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Sour Outside, Sad Inside

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"He must be so lonely, he must be so sad
He goes to extremes to convince us he's bad
He's really a victim of fear and of pride
Look close and there must be a sweet man inside?"

This character is harsh and mean. They are abrasive and cruel, but in truth they're just depressed and fearful, trying to intimidate people into leaving them alone. Like a hedgehog, this character bristles with spikes in order to protect themselves. Intimacy scares them, and perhaps they've been hurt before.


This is a common method of creating a Jerkass Woobie. By being introduced as a jerk that the audience hates, only for character development to reveal that in reality, they're just scared of getting close to anyone.

Often overlaps with the Broken Bird who has similar feelings of depression, isolation, and fear of social interaction due to a Dark and Troubled Past. Broken Birds, however, tend to be passive, while this character is proactive about driving people away. May cultivate and revel in their jerkass reputation. If their hidden persona is discovered it is possible they might react with Don't You Dare Pity Me!

Compare with Tsundere and Jerk with a Heart of Gold, where characters have a harsh and abrasive personality that conceals a sweet or loving side. The Stepford Snarker is somewhat similar, hiding their sadness and insecurities under snarkiness, but not necessarily such a Jerkass about it. Being Sour Outside, Sad Inside is a fairly common trait of the Mentor in Sour Armor. In anime fandoms, this character is referred to as a tsunshun.


In Real Life, frequent swings between angry/aggressive reactions and anxious/depressive ones is a hallmark of Borderline Personality Disorder. Pushing others away is also a common coping mechanism for people with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

A lighter version is an Easily Embarrassed Youngster who hides and/or expresses their embarrassment through rudeness.

Compare Knight in Sour Armor.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the first arc of Berserk, Guts deliberately acts like a Jerkass to stop others from getting close to him. Not only is his normal fear of relationships heightened due to a recent betrayal by his master and closest friend, but as a result of that betrayal, he is currently marked with a brand that attracts horrific monsters to him that aren't averse to killing or devouring anyone who gets in their way. It is only when he finds Casca, his former lover who has also been marked with the Brand, again that he begins to become less of an asshole, but because of his obsession with vengeance against his former mentor for what he did to him, her and the band he once led, he has to deal with a horrific Enemy Within that represents his absolute worst side.

