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Compulsive Liar

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"I'm not a nymphomaniac. I'm a compulsive liar."
Allison Reynolds, The Breakfast Club

For most people, lying is a skill. Something they do when they feel it's beneficial or necessary. Some people have strong moral opposition to lying, others may not care that much and some will do it whenever it suits their purposes, but nearly everyone needs some sort of reason to tell a lie.

In fiction, however, you will sometimes see characters who will not only lie without a valid reason, but will not tell the truth even if they would benefit by doing so. They may practice some bizarre religion or philosophy that requires them to always lie, they may be lying so much (because they're hiding a big secret/a lot of secrets) that they may sometimes lie without meaning/needing to, they might be physically incapable of telling the truth, or they may be so smug and self-assured that they lie for the sheer sake of lying just to mess with people. This usually causes some trouble, since a person incapable of conveying factual information will obviously face difficulties in regards to communication.

Truth in Television. Pathological lying can develop in Real Life, both as a stand-alone mental disorder and as a symptom of other disorders such as psychopathy or narcissism, or from situations where the truth becomes dangerous to tell, such as abusive households. Nonetheless, since accusing people of falsehood is extremely easy and leads to pointless arguments, No Real Life Examples, Please! is in effect.

Contrast Cannot Tell a Lie and Will Not Tell a Lie. Compare Consummate Liar, who is very proficient at lying, but not necessarily forced to practice it and Knights and Knaves, when inability to tell the truth is a part of a logical problem rather than an element of characterization. Might occur alongside Undercover When Alone - when staying "undercover" becomes a compulsive thing. See also Stupid Evil for characters who will commit acts of cruelty even if it would be detrimental to them even in short term and Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat for characters who prefer a dishonest victory to an honest one.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bocchi of Bocchi the Rock! has a tendency to start making up wild lies the moment she gets pressed, most of which are very unconvincing. For instance, when asked if she plays guitar, while holding a guitar, she claims she doesn't, and she's actually just talking it to the pawn shop.
  • One Piece: Vice Admiral Vergo has a quirk where he claims that he has something, or has done something, but some other character immediately points out the truth. I.e at one point, he says that he's looking for his sword, only for Monet to remind him that he's not a swordsman. It may have something to do with him being The Mole inside the Marines for Doflamingo's pirate group, and his need to appear amicable and approachable.

    Comic Books 
  • Blackbird: Sharpie the cat-demon has been cursed never to tell the truth, as part of Nina's mother's attempts to keep her out of the magical world. Fortunately, the curse is broken as soon as they recognize it.
  • The Devil from the Judge Dredd: Anderson comic showed a deconstruction of the trope as the cosmic being in question constantly lies to the point it can no longer tell the truth about its own actions or it's existence. Anderson only needs to provide some doubt for it to completely self-destruct from being mentally destroyed by its own need to lie, even to itself.
  • Venom's Start of Darkness began when Eddie Brock published a story about the true identity of the criminal Sin-Eater, whom he had seemingly gotten to confess. Soon afterwards, Spidey apprehended the real Sin-Eater, with the man Eddie interviewed turning out to be a compulsive confessor.

    Fan Works 
  • Hero Chat: Lila Rossi, as in canon, just will not stop lying even if it would benefit her. During the "Chameleon" event Chloe and the other heroes jump to Marinette's defense and expose Lila's lies, but Lila manages to wriggle out of punishment by claiming she has a "lying disease." By all accounts, this is a lie (or at least not the whole truth). While Lila does get a doctor's note submitted to the school, Mrs. Bustier is skeptical because Lila plans ahead with far too much malice to be simply a compulsive liar.
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug story A Small but Stubborn Fire, Sabine's own mother accused her of being one and never heard her out. This is a big reason why she is so hesitant to call Marinette out when it is clear to her that her daughter is lying to her out of fear that she will become like her own mother.

