A mean kid from school or the neighborhood, who treated people like dirt and ruled over the class with an iron fist turns up again. They were pretty, petty, judgmental, quick to shove other hapless students in their own lockers or slander them to their faces, and now they're... apologizing?
Yep, that grade A pain in the neck has seemingly turned over a new leaf. The reason varies from person to person. Maybe their victims gave them a taste of their own medicine. Maybe they graduated and realized the real world isn't as easy as they thought it would be in school. (In many cases, though not all, they reform after having a few years of adult life under their belt.) Maybe they did some soul-searching, became more enlightened or matured significantly and realized that's not the person they want to be. Maybe they were just tired of being mean. No matter what reason, they are trying to change for the better. Of course, not everyone is likely to forgive them, and they probably wouldn't blame them if they didn't.
There may be moments where they slip back into their scheming ways but they'll usually catch themselves in time before they do anything too awful. And of course just because they are nicer doesn't mean they lose their biting wit. (That is, if they had any in the first place) Also, if they're still a bit of a jerk despite changing their ways, then they fall into Reformed, but Not Tamed.
Often overlaps with The Atoner and may be the ultimate goal of a Redemption Quest. If the former bully somehow doesn't feel sorry for his past actions but stopped for some other reasons, he can be the child version of Retired Monster, unreformed on the inside and without repentance and only changing in the acts.
If they were initially mean and horrible...and didn't get any nicer (if not worse) as they got older, they're the Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up.
Compare Former Teen Rebel, where the character may have been rebellious, but weren't necessarily mean or a bully. Also compare and contrast to the Lovable Alpha Bitch, who has enough nice qualities to balance out the bad ones, and the Lovable Jock and Dumb Jock, since the former is just a Nice Guy all around and the latter is probably too stupid to be mean.
Contrast Used to Be a Sweet Kid who started off a decent, kind individual, but progressively took several levels in Jerkass maybe becoming an Evil Former Friend or may have even undergone a Start of Darkness turning into a Complete Monster in the worst cases.
- Doi from Wandering Son had bullied Nitori since elementary. They end up going to the same high school, away from most of Nitori's old friends, and end up becoming awkward friends.
- Habara from Daily Lives of High School Boys is a former bully who cannot shake off the reputation. It is said that it would be better for her to skip town.
- Taichi Mashima from Chihayafuru was a bully in flashbacks, but reformed and is now a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
- A Silent Voice:
- The protagonist is one. He severely bullied Shouko in elementary for being deaf, however ended up being bullied himself for his treatment of her. As a high schooler Shouya wishes to atone and become her friend.
- Mashiba is heavily implied to have been a bully in the past, thus his utter hatred for bullies or anyone who supports them.
- The Distant Finale final chapter of Bokura no Hentai features Marika's middle school bully greeting her in high school. He's a lot friendlier than he used to be. In middle school he made fun of her for being feminine, and later living as a girl (with implications that he had a crush on her after she began living as a girl).
- In the early episode of Case Closed, the Victim of the Week was one of this. After driving his victim to hang himself, the remorseful bully showed up to victim's father crying and begging for forgiveness. The father not only forgives the bully, but even lets him pet sit the dog when the bully returns as an adult. But it turns out the bully actually never changed his ways, and prompted the father to train his dog to attack the bully.
- In Yuri!!! on Ice, Takeshi used to pick on main character Yuri when they were children. Their relationship improved over time, and as an adult, he's now one of Yuri's most supportive friends.
- Arisa from Lyrical Nanoha was a bully back in preschool, but she got that attitude slapped out of her by Nanoha (giving her the honor of being the first character ever befriended in canon). Her former bullying victim Suzuka ended up becoming her best friend (and possibly more), a friendship that is shown in the first StrikerS Sound Stage to still be going strong more than a decade after the fact.
- Downplayed in Horimiya. Hori mentions in chapter 8 that the reason she helps out the Student Council when she isn't even a member is because she's trying to make up for how hard she was on her Childhood Friend Sengoku throughout their childhood (though she still messes with him from time to time when they're alone).
- My Hero Academia: Played with in regards to Bakugou. He starts the series as a Smug Super who takes pleasure in bullying and picking on the weaker much Midoriya. A few chapters in and Midoriya has gained his own super power and starts standing up to him at the same time that the two join a prestigious Hero Academy, which is unlikely to tolerate that behavior, and their classmates are not intimidated by him, with many being actually as powerful or skilled than him, sometimes even more. So he stops being a bully, but he maintains the same personality, except that he can't bully anyone anymore. He later starts befriending some of his classmates and even Midoriya, leading to him playing this trope straight, while still having quite the unpleasant personality.