  • Revy from Black Lagoon takes this to whole new extremes. Normally she just acts like The Lad-ette, in that she's slightly abrasive, but more or less congenial once you get used to her aggressive nature. However, if you start trying to get to know her on a personal level, she can very quickly become Ax-Crazy and will make a sincere effort to kill you. Luckily for her, a handful of people like Dutch and Rock have been to relate to her on some level, but even then she's still very defensive. Due to a horrific childhood wherein she was abused by her caretaker, the police, and anyone else in authority, she has severe fears of feeling exposed and vulnerable, and she NEVER wants that to be hurt like that again. She developed an obsession with power, and she tends to be very tightlipped about her personal life to protect herself from betrayal. As such, whenever anyone gets too close to her, she often gets spooked, and reacts with violence.
  • Bokurano has quite a few of these characters, but the one who really takes the cake is Jun, the bitter Big Brother Bully of the group who's actually tremendously lonely. His adoptive mother dying in childbirth left him resentful towards Kana, and he displays symptoms of depression from time to time: he's listless, always in a bad mood, sleeps a lot, and has trouble staying warm. When he learns his biological mother's identity and comes to terms with his issues, he rapidly matures into a wise and valiant boy who unhesitatingly gives his life for the sister he once hated.
  • The mangaka of Brave10, outright calls Nanakuma tsuntsun in her doujinshi. He's arrogant and proud, but also very insecure and desperate to prove himself.
  • Accelerator, from A Certain Magical Index and A Certain Scientific Railgun. Being experimented on, forcing people away and being attacked on a constant basis because of his ability makes him more unbalanced than depressed, but he still uses his abrasive attitude to try to distance himself from others.
  • In Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!, would-be World Dominator Kinshiro is like this. He's not only given up on friendship personally, but he also wants to wipe it out of the world entirely, because of his failed friendship with Good Former Friend Atsushi that hurt him so badly, which he mopes over at every opportunity.
  • Kanda Yu from D.Gray-Man. His Dark and Troubled Past is a very good reason to hate the Order. He doesn't even make a secret out of it.
  • A minor example is Matsuoka Rin from Free! Much of his jerkassery and his obsession with beating Haruka stems from his low self-esteem and self-loathing for failing to live his father's dream. He gets better though.
  • Fruits Basket:
    • Kyo Sohma. Being the Black Sheep (cat) of the Zodiac has put immense pressure on his shoulders, which he covers up with his attitude. He gets over much of his negativity as the series goes on, mostly due to Tohru.
    • Same with Rin. She began to act cold and distant to cope with her parents abandoning her as a child, to the point where she is incapable of expressing genuine feelings of concern for others. At several points she coldly tells Hiro and Tohru that they should butt out of her business and that "kind people should stay in their kind little worlds", only to later reflect that it came out much worse than she meant it to - she really just didn't want nice people to end up hurt and broken like she was.
  • Ichiko Sakura of Good Luck Girl! seems to be your average pampered but sweet rich kid. Up close, however, she's quite a massive Bitch in Sheep's Clothing who thinks of nothing but herself. Behind that, however, lies a sad, broken little girl who just yearns for the loving care of her parents, whom she hadn't seen since infancy, not to mention the fact that she is still being haunted by a horrible betrayal by a girl she once trusted. All that trauma ultimately turned her into the Alpha Bitch she has become when the series started. It came to the point that even her Sitcom Archnemesis, resident Jerkass Goddess Momiji, slowly started to mellow out to her and even become her Trickster Mentor, helping her reconnect with humanity and bring back the kindness she used to have.
  • Victorique, from Gosick. At first emotionless due to being locked in a dungeon for several years and being forsaken by her father, she warms up because of Kujo and they become happily married at the end.
  • Natsume, from Hidamari Sketch. Her feelings towards Sae cause her to overreact and act rudely towards her before stomping away. One of the chapters (the only one to not be in 4koma style) helps explain the reason for her attitude. Sae also acts this way, but only when she deals with her younger sister.
  • Ririchiyo Shirakiin, from Inu × Boku SS. Being virtually ignored by her family in favor of her sister and the bullying she went through as a kid because she's rich leads her to be rather unsociable at first. This facade lasts only about five minutes, for Ririchiyo either walks away to sulk somewhere or actually opens up to you and shows her sweet side. She's also the Trope Namer for the term tsunshun, as the term was coined In-Universe by Nobara Yukinokouji to describe Ririchiyo.
  • Hachiman Hikigaya of My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, as I Expected is cynical, bitter and utterly loathes anything that involves social interaction. A childhood of bad experiences such as bullying and rejection have led him to believe that youth is nothing but a lie, constantly snarks towards those around him, and resolves social issues by making himself the primary aggressor, much to the discontent of his peers. Despite all of the above issues, Hachiman sincerely wishes to have a genuine relationship with those around him.
