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He's tall, charming, and strikingly good looking, well-spoken in five different languages, and classically trained in even more instruments. He's the Big Man on Campus, former president of the Absurdly Powerful Student Council, valedictorian, and working on his doctorate in a scientific field that a peon like you can't even pronounce. He always wears a suit... Until the eventual Shirtless Scene during his (strenuous) exercise routine, that is. He has a lovely smile.

But inside, he's an ugly, writhing pile of Parental Issues and self-hatred.

He comes in two flavors:

  1. The one who happens to be great at everything, and is loved and respected by the people around him - but he's using his charm and talents to disguise his true nature. Basically, a Villain with Good Publicity who lives his lie every day.
  2. The one who tried so hard to be great at everything that he eventually succeeded... but broke himself in the process.

Expect him to have at least one bizarre trait that should not be overlooked, as well as a completely unhealthy attitude about love, life, and humanity in general. He most likely doesn't have anyone that loves or respects him for what he really is. This may be justified.

In the most cynical works on the sliding scale, he'll be a Serial Killer, or at least a future one.

This character is usually male, but not always. Also, he's not always evil - maybe just a well-hidden Jerkass. The chief difference between the Broken Ace and the usually female Stepford Smiler is that the Stepford Smiler wants to appear normal at all costs, often to the point of hurting herself emotionally (or because she's sociopathic). This guy has the same setup, but is more talented and wants to be the best, loved by all, and accepted. The debilitating personal issues which he's hiding are only getting worse because of being repressed and the stress of his efforts to excel, and these sorts of characters are prime Jerkass Woobie material.

See also The Ace, who's still better than you at everything but isn't so prone to mental disorders, and the Byronic Hero, who's just as awe-inspiring and brooding but lacks the polished reputation and is rarely presented as pathetic. For a plot wherein The Ace is revealed to have deep personal problems, see Broken Pedestal. In case you haven't noticed, this has nothing to do with Asexuality.

Examples of Broken Ace include:


Anime & Manga

  • One Piece's Portgas D. Ace. One of the most powerful pirates under Whitebeard's command, owning nearly everyone he comes across... until he meets Blackbeard. After being imprisoned in Impel Down, he is revealed to have a lot of angst about his father (none other than Gol D. Roger) and barely even wanting to live. And once his little brother Luffy frees him and gives him a second chance? He takes a lava punch from a General Ripper to protect the poor kid, then dies in his arms.
  • Monster's Johann Liebert. Everyone loves him... Until he kills them, of course.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion's Asuka Langley Sohryu. At the beginning of the show, Asuka has the highest sync ratio, is the most superlatively trained pilot, and has a college degree at age 13. While Shinji cowers and struggles to overcome his fear of giant horrible aliens trying to kill him, Asuka readily jumps into the fray to kick ass and take names... only to be revealed to be crippled by the usual EVA array of parental issues, combat stress and adolescent angst.
    • Oh, and after Shinji passes her in synch tests (essentially taking away her "best pilot" status), It Gets Worse: a bit later on, she is hit with the Trope Namer for Mind Rape not long after.
  • Soichiro Arima from Kare Kano. Handsome, popular, smart, kind... and full of self-hatred and parental issues that pushed him to become the "perfect" son, even after he and his girlfriend Yukino (who's also a Broken Ace, but a far milder one) agree to drop their Stepford Smiler facades.
    • Yukino became jealous of Soichiro's success but we find out he modeled himself after her. She later has to face her own Broken Ace phase after Maho temporarily gets the others against her, and when she realizes that thanks to her sheer efforts to act like the Perfect Girl, she cannot interact with others normally.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!s Seto Kaiba mixes this with Villain with Good Publicity on one hand and Noble Demon on the other. He's a world-famous duelist, a child genius, and the billionaire head of a hugely successful multi-national gaming company. He's also completely uncaring of anyone outside his Morality Pet Mokuba, is filled with hatred for Yugi for being a better duelist, is haunted by the memory of his abusive stepfather, and is completely absorbed in his work and his dueling, showing little, if any, interest in anything else.
  • Andrea Cavalcanti/Benedetto in Gankutsuou, an effortlessly charming fop who happens to also be a wild-eyed rapist with daddy issues.
    • Also, The Count.
  • Light from Death Note is an incredibly handsome, straight-laced, straight-A, genius student who happens to believe that murdering masses of criminals (and anyone else who stands in his way) will create a perfect utopia with himself as its all-powerful omnipotent God.
  • Mu La Flaga in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED is the second type: he's an expert pilot and war hero and comes across as a friendly and easygoing person - which he is, but a lot of his affable behavior serves to cover for the fact that he drove himself to become an ace pilot as a means of finding some sense of self-worth (he was such an unfavorite in the eyes of his father that he was disinherited and locked away in a Big Fancy House for years, while his dad went and cloned himself), and he's overachieved as a soldier to the point that he's not capable of thinking like a civilian any more.
  • This just happens to geniuses a lot in the Naruto world, as you would expect from anyone who's ranked especially high within a society of superpowered killers.
    • Uchiha Itachi- he was torn between village and clan and full of emotional turmoil while going about being a thirteen-year-old The Stoic, and then Danzou pushed it to the crisis point and made him choose. A well-adjusted person, let alone a well-adjusted genius, could probably have taken a third option. Itachi's training and issues combined to make him manipulable. He's yet another iteration of the old Naruto koan, 'a ninja is a weapon.'
    • This trope definitely runs in the family. Itachi's brother, Uchiha Sasuke- A genius prodigy, handsome, extremely skilled ninja, wanted by a lot of girls, and pretty damn screwed up in the head as a result of his past and present. When the main character, his rival, starts to surpass him, Sasuke snaps and pulls a Face Heel Turn.
    • And the legendary Uchiha clan head, Madara Uchiha. Having been raised in war and combat, he made a name for himself as one of the world's strongest, always fighting to protect the Uchiha. When his clan turned their backs on him in order to honor a peace pact that was "practically binding them into submission," making all that his clan had sacrificed meaningless, he abandoned them and took it all out on the new village of Konoha which he helped build, dying in the process.
    • Sasuke's ex-sensei, Hatake Kakashi, is another Broken Ace, albeit one who remains on the side of good. He was a child prodigy who became a jounin before he even entered his teens, is one of the only non-Uchiha to have mastered the Sharingan, is a skilled elemental user and has over 1000 jutsu at his disposal. He's also eaten up with self-loathing and guilt at not being able to protect his team mates, both of whom are dead, and his father committed suicide in front of him when he was a child. One of his quirks - chronic lateness - is explained by his constant visits to his old teammate Obito's memorial, although it's actually an aspect of his having turned himself into a living memorial; Obito was always late.
    • Before being outed as a villain, Orochimaru was a tremendously skilled young man, ranked as one of the powerful ninjas in the world, and on track to become the head of his village. Until all the horrendous things he'd done as a Mad Scientist came to light.
    • Pain's smooth confidence and A God Am I mentality eventually give way. Beneath them, Pain is a shattered husk of a man who lost everything to war.
  • Yuki Sohma of Fruits Basket. He gets better by the end of the series, though.
    • His underclassman and future girlfriend Machi Kuragi can be seen as a failed attempt at this since by the time we see her, her neurosis has taken over.
  • Schneizel of Code Geass is the friendly face of the Brittanian empire. He also has no empathy and happily nukes Brittania's capital or try to kill Cornelia to make a point.
  • Souma Saiki of Sakura Gari. A man with a borderline unearthly beauty, extremely cultures and a genius-like businessman... but also a cynical Depraved Bisexual who has been through severe abuse of all kinds.
  • Yoh Hinomura from Crying Freeman. A Tall, Dark and Handsome artist who is actually a Hitman with a Heart who cries for his victims.
  • Satellizer L. Bridgette from Freezing. Beautiful, skilled, booksmart, and so damn fucked up.
  • Griffith from Berserk. An excellent commander, a masterful swordsman, graceful, elegant, and charismatic. He's also got serious problems, mostly involving his greatest warrior Guts. When Guts leaves the Hawks, it starts a downward spiral for Griffith that would culminate in the betrayal of all the Hawks in order to become Femto during the Eclipse.
  • The titular Haruhi Suzumiya. Talented in pretty much everything, but what a screwed up personality she has. Hey, it's called The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya for a reason.
  • Kannazuki no Miko: Chikane Himemiya fits this perfectly. She's beautiful, excels in academics, popular with both guys and girls, a skilled archer, very kind in spite of her upbringing and in general seems to be everything you could possibly hope for in a woman. Except that she doesn't care about any of that. Because as a result of it, everyone puts her on a pedestal and treats her like she's perfect when she knows full well that she's anything but. Himeko is the only person to treat her just like anyone else, so it really is no wonder she's so attached to her. Then we learn that she's destined to kill the only girl she's ever loved...and she becomes a Yandere to cope with this...and she secretly fears that her feelings for Himeko make her "unclean". For someone so gifted, she's remarkably quick to fall to the dark side.
  • Yuno Gasai of Mirai Nikki. Smart, beautiful, and diligent; those who don't truly know Yuno would simply see the model student role she plays while at school. In truth, she is extremely Ax Crazy, and Yandere for Yukki to the extent of kidnapping and confining him. She can be quite clingy and is highly fond of stalking him because he made a Childhood Marriage Promise with her -- after Yuno had fatally snapped on her Abusive Parents. When obstacles arise that either endanger Yukiteru's life or threatens their relationship, her thoughts turn murderous and she lets nothing get in the way of her path. Even herself, if this means Yuki will win.
  • Sakuya Ookochi from Sensual Phrase. Tall, Dark and Handsome, with a great singing voice, extremely sexy and charismatic, and with a very cute and loving girlfriend who's also a talented songwriter. However, he's also completely messed up due to his seriously fucked up views on love and sexuality (poor, poor Aine) as well as a terrible past that involves his Lady Drunk mother's death, the discrimination he faced as both a half-foreigner and an Heroic Bastard, and lots of other stuff.
  • Seiji Yagiri of Durarara. The head of the Yagiri pharmaeutics, handsome, smart... and huge Yandere for a girl's head.
    • His sister Namie, as well. In the novels, she's always described as an incredibly stunning young woman and she has enough smarts to give Izaya a run for his money. She's also rich, as well as the previous head of Yagiri pharmaceuticals. Oh, and did we mention she's a virtually emotionless Jerkass who's madly in love with her brother?
    • Another example is Shizuo Heiwajima's younger brother, Kasuka. Rich, talented, brilliant, beautiful and... off. The fact that he hooked up with a serial killer should tell you just how off. And even said Serial Killer, Ruri, described him as being seriously out of his mind.
      • Izaya Orihara. Smart, rich, connected, Bishonen, good at fighting, and an incredibly awful sociopath underneath, who will even go as far as tricking girls to make Suicide Pacts with them for the lulz and manipualte other people for the same reason. If not for Shinra, he'd be a downright Complete Monster, and sometimes he does come very close for comfort.
  • Oboro Mochizuki of Psyren. He's a Long-Haired Pretty Boy, is a movie star and idol, has the ability to master PSI abilities with almost no effort, has healing ability and excels in Rise type of PSI. However, he also has a hidden screwed up and sadistic side. He shows it when he uses his "First aid heal" at full power against a Tavoo.
  • Ciel Phantomhive of Black Butler. He's a very cute young male, the head of the Phantomhive noble family, and runs the Phantomhive Company, which manufactures toys, sweets, and food. He is shown to be extremely competent and intelligent, both at running his company and at learning new tasks. He learns to dance in a short period of time, just through Sebastian's teaching, and it is stated that he takes a variety of lessons from tutors. He also comes across as being a mostly emotionless, cold, intelligent child; he is capable of portraying himself as an engaging, happy, easygoing individual, typically when undercover, but is quick to revert to being callous when he no longer has to hide his True Self. Before the loss of his parents, his life as a slave and role as a human sacrifice, however, he seemed to be a happy and energetic child. He also seems to have no qualms with lying to, stealing from, or killing others, so long as it benefits him in some way.
  • Akio Ohtori of Revolutionary Girl Utena. He once was the most generous and sweet person as Prince Dios, but his terrible experiences left him completely disenchanted and embittered. Now he's a Magnificent Bastard who manipulates everyone and everything, including Anthy, his little sister, who is pretty much trapped in a Fate Worse Than Death after trying to help him.
  • In Ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two., Miyako Miyamura seems to be a walking Purity Sue: cheery, athletic, funny, with top grades and a superb cook and housekeeper. She's actually unable to socialize with people since she was practically abandoned by her parents after their divorce, so she became The Ace to try regaining their affections - and failed badly. So she's also out-of-reality, selfish, clingy, childish, love-starved... and in dire need of both a swift slap to the head and a tight, warm hug.
  • Carlos Santana and Roberto Hongo from Captain Tsubasa. Both are handsome and skilled sports idols, but to reach the places they are now, they went through lots of heartbreak and suffer. Santana became a heartless machine after his double Parental Abandonment and the abuse dealed by his coach, and for several years he was unable to connect to anyone emotionally; Roberto was almost Driven to Suicide when he lost everything after being diagnosed with eyesight problems and having to forcibly retire and had to rebuild himself from zero. They both get better.
  • Mikael from Tenshi ni Narumon calm, polite and sweet to those who don't know him and stubborn, obsessive and totally insecure boy to those who are close to him (mainly, one person). In reality, a boy who cannot accept who he really is and constantly desires perfection. His self-hatred leads to an epic Face Heel Turn and even more epic breakdown. He gets better, though.
  • Sakaki of Azumanga Daioh, hoo boy. Talented in both academics and athletics, tall and well-endowed, to the point where she is even the object of attraction and admiration of many a girl. Underneath it all though, is the resentment of her image and related insecurities, where she would much prefer to be adorably petite, not to mention that she shows more interest in animals and all things cute, something lost on almost everyone else. It certainly doesn't help that her looks scare off as many people in that she appears to be a Delinquent, when deep inside she would like to be friends with them.
  • Vash of Trigun is quite possibly the best gun-fighter on Gunsmoke, effectively immortal, and has saved countless lives. However, he has also suffered immense tragedies, his body is littered with the scars and wounds of his battles, and for every life he fails to save he falls into a depression. He tries to hide the bleaker side of his existence by constantly smiling, goofing off, and partying whenever possible.
    • Vash approaches this trope extremely sideways, given that the classic Broken Ace is preoccupied with appearances and Vash has three distinct reputations: the way people think about his name, the way people who meet him casually view him, and the way people think of him after he saves the day. The three interact in strange ways. Vash wants to be seen as harmless, except when he's using his scary rep to intimidate opponents or clear innocents out of ricochet range, but his actual excellence and kindness draw a lot of admiration when observed. On the other hand, his emotional issues combined with his evil reputation can attract a lot of serious hate.
      • That is to say, he tries to be a loveable fool except when it's necessary to be otherwise, but is often believed to be the Big Bad or The Ace depending on what data observers have.
  • Suguru Teshigawara from Great Teacher Onizuka is the most well known teacher in school. He is handsome, smart and comes from an influential family. He also harbors an unhealthy attraction towards Azusa. After Onizuka one-ups him again, Suguru beats up a student while in class. It Gets Worse from there...
  • Barnaby Brooks Jr. from Tiger and Bunny. In the public eye he's a handsome new up-and-coming superhero and friend of the people; charming, well-educated, eminently marketable. In private he's cold, cynical, obsessively introverted, haunted by a Dark and Troubled Past involving the murder of his beloved parents when he was just four years old, has severe trust and relationship issues and has never had a single friend.
    • Barnaby's situation turns out to be worse than he himself believed when it's revealed that his parents' murderer is the man who eventually became his trusted mentor and guardian of 20 years; a man who's in the habit of doctoring people's (including Barnaby's, obviously) memories whenever he wants them to do his bidding. Is it any wonder the poor guy's so messed up?
    • And then we find out that Mr. Legend, everyone's favorite Old Superhero, became one after losing his powers and descending into alcoholism and Domestic Abuse. Which caused his son Yuri (whom we'd meet as Lunatic) to horribly snap...and kill him.
    • In a milder version, Keith "Sky High" Goodman temporarily went through this after the Time Skip when he loses his title as King of the Heroes, slips further down the ranks, and has to come to terms with his defeat at the hands of Jake Martinez. After falling in love with a strange and quiet girl in the park, he regains his confidence in himself and his abilities.
  • Aoyama Masaya from Tokyo Mew Mew tries hard to be a perfect son and student in order to hide his rather misanthropic personality and the conflicts that come with it.
  • Rurouni Kenshin has a whole Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass thing going, like Vash above, but with those who know the truth about him cultivates a type of guardian dragon image and attempts to show no genuine weaknesses because they're under his protection and look up to him, and is almost universally admired and feared under his Nom De Guerre. He is, however, crawling with issues, mostly self-doubt and self-loathing but also some serious unresolved conflicts in his personal philosophy.
    • Understandable in someone traumatically orphaned and enslaved around eight, raised by a Tsundere drunkard genius with a very cynical view of the world, and became a terrifyingly effective assassin at fourteen. Who is now a Technical Pacifist. In a nation that has just pulled itself out of war and is in its way to become Imperial Japan.
  • Agon Kongo of Eyeshield 21. He's a once-a-century prodigy, who doesn't even need to practise to be a brilliant athlete, has a reaction time that's nearly superhuman, gets good grades with his eyes closed, and has fantastic social skills when he cares to. One the field he's a One Man Football Team; off the field, he's incredibly successful with girls, and is more or less allowed to do whatever he wants to at the school. It's made him an incredibly entitled, borderline sociopath, with no empathy, a total inability to connect to others, and a very short fuse. He's feared instead of liked, and almost everyone who spends more than a few minutes with him (deservedly) wishes he was dead.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica has two of these: Mami and Homura.
  • Tetsuya Tsurugi from Great Mazinger. Yes, all those ten years of training under his adoptive father's wing have made him into a combat pro that is respected by everyone, including the Mykene... but nothing can cure his lack of self worth, his inferiority complex, and his pathological fear of being left alone and replaced. And that bites EVERYONE in the ass later. To the point that in one continuity, he practically commits suicide to take down the Mykenes.
  • Hikaru Himuro of Dragon Drive. At the start of the series, he's undefeated and has curb stomped everyone he's ever played against - until Reiji catches him off-guard and nearly defeats him. It later becomes evident that he has a serious inferiority complex and literally does not understand the concept of friends.
  • Claudine de Montesse becomes this when he goes to university. While he's genuinely booksmart, kindhearted, world-weary asnd all, his Break the Cutie past as well as his identity issues coming from being a female-to-male Transsexual in early XX century France cause the poor dude lots of emotional trouble.


