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Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold

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"There's a lot going around about me, but none of it's true."
Old Man Marley, Home Alone

See that person over there? You know, the one who lives in the spooky house and never comes outside, and is always glaring at you out the window? They must be evil, right? Of course! After all, everyone knows that Loners Are Freaks, and if they don't interact with any of us, that must mean they're a monster!

Except... they're not evil at all. They're not a Jerkass. They're not even a Jerk with a Heart of Gold; they're just misunderstood.

This character is automatically assumed to be evil due to their solitude but turns out to have a heart of gold. They appear most often in kiddy programs to deliver that age-old "don't judge a book by its cover" aesop. They may have some dark secret which, while goodhearted, seems sinister, or needs to be covered up to keep the Masquerade.

Compare Crazy Cat Lady, Madwoman in the Attic, The Hermit, and the Bait-and-Switch Tyrant. May also be The Grotesque. See also Subverted Suspicion Aesop, where one person says someone is evil while everyone assumes it's just slander, and it turns out to be true. Related to Dark Is Not Evil and All of the Other Reindeer.

Spoilers ahead, Captain!


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  • Nestle Quik introduces us to kids who think the lady in the spooky house is a witch who doesn't like children: "NOT THE WITCH!!!"

    Anime & Manga 
  • Sakaki from Azumanga Daioh is a less extreme example, since she doesn't come off as evil at first glance, just a bit intimidating. She still hits the high points, though, being introduced as an intimidating enigma (the girls, for example, initially believe the scratches and bruises she gets when trying to pet Kamineko are because she's a Delinquent who likes picking fights), but revealed rather quickly to be a Gentle Giant.
  • Ouran High School Host Club has Bossa Nova Casanova Kasanoda. He's the son and heir to a powerful Yakuza family who has been raised to act aloof and intimidating, and he just looks like a scary guy. He's known as the Human Blizzard by most of the student body. The truth is, he's really a Gentle Giant with a love for animals. Unfortunately, his mean-looking face frightens animals he tries to help, so he settles for taking care of plants instead.
    • Ouran also gives us Nekozawa, the president of the Black Magic Club. He's often seen wearing a black hooded cape and staying in the shadows, creeping out the other characters. We later find out this is because he is extremely sensitive to light. He's really a considerate person and wants to be a better brother to his little sister, even taking lessons from the Host Club so he could fulfill her fantasy of a princely big brother.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Somewhat like the above is Sig Curtis, the husband of Grade-A Action Would-Be Mom Izumi Curtis. Despite the fact that he frightens children with this incredibly scary face (which he lampshades in the same scene), huge frame, and booming voice, and is for the most part completely asocial, he's a pretty nice guy.
  • Alistair Krory III from D.Gray-Man fits this trope to a T. He lives in a spooky house with mutant plants and eats villagers. Doesn't help that he really LOOKS like a vampire. Turns out that his victims are demons in disguise anyway and he's really a good guy.
  • Angel Beats!: Tenshi/Kanade Tachibana. She's seen as a freak because she doesn't have any friends, but that's only because she's actively trying to graduate those around her, and thus is never really seen with anyone for any length of time.
  • In the Agent for Zalam arc in Battle Angel Alita where Alita is forced to work for them against her will because they put her body back together after her near-fatal battle with Zapan. She is seen as a dangerous loner by many of the people she is assigned to work with, most of them mercenaries for hire. When Figure Four who can handle himself against cyborgs sees her playing the harmonica by herself on top of the military train, he takes a chance and talks to her despite his friends' fearful warnings. The two of them get into a romantic relationship not long afterwards, but Figure Four had to earn it.
  • Sawako of Kimi ni Todoke looks frightening to her classmates who therefore avoid her, which prevents her from developing social skills, which causes her classmates to avoid her even more in a vicious cycle of high school drama. Turns out she's perfectly sweet and sincerely cares for everyone despite how they treat her. This becomes apparent when she gains the courage to make lasting relationships, becoming a valued member of her friend group.
  • This is the whole plot of Angel Densetsu.
  • Scary-bit from The Littl' Bits.
  • "The Bonds of a Curse". It doesn't help with the fact that Kurosawa curses people.
  • Naruto: Gaara is an interesting example. He plays this trope straight as a young child; he just wanted to have friends, and personally brings medicine to a child he (accidentally) hurt. Then he crosses the Despair Event Horizon and becomes a Serial Killer. Finally, he gets some sense beaten into him by Naruto and eventually becomes Kazekage. However, because of his checkered past, there are people in the Sand Village who don't trust him, and he still doesn't have too many close friends. (And the ones he does have are mostly concentrated in the Leaf Village.)
    • One Time Skip later, however, and Gaara is not only reformed enough to stand equally with every other Kage but leads them and the entire goddamn Shinobi world in the war against Big Bad Tobi.
    • One could argue that Shino Aburame also fits this trope. Most people find him creepy, but he is actually very good with children and animals.