  • Asuka Langley Soryu from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Her Broken Bird past, for example (her mother Kyoko going insane and treating a doll as Asuka in place of the real deal, and then hanging the doll and herself) leads her to be rude to many people with some exceptions (Kaji, Hikari, Misato... even Shinji). However, when left to herself Asuka shows that she has almost no self-esteem and struggles to overcome it.
  • Ryoko Ōkami, from Ōkami-san. Underneath the fierce Tsundere wolf act she puts up, there is a sad, lonely, emotionally fragile girl who doesn’t want to be betrayed again.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
    • Kyouko initially seems to be a mean, selfish girl who believes that Magical Girls should use their powers for their own purposes, and never to help others. But as the series progresses, it's revealed why she acts this way: Her family fell into destitution after her preacher father was excommunicated and when he found out that his followers increased and came back was due to Kyoko's Magical Girl powers from her wish compelled by Kyubey and not from people actually believing in him, he killed his family and himself and only she survived, which resulted in her inability to trust anyone. It is only when she learns about the Awful Truths of being a Magical Girl and when she saves Sayaka from Homura that she starts to get over her sourness, which culminates in her performing a Mercy Kill to witch!Sayaka and sacrificing herself so Sayaka wouldn't be alone.
    • Homura is also this, for different reasons. For a while she seems to be an arrogant loner who wants to prevent Kyubey from contracting any new magical girls, so she will have less competition. That is until she suddenly breaks down in tears after narrowly averting one of Madoka's attempts to become a magical girl. Her backstory later explains that she really only cares about stopping Madoka, specifically, from making a contract because she has experienced the horrific aftermath of that scenario many times. It often leads to the end of the world, and always leads to the end of Madoka; the latter concerns Homura much more than the former. She very much wants to be friends with everyone, but she drove them away after a few time-loops because they didn't believe her warnings and because repeatedly getting close to them only to see them all die or become witches was too painful. She adopted her too-cool-for-you persona as a coping mechanism.
  • Shiva, from Saint Beast. He's got all of the tsun which covers up his fears of inferiority and frustration at not getting what he wants.
  • Nishigami from Shindere Shoujo to Kodoku na Shinigami, who tells his class not to get close to him on his first day at school because he believes everyone he gets close to will die.
  • Hinamori Amu from Shugo Chara! is known for being rough, blunt, and sometimes downright rude, with a fashion style that resembles punk. However, in the very first episode, she's revealed to be soft, intimidated, and girly deep down, and throughout the show, constantly regrets her rough attitude and rude comments. This is the basis of the show's premise.
  • Taiga Aisaka, from Toradora!, a deconstruction of Tsundere. Also known as the "Palmtop Tiger" because of her fierce Tsun-ness. Moved into an apartment when her parents got divorced because she could not get along with either her mother or her father and stepmother. Her father also makes promises that he has no intention to keep. As the series goes on, she becomes emotionally stronger and Ryuji and others help her stand on her own again, culminating with both a True Love's Kiss with Ryuuji and her decision to come back home, so she can mend her broken family life before marrying him.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!
    • Seto Kaiba is this. He acts like a complete Jerkass towards everyone and drives people away, but deep inside he's deeply hurt by the abuse he suffered from his adoptive father, Gozaburo.

    Comic Books 
  • Xadhoom from Paperinik New Adventures: her role in the fall of her planet and her people (as well as the fact that she wasn't there during the event ) caused her to develop an insane amount of rage and guilt that she can only express by taking revenge on the aliens that attacked them. As such, she is very abrupt, callous, and rude toward practically everybody, only allowing herself very brief moments of friendship with Paperinik who, as herself admitted, is the only person she can count on in the whole universe.
  • Ray of Plutona is an abrasive jerk to everyone he meets because his father is neglectful and abusive. He's given the opportunity to open up over the course of the story.
  • It's strongly implied that part of the reason Kim Pin in Scott Pilgrim acts so cold (especially to the protagonist) is due to the lack of closure in their relationship when Scott moved away and had their mutual friend tell Kim about it as opposed to Scott himself. When this topic finally gets brought to the surface, it's the only time in the entire series where Kim looks genuinely hurt.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Paula von Gunther seemed like a cruel and sadistic Nazi spy until Diana forced her to tell her story with the magic lasso, at which point Paula revealed that she hated the Nazis and was only working for them because they'd murdered her husband right in front of her for her refusal to work for them and then taken her daughter hostage. Her apparent sadism was a result of her feeling she had no other way to help her daughter, but no hope of actually rescuing or seeing her little girl again, so she hardened her heart and felt furious with those who seemed to be living happy or meaningful lives.