Comics

  • Ozymandias from Watchmen AKA Adrian Veidt, a seemingly forever young (he's 46 and looks about 25), blond supergenius who is insanely rich, pretty much has America in his hands and defeats Rorshach, Silk Spectre, Nite Owl and Dr Manhattan at the end. He is also the antagonist, and portrayed as deludedly idealistic to believe that his plan will work. He even has a slight Villainous BSOD after enacting his plan, although the film version ramps his emotional broken-ness up several levels. He shows approximately three times the guilt, self-loathing and painful isolation of his comic book counterpart, even saying he "often [feels] stupid at being unable to relate to anybody". He spends his last few minutes of screentime in a Villainous BSOD, staring into space and looking about ready to fall over as the camera zooms out on him.
  • Bruce Wayne, Batman's alter ego, is this by default when you consider that he is just a mask over the twisted mass of serious issues that is Batman.
    • Except that the public Bruce Wayne face is comprised of Obfuscating Stupidity, and generally gets fairly little respect, and thus is not in contention for being The Ace, broken-ness issues aside. Certain particularly private versions of Batman-as-Batman could contend for this, though, since he is good at everything and obsessed with appearances, but deeply screwed up.
    • Bruce Wayne the private individual in turn is known only to personal enough acquaintances who have seen him at enough bad points in his life to make him impossible as The Ace, since the extended Batfamily and associates all know better.
  • The Plutonian of Irredeemable is slowly revealed by flashbacks to have formerly been this. Underneath his standard smiling, selfless persona he was actually resentful of his life as a superhero, stuck saving people he felt were ungrateful, being totally unable to cope with any critics, and needing to be compulsively loved and adored by everyone in the world. When he realized that wasn't going to happen he wound up even *more* broken.


Fan Fiction

  • In Reconciliation, Hanako is a best-selling author, but has no real friends, apart from her publicist Sho; as a result of her Bad Ending, she cut ties with Hisao and Lilly because she was too ashamed and afraid to face them. By the end of the fic, the "broken" part seems to have faded; while Hisao is dead, Hanako is once again friends with Lilly, and is in a relationship with Sho.
  • Twilight Sparkle is an example of an Ace who gets broken over the course of the story. At the beginning, it's established that in addition to being Celestia's prized student, she's also officially the most powerful Unicorn alive. However, this just makes her a target for the villains, who infect her with an Artifact of Doom (by pushing it through her eye), which takes control of her body and forces her to watch as it tries to kill her friends. She's eventually freed, but soon after finds herself forced into the role of Rebel Leader, the stress of which -- combined with the psychological trauma from the possession -- drives her to the brink of insanity. On top of that is the reveal that Celestia was subtly manipulating and training her for this role all along, which shatters Twilight's image of her beloved mentor and leads to her hating her. Even after her mind recovers, she's left a lot more cynical and bitter.
  • Eri in Eri's Game is a good fashion designer but after Shiki's death, she started to give that up. Then she started to become an activist who could hold a gun to take an army out by herself. However, this is only because she wanted to die.
  • Metroid: Kamen Rider Generations trilogy:

Film

  • John Nash in A Beautiful Mind is a brilliant and successful graduate student and later mathematics professor but is a socially clumsy loner with schizophrenia.
  • Tyler Durden from Fight Club, being The narrator's subconscious conception of his ideal self, which he manifests as an alternate personality.
  • Apt Pupil has an A student get fascinated with the local hidden Nazi's old war stories. This eventually causes him (and the Nazi) to snap.
  • Die Another Day villain Gustav Graves is charming, talented, and insanely rich (from blood diamonds). However, he is really a North Korean with plastic surgery building a Kill Sat to help his faction finally win the war. He has daddy issues too, and really really hates anything Western.
    • James Bond is (sometimes) portrayed like this. The novels are more definitive about this aspect.
    • Bond is definetely portrayed this way in Casino Royale and to a lesser extent Quantum of Solace.
  • Prince Charming in the Shrek movies is a parody of this type that acts like and actually thinks he is a standard heroic Ace, but really is a vain, juvenile Mama's boy once you scratch the surface.
  • This is apparently how Robert Pattinson plays Edward Cullen in the Twilight films. It's an Alternative Character Interpretation that Stephenie Meyer wouldn't endorse, but arguably it makes a lot more sense.
  • Kathryn from Cruel Intentions falls between this and Stepford Smiler. She must be considered a lady (smiler) and that requires being a role model who's the best at everything (this).
  • Anna Scott from Notting Hill is painfully aware that she is this.

