing contact, but by destroying the Federation first.
  • Tangled: The Series: At the end of Season 2, even after everything they've been through, Cassandra still betrays Rapunzel by taking the moonstone for herself.
    • Much like in the movie, Mother Gothel is this trope to a tee. At the beginning of Season 3, it's revealed that Cassandra is Gothel's biological daughter. Much like Rapunzel, Gothel was awful to Cassandra, treating her like a maid, and even abandoning her on the night she kidnapped baby Rapunzel. In the episode "A Tale of Two Sisters", Rapunzel and Cassandra find a room full of mirrors that all show memories of Gothel's past, most of them are of her admiring herself. Cassandra then finds one mirror (which was placed inside Rapunzel's bag by Zhan Tiri to cause an even bigger rift between the two former friends) which shows Gothel giving a young Cassandra a music box as a gift, telling her that the music represents her motherly love towards her. This makes Cassandra believe that her mother actually did care about her. But then came the episode "Once a Handmaiden.." where Cassandra finds a missing piece of the mirror (which was thrown away by Zhan Tiri) that shows what happened next. As soon as young Cassandra left, Gothel muttered to herself that she only gave Cassandra the music box to keep her occupied and out of her hair. And she even calls her own daughter a "lousy little pest."
  • The Teen Titans Go! crossover with The Powerpuff Girls (2016), "TTG v. PPG", has Robin, Starfire, and Raven act very condescending to the Powerpuff Girls and dismissing them as "babies". After the Powerpuff Girls beat Mojo Jojo, the Titans appear to learn their lesson and compliment the girls on their victory, only to get back to insulting them when Blossom replies that they couldn't have defeated Mojo without the Titans' help.
  • The Owl House: As Eda Clawthorne points out, Emperor Belos doesn't want to free her of her curse out of the kindness of his heart, he wants to free her of her curse so she'll be indebted to him. Then we learn even that wasn't true, and he attempts to have her petrified. In "Hollow Mind" it's revealed Hunter, the closest person he has to a Morality Pet, is an artificial creation called a grimwalker. Hunter, along with all his Golden Guard predecessors, were created by Belos and then killed and replaced whenever they went against him. Belos admits that any affection he showed Hunter was calculated manipulation to keep Hunter useful for as along as possible. When that usefulness comes to an end, Belos tries to kill and replace him too. The same episode also reveals that Belos' stated well-intentioned goals with regards to the Coven system and Day of Unity are actually steps to accomplish a planned genocide of witches and demons because Belos is in fact the human Philip Wittebane and considers all non-humans inherently evil.
  • In The Spectacular Spider-Man Norman Osborn spent the entire series portrayed as a Jerk with a Heart of Gold regarding his behavior towards his son Harry. In Season 1 he asked Spider-Man not to reveal the (apparent) identity of the Green Goblin/Harry, as his enemies would seek retribution. The Grand Finale of Season 2 reveals that Norman was the real Green Goblin and had gone as far as to damage his own son's leg and stuff him into the goblin suit to keep his secret. Peter was furious.
  • Titan Maximum: Palmer has shown himself to be this on two occasions where it appears that he shows his caring side only for his selfishness to show.
    • During his fight with Gibbs, he tells Gibbs that he cannot believe they were friends. Gibbs yells that they were never friends, but Palmer sadly says he was a true friend. Gibbs points out the time Palmer purposely stranded Gibbs in space because Palmer was trying to get to a date. Gibbs says that it took him two months to get home. He arrived on his birthday, which Palmer completely forgot. All Palmer says is "Wow, I said we were buddies, I never said we were married".
    • At his friend Spud's funeral, he at first talks about how Spud was a great wingman, but then brags about his sexual conquests, to the shock and disgust of Gibbs and Jodi. When Gibbs gives his eulogy, Palmer interrupts Gibbs to generally brag about how cool he is.
  • There are a lot of characters who are this in Total Drama such as Chris, Chef, Duncan, Sugar, Amy, Jo, Lightning, Alejandro, and Heather but the worst of them all is Courtney. Unlike the others, Courtney doesn't seem to understand that she is a bad person (and even thinks that everyone likes her) and puts the prize money above those close to her. In All-Stars, while members of the Villainous Vultures (sans Gwen and Cameron) are proud of their status as villains and even admit that they are jackasses, Courtney protests when she was transferred to the team in "Saving Private Leechball", being oblivious that her actions throughout the episode are villainous (scheming to eliminate Zoey, pushing an injured Sam to move faster, and even using him as a human shield). What's more, she gave Gwen the cold shoulder for stealing Duncan from her when Gwen attempts to apologize. After making amends, the two promise to go to the finale together but Courtney reveals that she is going to eliminate Gwen to bring Scott with her so he can give her an easy win. Worst, she thinks that Gwen will acknowledge her actions. After Gwen discovered this, when given a chance for redemption (i.e. vote for herself), she is reluctant to do so.
    • The 2023 reboot introduces several of these such as Julia, Ripper, MK, Nichelle, and Scary Girl but the biggest example is Chase as like Courtney he doesn't seem to understand that he is a bad person believing the girl who clearly despises him is interested in him for being a bad boyfriend, doesn't care his "prank" was flat out dangerous and shows no remorse even after it nearly kills her and innocent animals, constantly makes himself look worse with arrogant remarks about himself, blows his second chance with Emma by telling the truth about his apology not being about his prank, and his last episode makes it clear he was a worthless excuse for a boyfriend even before she broke up with him, with the pinnacle of examples being cutting down a tree to save her cat and crippling Emma's mother in the process.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender: Every time it looks like Prince Lotor is going to reveal a more noble side to his personality, he immediately does something despicable to crush the idea. He resolves his conflict with Throk peacefully and gives a rousing speech to the Galra soldiers about unity, then casually has Throk Reassigned to Antarctica out of spite. He treats his Amazon Brigade with kindness and respect, only to murder one of them without hesitation when he learns Haggar is using her as an unwitting spy. He later tries to pull a Heel–Face Turn, but only because he's driven away all his henchmen by acting like a selfish prick, and knows he can't fight Zarkon alone.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Jerk With The Heart Of A Jerk



He gives Fizz some time to "get his shit together" after Arick causes the imp to have a panic attack... but then quickly makes it very clear that he only wants this so that Fizz can get back to performing as soon as possible and doesn't actually give a shit about his health.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / JerkWithAHeartOfJerk

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