    Fan Works 
  • Advice and Trust: After their First Kiss, Shinji and Asuka have a long talk and Shinji discovers Asuka may look harsh and tough but inwardly she is so sad, pained, and fragile as him.
  • In the Avantasia Protag AU series, Scarecrow often pushes his family away and acts unpleasant, but he really has depressive episodes and is mentally ill.
  • The Child of Love: Asuka's rage and viciousness is nothing but a shield she uses to hide her pain and push everyone away because she is frightened of them. If she is being really mad and rude it is a sign that she is breaking down.
    Hikari: You know how she is. Always so arrogant and strong. But deep inside she's one of the most fragile people I know.
  • Child of the Storm
    • The series implies on several occasions that Carol was like this, being abrasive, hot-tempered, defensive, touchy, sharp-tongued, and mistrustful. She segues into Jerk with a Heart of Gold around when she meets Harry. While she's a softer touch around him, she's repeatedly described as 'spiky', and with good reason. It transpires that a psychologically abusive father, an initially difficult relationship with her mother, and a fair amount of sexual harassment are to blame.
    • Harry becomes like this after the trauma of the Forever Red arc in the sequel. While he eventually becomes kinder again, he's still covered in mental scars, and a bit grumpier and more cynical than before.
  • A Crown of Stars: Surviving in a post-apocalyptic world had aggravated Asuka's mental scars. Outwardly she was harsher, angrier, and more jaded; inwardly she was utterly broken, depressed, and self-loathing.
  • Asuka again (noticing a pattern here?) in Doing It Right This Time. Having had quite some time to reflect upon just what an amazingly counterproductive coping mechanism this was, she throws herself into the do-over with every intention of "using less tsun and more dere" this time around.
  • Evangelion 303: Asuka initially came across as abrasive, rude, and arrogant, but in reality, she had very low self-esteem and little self-confidence, and she pushed people away because she was frightened of them.
  • Ghosts of Evangelion: Due to severe trauma and anger management issues, Asuka uses her anger to hide her hurt. If she is being mean it's because she's inwardly upset, nervous, or frightened.
    Asuka: [nervously] Do you want me to help you?
    Shinji: Why would you want to? You don't even like me.
    Asuka: [frowning] That's not true. My mama asked me where I wanted to play, and I said here. I like being with you.
    Shinji: But you're always mean to me.
    Asuka: That doesn't mean I don't like you. I'm just afraid you'll go away, and it makes me nervous and upset. So I get mean even though I don't want to."
  • HERZ: The angrier and more hostile Asuka behaves the sadder and more awful she feels inward. When she was thinking of leaving Japan in the backstory and Shinji pleaded with her to stay with him, she berated him because she thought he could not possibly love her since she was an ugly, worthless freak and he was just mocking her.
  • Higher Learning: At the beginning of the story, Asuka pretends to be a tough, bold girl who does not need anybody. However, as the war goes on her traumas get worse and the mask shatters progressively until she shows herself as a depressed, sad girl who clings to Shinji desperately because she thinks she has nothing else.
  • Last Child of Krypton: When Kaji says he is worried about Asuka Shinji answers she seems pretty hard-headed and capable to hold her own. Kaji warns him that she is not as strong as he thinks and she is in reality very fragile.
    Kaji: How's Asuka doing?
    Shinji: Fine, I guess. It's only been one day.
    Kaji: I'm a little worried about her. She's not as strong as you think she is.
    Shinji: She seems pretty hardheaded to me, [...] She held her own against some of the guys.
    Kaji: Glass seems hard, [...] until you hit it the wrong way, or drop it, then it shatters.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide: When Asuka opens up to Shinji, he realizes that she is and has always been very hurt and broken, but she's been hiding it since she was a child. Later on, he and Misato talk about her issues.
    "She's been keeping all that inside of her for a very long time, I'd imagine," she said in her most tender voice. "She never has been the outgoing sort. Not with her feelings. I guess she was so hurt that all she could do was build a wall around her heart."
  • Once More with Feeling: Although Shinji was not afraid of arguing with Asuka anymore he did his best to not hurt her pride because after going through Instrumentality he knew it was a mask and underneath she was a scared little girl who thought being a pilot was everything she had.
    "Then the Second Child had arrived, bringing with her conflict, friction, and more than a few painful contusions to his head as she continually let him know exactly what she thought of him as an Eva Pilot, a man, and a human."
    All of it a giant lie to shield the four-year-old girl desperately hiding deep behind the moats, minefields, and electrified fences she had placed around her heart.
  • The One I Love Is...: Shinji used to think Asuka was a brave, bold, self-assured girl to the point of being obnoxious although he had seen some glimpses showed Asuka was weaker than she looked. Then in chapter 6, she started tearing herself apart and he was shocked because she was so fragile and insecure and frightened as him.
  • The source of Argus Filch's crankiness in The Parselmouth of Gryffindor seems to be his resentment at the way everyone treats him for being a Squib.
  • The Rigel Black Chronicles: It's not really surprising that Caelum Lestrange turned out this way from being raised by psychotic sadist Bellatrix Lestrange. He considers himself to be doing a public service by puncturing unwarranted optimism wherever he goes.
  • Scar Tissue: Asuka displayed an abrasive behaviour to hide her traumatized, depressed real self. After having been defiled, eaten alive, and being forced to share her innermost thoughts and memories with literally everyone, her temper became more volatile and uncontrollable. However, the more aggressive she got, the more awful she felt afterward.
  • The Second Try: After returning to the past Asuka is depressed, worried, and pained the whole time because she and Shinji are forced to go through their worst trials again and worst of all their daughter is missing but she has to keep pretending to be a brash, temperamental, hostile thirteen-years-old kid rather a mature woman in her twenties. She also wore a mask to hide her fragility the first time around but it is worst now because she is feeling more depressed and now she realizes how childish was her act.
  • Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: Asuka tries to pretend she is tough, angry, and bold so that nobody notices she is hurting inside and has many troubles, especially after Arael's Mind Rape.
  • Thousand Shinji: When he met Asuka Shinji quickly realized underneath her angry, jealous front there was a huge sadness, fear and she was more fragile than she looked and her soul had many scars.
    "Asuka glared up at him, and slowly the anger seeped out of her body... for now. Shinji could still feel it burning beneath the surface, ready to explode once the time was right, like how a burning room without flame could flashover when oxygen was introduced, producing a super hot fireball."
    The smoke that covered up this fire, however, was sadness, the half-burned fuel for her frenzy. Peering into her soul, Shinji could feel a near-infinite well of sorrow hidden behind enough fortifications and trenches to make a World War One general wince at the thought of assaulting it.
    She began to cry, and Shinji let go of her to allow her to regain her composure. She was more fragile than he had first thought. He would either have to repair her damaged heart or break her completely so as to rebuild her. If the situation continued, she could, and probably would, break in an undesirable fashion, most likely becoming useless.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Anne of Windy Poplars: Katherine Brooks, the principal of Queen's Academy. She hates teaching, but as a plain, single woman who is determined to be independent, she has no other options, locking her into a career that is slowly sucking the life from her. Anne's relentless goodwill towards her eventually breaks through the sour shell, and a visit to Green Gables goes a long way towards easing the sad inside.
  • Cries and Whispers: Karin is rigid, unfriendly, and looks pissed off most of the time, but she is actually deeply unhappy with her life to the point of feeling suicidal.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Guardians of the Galaxy: Rocket is a perfect example. In the second movie, Yondu, who knows exactly what he's talking about since he's an example of this too and he knows it, says it best:
      Yondu: You can fool yourself and you can fool everyone else, but you can't fool me. I know who you are... I know you play like you're the meanest and the hardest but actually you're the most scared of all. I know you steal batteries you don't need, and you push away anyone who's willing to put up with you because just a little bit of love reminds you how big and empty that hole inside of you actually is!
    • Nebula is also implied to be one over the course of the movies because of Thanos treating her as The Unfavorite until she finally blows up at her adopted sister Gamora about the latter treating her like this as well.
      Nebula: [to Gamora] You were the one who wanted to win, and I just wanted a sister! [...] You were all I had. But you were the one who needed to win. Thanos pulled my eye from my head, my brain from my skull, and my arm from my body. Because of you.
  • Sleeping Beauty: One of the Fairy Godmothers speculates that Maleficent is this.
    Flora: Maleficent doesn't know anything about love, or kindness, or the joy of helping others. You know, sometimes I don't think she's really very happy.
  • Star Wars: Darth Vader. On the outside, a cruel, deceptive, power-hungry monster who would kill his officers for the simple crime of failing him. On the inside? A broken slave to his master and "friend" Emperor Palpatine. In a twisted way, he tried to protect his son Luke even if it meant cutting his hand off and trying to push him to the Dark Side (rather than have Palpatine kill him). Luke's cries of pain are what let him free himself from Palpatine's control.

