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The Invention of Lying September 29, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Humor, People.

The Invention of Lying stars Ricky Gervais in a fantasy world that looks exactly like Earth except for one critical distinction . . . everyone is scrupulously honest.

Residents of this fictional world tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

They do not filter their thoughts to  transform what we might view as a politically incorrect utterance (i.e., the truth) into subtle deception or outright lie.

As they thinketh . . . so they speaketh.

Their blatant honesty, so far afield from the deception we routinely experience (and dish out) in our daily lives, fires up our mirror neurons in instant empathy for Gervais, our unlikely hero:

In a world where no one fibs, fiction doesn’t exist and people take each other at their literal word, unsuccessful screenwriter Mark (Ricky Gervais) gains fame and fortune ~ and maybe the girl of his dreams (Jennifer Garner) ~ by saying things that aren’t true.

Gervais’s character creates the art of deception while lying to his mother . . . on her death bed.

Instead of telling the truth, Gervais creates God in his own image and describes a fanciful Heaven to his mother to help her cope with her imminent demise.

An interesting, awkward, and thought-provoking look at why we lie.

Aah . . . that’s better!

Have you seen The Invention of Lying?

What did you think?  Be honest!

Related post:  Write a Review of the Last Movie You Saw (WP Prompt) * Political Correctness (WP Daily Prompt)


1. BrainRants - September 29, 2011

It was a better exploration of the topic than that gay Jim Carrey movie (Liar Liar, I think). Interesting premise, and rare original thought for a Hollywood product. The dialogue was hilarious.

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

The first 30 minutes of dialogue sounded so “alien” to our ears that we laughed non-stop.

I’m an advocate for honesty . . . but seeing what “brutal honesty” looks like gave me cause for pause.

Maybe our determination to shade the truth with politically correct “subtle deceptions” has justification?

2. Richard W Scott - September 29, 2011

I thought the film was brilliant. It poked fun at so many of our sacred cows, and showed us things in an amazing light. The film was “sold” for totally different reasons than the thought-provoking piece it actually was. And while I’m sure that made it a lot more money, it’s a shame that a lot of people missed it, thinking it was a shallow comedy.

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

Definitely not a shallow comedy . . . we spent hours discussing the concepts addressed and stopped mid-film a few times to “pause and reflect” on the messages.

3. Tammy - September 29, 2011

No, but I really want to after this review. Great writing Nancy. It reminds me a bit of the Jim Carrey film inside the bubble – can’t recall the name just now.

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

It’s definitely worth a watch, Tammy. It turns things upside down so that we can see them with more clarity.

The name of that bubble movie isn’t surfacing at the moment.

4. Joanne - September 29, 2011

Considering the fact that some people literally can’t handle the truth, because the truth would literally kill them, then my situational ethics would have to kick in…

Otherwise, when I first saw that show, I laughed at myself and thought, “I wonder if this is what I look like to people who tell me I’m too honest…?”

Hmmm… Conclusion: It may be better to perfect the art of pleading the 5th (did I get that right, Counselor?) 🙂

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

Sometimes “biting our tongue” is a circumspect action for “us” and “them.” 😀

5. kateshrewsday - September 29, 2011

Ah, Gervais. The genius from Slough: his dark side makes me wary: he goes into stuff far too deeply for a British person. Howsomeever, after this post I feel I must catch him at the cinema. Is he out in Britain yet?

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

We watched this movie at home via Netflix. So you should be able to get your hands on a copy. I expect that you and Phil would have lots to talk about after viewing this “brutally honest” flick.

6. Maggie - September 29, 2011

Hmm… another movie to add to my “must watch” list. Thanks, Nancy!

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

It’s one that I would watch again . . . and not many movies rise to that level in my rating scheme.

7. Pocket Perspectives - September 29, 2011

This ties in with your post with the video about direct vs more indirect or “nuanced” communicators…and how disconcerting they can be to each other. I’ve worked for many years with some kids who have Asperger’s tendencies (and ADHD, too) and they tend to be extremely direct and without filters…the extreme of that tendency. I still get “taken aback” by their comments at times. I spend so much time trying to help them “see” the reaction on people’s faces of their overly direct honesty….lots and lots of disrupted relationships and friendships result from that tendency. That’s an extreme, but sometimes I learn from watching the extremes because the mid range of every day relationships is more subtle and hard to figure out. I’ll look forward to seeing “The Invention of Lying.” Paul Ekman of UCSF does extremely insightful work in this field and has a wonderful book, Emotions Revealed, about reading very subtle facial expressions, including subtle facial expressions people use when lying. Very interesting topic!

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

Your comment reminds me of the movie “Temple Grandin” ~ a woman who obtained a Ph.D. in Animal Sciences . . . despite being autistic. In the movie, she is VERY DIRECT and VERY LOUD:


She also had difficulty reading facial expressions and responding to them.

8. suzicate - September 29, 2011

I have not seen it, but will check it out. Thanks.

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

It’s a movie that sticks with you for days . . . as you think one thing and say another to save hurt feelings. 😉

9. 2e0mca - September 29, 2011

Hi Nancy – I haven’t seen it. I’ll be honest (is the prerequisite to a lie?) and say that I don’t enjoy Ricky Gervais’ sense of humour very much. Sounds like the film raises some interesting questions though, so perhaps I’ll make a point of watching it once it comes to the small screen. Thanks for the post, gave me something to think about 🙂

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

I’m not a Ricky Gervais fan either ~ I tried watching him in The Office and gave up 1/2 way through the first episode.