- Flash Thompson from Spider-Man bullied Peter in high school. He got better as he got older and became a hero in his own right and even one of Peter's best friends.
- A mid-eighties Daredevil issue has Matt encountering Stinky McQuade at the end of an unrelated adventure. Stinky claims to be the bully who ironically nicknamed Matt "Daredevil" and he apologizes for his treatment of Matt as a kid before walking away.
- A one-off issue of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW) focuses on how Twilight's brother, Shining Armour, met his wife. The story is a playful homage to every teen '80s film ever including a Jerk Jock called Buck. While he's definitely an antagonist in the past, in the present day he seems much more likable, and judging by the friendly gestures gets on a lot better with Shining.
- Hefty Smurf becomes this in the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf series, particularly in light of his treatment of his young sister Sassette in "Little Sister Smurf Lost."
- Discworld fic New Pair Of Eyes sees school bully Deborah Rust taken down by quite a few pegs by a previously disregarded classmate. After this, Deborah becomes more amenable to reason and follows Catherine's lead without complaint or argument.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Why Am I Crying?? Cheerilee was a bully in high school to Scootaloo's father, Crimson. When she sees him again when Scootaloo had taken Silver Spoon to the hospital when he tries to leave she apologizes to him for everything she did to him. Crimson doesn't want to hear it but Cheerilee begs him to hear her out. Even offering to meet him somewhere to speak about it. He agrees then they get along better later.
- Silver Spoon, who had bullied Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, and Applebloom, becomes better later on after Diamond Tiara is killed. She even becomes one of Scootaloo's closest friends in highschool.
- In Nymph and the Corrupted Miraculous, Marinette saves Chloe from an incoming car but at the cost of becoming paralyzed from the waist down. Grateful for saving his daughter, Mayor Bourgeois repays her by helping with all expenses related to making Marinette's life wheelchair accessible and Chloe declares herself Marinette's friend. While nicer to Marinette, Chloe still acts like a brat to everybody else with Marinette trying to make her behave. It is not until Adrien practically yells at her in public due to her behavior does she realize just how toxic her behavior is.
- In Waiting is worth it, Bakugou accidentally cripples Izuku for life with his quirk, causing him to develop a Guilt Complex and overprotective streak, defending him from bullies and generally helping when Izuku needs him. While he still has his explosive temper and tends to snap at everyone, including Izuku, it is often Anger Born of Worry and begrudgingly tries showing begrudging gestures of apology when it is necessary.
- Bakugou Katsuki takes this trope and runs with it in See It All In Bloom, to the point where will i ever be more than i've always been? focuses on his efforts to prevent other people from being bullied like how he bullied Izuku.
- In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, Sunset Shimmer is a nasty bully who uses her magic abilities to subjugate her high school after crossing over to the human world. After her defeat, she is reformed, but has a lot of trouble proving herself to her schoolmates.
- In Zootopia, Judy was bullied as a child by a fox named Gideon Gray who beat her up and clawed her left cheek while mocking her desire to become a police officer. Near the end of the film, she learns that Gideon's now a top pastry chef and even does business with her parents, Stu and Bonnie Hopps. When she reunites with Gideon as an adult, he apologizes to Judy for how he acted in the past—Gideon claims that he had a lot of issues as a kid, but has ultimately come to realize that it was very wrong of him to take it out on other people, including her. This ends up helping Judy to forgive Gideon for how he treated her when they were kids. Surprisingly, alongside Judy's resignation to the police and going back to her hometown, Gideon provides the necessary information needed to uncover and solve the film's main conflict, enabling Judy to go back to the eponymous city to finally end the violent divide between predators and prey once and for all.
- In Maya the Bee: The Honey Games, Violet is a former mean-girl who bullies Maya and other bugs from the meadow by beating them in the games in order Beegood to win. Near the end of the second film after she was rescued by Team Poppy from Thekla, she apologise to Maya for abusing and for cheating. Finally she become best friends with both Maya and Willy, also helps Team Poppy win the final race and disowns Beegood.
- Biff is a subverted example in the best timeline of the Back to the Future trilogy. He never becomes a great guy, but years of being under George's thumb have made him give up his meanest habits. However, him calling Marty "butthead" before he recognized him in the third film, and the behavior of his older self in the second might cast doubt on whether he's reformed or just scared of George (or possibly even both).
