Hidden Heart of Gold

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

    Tristan: How can I ever thank you?
    Captain Shakespear: Don't mention it.
    Tristan: (laughs)
    Captain Shakespear: No, seriously, don't mention it. Reputation, you know - "a lifetime to build, seconds to destroy".


    Reputation is important, so much so that some are slaves to it. In the case of Hair-Trigger Temper, Jerkass and Noble Demon, their misanthropy is what makes others fear and (sometimes) respect them.

    There's more to this guy than meets the eye however; he also likes to do good deeds but in secret, to keep his reputation intact. Like reading to orphans, charitable donations, or otherwise helping others. Or was Licked by the Dog and failed to burst in flames. Of course, he gets found out; usually by the last person he wants to know his true self, and they call him out for his crime of... kindness.

    "Caught" on this, the character may hastily invent selfish motives ("I... plan to eat them later!"). Or he may acknowledge it reluctantly, and probably threaten grievous bodily harm on the witness should they tell others. But the secret is out. Even if the character tells no one else, it'll mark a milestone in the Character Development of both, and viewers will be better able to sympathize with him.

    Compare Villains Out Shopping, Think Nothing of It. Contrast with Jerk with a Heart of Jerk.

    Examples of Hidden Heart of Gold include:


    • Magical Project S: Even though Konoha Tough was portrayed as a rude girl that tortures Misao and Samy with intentions of ruling the world, she actually helps Misao by hitting the monster of the week, shows proper care to the popular kid and eventually becomes nicer at the end of the series.
    • Don't know if it counts, but in an episode of Zoku Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei, Itoshiki reveals that he's actually doing good for society when people aren't looking.
      • Later segments taking place in his house show that he actually cares about his students; he keeps framed photos of them that they obviously gave to him (ie several of the girls posing in maid outfits). Also there's a photo of Kafuka disguised as a college student who occasionally cooks for him and asks him how his day went, but if he knew that he probably wouldn't keep that one.
        • Well, probably not...
    • Black Lagoon's resident Guns Akimbo Dark Action Girl, Revy, is waiting for Rock in a park in Japan...and ends up showing a bunch of kids who're nearby playing with pop-guns how it's done, including how to die realistically. When she finds that Rock's been watching, she blushes bright red, and begins threatening him with death if he ever tells their friends in Roanapur.
    • Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach can be considered this, at least partially, because at the beginning of the story, he's a bit of a grump, and Orihime is actually afraid of him. When mod soul Kon enters his body for the first time, and quickly starts hitting on all the girls, Orihime included, Ichigo freaks out to Rukia, saying something to the effect of "I put years into building my image!"
      • Orihime is only afraid of him in the anime. In the manga, she is crushing on him despite his scary exterior.
    • Aburame Shino from Naruto is tall, silent, ruthlessly intelligent and has the creep vibe going for him with his manipulation of chakra-eating insects. He also threatened Naruto to never tell anyone...that he has a sense of humor.
    • Kurogane from Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle starts out very much this way...verbally, he refuses to have anything to do with Syaoran's quest to save Sakura, but you never see him leave the group, either.
      • If memory serves, he wanted to get home, and they had the only means to do so (albeit randomly).
        • Yup. They were his only chance of getting home, and he had a quest to complete at the same time, so he was pretty much forced to stay with them. No heart of gold there.
    • Evangeline of Mahou Sensei Negima tries to keep up her reputation as a horribly evil mage, but everyone who actually knows her realizes that that's not really the case. Eva has to keep reminding them that she's really actually evil, because if she doesn't they keep forgetting.
    • Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist falls under this trope. He pretends to be a ruthless careerist and an incorrigible womanizer just so that people don't take him seriously and he can proceed with his plan of overthrowing the oppressive military.
      • Even more is Olivier Mira Armstrong. She lives by the philosophy of "survival of the fittest" for everyone, but when her scout team is devoured by Pride and her superior prevents her from sending a search party to find them, her response is slash him with sword and shove him into wet cement, and send the search party anyway. When she sends the search party, she tells them that they only have 24 hours to find the missing scout team. If they don't return before the 24 hours is up, they'll be sealed in the tunnel. However, she gave the guard a broken watch, so the search party would not be entombed in the tunnel even if they went over the time limit. When the leader of the search party thanks her for this gesture, she tells him she has no idea what he is talking about. She makes her contempt for her younger brother Alex clear both physically and verbally, but was horrified when he got pummeled badly by Sloth.
      • Greed also qualifies. A massive egomaniac who operates on an It's All About Me lifestyle, everything he does is under pretensions of helping his goal to obtain everything in the world. He calls his subordinates 'possessions', and will only work with people if they're working for him. But this avarice of his extends to not wanting his 'possessions' taken away from him, which means he'll watch out for and protect his underlings, fiercely, and will stop at nothing to get back at anyone who dares harm them. He'll even dismiss people to keep them out of harms way if they are injured or otherwise not up to the task of fighting. It takes right up until the final battle and some egging on for him to finally admit that his 'greed' was really only a desire for friends.
    • Seto Kaiba of Yu-Gi-Oh!. He may seem like a Jerkass at first, but then you find out what he's been through in his life, including losing his parents, defending his brother from bullies, and being adopted by a jerk who later worked him half to death. Plus, turns out he has a real soft spot for kids, and especially orphans, seeing as he is one himself. In fact, in a flashback, you see him and Mokuba making an amusement park out of sand, and little Seto says "Someday, this will be a real theme park! And all the orphans will get in for free!"
    • Homura Akemi of Puella Magi Madoka Magica behaves coldly, but if not for her selfless actions, the other girls probably would have died several times over. Actually, they did. The whole reason Mami died in the first place was because she didn't take the time to listen to Homura's warning. It's also revealed that her entire purpose is to protect Madoka from the fate of becoming a Magical Girl, having gone through multiple timelines and seen how much suffering she goes through because of this.
    • Gintoki of Gintama occasionally does questionable things, but has always come to people's rescue, even if he has to put his own life on the line.


