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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, a character who acts harsh and abrasive to conceal a sweet or loving side; and with Jerk with a Heart of Gold, where the character is mean and insufferable (with occasional gentler moments) but doesn't necessarily act like that because of a Freudian Excuse. The Stepford Snarker is somewhat similar, hiding their sadness and insecurities under snarkiness, but is 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 are a hallmark of Borderline Personality Disorder. Pushing others away is also a common coping mechanism for people with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Therefore, Truth in Television.

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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    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.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Turning Red, Tyler seems to like bullying Mei just because he doesn't like her but secretly he is jealous of her close friend group.
  • Carl from Up is bitter, misanthropic, and anti-social, thanks to years of loneliness after being devastated by the death of his beloved wife Ellie. He eventually gets better, though not without fighting it every step of the way, a Heel Realization, and a Big Damn Heroes moment, thanks to Russel, Dug, and Kevin.

    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 (2014): 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.
    Fauna: 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.

  • 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.

    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.
  • Hiyoko Saionji from Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. It's clear behind her sunny yet extremely sour personality that Hiyoko is a deeply sad girl who just wants a friend but can't make any because of her trust issues and tendency to push others away because of her past of being abused and neglected by pretty much everyone, she finally does make a friend in Mahiru Koizumi only for Mahiru to end up dead days later which only adds to Hiyoko's deeply routed sadness and self hatred. While it doesn't excuse her behaviour it's utterly depressing that Hiyoko never really had a chance to show others that she had a good heart deep down because of how often others hurt her and that her one chance of happiness was cruelly taken away from her.
  • Miu Iruma from Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is, simply put, a hot mess. She is extremely abrasive and prickly, hurling insults at her classmates, getting angry at them for wasting her time, and generally being a nuisance, making her The Friend Nobody Likes. Underneath all these are a lot of insecurities. She did not have anyone she could call a friend before participating in the Killing Game, something she is embarrassed to admit, and she tries very hard to get people to like her because of her beauty and genius, but she falls apart very quickly whenever these attempts fail (which is more often than not). She does not trust her classmates enough to work with them, and as the Killing Game progresses, she ends up attempting to kill Kokichi so that she can escape. Her Love Suite Event suggests that Miu has severe abandonment issues, making her loneliness worse; in the middle of an otherwise pleasant Childhood Friend Romance, Miu invokes a Baby Trap plan, believing it is the only sure way that her childhood friend would not abandon her. Lastly, taking her friendless background into consideration, she will quickly fall in love with anyone who shows her even a small amount of affection.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Manor's Prize: The Chariot acts harshly towards everyone around her, and states that she doesn't want to make friends. However, after Hanged Man disappears crying, Chariot begins tearing up herself, blaming it on alcohol.
  • 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.


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.

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Main / SourOutsideSadInside

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