This is “serious” comedy. It’s a satirical look at lying ~ along the lines of Gulliver’s Travels (but less political and more universal).

It’s been out on DVD on this side of the pond for some time so you can probably grab a copy.

10. spilledinkguy - September 29, 2011

I know I’ve seen this one…
but for some reason I can’t remember what my ‘official review’ was…

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

That would be the case with most movies I watch ~ fluffy tales that floats out of my consciousness in short order.

Scenes from this movie have stayed with me, probably because the issue of “How Honest SHOULD We Be?” interests me.

11. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide - September 29, 2011

It was a bit painful at first, the date scene!, then got to be pretty decent.

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

It’s hard to imagine a 2nd date after the first starts that way, eh?

12. souldipper - September 29, 2011

Oh boy, I’m off to download this one, Nancy. I am wondering if silence is considered “dishonest” – will watch for that.

The concept is brilliant – wouldn’t it have been fun to write that script?!

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

I am satisfied that the scriptwriters had a blast “pushing the envelope” of brutal honesty. 😀

Perhaps silence is the pivot point between honesty and deception?

13. Judith - September 29, 2011

I haven’t seen the movie but will watch out for it. Interesting concept. 🙂

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

Historical movie scripts (within the movie) are fact-based and dry as sawdust because settings and costumes would involve some degree of fabrication . . . unknown in this truth-based land.

14. thirdhandart - September 29, 2011

I saw the movie and I liked it. But because Gervais’s character invented lying, wouldn’t the rest of the world eventually catch on and start lying?

I think the ending of the movie was a little too ‘happily ever after’. However, maybe that’s why they ended it that way. Did the invention of lying bring about the invention of the ‘happily ever after’ lie?

You’re right. We could spend hours discussing the concepts addressed and the messages hidden in The Invention of Lying.

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

In the movie, Gervais’s character tries to explain to his friends that he had “lied” . . . they couldn’t get a handle on the concept of fiction vs. fact. Such an intriguing view of a parallel universe.

thirdhandart - September 29, 2011

I agree!

15. Chad - September 29, 2011

I haven’t seen the movie. However, I’d like to point out that ‘politically correct’ and ‘politically incorrect’ are both instances of political correctness. The English terminology I might assign is ‘polite’ and ‘offensive,’ or sensitive and insensitive. Just a thought!

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

Thanks for the thought, but I don’t agree with your “less than liberal” interpretation of the term. 😉

Neither does the Urban Dictionary:


Chad - September 29, 2011

Politically Correct = sissy
Politically Incorrect = asshole

i think this about sums it up


16. Patricia - September 29, 2011

Going to put this one in my Queue on Netflix.

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

It’s a pretty cool movie. Hope you enjoy.

17. jeanne - September 29, 2011

We are always looking for a good flick for movie night…adding it to the list.

nrhatch - September 29, 2011

Hope you enjoy. I need to find some more movies for my Netflix queue . . . it’s getting very very short!

18. Christine Grote - September 29, 2011

I haven’t seen it, but your post has intrigued me. Maybe I will.

nrhatch - September 30, 2011

It’s not a stellar movie in many ways . . . but its redeeming virtues and its tendency to provoke thought outweigh its deficiencies.

19. eof737 - September 30, 2011

Not yet, but will add it to my list of movies to see… I didn’t see Liar, Liar as I can only stomach so much of that slapstick, in-your-face over the top, humorous shtick! This sounds like it’d be a bit more palatable. TY 🙂

nrhatch - September 30, 2011

It’s been ages since I saw Liar, Liar. As I recall, it too had its redeeming virtirues.

I can sit through a lot of misadventures of the 3rd kind and in-your-face humor . . . if the underlying message has a point.

20. Tilly Bud - September 30, 2011

I did and I enjoyed it, but I can’t remember it, so not a classic.

nrhatch - September 30, 2011

It’s certainly not The Sound of Music . . . or Willy Wonka and the Malteser Factory. :mrgreen:

21. Team Oyeniyi - October 1, 2011

I think I’m with Elizabeth on the slapstick, in your face, over the top stuff. I don’t find it attractive at all.

As for the concept of a brutally truthful world – while it might be a little harsh at times, I’m still of the opinion it might be better than what we have! Imagine the benefit of HONEST politicians!!!

nrhatch - October 1, 2011

The transition might be awkward as we acclimate to conversations with people revealing TMI (Too Much Information). 😉

22. enermazing - October 1, 2011

No, I still haven’t seen it – something I’m looking forward to 😀

nrhatch - October 1, 2011


23. Perfecting Motherhood - October 4, 2011

I watched it about a year ago and I liked the idea of it and it was quite funny. I just thought some of the plot/dialog towards the end didn’t match the whole promise, as if the writers forgot the people couldn’t lie. But overall, it was OK.

nrhatch - October 4, 2011

I tend to agree ~ the beginning showed amazing promise, the end fizzled a bit. But the concept stuck with me . . .

What if?

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[…] The Invention of Lying (nrhatch.wordpress.com) […]

25. 96. Getting caught lying | Awkward List - October 27, 2011

[…] The Invention of Lying (nrhatch.wordpress.com) […]

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