    • In Captain Shakespeare's case in the Stardust film, he has a fearsome reputation as a remorseless killer pirate that would be completely demolished if word of his Nice Guy Flamboyant Gay True Self were known.
    • Han Solo spends the whole of A New Hope letting everyone know he's just in it for the money (even using the exact phrase "I'm in it for the money") -- then comes roaring back at the critical moment to help Luke destroy the Death Star.
      • However, if Han Shot First, he was in it for the money until Chewbacca (and to lesser degree, Luke) got him to reconsider, making the rescue even more dramatic.
        • Shooting first had nothing to do with the money. It was about not being an idiot.
    • Hero. Dustin Hoffman's character is a divorced misanthropic cynical petty crook, constantly declaring that everyone is out for themselves and no-one else. When a plane crashes before his eyes, and it becomes clear that no-one is going to rescue a young child's father in time, he goes into the burning wreck and rescues each person he comes across in turn until he finds the father - then goes off hoping that no-one spotted him. At the end of the film, his having helped the Fake Ultimate Hero to steal the credit, he finds no-one willing to rescue someone from the bear-pit in the zoo - and stomps off to rescue them, complaining all the time.
      • Dustin Hoffman's character didn't "help [Andy Garcia's character] to steal the credit" - Garcia planned to confess in a suicide note; Hoffman risked his life in order to blackmail Garcia into tearing up the note, going back inside and taking the credit (which makes him "uncomfortable") in order to keep up all the "do-gooder" stuff, which Hoffman realizes is Garcia's natural role in life, in contrast with Hoffman's card-carrying Jerkass.