  • The spirit in Ch 2 of Helen ESP, who keeps stopping the elevator at an empty floor and looks like a shadow ends up saving Helen from a rape attempt.
  • Addie Clark, a.k.a. "The Governess", from Bizenghast is a posthumous example. When the series began, Addie was one of the ghosts who haunted Dinah's home, which was originally a school and before that a hospital that had burned down. It's been implied that Addie had been responsible for killing numerous children when the house was St. Lyman's School for Boys and disappeared after supposedly setting the fire that destroyed the school. Over the years Addie's ghost was particularly cruel to Dinah. Volume six and seven revealed that Addie was nowhere near the monster she'd been made out to be. A kind, young school teacher who made an effort to watch over the younger students who were bullied, she witnessed the people of Bizenghast hang a young woman as a witch one night. One of the men at the hanging was St. Lyman's headmaster, and he knew Addie witnessed the whole thing. She tried to get a letter to her sister explaining the situation by hiding it in a painting, but it never reached her. The headmaster tried to silence Addie by trapping her in the hidden cellar she sometimes taught her students in, suffocating her with smoke that accidentally turned into the fire that destroyed the school. Addie died in a closet along with two young boys. After Dinah discovered the bodies and the letter, Addie's ghost was able to come back to its senses. Apparently, because people had believed the rumors that she was a monster, this warped Addie after she died, and the truth being revealed was enough to give her back her clarity.
  • Darkrai in the 10th Pokémon movie definitely plays this straight. Sure, he looks (and maybe even acts) like the standard villain, but in the end he only wants to protect Alamos Town (and Alice) from harm.
  • On the surface Haruka from Kotoura-san may look like a rude, freaky jerkass who blurts out other people's secrets, but that's only a "bitchy mask" she cultivated after passing the Despair Event Horizon far too many times and genuinely thought herself as a freak who would hurt anyone she cares about. Deep down she is more similar to a conventional moe heroine.
  • Sailor Moon:
    • Hotaru Tomoe aka Sailor Saturn. Not only does she have strange healing powers, she often lapses into "seizures" that are the result of the alien entity Mistress 9 taking control of her body. During these episodes, she blacks out and often unwittingly commits harm to those around her. Because of this, her classmates fear and reject her. In reality, Hotaru is a very sweet and gentle girl who is terrified of hurting anybody and wants nothing more than to have a friend.
    • Makoto Kino aka Sailor Jupiter as well. Due to her reputation of getting into fights and rather big stature, people mistook her as a bully and stayed clear of her as a result. However, as Usagi learns, she is a very friendly and easygoing individual, and only got into fights in order to protect others rather than out of malice.
    • Ami Mizuno aka Sailor Mercury was thought of by everyone as being an arrogant know-it-all due to her high grades and habit of keeping to herself. Usagi gets to know her and realizes she's anything but; while she is very smart and studious, she's just shy and doesn't know how to make friends.
  • Keima of The World God Only Knows plays this all over the place. He's a hardcore gamer who refuses to have any more interaction with the real world than strictly necessary, though he is a good person deep down. Several characters in the story are aware of this trope, and try to bring him out of his shell. The thing they don't understand is that he's not a shy boy hiding from a world he desperately wants to be part of. He's actually a genius at social interaction. When he was a child he took a cold pragmatic look at the world, decided it wasn't worth his time, and turned his attention to games. He could have friends and girlfriends and all sorts of normal stuff with ease, he just doesn't care to. As the story goes on, he does slowly begin interacting with the world more, but that's not him becoming less shy; it's him slowly being convinced that the world might be worth interacting with after all.
  • Spirited Away: Despite initial impressions, neither Yubaba nor Zeniba is all that evil. Neither is No Face, who is seen only by himself and tells Chihiro/Sen that he is lonely and doesn't have any friends or family.
  • Ryūji Takasu from Toradora! and Madoka Ayukawa from Kimagure Orange Road are both believed to be delinquents, but they're actually misunderstood: both are in truth really selfless, kind and with a heroic personality. Ryūji has the Face of a Thug and is the son of a Yakuza, and everyone but his few friends is afraid of him, while Madoka is able to fight against male delinquents to protect weaker people from them, and she's feared at school because of this; however, Kyōsuke approaches her. Well, in Toradora! there may not be delinquents... But like Madoka, Ryūji sure has his heroic moments in the story, and takes care of his drunken mom (who is a late-night bar hostess), and of a Troubled, but Cute girl who is his neighbour.
  • Kenji Ban of HeartCatch Pretty Cure! was seen as a "legendary delinquent" by the rest of the school, due to his size, unfortunate appearance, and "delinquent aura", but it turns out, he's a sweet and gentle guy with dreams of becoming a mangaka, in spite of his mother's disapproval.

    Comic Books 
  • In Starman 80-Page Giant, a story featuring the O'Dare siblings as kids has Mason accidentally throwing their dad's first police cap into the junk-strewn yard of Old Man Zucco, and he and Matt try to get it back. When Hope and Barry hear them scream, they run to the nice old lady next door for help. Hope then realises Mrs Tolliver is the aunt of the criminal the police are searching for, who is hiding upstairs. He tries to use the kids as hostages, but Old Man Zucco helps rescue them.

