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Liar Revealed

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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 Internal 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. Contrast Instantly Proven Wrong, an inconsequential, situational comedy element.


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    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.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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.

  • By the end of Chapter 30 of Becoming the Mask, Jim's troll allies, adoptive mother, and human friends have all found out that he's a Changeling.

    Film — Animated 
  • Near the end of Cars 2, Mater reveals he is not a spy.
  • A Bug's Life has Flik supposedly finding "warrior bugs" to save his colony after misconstruing a situation. When he realizes his mistake (that they're circus performers rather than trained warriors), he's forced to keep the lie going in order to not cause panic among the other ants. 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 Vincent the bear, whose food pile he accidentally destroyed. Later, while arguing with Verne over a can of Spuddies in Gladys' pantry, RJ snaps and angrily and accidentally exposes his ruse to Verne and the others.
    Verne: What's going on RJ?
    Verne: Well then, let's get out of here because we have what we need!
    RJ: No, we don't!
    Verne: What are you talking about? We have more than enough!
    RJ: Hey, listen! I've got about this long to hand over that wagon load of food to a homicidal bear! AND IF THESE SPUDDIES AREN'T ON THE MENU, I WILL BE! NOW, LET GO OF MY TAIL!
    Verne: What?
    RJ: LET GO!
  • In Shark Tale, Oscar reveals he's not the Shark Slayer at the end of the movie.
  • The movie for Gulliver's 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, mainly because the princely exterior was mainly a cover for the street-rat she first met and fell in love with.
  • 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.
  • The titular character of Yellowbird, who had been keeping a secret the entire film, finally spills the beans near the film's end. Karl, not him, was meant to lead the flock to Africa, per the instructions of the flock's late leader Darius. Not only did he have no clue where Africa was, they weren't aware he didn't either. He tried to defend himself by stating that was the first time he'd ever been part of a flock and felt appreciated, and that all the misfortune that befell them was his fault. The other flock members are shocked and disheartened, most of all Delf, who'd come to view him as a good friend.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Andhadhun, Sophie finds out that Akash was only feigning blindness from the kid living next door to him. In an ironic twist, this happens at the same time as Simi blinds him for real.
  • In About Elly, Sepideh's lies all come out one by one after Elly disappears.
  • This is the premise of Big Fat Liar. Protagonist Jason Shepherd is assumed to be the liar by more or less everyone he knows, and the movie revolves around him trying to reveal Marty Wolf as one.
  • Downplayed in The Force Awakens. Finn lies about being a Resistance fighter when he meets Rey. When he does admit about his past, she's more upset that he plans to run away than that he lied to her.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • In Pokémon Detective Pikachu, this is Inverted in the second act, which ends with Pikachu seemingly getting revealed to have been Mewtwo's accomplice before losing his memories. But Tim and Pikachu only saw a portion of the recreation of events before being cut off, and while Pikachu believes that he himself is to blame for Harry's supposed death, Tim reasonably believes that there must be more to the story than that.
  • 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.
  • 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 Where the Wild Things Are, Max 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This trope appears in Big Time Rush, when Jo fakes her boyfriend.
  • Doctor Who: In "Gridlock", the Doctor is forced to admit at the end that he had been lying by omission to Martha by not admitting that he's the Last of His Kind.
  • iCarly
    • Done when Sam changes Carly's grade.
    • She does it again during a web convention about Carly and Fred dating just to mess with the crowd at an iCarly panel. She attempts to fix it but seeing how they're dealing with geeks and fanboys, it doesn't work.
  • 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.
  • The first episode of Toby Terrier And His Video Pals revolves around Toby pretending to know everything about working at a TV station. He eventually reveals the truth, that he doesn't.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • In Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, Nathan Drake's brother Sam—long believed to have died in a Panamanian prison escape—returns, claiming that he needs Nate's help to find Henry Avery's pirate treasure in order to pay off a debt owed to drug lord Hector Alcázar. However, Nate learns from the Big Bad, Rafe Adler, that Alcázar had already died in an Argentina shootout six months before, and that Rafe bribed the prison warden to get Sam out, knowing that Sam had information on the treasure's whereabouts. This angers Nate, who was putting his own life and personal relationships on the line for what he thought was rescuing his brother.

    Web Original 

    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.
    • Subverted in another episode where Cosmo lied to everyone in his high school class that he was rich and successful. After attending a reunion and claiming that Timmy and Wanda were his servants, the truth is ultimately revealed but nobody minds because they all lied about what they did after high school (e.g. the sports jock is actually a ballet dancer).
  • 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.
  • Subverted in Star vs. the Forces of Evil. In a earlier episode, Marco helped depose Miss Heinous as headmaster of St Olga's Reform School for Wayward Princesses while disguised as a princess and he maintains the charade when visiting the school later on to avoid disappointing the other students who all look up to "Princess Turdina". However, when Miss Heinous exposes the truth—fully expecting it to cause everyone to turn on Marco and allow her to return as headmaster—the princesses are surprised, but in the end, they admit they don't care. Partially out of appreciation for everything Marco has done for them and partially because they all really hate Miss Heinous.


Video Example(s):


The Liar Revealed (Doug Walker)

Doug Walker explaining briefly what this trope is about and why he hates it so much

Example of:

Main / LiarRevealed
Main / LiarRevealed