  • Gene Wilder plays a pathological liar in his final theatrical film role in Another You. The mental condition is played for both drama and comedy as he is released from a mental hospital in the beginning, and gets caught up in a plot where he is required to pose as a millionaire.
  • Allison in The Breakfast Club claims this is her psychological problem. She shows up to Saturday detention because she claims she had nothing better to do, and presents herself as a Cloudcuckoolander. How much of that is true is unknown.
  • The entire plot of the film Bloodsport is based on a series of claims from real-life martial artist Frank Dux. Despite the film's box office success, Frank Dux's claims have since been disputed, and Dux himself has been discredited as a con man and compulsive liar.
  • Marvin's Room: Hank is implied, but never officially stated, to be this. Early on, Lee relates to Charlotte (Hank's psychiatrist) of how he told his high school guidance counselor that she beats him, which she claims is a lie. Later on, he admits to Bessie that he's lied to her about his shenanigans in the mental hospital.
  • Vanilla from No Kidding is always spinning lies about being abused and mistreated to gain the sympathy of others, most often Catherine.

  • In the Fighting Fantasy gamebook Creature of Havoc, Daga Weaseltongue compulsively lies even when volunteering vital information in thanks for the player character saving his life. It takes an elf-crafted magic charm to force the truth out of him.

  • Hank the Cowdog: In The Secret Laundry Monster Files, Hank tells Drover that cats are perpetual liars, even on occasions when it would prove simpler not to do so, to the point that they can discount anything a cat says out of hand. This relates more to his dislike of cats than to reality and he experiences a brief Heroic BSoD when Pete tells them the truth about a raccoon in the yard.
  • In The Rising of the Shield Hero, Malty is an extraordinarily dishonest person, often lying to manipulate others. For this reason, in the anime and manga versions of the story when she is put on trial, she is branded with a magical crest that shocks her whenever she tells a lie. Despite this, she still insists on committing perjury several times, even though all that accomplishes is causing her more pain.
  • In the novel Bronwyn's Bane by Elizabeth Scarborough, Princess Bronwyn is cursed to never be able to tell the truth. The curse is so powerful that she can't even say "Please pass the salt" when she wants to salt her food. She has to ask her tablemates to pass the pepper and hope that they will pass the salt as well.
  • Discworld: Rob Anybody is unable to stop himself from adding dragons and fights to anything he says even when they obviously didn't happen, solely for Rule of Cool.
  • The Telling Error has Nicki Clemens, who seems compelled to lie in any given situation even though she knows she's likely to get caught. Simon comments her behaviour works like a lightning rod - she's terrified of being found out but subconsciously seeks out punishment by adding on lie after lie. Her psychologically abusive parents play a big part in her lying nature.
  • Pale: Snowdrop is literally unable to tell the truth, as something intrinsic to her nature. Though this just means you can always work out what she's trying to say by just taking the opposite meaning. This trait causes some confusion in the series, where Practitioners and Others usually Cannot Tell a Lie, so they're often blindsided by someone who does the opposite.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Family Law, Randi dates a veteran judge who's put on the hot spot when a background check reveals that not only did he not graduate from Harvard but he never graduated from any college, let alone law school. The judge tells Randi that he passed the bar after clerking for a judge for years and put out the story of being a Harvard grad to get clients. Randi is ready to defend him on that to the ethics board...only for them to reveal the judge has lied about nearly everything in his background from military service to a non-existent job overseas. Randi is more jarred by how the judge refuses to acknowledge his lies (he still insists he won a medal in the Korean War despite evidence he's never set foot in the country).
    • Randi is able to show that, while lying on his life, the judge has never been anything but honest on the bench so the board allows him to retire with dignity. Before they part ways, Randi has to laugh when the judge reveals he's also been lying about his real first name.
  • If Benjamin Linus from Lost says anything, absolutely anything, assume it is a lie. Even if there is seemingly no benefit for him, he's very likely lying.
    Ben: I lied. That's what I do.
  • Jon Lovitz's character from Saturday Night Live, the Pathological Liar, not only lies compulsively, but tells some outrageously far-fetched lies, and has as his catchphrase, "Yeah, that's the ticket..."
  • Garak on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is essentially a professional liar.
    Garak: Lying is a skill like any other and if you want to maintain a level of excellence, you have to practice constantly.
    Worf: Practice on someone else.