"In a few years my looks will go, people will discover I can't act and I'll end up some sad middle aged woman who used to be famous for a while."


Literature

  • Maxim from the first Night Watch novel is good-looking, fairly intelligent, and a very successful businessman, and he looks down at the less successful. While some of his murdering of Dark Others isn't his fault (he had Detect Evil ability and wasn't in on The Masquerade), it's noted that he has no real comprehension of love- pretty much, when given a choice between punishing evil and doing good, he chose the former.
  • Crowley from Good Omens. He's a Noble Demon, with a confident, attractive facade (implied to even have an aggressively cool haircut that only looks good on someone like him) and a quick wit. He has a relentlessly stylish apartment full of fancy gadgets, he always seems to have the best of everything, and drives the coolest of Cool Cars. However, in spite of the book's ensemble cast, he stands out as pretty much the main viewpoint character, whose thoughts we hear the most, and behind the painfully cool exterior he's frightened, weary, and eventually very angry, which causes him to rebel against both Heaven and Hell. He's definitely not the slick bastard he appears to be on the outside, but unlike a lot of these characters it ends up making him stronger and extremely sympathetic.
  • Carl Hamilton from the Hamilton series is a famous, highly decorated SEAL-trained intelligence operative, independently wealthy, a gourmet chef and wine connoiseur and fluent in four languages. He is also crippled by a complete inability to handle romantic relationships, not being able to confide in anyone concerning his work, and increasingly guilty conscience about killing people for what later may turn out to be no good reason.
  • Harry Potter: Albus Dumbledore is talented, powerful, and famous bordering on revered for defeating Grindlewald and leading the fight against Voldemort, both of whom are said to have only feared him out of all wizards. As the books go on, it becomes clear that he's also a deeply lonely man whose intelligence does not prevent him from making emotional mistakes. The "broken" part really kicks when his Dark and Troubled Past is revealed in book seven.
    • Tom Riddle was an example during his schooldays - a prodigy, incredibly popular, disguising his true nature. In this case, he's an out-and-out murderous lunatic instead of just "messed up" or "morally ambiguous".
      • Severus Snape. Brilliant student who improved his potion textbook. But, he destroyed his one chance of a happy life and is so bitter over his bullying at the hands of the hero's father.
  • Percy Jackson: Luke Castellan is this trope all over. He's handsome, popular, talented, and a trusted authority figure. He's also a huge traitor who wants to overthrow the gods. This is later revealed to be because his mother was cursed and went completely insane when he was a baby and his father, Hermes, left him with her.
  • Of The Three Musketeers, Athos is outstanding for his looks, thorough education, martial prowess, and social graces. Unfortunately, he is also a misogynistic alcoholic with truly terrible luck.
  • Ciaphas Cain. Capable, intelligent, handsome - and a compulsive liar desperately trying to hide what he sees as his own fundamental lack of courage and decency in a culture obsessed with martyrdom. It's fairly obvious in his memoirs that Ciaphas is incapable of giving himself credit for any achievement, because he has to justify any noble act with ignoble intentions.
  • Horatio Hornblower is a brilliant sea warrior whose men are devoted to him, who managed to make several women fall in love with him and who managed to manipulate the French into two of their greatest military disasters in history(Trafalgar and Russia). He also absolutely hates himself.
  • Ender Wiggin from Ender's Game may be only 10, but he is one of these. Everyone in Battle School (with some exceptions) loves him. He is the best in the standings, his free-time practice sessions are attended by many people throughout the school, he has the best army in the school and is one of the best tacticians ever. But he feels isolated from his friends and unloved. This becomes very apparent in Ender's Shadow, as Bean is really Ender's only confidant. He is a poor, lonely boy with the weight of the world on him.
  • Kvothe from The King Killer Chronicles is the perfect type 2 example. Pretty, Magically gifted, Superlative at everthing he does, but poor, arrogant and a wreck in the present day.
  • Sisterhood series by Fern Michaels: Henry "Hank" Jellicoe is firmly revealed to be Type 1 in the books Cross Roads and Deja Vu. He is at least a He-Man Woman Hater and at most a Straw Misogynist. He tried using President Martine Connor to save his funding from the Pentagon from being cut off. He had several contracts murdered as part of his plan, and when the CIA had to cut ties with him, he went and murdered a number of CIA agents. Cross Roads makes it sound like he was a good man who went bad. Deja Vu, however, reveals that he was always bad and that the disguise had finally worn thin. He tried splitting up the Vigilantes for a few years, so he could keep an eye on them and prevent them from interfering with his plans - namely his plan to make it sound like someone was going to assassinate the president (there isn't, because he made it up), and he would step in to save the day. He had a wife named Louise, who kept a diary of his illegal dealings with terrorist groups and other things (like creating bad situations and riding in to the rescue, probably to improve his image), and she was put under Witness Protection, and he was never able to find her. He considers that My Greatest Failure, and that there were failures, but he corrected them. He is a Complete Monster, but when a man writing a book about Jellicoe called Jellicoe a monster in the title, Henry blew a gasket, had his goons beat the guy up to the point of leaving him wheelchair-bound and then put him in a luxurious mansion and spent a few minutes with him, talking like they were best friends. He did this to prove that he wasn't a monster, and to set up a safe house in the future.
  • Denth from Warbreaker is friendly, charming and good with words, despite being a mercenary. He also happens to be obsessed with revenge, and will do anything to get it, including torturing and killing innocent people. He can't move past the issue that broke him in the first place, even when given the opportunity to heal.
  • From another of Brandon Sanderson's works, Kaladin from The Stormlight Archive is an interesting version of this trope. He starts out as an Ace, charismatic leader, excellent spearman, trained in medicine, pays bribes to protect his men and get new untrained boys into his squad where he can watch over them. But after he's betrayed he's definitely broken. The skills are all still there, but he has trouble finding the will to use them anymore.
  • Haru's friend Taku from Accel World is a friendly, smart, athletic...pretty much everything Haru wishes he was. All of this masks Taku's extreme resentment and jealousy of Haru. Taku is horribly insecure about his relationship with his girlfriend Chiyu because he believes that Chiyu secretly loves Haru instead of him. In his eyes, Chiyu always looks happier hanging out with Haru than she does when she is with him. All of Taku's achievements -- athletics, academics -- were done for the sole purpose of making himself better boyfriend material than Haru. Taku even went so far as to use Acceleration to improve his performance -- he didn't actually achieve anything through effort alone. He also installed a virus in Chiyu's neurolink so he can spy on her at any time, making him borderline Bastard Boyfriend material. Thankfully Taku gets better after a confrontation with Haru.
  • Lancelot in The Once and Future King, who falls in love with Arthur and becomes so obsessed with becoming the greatest knight in the world (so that Arthur will love him back) that he gives his entire childhood in the pursuit of this dream. Throughout the book, he is shown to be extremely uncomfortable in his own mind, and is quite self-loathing. Guenever mellows him out a bit, eventually.

 "Three years is a long time for a boy to spend in one room [the armoury], if he only goes out of it to eat and sleep and to practice tilting in the field. It is even difficult to imagine a boy who would do it, unless you realize from the start that Lancelot was not romantic and debonair. Tennyson and the Pre-Raphaelites would have found it difficult to recognize this rather sullen and unsatisfactory child with the ugly face, who did not disclose to anybody that he was living on dreams and prayers. They might have wondered what store of ferocity he had against himself, that could set him to break his own body so young. They might have wondered why he was so strange."

