Liar Revealed

Laura: There's no Earth. You made it all up. President Adar and I once talked about the legends surrounding Earth. He knew nothing about a secret location regarding Earth, and if the President knew nothing about it, what are the chances that you do?
Adama: You're right. There's no Earth. It's all a legend.
Laura: Then why?
Adama: Because it's not enough to just live. You have to have something to live for. Let it be Earth.
Laura: They'll never forgive you.
Adama: Maybe. But in the meantime I've given all of us a fighting chance to survive. And isn't that what you said was the most important thing, the survival of the human race?

Liar Revealed is The Reveal of The Lie, the facade maintained by a protagonist which provides the primary dramatic tension for the plot. This usually sets up the third act where the protagonists are forced to deal with the consequences of the lie on top of any external threats.

The magnitude of the lie is important. It usually involves one or more of the protagonists setting themselves up, intentionally or accidentally, as something they are not, and other characters buying into the lie such that failure of the protagonist to live up to the facade may be disastrous. For example, a main character receives praise for an act of heroism they didn't actually commit, then is put in a position where he will have to repeat his feat to save the day again, only to have their deception revealed just when people are counting on him most. (He will usually then proceed to save the day anyway, earning back the trust of those he deceived.)

There are a few usual ways this ends up. If the lie was for selfish reasons, the protagonist will doubtless face the wrath of those he lied to, but along the way end up having a change of conscience, and try to redeem themselves through good acts and An Aesop about "what really matters". If the lie was well-intentioned, the protagonist may still find that others turn their backs on him, but go on to carry through with what they said they'd do anyway, proving themselves a hero after all.

It's worth noting that this trope is particularly easy and common to misuse, either in the tendency of the protagonist to Maintain the Lie for reasons that make no sense except for dramatic tension or of the deceived to turn against the protagonist for the deception in spite of other considerations that should by all rights absolve him.

A type of The Reveal. Shares many commonalities with Third-Act Misunderstanding.


Anime and Manga
  • Love Hina uses this for when the roommates discover that Keitaro is not a Tokyo U student early on. This leads to their already fairly low attitude of him sinking even lower.

Films — Animated
  • Near the end of Cars 2, Mater reveals he is not a spy.
  • A Bug's Life has Flick saying he has found heros to save the colony when, to his shock, they're only circus bugs. Once the colony finds out, this moment happens.
  • This is the basic setup for the main character's identity in Rango
  • Chicken Run: Rocky leaves the other half of his poster when he abandons the hen farm, revealing his flight was merely him being shot out of a cannon.
  • In Open Season, Elliot trying to be friends with Boog by leading him in circles.
  • In Over the Hedge the trope is expressed by RJ's plan to pillage suburban food to feed a bear. Eventually reveals his intentions in the end.
  • In Shark Tale, Oscar reveals he's not the Shark Slayer at the end of the movie.
  • The movie for Gullivers Travels, Gulliver must eventually reveal that he is not a ruler, nor does anyone respect him or even like him.
  • Played with in Disney's Aladdin. Street rat Aladdin uses a wish granted by a genie to impersonate a prince so he can court Princess Jasmine. Aladdin and the genie argue about whether to tell Jasmine the truth. Later on, Jafar reveals Aladdin's true identity, but Jasmine isn't angry with Aladdin for lying.
  • Near the end of Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, Captain DuBois confronts the Zoosters backstage at a circus actnote , pursuing them and revealing that they were from the zoo all along, forcing them to give up the act.
  • The LEGO Movie applies this trope for less than a minute. When the protagonist is assumed to be the Special by his rescuer, Wyldstyle, he rather uneasily agrees (he does want to believe it but is unsure about it). Luckily, she figures out he isn't quite the fitting Special easily and this promptly upsets her.
  • The Tigger Movie applies this trope when Tigger mistakenly believes that his family is coming to visit him (after having gotten a letter from his friends who were trying to cheer him up). It's zigzagged several failed attempts to reveal who had written the letter to a very busy Tigger, Roo and the others decide to disguise themselves as Tigger's family to cheer him up and Tigger learning the truth (much to his great disappointment), therefore playing this trope straight.