- Gus from Benchwarmers was a bully in his childhood, who bullied one kid so much he became a shut-in in his mother's basement even into adulthood. In present day, he is afraid to have a kid because he thinks it'll be bullied or become a bully, and joins the 'baseball team' The Benchwarmers (a couple of dorky adults representing the kids who never get to play baseball because they are deemed to wimpy or geeky or weird) and plays baseball games against little league teams of jock kids and their former jock coaches. Later in the movie, he tries to make amends and apologize to the kid he himself bullied as a child.
- In Die Welle, when the kids write about how membership in The Wave has changed their life/perspective. One writes that he used to be a bully and is now ashamed of his actions.
- By the end of Mean Girls, all of the 'Plastics', including the queen bee Regina, go through this.
- Parodied in Not Another Teen Movie, which lampoons every other teen drama trope as well. In one scene, Jake calls himself "the reformed cool guy", which implies this trope as he was a Jerk Jock.
- Subverted in 13 Going on 30 when the main character discovers that her best friend seventeen years in the future and co-worker was the Alpha Bitch of her middle school, now much nicer...except she's also selling secrets to a rival fashion magazine.
- Shane Hawkins in The World's End who used to bully Pete to a horrendous degree. At first he ignores him, then approaches him later on to apologize. Under the circumstances, it's probable that part or all of his reformation is due to him being a robot controlled by an alien intelligence trying to get the cast off their guard so they can be caught.
- In Billy Madison, Billy calls up an old high school acquaintance (played by Steve Buscemi) to apologize for treating him poorly years ago. After the phone call, a thoughtful look appears on Buscemi's face, and he crosses Billy's name off of a list titled "People To Kill".
- In the Discworld, Night Watch offers a glimpse into the shared past of Patrician Vetinari and Lord Downey, now Guild Master but then a contemporary of Havelock Vetinari when both were pupils at the Assassins' guild School. Downey is very much the undisputed School Bully and seeks to make life miserable for the seemingly weedy and ineffectual "Dog-botherer". Vetinari bides his time and comes up with a devastating counter-attack. In the "now" of the Discworld, some thirty years later, lord Downey is deferential and careful to be of service to the City's ruling Patrician. A school bully at the Assassins' School risks making some very powerful enemies who will have memories in later life - not forgetting and possibly inclined to forgiveness. Eventually.
- In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix it is revealed that James was something of a bully in his youth, mostly targeting Snape who had insulted James' father during their first meeting and whom he just didn't like. Sirius and Lupin explain that Lily didn't even look at him before he'd cleaned up his act (meaning he'd quit sometime before his seventh year, when they started dating).
- Warrior Cats:
- When Firestar arrived in ThunderClan, he was bullied by Sandstorm, Dustpelt, and Longtail for being a former kittypet. Over time, Sandstorm started bonding with him after he'd saved her life in battle only to eventually become his mate, Dustpelt outgrew his bullying attitude and began to respect him as a leader despite occasionally disagreeing with him, and Longtail proved himself a loyal warrior who matured past his original prejudice.
- Shrewclaw bullied Tallstar with the name "Worm", as a reference to his tunneler heritage. However, he got over this in the end after Tallstar helped in battle, even giving him a life during his leader ceremony to show he'd changed.
- In Wicked, Glinda starts out as hating Elphaba's guts. She hadn't wanted a roommate and especially didn't want a nerdy, green girl as her roomie. Over the next year she begins to slowly become fond of Elphaba, but she still pretends to hate her amongst her Girl Posse. After Elphaba is embarrassed at a gathering, Glinda shuns her friends and becomes besties with Elphaba. It's also all-but stated that Glinda was in love with Elphaba.
- In The Wish List, Brendan Ball, Lowrie's childhood bully, turns out to be this. Lowrie intended to face him again as an adult and clock him one good, but Brendan turned out to be friendly and remorseful for his past actions, and the two end up bonding.
- The Big Bang Theory:
- Penny goes through a stage of repentance thinking of the girls she bullied in high school; this is prompted by her two best friends in adult life, Amy and Bernadette, both being exactly the sort of nerdy types she'd have made life difficult for.
- A former bully calls on Leonard to help him on a business idea. Leonard confronts him on his behavior as teenagers and the man, who is drunk at this point, tearfully apologizes, and Leonard takes him home to recover. However, when he sobers up in the morning, he turns out to be just as mean as he was back at school.