    Films — Animation 
  • Shrek zig-zags this trope. On the one hand, he turns out to have a heart of gold. On the other hand, he's still an ogre and proud of it.
  • Monster House has an old man (Steve Buscemi!) who seems outright nuts, but it turns out he's really a good person trying to protect the neighborhood kids from the real hazard.
  • Toy Story: Sid's mishmash toys. They look terrifying and appear to be cannibals when they assault a dolly Sid mutilated, but when they later assault an incapacitated Buzz, they actually mend him... just as they did with the dolly (who turns out to be fine). It's a safe bet they look like they do because they didn't have all their parts when they reassembled each other the first time and had to make do with what they could find. In some cases, they were now their own toys thanks to Sid and for some like Legs, a full repair would be fatal.
  • The title character from Wreck-It Ralph. Poor fellow lost his home, lives in the dump, and wrecks an apartment because it's his job. The "Nicelanders" treat him like trash even when he's off the clock, with the exception of Felix. Little wonder he finds a kindred spirit in the form of a Dummied Out Bratty Half-Pint in a sugar-fueled racing game.
  • Vincent van Gogh in Loving Vincent. The townspeople of Arles consider him a feckless madman and drive him out, while Louise Chevalier outright calls him evil. However, several other people comment on Vincent's loneliness, and he was kind to children and animals, polite to women, and desired to show the world the beauty that he saw around him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • An Angel at My Table: Janet is intensely shy and finds inspiration through solitude, but wants nothing more than to fit in with others.
  • These crop up in the Home Alone movies:
    • Home Alone has Marley, the snow-shoveling man. Kevin's older brother Buzz tells him scary stories about the old man who lives alone in a house down the street being an Ax-Crazy serial killer. Later, Kevin sees him when he goes to church and strikes up a conversation with him. It turns out that he's just a quiet old man, and is lonely because he is estranged from his son. Kevin advises him to be brave and give his son a phone call. Later, when the burglars Harry and Marv are about to begin torturing Kevin, Marley sneaks up on them and whacks them both out cold with a shovel, saving Kevin's life. Later, at the end of the movie, we see that Marley has followed Kevin's advice and called his son, and we see Marley reuniting with his son and his family, and hugging his son on Christmas morning.
    • Home Alone 2: Lost in New York has the pigeon lady.
    • Home Alone 3 has Mrs. Hess, whom Alex shovels snow for.
    • Home Alone 4 has the butler.
  • Edward Scissorhands. Walking around with a knife shop attached to your hands isn't the safest thing in the world, but he never means to hurt anybody.
  • Scary German Guy from The Monster Squad. The boys are initially scared he's a Nazi spy (not realizing that World War II has been over for decades by this point), though we gradually learn he's actually Jewish, and a Holocaust survivor.
  • Both protagonists in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil are mistaken as serial killers at first by a bunch of paranoid college students. Dale especially falls under this category, as he is a Gentle Giant who would never hurt a fly, except to defend a loved one.
  • Nell Kellty is neither a Wild Child, psychotic, autistic, nor mentally handicapped — all of which are ascribed to her at various points in the film. In fact, nearly every assumption others make about her (and her family) turns out to be wrong.
  • Get Low: The rumors about Felix Bush are partly deserved, but only because he tends to shoot at anyone who comes near his property. However, the opening scene has him catch one of the children who destroyed his window (throwing up on Felix's shoes in fear when caught)...and just pats the boy on the shoulder and lets him go. Yes, he is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but the Jerk part only came after years of being treated as an outcast.
  • The Journey of Natty Gann: Natty assumes the worst of Charlie the blacksmith (not entirely without reason, as he took her Canine Companion away chained up in a crate) and approaches him only with a shovel in hand and considerable trepidation because he's a big, scary-looking guy with a badly scarred face. She soon discovers, however, that he's a kindly soul who intended all along to release Wolf back into the wild, and after she tells him her story, he gives her food and money for a train ticket and wishes her and Wolf well.
  • The Sandlot: James Earl Jones' character exemplifies this - an ill-kept yard and a seemingly vicious dog keep the neighborhood kids at bay, but he's actually an avid baseball fan who was willing to trade a mint-condition baseball with all the signatures of the 1920s "Murderer's Row" Yankees for the now-mauled one that Babe Ruth had signed.
  • Boo Radley in the movie version of To Kill a Mockingbird, where he's played by a young Robert Duvall.
  • Doc Brown in Back to the Future, who was labelled as a dangerous lunatic by many people in Hill Valley ever since an experiment-gone-awry caused his family mansion to burn down in the 1960s and forced him to move into his garage. In reality, however, he's an incredibly friendly, albeit eccentric, Cool Old Guy, who even took the time to build a wall-sized amplifier for Marty to use (which unfortunately overloaded) and built a time machine into a De Lorean.
    "If you're gonna built a time machine, why not do it with style?"
  • A borderline example in the Basque fantasy film Errementari. Patxi, the shut-in blacksmith (which is what the word "errementari" means in the Basque language) is treated as a local boogieman, with rumours circulating that he's a murderer who lives with the devil. Only a borderline example because, while he does have some good in him and is basically harmless to his neighbours, he is indeed a murderer and does indeed keep a demon on his property - though as a prisoner since he made a Deal with the Devil he does not intend to keep. A lot of what the locals say about Patxi is true; he's done some very bad things, but he does his best to atone for them over the course of the movie.
  • In Housebound, the heroine has a very strange neighbour who seems to spend most of his day burning garbage and skinning possums. When she starts investigating the murder of a mentally ill girl who lived in her house decades ago - and whose ghost she believes to be haunting the place - she begins to suspect her neighbour of the crime and breaks into his house looking for evidence. To say the man has a heart of gold would be an overstatement, but he is innocent, and provides The Reveal for the true source of the haunting: he once took in a deeply disturbed boy named Eugene, who is now secretly living inside the walls of the heroine's house. Eugene isn't the killer, either, though, and turns out to also be an example of this trope.
  • Boy (2010): Boy abuses a local mentally challenged man who is always scavenging at the seashore, calling the man a creep. His brother Rocky strikes up a conversation with the man and finds out that he's a decent person, though lacking any friends. Later, Boy throws himself off a bridge only to find himself rescued by the loner.
  • Carrie (1976): The Adaptational Heroism given to Carrie White makes her into this. Whereas her counterpart from the original book had long harbored dark thoughts about killing her classmates, in this version she's a bullied, put-upon girl who just wants to fit in with her peers, and Miss Collins recognizes that she probably would have been able to if she didn't live under the thumb of her oppressive, fanatically religious mother. Her Roaring Rampage of Revenge is presented as her finally snapping after a lifetime of abuse by everybody around her, from her mother to her classmates to her school's faculty.
  • Agatha from The School for Good and Evil (2022). She's standoffish, rarely smiles, and openly disdains the frills of the School for Good, but she proves to be the first true princess they've had in a long time due to her empathy and fierce dedication to what's right.

  • Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird, the reclusive not-quite-albino, reputed to be Ax-Crazy, who later saves Scout's and Jem's lives at the climax of the book. As with most of the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird, Boo Radley was based on a real childhood neighbor of Harper Lee, named Alfred "Son" Boleware, who after a teenage vandalism incident was grounded by his Jerkass dad well into adulthood.
  • In The Caster Chronicles, Macon Ravenwood hasn't left his manor (aboveground, at least) for as long as anyone seems to be able to remember. Naturally he develops a bizarre reputation in town but turns out to be polite and thoughtful in person. He's also quite aware of this trope, going so far as to name his dog Boo Radley.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Sirius Black, convicted murderer and long-haired madman-looking figure who scared Ron shitless by appearing in their dorm at night wielding a knife, and who was later revealed to be innocent.
    • Based on the lies told by his relatives, Harry may himself be this to the residents of Privet Drive. As far as they know, he's the vile delinquent who destroys everything and steals from little kids (that's Dudley and his gang) and attends St. Brutus' Secure Center for Incurably Criminal Boys (he actually goes to Hogwarts, of course).
    • Severus Snape may also fall under this category in some ways, at least in his youth. The present version could not be said to have a heart of gold (unless you count the fact he is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold), but he does have good intentions, genuinely trying to keep Harry alive throughout the series, albeit for selfish reasons.
  • In The Blue Castle Barney Snaith is a loner and rumored to a murderer, a bank robber, or both. Valancy doesn't believe it, and it turns out Barney is a nice guy who prefers his privacy and started some of the rumors, so no one would bother him.
  • Teen Power Inc.: Several books, including The Sorcerer's Apprentice, The Secret of Banyan Bay, The Missing Millionaire, Crime in the Picture, The Case of Crazy Claude, Photo Finish, Danger in Rhyme, and Dirty Tricks'', feature a local (often the gang's employer) who has little to do with the rest of the town and is often viewed as being aloof, weird, or or scary, but shows a lot of warmth around the gang (or at least the narrator) sooner or later, and occasionally throughout all of their pagetime. However, this is also played with, since some of those characters turn out to be the Villain of the Week, or at least a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing.
  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Gaunt's Ghosts novel Blood Pact, Kolding. Reclusive and eccentric after a traumatic ordeal — at sixteen, he was in the hospital when Chaos soldiers attacked to kill the wounded and The Medic, his father — he still comes through for Gaunt. Somewhat Zig-Zagged as we see him first from his own POV and know he's not a freak, but Maggs doesn't trust him. The fact that he's an albino living in the xenophobic mutant-purging Imperium of Man doesn't help either.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, the people of Bree perceive Aragorn as dangerous—to the point that Butterbur feels the need to warn Frodo against him—simply because he's not a townsman and doesn't fit their understanding of normal. In reality, Aragorn's protection of the town is the primary reason it remains the happy, safe place the townspeople take for granted.
  • Gives Light: Rafael is hulking, mean looking, and the son of a serial killer. None of the kids on his reservation want to be friends with him, and the boys in his class pick fights with him. But he's as softhearted as they come and has secretly been leaving memorials at the graves of his dad's victims. He also becomes the self-appointed protector of one of the victims' kids. Whom he falls in love with.
  • Uncle Hoole in Galaxy of Fear is a softer version. Before the books start he adopts the orphaned Tash and Zak Arranda because of his people's views on the orphaned children of family members; he's not of the same species as them, but his brother married their aunt, and since there's no one closer left he has to take them in. Hoole is not a very good guardian. He starts the series as cold and distant, calm during emergencies but snapping peevishly at the children and not wanting to tell them anything. Not even his full name, what he does, where he keeps disappearing to. He's shown to care about the kids, but beyond that this trope is zigzagged and teased at until it's revealed that he is The Atoner.
  • Harry Dresden is tall, reclusive, and bookish. Vanilla mortals think he's a crazy, delusional and fraudulent arsonist. Magical folk and people in the know think he's distant and dangerous, albeit smart and honourable, at best, a crazy, power-mad, psychopathic pyromaniac vigilante who destroys anything and anyone who crosses him at worst. His friends and people who take the time to get to know him may realise that while he is extremely powerful (as compared to his peers) and terrifyingly dangerous, he's just this really nice but socially awkward (and to Thomas' surprise, shy when it comes to romance) guy who can be a little childish, somewhat eccentric and possesses a unique sense of humour (much of which can be traced back to his childhood issues) and a tendency to bite off more than he can chew trying to help those who can't help themselves.