  • A Song of Ice and Fire
    • Lord Eddard Stark is seen as a model of a true noble lord, but he's traumatized by the deaths of Prince Rhaegar's children and of his sister Lyanna.
    • Eddard's friend King Robert is remembered as a great warrior and a jolly fellow, but almost no one outside the capitol knows of his physical decay or of how he's ran the realm into the ground thanks to his excesses.
    • Tywin Lannister is the most feared and respected Lord in Westeros. It's after his death that more of his backstory is revealed. His innate ruthlessness comes from the time his family was almost overthrown because their vassals didn't fear them anymore.
    • Barristan the Bold is considered the last Knight in Shining Armor  in Westeros but he's disappointed in himself for outliving so many kings. He also regrets serving the Mad King even though he knew what a monster he was.

Live Action Television

  • Kara "Starbuck" Thrace from the Battlestar Galactica Reimagined remake. Top notch pilot, expert markswoman, fine brawler-but suffering from memories of an abusive childhood, a morass of self-esteem and self-loathing issues, and unsure of how to have a life beyond being The Ace.
  • The Tenth Doctor from Doctor Who was probably a Broken Ace because although he was confident and cavalier on the outside, he had some survivor's guilt and quite a bit of self-loathing on the inside.
    • Since the Doctor's tenth regeneration, his Broken Ace qualities have increased Elevenfold: The Eleventh Doctor is a charming, charismatic, moral, Chaste Hero on the outside. At the beginning of Series Five, his confidence seems genuine. By the time the series ends however, Eleven has become a walking Pandora's Box of grief and rage.
  • And while we're on the topic, how about Captain Jack Harkness, later of Torchwood fame? Dashingly handsome, brave, cocky and nigh-immortal...but after being abandoned by the Doctor for being "wrong", suffering trauma after his repeated deaths, seeing everyone he loves die in battle or of old age, and now having being forced to allow his own grandson to be killed he's definitely a Broken Ace.
    • He also has a Dark and Troubled Past. He still feels guilt over getting his brother captured by a vicious alien race. Even during his time as a temporal agent, it wasn't all gallivanting through history and screwing Anything That Moves (although there was a fair bit of that too). He has a chunk of memory the size of 2 years missing, although he completely forgets about it after meeting the Doctor.
  • Arnold J. Rimmer is a literal example of the trope. Sucked dry of his negativity and neuroses (themselves powerful enough to destroy a Lotus Eater Machine) by an Emotion Eater, he immediately turns into Ace Rimmer (what a guy!).
    • Eventually, he becomes the next Ace Rimmer - as each one dies, he recruits the next, and so on, until it finally reaches Arnie himself. It is mostly his neuroses that hold him back - but luckily for him, the Red Dwarf universe has it set that pretty much every Rimmer gets redeemed. Before then, he makes an awesome Last Stand at the end of Series 6.
  • Several examples on Smallville:
    • Lionel Luthor: Of the Villain with Good Publicity variety, Lionel is the Big Bad of Season's 1-3. He's a Magnificent Bastard, Corrupt Corporate Executive and Cultured Badass with more money than God, and the ears of kings, sultans, and presidents. He's respected by those who don't know how evil he is, feared by those who do, and has the entire world at his beck and call. He's also a damaged, empty man who has immense difficulty identifying with other people, and is trapped in a mutually self-destructive relationship with his son, a relationship he is unable to salvage even after a Heel Face Turn. He's burned every bridge he's got to get where he is, and is revealed to be a Self-Made Orphan who's still running away from his abusive, drunken parents.
    • Lex Luthor: Lionel's son. On the surface he's got it all: wealth, power, women, immunity from prosecution. Underneath, he's self-loathing, caught up in a desire for parental approval that he'll never get, before or post-Face Heel Turn, haunted by the deaths of his mother and brother, and consumed by his need to control the people around him. He blows up every friendship he ever has in his drive for success and his eventual slide into cackling supervillainy is as tragic as it is inevitable.
    • Jason Teague: He's a good-looking football coach, secretly dating one of the hottest girls in the school. His family is rich, he's a former star player himself, and he's able to lie and cheat at Lex's level. Unfortunately, he's pretty eaten up by his Mommy Issues, has no self-esteem, and is nearly incapable of taking any action his mother (Season 4 Big Bad Genevieve Teague) doesn't approve.
    • Green Arrow/Oliver Queen: A heroic example. In one life Oliver is the heir to an immense fortune, a billionaire playboy with more women than he can handle and a life most people only dream of. In his other life, he moonlights as a Badass Normal Superhero saving more lives before nine A.M. than most people do before lunch. And yet neither of these is the real Oliver Queen. Inside he's hollow, convinced that his life is a sham, and manifests numerous self-destructive tendencies including alcoholism, the inability to commit to anything, and a total disregard for his own safety that's both impressive and frightening. His committment to saving the world overshadows everything else he does, leading to bouts of drinking, a temporary drug addiction, and culminating in his Interrupted Suicide in Season 9.
    • Tess Mercer: A female variant. Much like Lionel and Lex, whom she succeeds as leader of LuthorCorp, Tess is an incredibly rich young woman, who has successfully escaped an abusive home life. She speaks two or three different languages, is extremely attractive, and has the money and power to do whatever she wants. She also has horribly low self-esteem, no faith in humanity, and a fatalistic need for a Messiah, all stemming from having given up on her former idealism and desire to change the world in favour of moving up in the world. As the show progresses, her ace facade disentigrates more and more, and the Broken Bird underneath is increasingly exposed. Alliances with Checkmate and Major Zod, and an eventual Heel Face Turn have all failed to give her the sense of self-worth she's seeking.
  • Don Draper from Mad Men. Creative director/shaman of both the older Sterling Cooper and the new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Incredibly handsome and charismatic. Able to bed any woman pretty much just by looking at her. Has won multiple advertising awards and manages to accept them while cutting a dapper figure. He achieved this by stealing another man's identity to get away from his dirt poor abusive upbringing.
    • His marriage to Betty showed the consequences of a Broken Ace marrying a Stepford Smiler. A major part of season 4 was about surveying the wreckage of that union.
  • John Connor is The Messiah of The Terminator franchise who will eventually lead the human race to victory against the machines but The Sarah Connor Chronicles shows the hell he went through to become what he is.
  • Tony Soprano is the mob boss of all New Jersey; charismatic, powerful, ruthless, and has a keen business acumen. Underneath is all, he suffers from some serious Parental Issues and other mental problems, which cause him to have panic attacks.
  • Possibly Charlie Harper from Two and A Half Men. Despite being a rich, handsome womanizer, many epsiodes indicate or imply that he is riddled with mommy issues. There is the possibility that his womanizing is a means of acting out said mommy issues or is even a means of overcompensating for repressed homosexuality or having been more abused or neglected than Alan when they were kids.
  • Rich Stephenson, a recurring character on Community is a cool example. For the entirety of his first episode, Jeff is convinced that Rich is a Broken Ace--that he was not the pottery prodigy that he appeared to be, but that he had taken lessons before and was faking natural talent due to deep-seated insecurities. Jeff ends the episode having learned the lesson that some people are going to be better than you, and there's nothing wrong with that. Then we find out that he was right all along. Rich had been doing pottery all his life, and hated himself deeply. Further appearances confirm that though Rich is handsome, rich, charitable, good at everything he does, and well-liked by others, he is also incredibly screwed up.
  • An early Scrubs episode had JD competing (purely in his own mind) with another intern (named Nick) to see who was the best between them and who should be the unofficial leader of that group of interns. Eventually JD has to concede defeat, as his rival can match JD's medical knowledge while also being more handsome, less socially awkward, more charismatic, less of a suck-up and even has the girl JD likes interested in him. Hints are dropped throughout the episode however, that Nick is a Stepford Smiler who is repressing all his doubts and feelings. At the end of the episode Nick fails to save the life a 7 year old kid and completely breaks down and quits working at Sacred Heart.
    • A little later in the series, they brought in Doctor Kevin Casey. He was played by Michael J. Fox, and they gave the character severe OCD to help explain the tics caused by Fox's Parkinson's Disease. His OCD made him an incredible doctor and surgeon, as his compulsive need to study meant that he had read every book he could get his hands on multiple times and perfected his physical dexterity, performing complex operations in a fraction of the time a normal surgeon would require. He's also incredibly nice and wise, giving helpful advice to everyone in the hospital, helping them fix their lives. So, having humiliated Turk in the OR, Cox in front of his interns, and JD by destroying his ego with an off-hand comment, all three seek him out to confront him. And they find him trapped in the scrub room outside the OR, unable to leave because he's been compulsively washing his hands for hours. He's on the verge of tears but he just can't leave.
  • In the haunting Mash episode "Heal Thyself," the camp's talented and charismatic new surgeon, a veteran of a front line aid station, has a complete mental breakdown during a particularly long and gruesome O.R. session that stretches across a couple of days. They find him crouched down in the Swamp, doing the Thousand-Yard Stare, and compulsively scrubbing his hands to wipe off the imaginary blood that he is convinced they are still coated in.
  • Barney Stinson of How I Met Your Mother tries very hard not to be this trope, but he isn't nearly as good as hiding this fact as he thinks he is. His over-the-top, self-aggrandizing "awesomeness" is his way of overshadowing all his emotional issues.
  • Schmidt from New Girl seems he's got everything going for him, until you scratch the surface. He's good looking (he was Formerly Fat and still has a lot of body issues), has impeccable taste and style (born out of an at times disturbing obsessive fastidiousness) and he's got a job in all female firm (where he's treated like scum by his more ruthless colleagues).
  • Community

