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ATN Movie Review: The Invention of Lying

October 16, 2009

Ricky Gervais missed a huge opportunity here. In the movie, the main character lives in a world where everyone tells the truth. No one can lie and everyone believes every claim. On top of that, people tend to be boring and stupid as well.  Life is stagnant for our poor hero, Mark Bellison, until the day he discovers he can lie. Then–kaboom–he finds lying is a power that brings him fame and fortune, particularly when he tells his dying mother that, contrary to her expectations, she will go to a wonderful place when she’s dead, a place where everyone is happy, owns a mansion, and lives for eternity. He goes on to say a guy in the sky told him this. And since everyone’s gullible, the whole world looks to him for guidance. At this point the film becomes a self-congratulatory satire on religion, which is fine, but when it’s wrapped around the plot of a lame rom-com, it comes off flat. Not to mention that Gervais innocently assumes women are attracted to men in the same way men are to women.

Anyway, I say Gervais missed a huge opportunity here because, while he and the rest of Hollywood can satirize religious folk for naively holding false beliefs, Bellison could’ve easily won any political office in the movie’s land. He could have made all sorts of promises–free health care! mansions for everyone! full employment!–and, just as they did with his poppycock about the guy in the sky, the overly gullible people would have taken the bait. And wouldn’t the satire of democratic government have been delicious?

All Bellison had to do was skip L. Ron Hubbard and instead, channel his inner Robert Higgs, who wisely writes:

Until more people come to a more realistic, fact-based understanding of the government and the economy, little hope exists of tearing them away from their quasi-religious attachment to a government they view with misplaced reverence and unrealistic hopes. Lacking a true religious faith yet craving one, many Americans have turned to the state as a substitute god, endowed with the divine omnipotence required to shower the public with something for nothing in every department – free health care, free retirement security, free protection from hazardous consumer products and workplace accidents, free protection from the Islamic maniacs the U.S. government stirs up with its misadventures in the Muslim world, and so forth. If you take the government to be Santa Claus, you naturally want every day to be Christmas; and the bigger the Santa, the bigger his sack of goodies.

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