  • Nico di Angelo in both Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus. He didn't start off that way, but after his sister died, he was ostracized for being a son of Hades to the point that he felt he didn't belong anywhere, after which he took to living on the streets. It's later revealed that another big reason that he feels like an outcast is that he's gay, which, being from the 30s, he's deeply ashamed of. By the sequel series, pretty much everyone (excluding his half-sister, and a few old friends) is a bit wary of him, although they don't think he's evil.
    • Nico is shown to be very kind, despite all of this, Such as noticing Hestia when others ignore her, being a real friend to Bob the Titan, and caring deeply for his half-sister Hazel.
  • Silas Marner is regarded as sinister for all kinds of reasons: because he comes from outside the village, and is shy and wary of people after having been betrayed by his best friend; because he is a weaver (even a hand-loom is a bizarrely high-tech gadget to farm workers in the Napoleonic Wars); because he is extremely short-sighted (and therefore peers at people in an odd way); because he suffers from narcoleptic seizures (people assume he is somehow travelling out of his body); because he tries to use his knowledge of herbal medicines to help people (seen as evidence of his witchcraft); and, conversely, because he knows perfectly well that he isn't a witch, and therefore won't capitalise on his fame by giving people magic amulets and charms (seen as proof that he doesn't want to use his powers for good). To make things worse, for the first part of the book he has an almost literal heart of gold, because he feels that at least money can't reject or betray him the way people can.
  • Richard Brautigan explores this in "1692 Cotton Mather Newsreel". As a small child, he and his buddy convinced themselves the scary old lady down the street was a witch. On a dare, he investigated, and found no "witch garbage" in her trash — and her home was filled with flowers. He and his friend ran down the street screaming anyway. And at the very end, there's a Fridge Wham Line.
    This was a month or two before the German Army marched into Poland.
  • Mr. Finsterwald in Maniac Magee is a reclusive adult whose house inspires fear among kids in the West End of Two Mills. Teenagers dump terrified younger children into Finsterwald's backyard as a prank, and the title character completes a hefty dare later in the book by knocking on the front door and talking to someone inside—the implication is that it's Finsterwald himself, but Maniac returns to his friends all smiles. The uncontrollable shaking sometimes caused by fear of Mr. Finsterwald's property is referred to as finsterwallies.
  • Cormac of Wise Child, who is hated and treated as an outcast by the village because of his leprosy, which is believed to be his punishment from God for being sinful. Wise Child initially shares the villagers' opinion, even throwing a rock at him when he comes to Juniper's doorstep to retrieve food that was left out for him (which Wise Child was unaware of) before she finds out Juniper has been caring for Cormac and treating his condition. Wise Child eventually befriends Cormac and learns of his past as the brother of Sinister Minister Fillan.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Modern Family, Phil and Claire's neighbor Walt is this. Phil and Claire are terrified of him, but Walt and Luke become very good friends.
    Walt: I used to be a firefighter. I don't hurt kids.
  • Completely subverted on The Golden Girls, a neighbor of the Girls, Frieda Claxton is said to be nasty by Sophia and Blanche, but Rose believes she is just lonely. The Girls are trying to get a tree on Frieda's property saved, and Rose seems to get Frieda on their side, but she shows up at court, and fights for the tree to be destroyed, and only did this to get at Rose.
  • John Locke from Lost, at least during the first series. Despite no one knowing much about him and even fewer people trusting him, he nonetheless takes the time to scout for water and hunt for food for the rest of the survivors, as well as form an Odd Friendship with Charlie after helping him through withdrawal, as well as an Intergenerational Friendship with Walt by teaching him survival skills.
  • Ted Sprague from Heroes. Despite looking like the Unabomber and initially suspected of being the serial killer "Sylar", he's actually just a Nice Guy stuck in one long Trauma Conga Line. Unlike many of the other characters, his nuclear-based abilities don't turn off and are initially tied to his anger, making him effectively a Walking Wasteland that's constantly on the edge of a Super-Power Meltdown. Coupled with the guilt of tragically causing his wife to die from severe radiation poisoning and with various people trying to shoot him, it takes a while for people to treat him as more than just a walking timebomb.
  • Fergus from Takin' Over the Asylum.
  • Criminal psychologist Mary Lightly from Psych. The main characters suspect him of being the Serial Killer they're chasing, but it turns out he's just a very awkward and very intense good guy. Unfortunately, his heart of gold is discovered too late.
  • Toby from Pretty Little Liars is first pretty hated in town, and when Emily befriends her friends are very worried. By the time he starts dating Spencer, he graduates into being a Troubled, but Cute kind of guy.