Music

  • Blur's song, Charmless Man, is entirely about this trope - the music video even moreso
  • There's a definite trend of portraying Superman as this in popular music, too (Five for Fighting's "Superman", 3 Doors Down's "Kryptonite").
  • "Richard Cory" by Simon and Garfunkel, contrasting Cory's facade of happiness with the poverty of one of his envious employees. The song ends the same as the poem. The narrator still envies him.
    • Is the chorus repeated (even after The Reveal) merely to be consistent with standard song structure? Seems unlikely, as Simon--self-described in "Homeward Bound" as "a poet and a one-man band"--was a careful wordsmith. And because a final chorus would be anti-climactic, its inclusion requires an important reason. Even so, it's not clear whether this was simply for the sake of Irony, or if the narrator's envy was allowed to persist so his crushing poverty would be underscored.
  • Ziltoid of Devin Townsend's Ziltoid The Omnicient seems like your ordinary fourth dimensional evil overlord, spreading terror and destruction across the known universes, fraternising with the fifth dimensional planet smasher and the omnidimensional creator, and of course raiding the earth for our finest coffee to use for time-bending. But in the end, Captain Spectacular of Earth has seen Ziltoid's true self; a nerd.


Professional Wrestling

  • Sadly this trope is very common for professional wrestlers. Many great talents have been plagued with severe personal issues that have ruined their careers.
    • Scott Hall has been wrestling with alcoholism for quite some times, yo-yoing back and forth for almost two decades. WCW even made his drunken behavior into a character trait.
    • Jeff Hardy and his recent battles with drug addictions will very likely land him in jail in the near future. Not to mention, his already terrible reign as TNA World Champion was capped off with one of the worst title matches in history (see the So Bad It's Horrible TNA page for more details).
    • Hulk Hogan has gone through a very messy, very public divorce, not helped by his son Nick getting involved in a car crash that left the other driver dead. Hulk showed no sympathy for anyone but himself, even saying he gets why OJ Simpson did what he did.


Tabletop Games

  • If there ever needs to be a crowning example for Type 1, then it's Desus. A hero of the First Age, renowned throughout all the land for his great feats of prowess and courage... well, actually, he had a Charm that allowed him to Mind Rape everyone into thinking he was a grand hero. Behind the scenes, he was a cheater and a maniac with little regard for the lives and well-beings of other sentients. And the things he did to Lilith...
  • The Primarchs of Warhammer 40000 are gods among men and strong charismatic leaders of their adopted planets but each harbor serious issues like insecurity (Fulgrim), inferiority complex (Perturabo) or a need for revenge (Angron) which led half of them to commit rebellion. The loyalists aren't any better.
    • Their father/creator the Emperor of Mankind. The most powerful psyker to ever live, a brilliant scientist, a ruler who united humanity in a golden age, practically a living god...but his inability to be the father his sons needed dooms himself and the Imperium to a slow wasting death. All that is left of the once-mighty Emperor is a decaying husk trapped between life and death that can only watch as the Imperium falls apart over ten thousand years.