    Mythology and Folklore 
  • In Japanese folklore, otters (kawauso) are sometimes depicted this way, since the the "uso" part of their name is Japanese for "lie".

  • Epimenides paradox states that Cretans are always liars, implying they cannot tell the truth, thus making the statement — written by someone who was himself a Cretan — paradoxical.

    Tabletop Games 
  • According to Black Crusade lying in each and every situation is pretty much a requirement for champions of Tzeentch. While his lesser followers can get away with doing pretty much whatever they want, as the Chaos God won't be particularly concerned about their behavior, a Daemon Prince can get severely punished for giving a completely honest statement.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The Crown of Evil provides great power to a Card-Carrying Villain wearer, but compels them to speak only lies. Its Flavor Text notes that wearers usually prefer to remain silent.
  • Old World of Darkness: The Pooka kith from Changeling: The Dreaming are tricksters who have to make a serious effort (i.e. expend Willpower points) to give people a straight answer. Depending on the individual, they might speak in lies, half-truths, riddles, or any other way they can think of to conceal the whole truth.

  • Elder Cunningham in The Book of Mormon, who admits to Elder Price that compulsively lying is his biggest flaw. He pretends to know a lot more about Mormonism than he really does, especially once he's sent on his mission with the much more devout Elder Price. But when that doesn't work, Elder Cunningham isn't above a few in-universe Ass Pulls to help the people of Uganda connect more with the Mormon texts. It's later revealed that Elder Cunningham also had to resort to this because he's never read a single word of the Book of Mormon, meaning he was Feigning Intelligence through his entire upbringing. Also, Elder Cunningham's lying and ass-pulling comes back to bite him when the Ugandans put on a play about the things Elder Cunningham had been saying, which gets the entire area decommissioned by Mormon higher-ups when they see how much Cunningham has been lying about.invoked

    Video Games 
  • Fallout
    • Fallout: New Vegas DLC Honest Hearts features an NPC named Ricky who is an annoying form of this. He's constantly and badly talking himself up as a badass native of Vault 22, who has three testicles, fights "Deathjaws" on the regular, and has killed a Brotherhood of Steel Paladin by shooting him through the visor of his helmet with an "11mm SMG." With the appropriate skills and perks, you can call him on all of this, and either tell him to leave or carry some of your stuff into the DLC proper.
    • Fallout 4 has the companion known only as Deacon. This is not a real name, but rather a code name that he took as an operative of the Railroad, a clandestine organization dedicated to rescuing Synths from the Institute. While few, if any other members of the group have had their real name revealed, even members of the Railroad aren’t quite sure who Deacon is. It’s stated that he goes so far as to have his face reconstructed every so often, and he claims he even spent some time “as a woman.” He also point blank tells you that he is a compulsive liar, and that you should take anything he says with a grain of salt. Needless to say, fan theories regarding his true identity exist in spades.
  • Nikolai from Kraken Academy!! has a habit of inflating his accomplishments juuust a bit. For example, he claims to be the #1 DDR player in the world, yet can't even best his fellow classmates. And, when you inspect the game in his room while he's gone, it's revealed he keeps it on easy mode.
  • God of War Ragnarök: Odin, to Hel and back. His behavior is examined in an ambient conversation: after Atreus returns to Kratos after running away to work under Odin, Atreus asks Mimir why Odin would lie about things like how he lost his eye even when Odin and Atreus knows it isn't true, and the lie has absolutely nothing to do with his goals. Mimir explains that liars will lie, and for a Control Freak like Odin it means that he has power over people's perception of himself and others; lies still have an effect when both parties know the truth. He'll lie over even the pettiest of details, and even to people that he knows already know the truth (see him lying about Thor's death to Thrud, who'd just witnessed him murder Thor), just because he can't stand the loss of control over subjective reality involved in admitting things.
    Mimir: If he tells you "Snow is White": he's LYING.
    Odin: Now what kind of wisdom is that? Can't the smartest head alive see past himself?