    Music Videos 
  • Michael Jackson's hero "Maestro" in Ghosts, a 38-minute video. When one of the young boys he was secretly sharing ghost stories and magic tricks with lets the grown-ups in his town know what they were up to, they panic and form a Torches and Pitchforks mob to storm his creepy mansion. The cold-hearted mayor even points out that he lives all alone and is a "freak". Maestro turns out to be a spirit who has a whole troupe of ghosts/ghouls backing him up, and in the end, all but the mayor of the town come to love him thanks to his wonderful powers. Unfortunately, he forces the crowd to witness those powers and tortures the mayor, so the intended "don't be suspicious of/prejudiced towards those who are different" Aesop is muddled thanks to Protagonist-Centered Morality. The story's Reality Subtext — this was after the first round of child molestation allegations against Jackson — doesn't help.

    Video Games 
  • Inverted in Fallout 3. Upon reaching Tenpenny Tower, an upscale luxury gated community in what is otherwise a post-apocalyptic wasteland, the player overhears a ghoul complaining about not being allowed to live inside. Non-feral ghouls just want to be treated fairly, like human beings, and it's not hidden that the reason they aren't allowed in Tenpenny's building is that the owner and many of the residents are racist against ghouls. If the player takes up the owner's quest to descend into the subway tunnels and exterminate the ghouls, they are rewarded negative karma. If you go the other way and find a way to let the ghouls get revenge on the humans' bigotry, the ghouls show up, kill everyone, and wreck the building, and you get really negative karma. But if the player goes through the trouble of talking to all the residents, evicting all the racists, and having the others admit they could try to tolerate ghoul neighbors, it's possible for the ghouls to move in and the two groups to coexist peacefully... for a few days, until a "disagreement" sees all the open-minded residents killed off by the ghouls, who laugh about it and stack the corpses in the basement. But hey, you tried, so here's some good karma!
  • Reclusive neurobiologist Dr. Styles in the adventure game Gray Matter, who is rumored to be a Mad Scientist, and whose solitariness, brusque manner and disfigured face cause him to be feared by most of the people in the surrounding area, but who in actuality is merely a lonely, grief-stricken man mourning the death of his wife.
  • The Hero is this at the beginning of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. As "The Boy Without a Fairy" living among the Kokiri, every one of whom has a Fairy Companion, Link is considered an oddball at best and a freak at worst to all of them except his one friend, Saria. The story begins when the Great Deku Tree finally sends Navi to the poor kid, and Link gets to be a real member of the tribe. For about five minutes.
  • A milder example in Mass Effect, Liara T'Soni is an asocial loner more comfortable working with the ruins of dead civilizations than other people, but she turns out to be just shy and is really quite nice.
    • By the second game, she seems to have grown out of it, working as an information broker (and fairly public figure) with her own network of contacts and hired muscle. Then as of the Shadow Broker DLC, she's right back to operating from the shadows.
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky gives us Armaldo, a scary-looking monster living in a dark forest. Really a Nice Guy and helps our Igglybuff realize his potential as an explorer. Then it's double-subverted; he's a criminal hiding from the police and spread rumors of the monster in order to keep everyone away. It doesn't mean that he's evil but that he has to face up for what he's done. He promises to go exploring again once he's done his time.
  • Principal Raizo Imawano from Rival Schools, who looks so Obviously Evil it isn't even funny. While he is initially a villain, it's due to being brainwashed rather than any actual evil. And while he did have aspirations to control Japan, he wanted to do so through peaceful methods, such as training his students for political careers (he gives up this goal by the end).
  • Detective Kanski in Secret Files: Tunguska seems like a bad person, telling Nina not to come to her father's office, and threatened them too. Turns out that he is a member of the alien cult (one of the good guys if you don't know), and Nina's "savior", Oleg, is The Mole.
  • Saturnin the caretaker, in the PC game Secrets of da Vinci: The Forbidden Manuscript.
  • Persona:
    • Persona 3 has Shinjiro Aragaki. At first, he might give the impression of being an intimidating and anti-social delinquent. However, you later get to find out (especially if you date him in the female route of Portable) that he's actually a very nice guy that cares about his friends, but the guilt over killing Ken's mother in an accident that occurred prior to the game's events made him push other people away from him both as a way of self-punishment, and also as a way to avoid accidentally hurting them as well.