  • Fyodor Dostoevsky:
    • Nastasya Filippovna from Dostoevsky's The Idiot is an example from classic literature. Her public persona is that of a proud, arrogant Femme Fatale, but in reality, she takes on these characteristics to hide the pain and shame she feels about the abuse she suffered in her past. Interestingly enough, she is in a Love Triangle with the more traditional Tsundere Aglaya Yepanchin for the favor of the saintly Prince Myshkin, and Myshkin's inability to choose between helping to overcome the problems of a 'shun' and returning the love of a 'dere' leads to his tragic downfall.
    • Polina Alexandrovna from Dostoevsky's novella "The Gambler" has shades of this as well. Given Dostoevsky's interest in psychology and his tragic Real Life affair with the very Sour Outside Sad Inside Apollinaria Suslova, it is entirely possible that there is a reason for his use of this trope.
  • Angel in The Charlie Parker Series, at least initially. As the series goes on, his facade cracks quite badly.
  • Patience, in Dinoverse. She's deeply, antagonistically cynical, and exaggeratedly tough because she's convinced that if she ever relies on anyone, for so much as a moment, they'll leave.
  • Severus Snape of Harry Potter floats easily between this and Jerk with a Heart of Gold once you learn his backStory of unrequited love, Parental Neglect and near-constant bullying.
  • Peturabo, Primarch of the Iron Warriors from the Horus Heresy series. Beneath the sour, rage-filled mask hides a person really wishing for someone to appreciate his work.
  • Haymitch Abernathy from The Hunger Games would qualify for this trope; after all, the president had Haymitch's loved ones killed for defying him. On top of that, he's the official coach to the tributes from his district. For years he's been responsible for training kids for a fight to the death that, statistically, they have no hope of surviving, and there's not really anything he can do about it. It would only make sense that he would refuse to take in people.
  • I Am Not a Serial Killer has John, an active loner with anger issues that would impress Bruce Banner. He's a slightly unusual example in that he narrates the series, so his sad inside is apparent much faster. He himself notes that his tendency to self-sabotage relationships might keep him from being hurt, but it also prevents him from having a chance at a positive relationship.
  • Lu, the main protagonist in Murderess, was sent to Earth from Greywall'd in her infancy and grew up repeatedly switching schools and being betrayed by the friends she made, and having all of her questions about her heritage ignored. At the beginning of the book, while she might not be actively mean, she does give people Death Glares to keep them at arm's length and is often fairly snarky.
  • Chad from Rogue acts arrogant and abrasive, but he's actually miserable from being abused and forced to participate in criminal activities by his parents.
  • Sandor "The Hound" Clegane, of A Song of Ice and Fire.
    • Stannis Baratheon is strongly hinted to have the same problem.
  • The titular raven for What the Raven Saw. To most people, he's the vicious old bird who won't let anyone else live in his churchyard; inside, he's deeply lonely and bitter with the world.
  • The title character in Fredrik Backman's A Man Called Ove may be a Scandinavian embodiment of this trope. He's caustic, opinionated, and definitely not a people person. However, as grouchy as Ove is, he's also deeply depressed and struggling with grief after his wife's death, and goes on to attempt suicide to be reunited with his wife.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Andy Griffith Show: In the first season episode "Christmas Story," the apparently misanthropic businessman Ben Weaver is an example of this. After Ben makes everyone's lives miserable for the first part of the episode by insisting that the Sheriff enforce the letter of the law (such as by demanding that a moonshiner serve out his jail sentence, rather than getting a temporary leave of absence to spend Christmas with his family), he then embarks on a blatant spree of Christmas Eve misdemeanors. Sheriff Andy realizes that this is a purposeful attempt on Ben's part to get himself arrested so that he can join the jailhouse Christmas party that is underway rather than spending Christmas alone (To ensure that the audience does not miss this trope, in one scene Ben stands on a trash can behind the jail and wistfully watches through a barred window as those present at the Christmas party sing "Away in a Manger," with Andy leading on the guitar). Andy obliges in arresting him, allowing Ben to first go home to get some things that he'll need for his jail stay. Ben returns with an assortment of gifts for those present, which he pretends to have brought by accident.
  • Charmed: Piper came off this way for a while after Prue's death, throwing herself into demon-hunting, coldly brushes Paige off (when she's not outright dismissive), and won't let anyone talk to her about it. She eventually mellows out to her old self and comes to accept Prue's death, and Paige's place in the family. This appears in Centennial Charmed when we see an alternate reality where Paige never met her; the Power of Three was never reconstituted, and she becomes a cluster of raw nerves and leather in her Roaring Rampage of Revenge for Prue's death.
  • Cobra Kai: Hawk is a particularly sad example. He spent most of his life being bullied for his cleft palette scar. After joining Cobra Kai, his life gets better, but he's still incredibly insecure and hurting due to his past bullying so he responds to anyone who hurts him with Unstoppable Rage which alienates those closest to him and allows him to be manipulated by Kreese.
  • Game of Thrones: Sandor "The Hound" Clegane's unpleasant personality is rooted in the traumatic incident from his youth that literally burned all the idealism out of him, as well as the lingering guilt for some of the things he has done in life. Tormund Giantsbane outright calls him this trope.
    Tormund: I don't think you're really mean. You have sad eyes.
    Sandor: You want to suck my dick, is that it?
  • Peter Quinn from Homeland is this. He's coolly hostile to his co-workers and was brought in specifically because he's good at not getting emotionally involved. Despite his bluntness, willingness to put people down, and inability to trust or be trusted, by season three it's clear the majority of his issues stem from constantly being on the move due to CIA work and being haunted by the number of people he's killed. Even though he claims and acts as if he dislikes the people he's working with, he finds excuses to be around them and manages a few conversations that are non-work related, during which he's about as nice as any of the main cast.
  • House: The good doctor's constant snark and occasional callousness stem from his own deep-seated belief that he is worthless, despite being a genius level diagnostician.
  • Red Dwarf: Arnold Rimmer can best be described as a Dirty Coward, a Jerkass and in general, not a nice person to be around due to him being nasty to everyone else. However, it has also been shown that Rimmer is genuinely lonely and wants to be loved, and thanks to his upbringing, has a very warped sense of other people and believes himself to be worthless. "Better Than Life" (which has him unintentionally destroy everyone's fun) also shows that deep down, he doesn't believe that he deserves to be happy.
  • Scrubs: Dr. Cox may have his good moments, but on an average day, he's mostly condescending towards everyone, dealing with a huge superiority complex, and thinking that people are bastard-coated bastards with a bastard filling. However, he's also repeatedly shown to genuinely care for his patients (and co-workers) even though even he isn't willing to admit it, and he absolutely breaks down when he knows he can't be the person some people expect him to be, or worse, when he loses a loved one.
  • In Smallville, Oliver may be this, especially in season nine. Chloe might be a mild example on her worst days, but with what she has gone through...
  • Derek Hale from Teen Wolf mainly communicates through aloofness and threats of bodily harm. Which makes a lot of sense when you remember he was sexually manipulated as a kid. By a grown woman. Who then burned down his home with most of his family in it.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959) had Fitzgerald Fortune in the episode "A Piano in the House", where the titular player-piano could bring out the "true self" of someone whose "true" personality fit the music being played. He delights in using it to humiliate a heavyset, jovial woman named Marge at a dinner party, then wants to play something that would "call forth the devil" - except his wife swaps out the planned song for Brahms' "Lullaby". This song affects Fitzgerald himself, revealing that, at his heart, he's actually a "small frightened boy, that only likes to hurt people", lashing out at anyone he feels envious of.
  • Yellowjackets has Natalie Scatorccio. This trope is more evident in the 2021 storyline. Soon after her most recent stint at rehab, she relapses into alcohol and drug use to deal with the trauma from the 1996 plane crash and the things she and her fellow team members did to survive 19 months in the wilderness. Most of the time she is a Perpetual Frowner. By the end of Season 1, the only thing that stops her from taking her life is the people who break into her room and kidnap her.