- In one episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will returns to his hometown, Philadelphia, and after getting his reputation mocked to his face for leaving and going to Bel Air (as seen in the opening credits), decides to confront his old bully. However, said bully is now a mentor for younger people and no longer willing to fight. Ironically, when Will tries to provoke him into a fight and threatens to ruin the bully's rep, the ex-bully is the one telling Will to grow up.
- Girl Meets World: Harley Kiner, a tormentor of Cory during Boy Meets World, regrets the way he behaved as a young man and is now friends with Cory, who got him his job as a janitor, for which he is grateful.
- Earl from My Name Is Earl was a bully as a teen (and still a pretty mean guy into the first few years of adulthood) before he finally had a change of heart.
- In New Tricks, Sandra was a pretty bad bully at school, to the point that in her High School Reunion someone had defaced her class picture with devil horns and a goatee, and also at the police academy where she wrecked at least one other career and caused another cadet to crash out of training and into a life of crime. Season one and two showed that she was actively getting therapy to deal with her vicious streak, and she definitely mellowed throughout her tenure on the show.
- Riverdale: Veronica Lodge was a bully at her old school pre-series. Driving a girl named Paige into therapy was enough for her to realize the horrible things she had done to the girl. She's trying not to go back to being the Alpha Bitch she once was.
- Patricia from House of Anubis started off the show by bullying Nina over her assumption that she'd done something to make her best friend, Joy, disappear. She soon moved past this, though her grudge against Nina didn't disappear fully until Nina agreed to talk to her in private and help her out with her investigation to find Joy. Her character arc was finished when she joined Sibuna and ended up becoming very close friends with Nina. Her reformation was proven in the next two seasons when, despite hating Eddie and KT just like she'd hated Nina, her actions toward them had never reached the point of genuine bullying like with Nina.
- Jerome was a bit of a bully toward his best friend, Alfie, manipulating him for his own agenda and forcing him to be The Mole against Sibuna, who were all much nicer to Alfie than he was. Following his partnership with Rufus Zeno, Jerome had to turn to Sibuna for help once he realized how much danger he'd put himself in. Though he never truly turned nice or became friends with Sibuna, he'd become a better friend to Alfie and spent the next two seasons attempting to reform himself further.
- In Zoey 101, Vince Blake returns in one episode after being expelled from school in the previous season for beating up Chase, Michael, and Logan after Chase exposed him for cheating on a test. He is said to have changed his ways, but Michael and Logan don't believe him and try to get revenge on him. The girls are quick to forgive him, but Michael and Logan don't forgive him until the end of the episode where Vince give them a genuine apology for his actions.
- Cobra Kai: In season 2 Johnny meets up with the rest of the Cobra Kai OGs, most of whom have turned into mature, well-adjusted adults. Bobby, who was the least jerkass of them, is now a pastor. Jimmy is a dedicated husband and father with nothing but contempt for the Cobra Kai ethos, and Tommy has made his peace with the world. The only exception is Dutch, who doesn't appear on account of being in prison.
- Groose becomes one as his Character Arc in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. He starts off bullying all his classmates (although he's not very successful where Link is concerned), but after he discovers the surface world and the evil that is brewing there, and finally accepts that Zelda isn't interested in him, he turns over a leaf and helps build defenses for the Temple of Light, which are ultimately vital to defeating the Big Bad.
- In Them's Fightin' Herds, Tianhuo used to be an Alpha Bitch who bullied the weakest longmas, considering them a shame to their own kind. Then she had a Jerkass Realization after a prophetic dream in which the representation of both parts of her cultural legacy (a kind mare and a savage dragon) battled to achieve her inner peace. She apologized to her former victims and swore to use her strength to protect the weak.
- Buckaress from League of Super Redundant Heroes was revealed to have once been an Alpha Bitch alongside her former friend before becoming who she is now. She was afraid what her relatively unchanged former friend thinks of her, until it became apparent that she grew jealous at Buckaress's new life. Buckaress didn't notice the jealousy, however.
- PvP: Teezo Cunningham, Francis high school bully, turns out to have become one of these when Francis meets him at their reunion. While he doesnt remember Francis specifically, he knows he was a huge asshole in school and went to the reunion specifically to apologize to everyone he tormented.
- Questionable Content: Brun accidentally caused a Jerk Jock to become one of these with a single Armor-Piercing Response:
Brun: [In Flashback] High school is going to be the best part of your life. Everything after now will be a slow slide into obscurity and misery. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Renee: [In present] I looked Jed up a while ago and nowadays he's a pro wingsuit glider and motivational speaker. You gave that dude a complex.