Theater


Video Games

  • Kyras in Dawn of War 2. He is the single best psyker and soldier in the entire Blood Ravens chapter and behind it all he has fallen over to chaos not out of self interest, but simply for fear of being forced to lose his men to it again.
  • Deugan from MARDEK. In Chapter 3, he actually becomes the next Grand Adventurer as "Lone Wolf", just like he always wanted to, and is already almost as famous and popular as his childhood hero Social Fox was. But due to his incredibly poor self esteem, he still doesn't think this is enough, and also seems to think he doesn't deserve anything good that happens to him.
  • Elzam von Branstein from Super Robot Wars Original Generation. He's an Ace Pilot, a Supreme Chef, a Father to His Men... And he was forced to kill his wife in a Sadistic Choice several years ago, losing the respect of his younger brother in the process. He spends most of the game as a Stealth Mentor, trying to find new heroes to take his place. When his brother finally forgives him, he goes back to being The Ace under the guise of Ratsel Feinschmecker.
  • Zack from Crisis Core is a Type 2 Broken Ace. He had to pick up the slack when many of the other SOLDIERs either quit, went crazy, or died, then ends up having to kill his rogue mentor. He is eventually utterly betrayed by the megacorporation that he worked for and used as a test subject by a sadistic Mad Scientist which he himself ironically saved earlier on. After escaping from four years of experimentation and imprisonment, he takes care of his helplessly comatose fellow escapee and friend Cloud for nearly a year while running from relentless pursuers, even though it would have been much easier for Zack if he had just dumped Cloud somewhere. Ultimately, Zack confronts a massive Shinra military force in a Bolivian Army Ending because he chooses to protect Cloud instead of escaping by himself.
    • Zack's fellow 1st Class Soldiers Sephiroth, Genesis, and Angeal who played a big role in breaking him also count. Their issues drive the first two to villainy and the third to perform Suicide by Cop.
  • Kaori Yae of Tokimeki Memorial 2: she's pretty, has the overall best academic grades among the whole cast, is even better at sports than sporty heroine Hikari, and has such a natural talent at rythmic games such as Dance Dance Revolution she can play them flawlessly even on her first try; yet, due to a traumatic event in her past, she has zero social skills, as she can't trust anyone anymore, and people in return can't trust her. Her Ace skills even out if the Main Protagonist manages to help her get out of her Heroic BSOD, as she'll enter again the Volley-Ball Club and fully involves herself in, meaning her grades take a toll and become only average; and while she becomes more cheerful and open to others, she still has difficulties making friends.
    • The main guys of the Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side games lean towards being Broken Aces as well. They're always smart, athletic, good-looking, and admired by their classmates, but Kei Hazuki in GS1 is deeply apathetic about most things and finds it hard to relate to others; he's often tired to the point of falling asleep in class because of his modeling jobs, which he does not because he's particularly interested in it but because he has difficulty saying no. Teru Saeki in GS2 is a worse case: he pushes himself hard to live up to other people's expectations to the point that his entire speech pattern changes depending on who he's talking to, and like Kei, he's often tired from the combined burdens of keeping up his grades, working his part-time job, and pacifying his league of fangirls.
  • Harken from Fire Emblem 7 is a handsome, skilled, loyal, popular knight and about to marry the local Lady of War, Isadora. He is then utterly broken by the deaths of his lord in liege and his companions at the hands of the Black Fang, and becomes a Death Seeker Blood Knight who has to be talked out from pretty much throwing himself into battle to just die to dull the pain, and is also plagued by the guilt of having almost forgotten the girl he loved in between all the angst. He gets better, thank God.
  • Miranda from Mass Effect 2. Beautiful, intelligent, confident, skilled, a decent fighter and "absolutely perfect" in every aspect. And then it is revealed why she is perfect. "daddy issues" does not begin to cover that. Thankfully, Shepard can fix that if he/she so chooses.
    • To clarify: She was genetically engineered to be absolutely perfect and capable of accomplishing anything. This causes her to view anything she accomplishes to be a result of her father's money and planning, and believes that only her mistakes are truly hers. This means that when everything goes right she has no sense of accomplishment, and when everything goes wrong or she is surpassed somehow (such as through most of the plot of the game) she feels like a complete failure, because she was given everything she needed and still managed to screw it up.
  • Kyo Kusanagi's cousin and Big Brother Mentor, Souji, in The King of Fighters: KYO. He was supposed to be the true sucessor to the Kusanagi family instead of Kyo or Saisyu, and Kyo respects him to the point of calling him "Souji-sama" (which considering Kyo's very rough and informal speech patterns, is very meaningful)... but he pushed himself so insanely hard that he ended up giving into his dark side and had to relay the leadership on his uncle and cousin, or he'd be consumed by his own darkness.
  • Metroid: Samus Aran. Beautiful, one of the greatest fighters in the galaxy, a legend in her own lifetime. Also one big bundle of neuroses, dependency issues, and survivor's guilt held together almost entirely by thoughts of vengeance most of the time.
  • Jin Kisaragi from Blaz Blue. Handsome, smart, strong, rich, highly ranked, popular with girls despite his cold attitude, a hero for ending a long civil war, and so on. As he put it himself, he was showered with everything men would kill for. His only problem was his inability to care about all of those. However, when he found out that his brother was still alive, he snapped hard and being nihilistic turned out to be the least disturbing thing about him.
  • Hibiki from Lux-Pain is this. He's considered one of the top students of Kisaragi High school that got accepted on board to study to America, beats the Insufferable Genius Shinji at math and computers and is deemed very attractive by his peers. However, that's only on the surface reputation. To begin with his trauma, his parents died in a car accident when he was very young and it left him relatively unstable, he was taken care of by the Kisaragi nurse Honoka who later adopted him. However, he was labeled as a strange boy shortly after being released from the hospital after the accident and was isolated from his peers. Then his best friend who later because his crush Ryo befriended him and he was fine...until those feelings got in the way and he got jealous of Ryo's co-worker Ai. This promotes him to leave to America but then comes back a year later thinking that his feelings were gone. They didn't go away... and he goes crazy because of his powers that were caused by his phycological pain. Whether or not he survives depends on if the player gets the normal ending or the good ending. Regardless, he lead a pretty bad life and the player can decide how it can change.
  • Cyrus from Pokémon Diamond and Pearl games. He's highly intelligent, charismatic, eloquent, and reasonably attractive, all things considered. As a villain, he's a Magnificent Bastard whom just about everyone in his organization adores (and so do his Pokemon, if his Crobat is any indication)... but the only reason why he acts like that is because he was driven insane from trying to live up to the impossible standards his parents set for him.
    • In the anime episodes he appears in, it's even more so, since he adopts the appearance of a successful businessman while plotting with Team Galactic.
  • Squall in Final Fantasy VIII. He goes out of his way to come off as a Stoic, professional Badass who doesn't need other people, and succeeds admirably- he stands out as an exceptional soldier even among SeeDs. Much of the student population at Balamb Garden admires him for his extraordinary skills, and "gorgeous" goes without saying for a Final Fantasy protagonist. But the entire thing is a Jerkass Facade he puts on to hide his massive emotional insecurities. Underneath it, he's a Child Soldier with No Social Skills who avoids getting close to people because he's afraid of the pain of losing someone he cares about.
  • Cole Phelps in LA Noire is unique; Starts as a type 1, then ascends to type 2. He initially spent most of his time in the army screwing his friends over for fame and medals, then is overwhelmed by guilt shortly after attaining said fame and joins the police after the war to atone for his mistakes.
  • Persona 3 has two big examples:
    • Akihiko Sanada. He's an excellent fighter, undefeated in boxing, the captain of the school's boxing team, a great student, a pretty perceptive guy and incredibly popular at school. His Persona is second only to the main character's in versatility and so he's a great choice for any party. The 'broken' part comes from him often overworking himself due to personal feelings of weakness and the deep guilt he carries early in the series.
    • Mitsuru Kirijo is beautiful, very rich, one of the best students in the school, the Student Council President, has a Persona that's suitable for full assault, healing and everything in between and can provide support, if nowhere near the same level as Fuuka. She also carries a lot of emotional baggage and trust issues due to being forced to fight Shadows from an early age, and sometimes can't help but wish her life was just like anyone else's. And it eventually turns out she has one of the most selfish reasons for becoming a Persona-user; not to atone for her family's sins like she said, but simply to protect her father, and so after he dies, she believes her life is without meaning until Yukari snaps her out of it.


Visual Novels

  • Keiichi Maebara. He's a perfectly kind fellow in Hinamizawa, bright in comparison to some of his peers, well known and respected by many in the village, and has a few females who have a crush on him. Oh, and in the past, he went on a (non-lethal) shooting rampage because all his peers had grown jealous of his talent and bullied him. Let's not even get started on other situations in the present times...
  • Amusingly, Ace from Nine Hours Nine Persons Nine Doors is this. He's smart, noble, self-sacrificing, and the sole culprit of the deaths that take place, as well as the ruthless and antisocial owner of the evil pharmaceutical company.
  • Saber in Fate/stay night, toward the end of her life. She suffered in her Masquerade out of duty, and became broken when it seemed to her that her country would've been better off if she hadn't tried, and someone else taken the role.
  • Souji in Suika is good at essentially everything: handsome, popular and a complete chick magnet, but has been using these as part of a fake persona out of trauma for eight years.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney has a few. Adrian Andrews is cool and professional to hide the fact that she's got a severe codependency problem and is still aching from the trauma of her mentor Celeste Impax's suicide, a fact that Franziska takes full advantage of. When she shows up again her demeanor is far changed. She's flightier and less professional, but also seems happier.
    • Manfred von Karma is like a Broken Ace factory. His daughter Franziska is a prosecuting prodigy who won her first case at thirteen, but she's got a mad obsession with perfection and one-upping her adopted brother Miles Edgeworth. Edgeworth himself has a lessened obsession with winning, but is haunted by suspicions that he killed his father.
  • Lucan from (P)lanets. He's as handsome as a prince, just as kind as one, and is so popular and loved by everyone that he has an Instant Fanclub of two hundred girls. Except that he really doesn't want the attention and the main reason he's so popular in the first place is that he brainwashed them with his Mind Control psych into loving him due to his loneliness and belief that he's so pathetic that they couldn't possibly love his true self. The brainwashing was largely unintentional on his part and he's meant to be a sympathetic version of this trope, but that's still one hell of a warped facade to live with.


Webcomics


Web Original

  • Atop the Fourth Wall: Linkara has more than a few elements of this. He's a nice-looking hero with wonderful toys and True Companions around him -- but he wants so badly to be a good guy and to think that he's much more than his Channel Awesome co-workers. He has an ego, his number one priority seems to be whether the fans watch him or not and his Comedic Sociopathy [1] is far creepier than the others because whereas they embrace it, he denies it.