  • The titular character of Electra Heart album by Marina Diamandis definitely qualifies: she's a self-admitted Alpha Bitch, (e.g. "Bubblegum Bitch") who's also a Broken Bird (e.g. "Living Dead")

    Pro Wrestling 
  • ECW's Perpetual Frowner Raven. A man of apparent wealth and intelligence that focuses on many destructive distracting pursuits that have little to do with winning title belts. He's the old party boy Scotty The Body with a hopeless case of depression, who really can't drive himself to do anything other than hurt people, much as he may try to or claim otherwise.

    Video Games 
  • Bug Fables: For the first half of the game, Queen Elizant II is stern, frigid, and harsh, and has alienated a great many of her kingdom's allies and banned ladybugs with very few exceptions. More than a few bugs openly despise her for her attitude, Leif included. But it's revealed in Chapter 5 that under her cold exterior lies a sad bug with an inferiority complex who's trying too hard to be a strong ruler. Once she opens her heart to Team Snakemouth, she truly becomes the kind and fair ruler the Ant Kingdom needs and repairs relations with the people she pushed away.
  • Mandy from Bully is the quintessential Alpha Bitch, but it's eventually revealed that she just bullies people to compensate for her own insecurities.
  • When Etna of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness interacts with anyone she's normally a huge, unpleasant bitch, but reading her diary reveals she's surprisingly melancholic.
  • Marcy Long, a survivor of the Quincy Massacre in Fallout 4 is an example. Her surly bitchy demeanor towards everyone is an armor to mask the grief of having lost her son Kyle. And unfortunately, she doesn't exactly get better.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Squall Leonhart of Final Fantasy VIII puts an extraordinary amount of effort into being brusque, unsociable, and unsympathetic to others in order to keep anyone from getting too close to him. As the game progresses, it reveals that he does this because he's actually cripplingly insecure and desperately afraid of coming to care about and rely on others only to lose them, which he believes is inevitable.
    • Lulu from Final Fantasy X is a milder example; she puts up a very cold, alienating front - being outright abrasive to Wakka, Tidus, and (very occasionally) Yuna - but is revealed to just be an exceptionally sad person inside as the game progresses, due to the loss of her fiancé, Chappu, Lady Ginnem, her first Summoner due to her own inability and the fact that Yuna will die too once they finish the pilgrimage.
    • Lightning qualifies as this in Final Fantasy XIII, at least in the first few chapters of the game. She comes across as confrontational, aggressive, and outright cold with people she has just met. In reality, she's deeply concerned about her sister Serah and, considering that she herself was branded a L'Cie, had pretty firm justification for being under some heavy stress. She begins to open up to Hope and show more of her inner fragility as the plot advances.
  • Xigbar from Kingdom Hearts. He's a sarcastic, abrasive jerk who condescendingly trolls everyone he meets... and the secret reports in III reveal that underneath all the verbal barbs is a lonely old man who's tired of it all and just wants to see his friends again. Moreso in The Stinger where he's revealed to be Luxu, who had the unenviable position of having an as-of-yet-explained task placed upon him by the Master of Masters.
  • Jack, from Mass Effect 2, as a result of her horrific past. She gets better by Mass Effect 3 if she survives.
  • Adachi, the Serial Killer in Persona 4 displayed this. A Sour Prude and Straw Nihilist who's shown to have deep-rooted apathy and depression whenever he's alone. For all his claims that he finds fun in the bedlam caused by the murders he had committed, he can't even find satisfaction in his own sadism and depravity.
  • Shane from Stardew Valley suffers from chronic depression and a Soul-Sucking Retail Job. His coping mechanisms are alcohol, more alcohol, and lashing out at anyone who so much as speaks to him. The more persistent you are trying to befriend him, the more abrasive he gets trying to push you away... until he snaps completely and tries to throw himself off a cliff.
    Why are you talking to me? Go away.
    You're still trying to be friends with me? How rude do I have to be for you to take a hint?
  • This characterization is often given to Waluigi from the Super Mario franchise. On the outside, the guy is an unrepentant Jerkass who does things just to make people angry or because it's mean. On the inside, he knows he's never going to win, and that he's way out of his league.
  • Kazuya from the Tekken series. Once, he was a kind and frail boy that was treated badly by his father, who actually was very, very wary of him having inherited his mother's Devil Gene, culminating in an attempt to kill him, causing Kazuya to turn to help from a demon to achieve revenge. Because of this, Kazuya becomes merciless and cold and after defeating his father, he turned even more evil to rule his company. One day, though, a girl named Jun meets Kazuya and the two are attracted instantly. Jun is able to get close to Kazuya and she realizes that Kazuya isn't actually evil, but has a demon inside him and that his true nature is kind and good, her powers suppress the demonic powers in Kazuya, causing his good side to come out and fight the demon to free him. This causes Kazuya to weaken, which gave his father, Heihachi, the chance to retake his company and throw Kazuya in a volcano. After he gets revived in the events of Tekken 4, he completely abandons the "depression" part and goes full villain in order to get revenge on his father. By the end of Tekken 7's story, he succeeds and becomes the next biggest threat to the world, forcing his half-brother Lars to convince Kazuya's son Jin (Who's currently not any better than his father by any stretch of imagination, mind you) to end this.
  • Jack van Burace from Wild ARMs 1 has shades of this. He's often abrasive and rude, especially to Cecilia. Beneath his exterior is a heavy dose of guilt due to him being the sole survivor of the demon attack on Arctica and being unable to protect those he cares about.
  • Sylvanas Windrunner from World of Warcraft, so very much. Beneath all her cruelty she is mainly just filled with sorrow and loneliness, and always seems on the verge of a Despair Event Horizon.