- Binky Barnes was never that bad a bully to begin with. He was actually good friends with Arthur and the rest of the gang, even when he picked on them (Arthur once lampshaded how weird he can be sometimes). He's even shown to be a very cultured individual who likes dancing, ballet, opera, and has a gift for musical instruments. Still, a number of episodes did center around him dropping more and more of his bully act overtime, and eventually in Season 16, he and the rest of his "Tough Customers" crew, who had their own Hidden Depths, decided to quit bullying altogether.
- As stated above, this extends to the other Tough Customers. Molly befriended Arthur in one episode (their younger siblings already being friends), and it was shown that she was actually amazingly polite. After this, she gave great advice to kids at school who needed her help. Ironically, she was the one who initially resisted the group's attempt to give up bullying completely, until she realized that she was setting a very bad example for her younger brother, James, whom she is very protective of.
- Rattles is also this. He was actually one of the most intimidating Tough Customers. But in Season 16, the same season where he gave up bullying, he revealed himself to be an expert Chess player, surpassing even the Brain. He then gave Brain some training on how to defeat an opponent who had a reputation of never losing. Brain even called Rattles his friend when they met the aforementioned opponent for the first time.
- Slink is the one we know the least about and the only one never to have an episode of his own. Still he counts too as he gave up bullying with the rest of them.
- In a U.S. Acres segment of Garfield and Friends, where a childhood bully of Orson's swears to pay him back after being busted stealing his lunch money. Orson's awaits the worst before the bully arrives, and literally pays him back all the money he stole in repentance.
- Gravity Falls:
- Pacifica Northwest started as your usual Rich Bitch and foil/rival for Mabel. Then in the second season, she got a bit of Character Development, explaining that her attitude was from her Abusive Parents pushing her to be cocky and selfish. By the end of the show, she is still a bit pretentious and prissy, but really warmed up to and became friends with the protagonists.
- To a lesser extent, this could also apply to Robbie who was reformed by The Power of Love, and had stopped being spiteful towards Dipper.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Gilda the Griffon was introduced doing things like roaring in Fluttershy's face and calling everypony in town (besides Rainbow Dash) lame, which caused Rainbow to stand up to her and break off the friendship. In "The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone", Pinkie and Dash are sent to a griffon area where Gilda just happens to be living. Over the episode, Pinkie manages to draw out Gilda's better nature and she and Rainbow reconcile.
- The Grrreat and Powerful Trrrrixie!! is a braggart and a bully to Twilight in her first appearance (possibly out of concern that Twilight would heckle her and mess up her image as a performer, as some of her friends were doing). Then Twilight accidentally shows her up in the process of saving Ponyville, and she skips town. In her next appearance, after she fails to get back at Twilight and spends most of the episode possessed by an amulet, she comes up to Twilight and apologizes.
- Diamond Tiara, one of the wealthiest fillies in town, has been bullying the CMC over their lack of Cutie Marks (and Scootaloo's difficulty with flying) for whole seasons of the show. Then, after losing an election to a classmate and being called out and ditched by her friend Silver Spoon, she lapses into depression. The Crusaders follow her to see that she was all right, which leads to the group becoming unlikely friends and Diamond Tiara discovering that her Cutie Mark represents not richness, but leadership.
- One episode of Rocko's Modern Life features Rocko finding out that his old childhood bully is coming to visit, and thus he expects a showdown and trains so that he can fight back. When the former bully shows up, it turns out that he's found religion and has come to ask Rocko to punch him in penance. Rocko obliges.
- Spider-Man: The Animated Series: Played straight but cynically with Flash Thompson, who is an example of someone who doesn't really regret what he did and remains something of a prick and a coward. He did stop actively antagonising Peter and, ironically, openly worships Spider-Man.
- In the The Powerpuff Girls Time-Travel Episode "Get Back Jojo," we learn that none other than Professor Utonium is actually one of these. Back in his youth, he was a Bratty Half-Pint who loved to pick on the nerd in his class, but after being rescued by the Powerpuff Girls from a time traveling Mojo Jojo, he developed his love for science and became the nice man we all know him to be.
- Hey Arnold! reveals in the episode "Girl Trouble" that Arnold's Grandma used to bully Arnold's Grandpa the same way that Helga bullies Arnold in the present day. Somewhere along the way, she renounced her bullying ways, married Phil and is a sweet, but senile old lady.