    • Persona 4:
      • Naoto Shirogane, a Kid Detective who is initially standoffish, a bit antisocial, and is the dangerous combination of 'working with the Inaba Police' and 'Genre Savvy enough to suspect that your group is hiding important facts crucial to the solving of the case'. When an irritated Rise initially accuses Naoto of treating the case like a game, Naoto doesn't outright deny it, either until just before Naoto puts The Plan to find your secret out into motion. Naoto gets intentionally captured by the kidnapper. You then rescue Naoto from the TV and find out 1) that she was a girl passing herself off as a boy out of insecurity spawned from being a young girl in a profession composed largely of men, 2) as a young girl she didn't have many friends so she immersed herself in detective novels and studying, 3) that she was right about the real murderer/kidnapper not being in jail. After this, she's very open to getting to know the group (though she can still be a touch standoffish and nervous), immediately offers to help Teddie to find any information about his true identity (despite not even knowing him very well), makes doctor's appointments for your whole group to make sure that the TV world hasn't physically damaged anybody's health, and offers to help Kanji with his math. In summation, Naoto puts on a standoffish hard-boiled facade but is a helpful all-around sweetheart, dedicated to solving the murders.
      • Kanji can be interpreted as such; most of his hometown considers him a dangerous delinquent, but he's quickly revealed to be a big softy after joining your party, if a bit hot-tempered. Maybe that's why he's head over heels toward Naoto, despite her bifauxnen looks and Kanji's insecurity about his own masculinity.
    • In Persona 5, Tae Takemi is an eccentric doctor running a back-alley clinic who has a reputation as "the Plague". She's definitely weird (considering that she routinely addresses the protagonist as "my little guinea pig"), but she's a brilliant doctor who puts her patients first, to the point where she's been actively researching a cure for a former patient with nothing but her own funds.
  • Knuckles the Echidna from Sonic The Hedgehog. He is openly misunderstood for his solitude and serious personality. However, his intentions are good and he acts in a respectful manner whenever someone doesn't make him angry. He thinks differently from the other characters, which leads him to be openly mistaken for Jerkass, despite him being usually right. There's also the fact that he's a loner due to his duty, rather by his own choice, and his poor social skills are just a result of having been cut off from civilization for most of his life.
  • One of the preset civilizations in Stellaris, actually an Ascended Meme from a pre-release livestream, is the Blorg Commonality, a fungoid race that can generously be called Ugly Cute, or less generously a hideous species that resembles a tentacled, pulsating compost heap. They have the Repugnant trait, so other races want little to do with them, but the Blorg are Fanatic Xenophiles who love alien culture and just want to party with the other peoples of the galaxy. They also have the Militant trait and the "Fanatic Befrienders" AI personality, so they can befriend other empires whether they like it or not.
  • Shirakawa Ritsu in Suika is a lot less disturbing than the initial appearance would suggest.
  • Time Hollow: Kori Twelves says something seemingly sinister during your first encounter with her, as well as generally acting mysterious, only later on you find she is the victim, not the villain.
  • Touhou Project:
    • Not really that mysterious as she's a major recurring character, but Alice Margatroid seems to fit the other criteria, especially if you replace "evil" with "creepy." Even though she's a Youkai it's debatable that she is leagues more kinder than some of the other "human" characters (Perhaps the kindest in the entire series). If you're ever lost in the Forest of Magic late at night she'll be so kind as to allow you to lodge in her house. As her house is full of dolls and she never makes any kind of conversation, just carrying on with her work without any acknowledgement of your presence one might be a little creeped out.
    • Subterranean Animism has the heroines on a mission to the Underworld, where youkai were banished that even the surface youkai didn't like. One of these is Satori, mistress of the Palace of the Earth Spirits, whom even the other youkai in the Underworld don't like... because her mind-reading powers and lack of discretion about them unnerve people. She's actually very sweet and mature, and is extremely gracious to you, considering you just broke into her home and beat up her cat.