    Visual Novels 
  • Touko Fukawa from Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. Due to her traumatic childhood at the hands of her Abusive Parents, bullying by her classmates, and the fact that she's never had any loving relationships, she's developed an acerbic attitude along with strong paranoia that causes her to worry that everyone either hates her or is out to hurt or bully her. To make matters worse, the aforementioned trauma and abuse she endured growing up led her to develop a Split Personality, a Serial Killer named Genocider Syo; being conscious of Syo's crimes deeply distresses Fukawa, so much so that she rarely bathes so she doesn't have to see the Kill Tally that Syo carves into her thigh with each new victim. Thankfully, in Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls she's befriended and treated with genuine kindness and love by Komaru, who she slowly manages to warm up to and trust. She eventually comes to truly care for and trust Komaru in return, and she sports her first genuine smiling sprite in the whole series — by the end, she proudly declares that she's found her "hope" in Komaru.
  • Aoba from Family Project due to issues with her parents and later her grandfather tends to treat others in an extremely hostile manner. It's quite rare for her not to be either a jerkass or completely disinterested.
  • Shizune Hakamichi from Katawa Shoujo turns out to be this, and it's hinted that it's in part to compensate for her deafness and because she's actually extremely lonely and frustrated over her inability to keep friends.

    Web Animation 
  • Max from Camp Camp is a mouthy, cynical little Jerkass, who often gives others a hard time for little to no reason, but underneath it all, is just a child lashing out, because his uncaring parents dumped him at a run-down summer camp, just so they don't have to deal with him; as often as he tries to escape from Camp Campbellnote , he never talks about going home or mentions his family at all. In "Parents' Day", he brags that his parents don't care about showing up to stupid camp events - however, as the episode goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that Max's parents aren't showing up because they really don't care about him, and didn't even bother to write what activity for him participate in on his information form.
  • Kiazuki from Hanazuki: Full of Treasures acts like a Tsundere to hide her misery about her failure to protect her moon from the Big Bad.
  • Angel Dust from Hazbin Hotel is an unabashed prostitute/porn star/gangster who does drugs and insults people on the regular. However, "Addict" reveals that most of it is to escape from the harsh realities inflicted upon him by Valentino.
  • Whitley Schnee from RWBY is antagonistic towards his older sister Weiss, and manipulated events to ensure Jacques saw him as the sole heir since he behaves like the perfect son. But Whitley is, in fact, just as much a victim of their father's abuse as Weiss and Winter are. When Weiss points out her strained relationship, Willow points out that it was because she left him alone with two terrible parents, an abusive father and a negligent mother. To drive the point home, when Jacques is arrested and taken away by the Atlas police, Whitley is shown sitting by himself on the stairs looking forlorn and confused, a reminder that Whitley is simply just a scared, lonely boy desperate for someone to genuinely love him.