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony has Kokichi Oma, who might as well be the poster boy for this trope. He's a major liar and is proud of it too. It's sometimes very helpful, as he's good at identifying people like him (i.e., the culprits), and sometimes a major problem, as he can't stop lying even when his dishonesty has turned the other students against him.
  • Your Turn to Die presents Sou Hiyori who lies both blatantly and competently so often that it's considered unwise to trust anything he says unless he is either forced to admit it or someone undeniably catches a misstep of his. In a bit of a deconstruction, because Sou lies so incredibly often (and often times lies about things for no reason than to piss others off), he will occasionally expose his own lies by contradicting himself in heat-of-the-moment lies.
  • V from Mystic Messenger lies more than he tells the truth. He's so unwilling to be honest with the RFA about where he is, what he's doing, Rika's death, and the many other secrets he keeps, that he'll frequently lie to his friends' faces about things that put them in serious danger, such as the bomb in Rika's apartment during the Casual and Deep routes. Everyone in the RFA knows that he's hiding things from them, but some, like Jumin and Seven, are a little more lenient about it and try to give him the benefit of the doubt. The true extent of his dishonesty is revealed during the Another Story routes, when MC finds herself in real mortal danger and he has no choice but fess up.

  • The Order of the Stick: Loki is afflicted by this due to being a Trickster God. Because millions of people believe him to be a compulsive liar incapable of honesty, the mechanics of faith force Loki to act the part. He cannot be fully honest with anyone other than Thor — there is apparently an exception for rubbing things in Thor's face.
  • In Dangerously Chloe, Prudence temporarily becomes this when Gabrielle, sensing something's "off" about her, feeds her chocolates laced with truth serum so she'll divulge what she's up to. However, because Prudence is an angel, the drug has the opposite effect, causing her to involuntarily blurt out obviously false and far-fetched answers to Gabrielle's questions.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Transformers: Animated: Each clone that Starscream makes of himself represents a part of his personality. In the case of Ramjet, who represents Starscream's dishonesty, everything that comes out of his mouth is a lie, even if it's absurdly obvious. The Autobots even realize that he'll often give away valuable information if you understand the statement he makes is always untrue.
    Ramjet: What are you talking about? I am the original Starscream.
    Starscream: Liar. I am the original Starscream.
    Ramjet: I never said I was the original Starscream.
    Starscream: You just did right now!
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Since Applejack represents the element of honesty, her exact opposite ends up lying constantly, as shown when Discord corrupts her into lying about everything in "The Return of Harmony", and when Chrysalis makes a clone of her who lies in "The Mean Six".
  • Miraculous Ladybug features Lila Rossi, who is always telling lies to people, namely making her life more exciting and grandiose than it actually is, to make people like her. When Ladybug calls her out on it, instead of seeking to change this, she develops a grudge against her, along with anyone else who calls her a liar, no matter how gently they tell her off… and by "grudge" we mean "becomes willing accomplice of Hawk Moth and constantly seeks to make her enemies collateral damage to his schemes to wreck Paris".
  • SpongeBob SquarePants had a series of shorts as part of the various Nickelodeon Shorts and Interstitials called Astrology with Squidward, where Squidward would give his descriptions and predictions for those of certain Western Zodiac signs. His description of Pisces amounts to "Pisceans lie all the time, even if they think they're being honest"; he then gives a piece of advice to Pisceans who want to stop lying - never talk again.


Video Example(s):


George Santos- SNL

George Santos (real name: Bowen Yang) exits Congress by singing "Scandal in the Wind", with music and lyrics he wrote himself.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

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Main / SongParody

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