Films — Live-Action
  • In Yes-Man, Carl reveals that he has only been doing adventurous things with his new girlfriend Allison because of a self-empowerment seminar that told him to say 'yes' to every opportunity.
  • Oz: The Great and Powerful plays with this. When he comes to Oz, Oscar is believed by everyone to be a great and powerful wizard destined to save them all, which he just runs with so he can become king. As early as the second act he outright tells the truth to Finley, who's stuck with him because of a life debt, and briefly frets over the repercussions. Glinda and the rest of his friends figure it out on their own, but they're all fairly accepting because he still gets things done, and because they know he's truly good at heartnote . The rest of Oz never learns the truth, while the Wicked Witches are ultimately fooled by his lies.
  • A variation of this occurs in The Waterboy, where the Cougars crash the Mud Dogs' victory party to announce that Bobby's high school transcript was fabricated. This causes the entire Mud Dog team to abruptly turn their backs on him, in spite of everything he did for them. Not long after, it's revealed that Coach Klein was actually the person responsible for the fake transcript, leading everybody to later come out and apologize to Bobby as he takes care of his "sick" mother in the hospital.
  • In Housesitter, the main characters (Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn) lie their way through the movie, posing off as a separated married couple, Martin trying to win back his old girlfriend, and Hawn trying to milk the house and money from the lie for all it's worth. At the end of the movie when it looks like the lie is finally going to be revealed, it isn't. The townsfolk go on continuing to believe the whole story, and Martin and Hawn don't ever tell people the truth.
  • In Galaxy Quest, a race of aliens abduct the washed-up actors of an old sci-fi show. They quickly learn that the aliens believe that the show is real, calling the episodes "historical documents," and see their characters as heroes. When they're forced to explain the true nature of the show, it's like watching a kid's heart break as he learns there's no Santa Claus.
  • In Saw 3D, the protagonist is tested by Jigsaw because he never was actually put in a trap by Jigsaw but has lied to the world saying he was in a trap where he had to put hooks in his pectoral muscles and climb up to a light to deactivate a switch to escape. Since Jigsaw and Hoffman don't particularly like him lying like that to get fame and fortune (he even got a wife who WAS a Jigsaw victim). He then has several traps aimed around everyone who helped him lie including his best friend, his publicist, and his lawyer all in traps that he has to save them from, which he fails them all. He then finds his wife, where he is forced to confess he never was tested by Jigsaw before this point, and Jigsaw forces him, as an ironic shout to him, to try and recreate the trap he made up to hit a switch that will save his wife from a Brazen Bull. he fails this as well and she burns to death. The whole movie is basically built on the Liar Revealed trope, showing disastrous outcomes when in a horror film.
    • The first scene that is unrelated to the rest of the film where Brad and Ryan are bound to a double-bladed bandsaw and Dina is above the third blade jutting upwards is all a part of this as well. At first both men try to kill the other by pushing the blade into the other one in order to save themselves and Dina... until Dina essentially reveals that she's been playing both of them for money and comfort at the same time, thus cheating on both of them. Brad and Ryan decide to spare one another, resulting in Dina's death.
  • In About Elly, Sepideh's lies all come out one by one after Elly disappears.
  • In Where the Wild Things Are the boy lies about having psychic powers and being a king even though all the monsters are much stronger than him. They could probably accidentally kill him! When the lie is revealed, one of the monsters goes so far as to try to eat him and rip off the arm of another monster protecting him. Oddly enough, Doug Walker loves this movie!

  • Miranda July's short story "The Sister" is built around this. The protagonist's friend, Victor Caesar-Sanchez, creates the character of his sister, who becomes the love interest of the protagonist. He keeps the lie up by mentioning that she was at certain events that the main character was at, and claiming that they keep missing each other. Eventually, the protagonist becomes enamoured with her imagined being, at which point Victor seduces him and reveals his attraction. Basically, Victor created the character of his sister to deal with his feelings of attraction to the main character.

Newspaper Comics
  • This occurs in a months-long storyline for Retail. In an effort to get a raise, Josh fabricates a story to his bosses that a competing retail store offered him a job with bigger salary. Much to Marla's protest, their district manager, Stuart, authorizes the raise. Weeks later Marla finds out that the store never offered him a job. She promptly tells Stuart, and while he warns against firing him, it's pretty evident that he's pissed at the whole thing, judging by a later strip which showed Josh calling him.
    • Josh, realizing he was going to get fired, got a new job and gave a two-weeks notice to Marla, who ended up firing him anyway without working out the notice after he bragged about how he got away with lying.

Live-Action TV
  • This trope appears in Big Time Rush, when Jo fakes her boyfriend.
  • iCarly uses this when Sam changes Carly's grade.
  • In Season 2 of Orange Is the New Black, Piper manages to get furlough and promises Red that she'll visit her family's restaurant. However, when she gets there, she finds that it has actually been closed for years, but assures her that it was amazing. The following season, Red's family comes to visit and are unconvincing when they say that the restaurant is fine.

Video Game
  • This occurs in Bioshock Infinite when Booker is told to tell Elizabeth whatever she wants to hear in order to convince her to go with him. Booker tells Elizabeth that they are heading to Paris, as it is a city she has dreamed of visiting. Elizabeth's knowledge of navigation allows her to deduce that Booker is not taking her to Paris, but instead to New York. Elizabeth runs away from Booker; however, they ultimately decide to stick together.

Web Original
  • Though the trope itself is Older Than Dirt, the trope title is at least partly cemented here vis a vis The Nostalgia Critic and other videos by Doug Walker, where Doug lists it as number 2 on his "Top Ten Worst Cliches". In other videos he notes that he absolutely hates this type of plot and very rarely sees a movie where he thinks it works (How to Train Your Dragon and Madagascar 3 being notable exceptions).

Western Animation
  • In Danny Phantom, this trope is seen briefly in the third movie, "Reality Trip". It's used twice in the fourth movie/series finale, "Phantom Planet", as both Vlad's and Danny's identities are made public.
  • In The Fairly OddParents, Timmy wishes to be popular and spends the episode that way until he reveals himself at the end.
  • In one particular episode of Spongebob Squarepants when Mrs. Puff passed Spongebob too early on his driving test.
  • Averted in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Sweet and Elite", where it looks like this is being set up when Rarity lies about Opal being sick, so she won't immediately have to travel back to Ponyville for Twilight's birthday and miss an exclusive garden party with Canterlot's high society. However, the truth is never discovered and the Aesop is about something else entirely (loving and not being ashamed of your friends even if they aren't as sophisticated as others think they should be).
    • In fact Rarity lies to people at the party about her friend Dash being the Wonderbolts' trainer, yet this is never brought up again even after all her friends, including Rainbow Dash, show up and then eventually join the party.