    • This is mentioned in Discworld as the anti-crime of "whitemail"—revealing a mobster's charity donations to his collegues, for example, discrediting him as a hardened criminal.
      • Another Discworld example: the recovering-alcoholic Captain Vimes lives, as a bachelor, in a bare room with few possessions. His colleagues speculate about why this is, since he earns more than they do, and it's suggested he spends it all on drink. Turns out he gives more than half his pay to the widows and orphans of Watchmen killed in service. His oldest colleague knows, but is aware that Vimes doesn't want it known widely.
    • In Skulduggery Pleasant, Springheeled Jack saves Valkyrie from being murdered by Billy Ray Sanguine, then realises that he helped Skulduggery, and asks Valkyrie not to reveal it.
      • This may also be due to the fact he doesn't want Skulduggery to know he's escaped from prison. Because you're pretty much screwed when you have Skulduggery Pleasant and/or Tanith Low on your heels, no matter how springy they are.
    • In The War God's Own, Bahzell, a divinely ordained paladin, finally reconnects with his father, who has been known as a hard-hearted pragmatist. Then this happens:

    Bahzell: I did remember as how you'd always said a man looks after his own in this world, and lucky he is if he can do it. I'd not thought it through then, but it came to me that perhaps 'his own' was after taking in just a bit more people than I'd first supposed you meant."
    Bahnak: It was that, but it's not so very wise to be letting those as wish you ill realize that it does, now is it?

    • One of the books based on Get Smart had the revelation that KAOS' sinister "Doomsday Plan" was in fact the "Dooms Day Plan" — that is, a retirement party for longtime KAOS agent Arthur Dooms. KAOS was desperate to keep Max from revealing this. Fortunately, the Chief realized that if KAOS were outed as softies, CONTROL's budget would be cut.
    • The Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride.
    • Fisk from the Knight and Rogue Series. After his last 'lesson' from his Evil Mentor he became a little bitter and untrusting of others, so he isn't openly kind, even if he has good intentions. He also tries to culitivate his criminal look in the first book, to the point where he won't even admit to liking to read.
    • Breeze from the Mistborn trilogy is like this, he acts like a cynical, lazy, pompous manipulator, but it's made clear when he gets viewpoint sections that a good deal of his manipulation is well-intentioned, though he prefers to downplay this.
    • In Jon Stewart's "America: The Book", there is a spoof article in the section on negative campaign ads about Caligula, whose opponents launched a devastating smear campaign portraying him as a "pretty nice guy" by revealing that he helped little old ladies across the street and gave money to orphans. Caligula apparently went into "damage control mode" by publicly sodomizing a puppy to regain his highly-prized Complete Monster status.
    • In Labyrinths of Echo after Sir Max had to comfort a freshly-widowed lady (night shifts in an organization that deals with magical crimes implicitly include "help the witness restore sanity enough to report coherently" job), she commented on the wearer of Mantle of Death being actually a nice man. He smiled and responded "Just don't talk about this in the city, or I'll not be able to work normally". Not that he enjoys sinister reputation as such, but it mostly keeps people from annoying him and a lot of his job boiled down to intimidation of yet another stupid petty criminal simply by arriving, after which all that needs to be done is to record hasty confessions and wipe the puddle below.

    Live Action TV

    • Charles Emerson Winchester from M*A*S*H. In one episode everyone thinks he is being a jerk for refusing to share a giant box of chocolates he got from home. Turns out he's giving the box to a local orphanage but doesn't want anyone to know because it is his family's tradition to do anonymous acts of charity at Christmas.
      • Klinger finds out about this when Winchester berates the head of the orphanage for selling the candies instead of giving them to the children. The guy points out that the candy would have made them happy for an evening, but the money from the sale can feed them for a month. Winchester, realizing his faux pas and humbly backing down ("It is I who should be sorry. It is sadly inappropriate to give dessert to a child who's had no meal."), is part of The Reveal here - Winchester isn't known as one to back down or apologize - and Klinger later reveals his knowledge to Winchester by bringing him the leftovers from the Christmas party and saying it was an anonymous donation.
      • In fact, Winchester's best moments tended to come when he was separated from the rest of the camp in a plot of his own. For instance, in "Morale Victory", while Hawkeye and BJ were trying to sort out a party, he was helping the pianist who had lost the use of his hand. And again in "Run For The Money", while they were helping Father Mulcahy with the race, he was helping a bullied soldier who stuttered.
    • Barney Stinson of How I Met Your Mother once flew from New York to San Francisco in order to convince Lily to return to her ex, Marshall—but then forced her not to tell their other friends.
      • He also ran halfway across the city when he heard Ted had been in a car crash and was in the hospital, and then tried to pass it off as having just been randomly wandering around the area (no one believes him for a second).
      • However, his heart of gold only applies to his friends and family. For other people, he's a complete and utter Jerkass, occasionally swerving dangerously close to Complete Monster territory with regards to his treatment of women.
    • Brian Kinney from Queer as Folk always helps his friends without them knowing.
    • Dr. Percival Ulysses Cox:

    Oh, and Barbie? Let's say word were to leak out that Dr. Cox was doling out the feel goods... I'll make you pay. You have no idea. Huge.

    • Sue Sylvester has one, though she doesn't use it any more than she needs to, and will often Hand Wave it as a selfish act.
      • Although her sister, and later Becky are out and out Morality Pets.
      • She also takes a zero tolerance stance on homophobic bullying.
    • Cap'n Mal of Firefly often seems personable, but quickly turns professional when dealing with business associates and to sheer ice when his crew is harmed or threatened. He does, however, genuinely love his crew and will go to ridiculous lengths to protect them.
      • He shows a few moments of compassion to others too.
      • The first episode shows he used to be a cocky, religious idealist but losing the Battle of Serenity Valley and the surrender of the Independence forced him to bury his heart of gold under layers of bitterness.
    • Every time Eddie Haskel does something nice he insists that no one tells anyone; he's got a reputation to maintain.
    • Audrey Horne from Twin Peaks. At first sight she seems to be a spoiled troublemaker who aspires to be a femme fatale (often successfully), but with time it is revealed that she's actually an lonely innocent with good intentions. She also seems to be the only virgin in the whole Twin Peaks town.

    The director Todd Holland on Audrey's character: "She's one of my favorite characters because you thought she was such a big slut and she's probably the most moralistic person in Twin Peaks and that's all tremendous fun. The ones like her father feign morality and are incredibly treacherous, but they carry on a good business front."

    • Arnold Rimmer, despite being a truly repugnant individual whose arrogance and selfishness are only matched by his neuroses and cowardice, has the odd moment of sheer compassion and bravery. His alternate universe counterpart shows what he would be like if he wasn't so pathetic.
    • Tracy from Thirty Rock is a Cloudcuckoolander who actively cultivates a "Bad Boy" persona with his irresponsible partying antics... but, to his friends' shock and disappointment, he has never once cheated on his wife.
      • When Tracy won an Oscar for his role in a gritty urban drama about poverty and abuse, he became a respected serious actor overnight. He was overwhelmed by the responsibility that came with his accolades, so, at Liz's suggestion, he started acting crazier and more offensive than ever so he could go back to his old life. It didn't go well... especially because during his rampage he jumped in a lake to save a drowning man and begged him not to tell anyone. The man did, and Tracy was all over the news as a humble hero.
    • Littlefinger describes himself as such: "Don't tell anyone (I helped you). I have a reputation to maintain".
    • Veronica in Better Off Ted does this regularly, often hiding her good intentions behind the company agenda.
    • in Wednesday, the title character is a cold, compassionless, Sociopathic Hero, but she does have a soft side. In the second episode, she insists that she is only helping Enid in the Edgar Allan Poe Cup race in order to humiliate Bianca, but while that is true, her motive for doing so is because Bianca is purposely trying to humiliate Enid, something she has done in every previous Cup race. Wednesday is even willing to sacrifice a little pride to do so - she didn't know she'd have to wear a Cat Girl costume to participate, but does so anyway.
    • On The Drew Carey Show episode “The Devil You Say”, Jack (who claims to be The Devil) has one - telling his past to Drew when lookng for employment:

    Drew: What were your previous jobs?
    Jack: Well, I’ve had my hand in this and that… Used car sales, the DMV… post office. And Unicef. (Odd look from Drew) It’s not all bad!


