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A person you would expect to be a big Jerkass turns out to be the nicest person you've ever met, or at the very least has some redeeming qualities behind their tough demeanor. Occasionally, they'll actively try to make it a Hidden Heart of Gold.
In a romance series a female character filling this role is usually a Tsundere instead of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, (occasionally she's both). A male Jerk with a Heart of Gold is usually Troubled but Cute, and his heart of gold should never outweigh his inner jerk because All Girls Want Bad Boys — though it can if Single Woman Seeks Good Man. If his jerkishness threatens to overshadow his good qualities, he's likely to attract a Love Martyr.
Sometimes Truth in Television, though you can expect Real Life examples of this to be far more subtle than fictional ones. Often this is Played for Laughs, but not always. They are just as common in drama, suspense, horror and other genres as they are in comedy. One reason for this is that they make an convenient Plot Device. After all, the supposed Jerkass turning out to save the family from their real stalker, instead of being said stalker, can be a source of Heartwarming Moments when done right.
Will get plenty of Pet the Dog moments. Immune to Moral Dissonance. If he's a manly-man who pursues an unexpectedly delicate hobby, it's a case of Real Men Wear Pink. Audiences may also sympathize more with the JWAHOG if he's shown to frequently have a good reason to act angry or annoyed. Even the most patient of souls can only endure being the Only Sane Man when they're Surrounded by Idiots for so long, after all.
Not to be confused with a certain jerk whose spaceship is named "The Heart of Gold." Even if he is an example. Or a group of people who helped defend the Heart of Gold, even though - again - they include at least two examples.
Compare/contrast with Jerkass Facade, Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, Noble Demon, Bruiser with a Soft Center, Hero with an F In Good, and Innocently Insensitive. Sometimes subverted as Jerk with a Heart of Jerk.
Truth in Television: most of the jerkasses you'll meet in your life will have some redeeming qualities to them.
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See, this page is just a big ol' softie.