    Web Animation 

  • Dr. Stein in Blood Stain is this in Elliot's eyes early on, given how Elliot is Ms. Imagination and interprets Dr. Stein's unkempt appearance and insomniac, blase behavior as those of a Mad Scientist and his home as a Haunted House. After the initial bumpy introduction, Elliot sees him as a person rather than imagined cliches.
  • Drowtales has Mel'arnach. Her appearance in the remade chapter one ups the "scary" making the reveal that it's an act more powerful later on.
  • Nebula: Pluto being an eerie loner is a continuing misunderstanding for the characters, though since the comic he was introduced was from his POV the audience always knew the truth: he's genuinely sweet, kind person who's just too shy to go over to introduce himself even though he desperately wants just to have friends.

    Western Animation 
  • Recess makes frequent use of this trope.
    • Principal Prickly, one of the main antagonists, sometimes appears in this light. Despite having shown to detest the children and appearing to be quite fond of simply locking them up in detention, several times he's shown to really enjoy Recess as an act of nostalgia. One episode even implies that he and several friends hid a chest full of toys from when he was growing up specifically for later students to find. The Movie also sheds further light on this.
    • Ms. Finster, the other primary antagonist, and Randall fit this trope sometimes with how Randall is sometimes friendly, while Muriel has actually got a heart of gold underneath the hard exterior. The episode where she takes care of Spinelli for the weekend also illustrates this. And just because she gave TJ Detention doesn't mean she doesn't like him!
    • The old woman in the episode The Lost Ball actually doesn't steal the balls thrown into her yard...she keeps them because nobody comes over to claim them.
  • Scooby-Doo uses it almost once an episode. Look out particularly for groundskeepers and managers, but grumpy old people in general.
  • The Darkness from the Fairly OddParents "Wishology" special.
  • Subverted with Mrs. Gherkin on Jimmy Two-Shoes. The end of her first appearance makes her appear to be this, with Jimmy admitting that he misjudged her. The final moments, however, show that she's just as evil as he suspected. Sure enough, she's raising a Zombie Apocalypse in her second appearance (although that turned out to be All Just a Dream).
  • Horrifically subverted in Avatar: The Last Airbender with Hama. Sokka suspects that she's not just an old hermit living alone and until the end, it appears that he's been proven wrong. Then she shows her true colors forcing Katara to learn bloodbending, the ultimate form of waterbending, and cemented herself as one of the most frightening and loathsome characters in the series despite her sympathetic backstory.
  • Family Guy:
    • Subverted in an episode where Peter finds a very old winning ticket allowing him to spend the day with OJ Simpson, who is treated by everyone as being a psychopath. Eventually after showing much generosity he wins the town over.... ending the episode by stabbing several people and making his escape.
    • Played straight in another episode where Brian meets with an old lady who is a shut-in and is forced to take care of her as a part of his sentence. The old woman is extremely bitter and nothing Brian does ever pleases her. It gets to the point where Brian says she should just drop dead and he leaves. When Brian discovers that the old lady used to be a famous opera singer, he feels guilty about what he said to her and he returns back to her home, managing to catch her just in time before she could hang herself. Once Brian tells the woman he liked her aria, she warms up to Brian and becomes a lot nicer to him, happy that someone finally appreciated her classical singing instead of her commercial jingles. Once the woman gets the courage to go outside her house again after so long, she promptly gets run over by a truck and dies shortly after.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • "Bridle Gossip" had the entire town of Ponyville go into terrified hiding whenever the mysterious cloaked stranger Zecora arrives. Ponies are afraid of her because she looks odd, talks odd, acts odd (she paws at the ground every so often, which zebras do in real life to find water but ponies do in real life as a threat gesture), and lives alone in the spooky and mysterious Everfree Forest (where the "plants and animals care for themselves!") Even after Twilight points out that she's a zebra and not a pony, everyone is still disturbed; they blame Zecora for their being cursed, think she's planning to eat them in stew, and so on. In the end, they all go off to find and get her to remove the curse and "rescue" Applebloom whom they believe had been kidnapped by her. Of course it turns out Zecora had nothing to do with their curse-like maladies and was in fact working on a cure for them. Also, she would probably have interacted with ponies more, except that whenever she went to town the shops would be "mysteriously closed".
    • Princess Luna suffers from more than a little of this. After being sealed in the moon for a thousand years as the evil Nightmare Moon, her redemption took some getting used to. Combined with the fact that she's a more solitary pony than her sister Celestia, and there were constant misunderstandings. In "Luna Eclipsed", she is surprised to find that everyone is terrified of her no matter what she does. It doesn't help that she decided to make her debut on Nightmare Night, a holiday that has been telling scary stories about Nightmare Moon for hundreds of years. Her Antiquated Linguistics and traditional Royal Canterlot voice just make things worse. By the end of the episode, Luna and the adults decide they can have fun with Luna scaring everyone (the foals just thought it was a fun joke the whole time), and in most of her other appearances Luna is helping a pony in their dreams.
    • Troubleshoes Clyde owing to being so destructively clumsy that he's misunderstood to be a violent criminal. Made worse by how the "loner" part is purely circumstantial: he's forced to be a loner because his attempts to mingle with ponies have caused so much damage he's now wanted by the local police. It gets straightened out in the end thanks to help from the Cutie Mark Crusaders. As for the heart of gold part, even knowing he'll be arrested if he goes back to town he takes that risk to guide several lost children out of the forest.
  • In the Fat Albert Halloween Special, the Cosby Kids think Russel and a girl are trapped in a mysterious old lady's house on Halloween Night. The kids finally get the nerve to burst into the house, but find their friends relaxing in comfortable chairs enjoying some treats supplied by the old lady who, apart from disapproving a bit of the other kids' abrupt entrance, has more for everyone and a merry time is had by all.
  • Hilariously subverted on Kaeloo: Kaeloo believes that this is the case for Olaf. He actually is evil and insane, she just doesn't realize it.
  • The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants: Bo Hweemuth initially has the reputation of a fearsome bully among his peers, as he's large, intimidating, and spends most of his time alone in the art room. However, George and Harold discover that, in reality, he's a shy sculptor and a huge fan of their comics. He becomes accepted by the rest of the students at the end of his debut episode.
  • Chowder: Subverted for laughs when a cinnimini monster (don't ask) shrinks and kidnaps Chowder in a clumsy attempt to befriend him. Despite the Sesame Street aesthetic, however, the show instead leans hard into a Surprisingly Realistic Outcome - Chowder and the rest of the cast simply focus on escaping, with no sympathy given to the monster whatsoever. Chowder even (correctly) calls it "a shut-in".

    Real Life 

Alternative Title(s): Nice Guy After All, Nice All Along, The Boo Radley, Misunderstood Loner