Western Animation

  • Princess Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender, though she doesn't really bother with the good publicity part of Villain with Good Publicity, still fits. She's a beautiful, extraordinarily talented young woman, even if she is Daddy's Little Villain, but most of her exterior aloofness and obsession with power stems from being desperate to ignore how utterly psychotic she is thanks to her thinking that her mother hated her. Same inside, same overcompensation, different shell.
  • Harvey Dent is often portrayed this way before he becomes Two-Face, particularly in the animated series. This is heavily and tragically averted in The Dark Knight, where Dent is a genuine, what-you-see-is-what-you-get crusading idealist until the Joker decides to have a little fun with him...
  • Vlad Masters in Danny Phantom. Despite being the Big Bad, to the public's eye, he is a well-known and well-respected billionaire celebrity and later mayor. He's handsome, debonair, intelligent, and in his ghost form, clearly a better fighter then the hero is. And yet, his big ego prevents him from gaining the love of his life and Danny as a surrogate son because he is too deep in denial to realize he's getting love in all the wrong ways. This bites him in the ass hard in the Grand Finale.
  • Olga Pataki of Hey Arnold. She looks perfect on first glance, being very good at academics, music, has a personality many consider pleasant, and is considered very beautiful. However, with enough pressure this facade of perfection can crack revealing a young woman that's dangerously neurotic and melodramatic due to having to live up to her parents' constant attention and enormously high standards, as well as dangerously out of reality. In Olga's own words to her little sister Helga: "You're lucky they [their parents] don't even notice you."
  • Billy in Adventure Time. He is *ahem* "~THE GREATEST WARRIOR EVER / A HERO OF RENOWN! / WHO SLAYED AN EVIL OCEAN / WHO CAST THE LICH KING DOWN! / [...] / ALSO, HE FOUGHT A BEEEEEAAAAAR!~". However, since doing all sorts of similar heroic deeds in the past, and becoming a role model for Finn and Jake, he's holed up in his secret crack and stopped fighting evil with violence, because he's seen that doing so in the Land Of Ooo is useless. He tries to convince Finn and Jake that fighting evil in that way is "as pointless as a dog chasing his own tail."
  • In Recess a one-shot character arrives at the school who is better than everyone in everything ever. He is the very image of a Marty Stu...who is desperately lonely because his talent makes everyone he meets resent him. As long as he remains true to himself, he can't make friends.
  • Eddie Brock, as seen in The Spectacular Spider-Man. He is introduced as Peter Parker's Big Brother Mentor who playfully teases him, puts his life on the line often in supervillain attacks, has a great job with the Connors, and is overall a nice, friendly guy. When things start to not go his way, however, his true colors are revealed: He truly hates Peter and is jealous of him because when their parents died, Pete was raised by his aunt and uncle while he was orphaned, his "teasing" of him is actually belittling him, his "self-less" flirtations with life are his Death Seeker tendencies, and considers the Connors to be his only "family", so his resentment of Peter grows when he accidentally causes him to be fired from his job. Then the Venom symbiote enters the equation, and the rest is history.
  • In ThunderCats (2011), Tygra is a Happily Adopted member of the royal family of Thundera, and is better than crown prince Lion-O. At everything, as he notes loudly and often. Tygra's older, more skilled at fighting, more knowlegeable in military tactics, more popular with their people, their father's favorite, and The Dutiful Son. But to Tygra's great resentment, Lion-O, the flakey Cloudcuckoolander kid brother gets to take up the sword that Only the Chosen May Wield and be the king by dint of Royal Blood alone, even receiving attention from Praetorian Guard Cheetara, whom Tygra has pined for from afar. Tygra seethes at the idea that his own Hard Work Hardly Works while The Chosen One is undeserving, and struggles to reconcile his jealousy of Lion-O with his genuine Big Brother Instinct.
  • Chalky Studebaker from Doug is a mild example. Exposed in an episode where Doug is accused of cheating off of Chalky. Doug and Chalky's papers for a test are near identical, and since Chalky is The Ace, everyone assumes Doug was the one who cheated. (Despite the test being a mere "B"). Doug has to chase down Chalky to confront him about it, and ends up being exposed to Chalky's trophy case, which is not as big or filled as his older brother's. Chalky's dad gives obvious encouragement towards getting all the trophies, showing the "Well Done, Son" Guy side of Chalky. After Doug flat tells Chalky's father that he cheated, Chalky proceeds to break down and say that he just wasn't able to keep up with all of the different trophy earning activities AND keep up his grades and finally admitted to cheating.
  • Joe from Family Guy started as an awesome handicapable guy but over the years his condition is revealed to affect his life more and more. His marriage is dead and he has depression. He's even suicidal.
  • The Simpsons (animation) has Ned Flanders who runs his household better than his titular neighbors and is an all around nice guy. A later episode revealed his perpetually chipper attitude is a sign of emotional repression.
  • Metro Man from Megamind never wanted to be a superhero and fakes his death to escape his responsibilities. He'd rather be a musician.
  • Takashi "Shiro" Shirogane from Voltron: Legendary Defender, hooo boy. Captured by evil aliens, forced to fight in a gladiator arena, losing his arm and having it replaced with sinister technology...the poor man has serious PTSD when the show begins and even has a breakdown after one of the villains taunts him. Things do eventually get better for Shiro and he does earn a happy ending, but damn.

Real Life

  • Often, people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder or sociopathy can become this if they reach a position of high power.
  • A notable example is serial rapist/killer Russell Williams, who when he was caught was commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Canada's most important Air Force base, "a decorated military pilot who had flown Canadian Forces VIP aircraft for Canadian dignitaries such as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the governor general, the prime minister, and others," and was considered to be on a fast track for promotion to even higher military positions.
  • People tend to perceive actors and people in Hollywood as this (although sometimes it's more a case of a masquerade finally breaking.) If a mostly level-headed actor (not a typical Hollywood train wreck such as Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan) does something like check into rehab, file for divorce, or declare bankruptcy, it tends to shock people on the gossip circuits. If (and inevitably, when) they do a special on the person, expect the very beginning of it to say something to the effect of "they're rich, beautiful, talented, successful... what went wrong?" The two most recent broken aces in Hollywood were Demi Moore's breakdown and the Heidi Klum/Seal divorce.
  • American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton--whose face is on the ten-dollar bill--was the ultimate Broken Ace: he was one of the few famous Founders not to come from a land-wealthy family. Hamilton went from a poor orphan boy in the West Indies to Revolutionary War hero and father of American finance out of his sheer force of will. Meanwhile, his father left the family when Alexander was ten, his mother died of yellow fever two years later, his cousin who was supposed to take care of him and his brother committed suicide, one of his best friends died in battle, his eldest son died in a duel, causing his eldest daughter to become mentally unstable. Contemporaries routinely described him as cocky, strident, fiercely opinionated, and hot-tempered yet there is much evidence to suggest that for most of his adult life he was chonically insecure about his humble origins and being a bastard child and that he was constantly haunted by fears of not amounting to much as a statesman.
  • In the years since the breakup of the Beatles, John Lennon has now appeared to be one of these.
  • In a similar vein to Lennon, being a rock star adored by millions of fans didn't save Kurt Cobain from lapsing into a deep depression that drove him to suicide.
  • General George S. Patton was one of the most famous figures of World War II, both for his brash, domineering attitude and the fact that he took on Erwin Rommel AKA THE Desert Fox and effectively won. However, he also struggled a great deal with his self-esteem and believed he would never live up to his father's reputation.
    • Others view him as a type 1, such as the film Patton, which portrays him as a General Ripper tolerated only because his results were good.

Notes

  1. Wanting to rule the nation on his own turns into "I am the liberator of Kickassia"
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