    Video Games

    • In Cave Story, when Balrog shows up in the Labyrinth, Curly catches him off-guard by asking for help in moving a large boulder. After a beat, his first impulse is to move over and start to help you. Then he remembers he came to kill you, and a boss fight ensues. After his defeat, he single-handedly moves the boulder for you, saying not to tell ANYONE about it. He even leaves you a missile upgrade!
    • Nick from Left 4 Dead 2 is infamous for his Jerkass comments, but when healing Ellis or Rochelle, he'll often say something along the lines of, "Don't tell the others... I'm only doing this for you."
      • He will also say it to Coach, but only very rarely.
      • Nick has a combination of both Jerkass lines and extremely sympathetic lines (you can hear them all in the audio listing). While some lines are callous, especially regarding Ellis or Rochelle's deaths, in others his rather simple lines are delivered with heart-felt grief or compassion (even for Ellis). Especially true for Coach's deaths, some of which sound like Nick is utterly crushed by the loss of the heart of the team.
    • Don Paolo does this in Professor Layton and the Unwound Future. Despite being Layton's self-determined nemesis, the Big Bad of the first game, and also causing trouble in the second game, he comes to the aid of the heroes, most notably by repairing Layton's car (and giving it Crazy Awesome upgrades) so the professor can rescue his adopted daughter, who has been kidnapped. When Layton attempts to thank him, he snaps at him. "Don't get emotional on me, Layton. I'm only doing this for Flora."
    • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, light side aligned player characters in the Sith faction pretty much live by this.
    • The Warden Can invoke this when speaking to Leliana if the player so chooses. In one of their conversations, Leliana will mention that the Warden has a very intimidating presence. If the Warden reacts well to one of her stories, she will remark that it's good to find out that the Warden is secretly a romantic, to which the Warden can reply "But don't tell the others."
      • Sten is also guilty. If put in the travelling party with him, Leliana will remark that she caught him doing things like "dangling string for a kitten." Sten, of course, vigourously denies this, claiming he was helping it train.

    Leliana: Softie!


    Web Comics


    Sarah: For one thing, I think it's trying to hide your feelings by hiding in your hair.


    Diane: She's my sister and I love her. [...]
    Nanase: (surprised) Diane...
    Diane: I will also never forgive you if you tell her I said I love her. She's insufferable enough as it is.


    Bearalzebub: Yeah, well, just don't spread it around.


    Web Original

    Western Animation

    • Duncan from Total Drama Island. When DJ loses his pet bunny, he lures a new one close by with food and pretends it must have just been hiding. His "girlfriend" catches him, and he denies it at first only to admit he lost a pet once too and didn't want DJ to suffer like that. He got called on it again in a later episode by Lashawna, (his girlfriend told her) when she denied his claim that he was completely heartless.
      • The final episode of TDA showed that he would wake up in the middle of the night to tuck Harold in while he's sleeping. All together now: awwww.
    • Rattrap of Beast Wars wears his callous contempt for everyone and determination to put himself first like a badge of honor. Too bad it's not really true.
    • In an episode of The Simpsons, Flanders recognizes Moe as the guy who reads to children at the hospital. The latter's response?

    Moe: [Grabbing Flanders] If this gets out, the next words you say will be muffled by your own butt.

    • And then a later scene shows Moe reading to the homeless as well, plus being reduced to tears by what he's reading, the end of Little Women.

    Luz: Aw, Eda, you look so motherly!
    Eda: Say that again and I steal your tongue.

    • Hunter is this, post Heel Face Turn. In "Labyrinth Runners", he tries to convince Gus he's still Belos' merciless head enforcer, insisting the only reason he's helping Gus is because Gus gave him his sandwich. Gus doesn't buy it.