    Web Comics 
  • Check, Please! has Jack Zimmermann, in the beginning, since he was kind of mean to Bittle even after everybody on the team receive him with open arms. His story is revealed early on in the comic, as a recovered addict with anxiety and a deep need for his father's approval (no matter the fact that his father is actually very caring and supporting). He gets better after that, especially after he and Bittle take classes together.
  • Zimmy in Gunnerkrigg Court: She's a creepy, grimy, nasty teenage ex-street kid Reality Warper with Power Incontinence with only one friend, gentle Power Nullifier Gamma. It's explicitly stated that Zimmy drives people away to protect them from getting trapped in her hell-world and getting their souls stolen.
  • Homestuck:
    • Vriska is hiding a lot of angst under that 'Bluh Bluh Huge Bitch' attitude. She only shows this to John.
    • Similarly to Vriska is Karkat, who hides a lot of self-loathing under his angry exterior.
  • Long Exposure has Mitch. He is a Smug Smiler Bully and is known around school for his time in a reformatory after stabbing his stepdad, what's hardly any information to many is that said stepdad was abusive towards him and his mother, and the stabbing only happened after he started getting physical and Mitch tried to defend his mother. He also has deep-seated self-loathing issues and disorder eating beside, all of that on top of being in love with his favorite victim due to having No Social Skills and said victim hates him.
  • MegaTokyo has Kimiko (aka Kimi-Zilla). The artist has another character, Kotone, referred to as Tsun-Depressed.
  • Sakana:
    • Yuudai is an angry, loud-mouth jerk who claims to "hate everybody"...except he actually doesn't. Word of God confirms that Yuudai suffered some pretty hardcore abuse not too long ago, and in reality is so afraid of being hurt again that he pushes everyone away. Due to this, he is very sad and lonely but maintains a sour exterior to hide his feelings— which works remarkably.
  • Gordon in The Young Protectors acts overbearing and abrasive towards the Kid Heroes under his supervision. In a candid moment, however, he admits that he is deeply ashamed of things he once did with his superpowers, tries to protect the team from repeating his mistakes, and actually feels jealous of a member who seems to be coping with his own Dark and Troubled Past better than he.
  • Girl Genius: Klaus Wulfenbach is an Emperor Scientist who rules large swathes of Europe with an iron fist (though pretty well), always chooses Lawful over Good and isn't afraid to Pay Evil unto Evil. Beneath is a man who had his idealism shot off in the war in a very spectacular way, who doesn't know if his best friends are alive or dead, who hasn't seen his wife in years, and who constantly worries about his son's safety, and in general just wishes people could be a little better so he didn't have to be an iron-fisted dictator and could spend more time on the scientific pursuits that are his real passion.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Prince Zuko is short-tempered, arrogant, demanding, and selfish (though with enough Pet the Dog moments to make it clear he's not all bad), and even after his eventual Heel–Face Turn, he is noticeably more brooding and serious than the others. He is also deeply hurt inside, and once his backstory is revealed in full, it's very easy to see why.
    • Zuko's sister Azula as well. Daddy's favorite little girl is competent, ruthless, savage, and brutal, but then you see some different sides to her at "The Beach" and then repeated "betrayals" and blows to her psyche send her on an epic Villainous Breakdown that can elicit pity and sadness. Unlike Zuko where it's all spelled out for the viewer, Azula's story requires some homework from the viewer to figure out.
  • BoJack Horseman:
    • BoJack is a bitter, sarcastic, heavy-drinking old washout who treats even his best friends like crap, but in reality, is experiencing very deep depression (resulting in substance abuse and anxiety attacks). In the first episode, his roommate Todd points out that BoJack must be a good person inside because he still hasn't kicked Todd out despite him living on his couch and not paying rent. As the series develops, it becomes apparent that just because BoJack is deeply depressed, it doesn't justify or excuse his behavior.
      BoJack: [holding his hand over a lit oven range] Nothing on the outside, nothing on the inside. Nothing on the outside, nothing on the inside.
    • Used for Sarah Lynn in the same show. She's presented as an Attention Whore, Hard-Drinking Party Girl, Addled Addict who has little to no respect for others. However, as more of her character is shown, it's presented as though she's what BoJack would be like if he were a human female, somewhere around two decades younger...who'd actually had further success after ''Horsin' Around'' stopped airing. In her very first appearance, she makes some comments that are very telling.
      BoJack: [in response to her saying she'll just find another place to go on a bender] Well you... should not... do that...
      Sarah Lynn: Oh, I know. I know, but I can, so I will. I'm at a point in my life where I never have to "grow as a person" or "rise to any occasions", so I can just keep surrounding myself with sycophants and enablers until I die tragically young.
      BoJack: Wh-what?
      Sarah Lynn: Yeah, it's pretty much too late for me.
  • In Duckman, it's hinted on many occasions that the reason the titular character lashes out so much is that he never got over the death of his wife which he (accidentally) caused. As revealed in the final episode, she was alive the entire time.
  • Eddy from Ed, Edd n Eddy is revealed to be this in The Movie. He acts like a total bastard, treating everyone like crap (even his own friends) and doing everything to get as much money as he can. However, it's all a deliberate act and he only behaves like his older brother (who abused him physically and emotionally) to be popular and hiding his own pain and suffering. Everyone in the show found this in horror, and his admission and regret of all his mistakes lead him (and the other Eds) to be accepted by the other kids.
  • Gravity Falls: Stan Pines. He acts like a quintessential grumpy old codger who never thinks about anything beyond the next customer he's going to rip off, but his [1] past and [2] make it clear that underneath it all, he's a very sad, lonely man.
  • In Hey Arnold!, Helga Pataki is portrayed as this. She is as mean as possible to everyone on the outside, bullying, dictatorial, and unsympathetic, but a flashback to when she was three shows that she is simply putting the act on because she is scared that if she isn't a bully, people will bully her. Therefore, although she frequently shows her personality as a hopeless romantic with a lot of creativity when she's alone and does sometimes make sacrifices for those she cares about, she tries her hardest to keep those parts of herself hidden.
  • Kaeloo: Mr. Cat. In one episode, he actually admits to Kaeloo that he's actually hiding his vulnerable side by being a jerk to everyone, and after getting shot with Truth Serum in another episode he's actually on the verge of tears.
  • William Murderface of Metalocalypse. This is even lampshaded when a psychologist working for the series' Omniscient Council of Vagueness analyses him.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Babs Seed is a particularly nasty example of bully compared to the show's usual duo of Alpha Bitches. Later, Applejack reveals to the Cutie Mark Crusaders (her victims) that Babs herself was picked on back in her hometown because of her mark-less flank. After things are explained among the five of them, everything goes for the better, and Babs starts appearing in a far more positive light.
    • Of a sorts, Discord is this. Before befriending the ponies, his more jerkass actions are usually because he feels jealous or left out. It has been theorized that this is a side effect of being raised poorly.
  • The Owl House: Hunter acts cocky and sarcastic, but deep down is very insecure about his usefulness to the Emperor. Luz describes him as "a bad but sad boy".
  • Ready Jet Go!: Mitchell's jerk facade? It's all an act to keep up appearances. Mitchell can be rude, sarcastic, and blunt, not to mention that he constantly pushes others away from him because he "doesn't do friends". But on the inside, he's a lonely kid who has a hard time making friends and fitting in. All he wants is to have friends and to be taken seriously as a detective, but he expresses these desires in rather unhealthy ways. With the help of Jet and his friends, Mitchell slowly but surely breaks out of his shell and becomes a trusted ally and friend of Team Propulsion.
  • Yellow Diamond in Steven Universe is the most bitter and impatient of the Diamonds, but deep down truly loved Pink in spite of her cold attitude toward her and on the inside is grieving over her just as much as Blue Diamond.
  • Thomas & Friends: In "Hector the Horrid", Hector was acting aggressive because he was scared to be filled with coal.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Tsunshun, Borderline Jerkass Disorder


Mitchell Peterson

Mitchell seems serious, blunt, and cold on the outside, but he's really a lonely kid on the inside. He just wants to be friends with Jet and the others but doesn't know how.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / SourOutsideSadInside

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