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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?
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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.)

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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.

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A type of The Reveal. Shares many commonalities with Third-Act Misunderstanding. Contrast Instantly Proven Wrong, an inconsequential, situational comedy element.


Examples:

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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.

    Audio Play 
  • The plot of 36 Questions gets into motion when Natalie is forced to admit that everything she's told her husband for the past two years, including her name, is a lie.

    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.

    Fan Works 
  • 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.
  • LadyBugOut: Lila unintentionally exposes herself as a liar to her classmates in The Interview Ruse when she attempts to play the victim and accuse Marinette and Ladybug of arranging that interview to try and humiliate her. Ivan points out that Marinette didn't know that Lila had been claiming to be involved with the blog, and her attempts to talk her way out of this only succeed in upsetting them even more. Only Alya stands by her, due to Lila claiming to have fallen out with Ladybug due to staying loyal to Alya and her Ladyblog.
    • Alya later realizes just how much of a habitual liar Lila is when she claims to have been Rena Rouge — Alya's former heroic identity.
  • Kicks off the plot of BURN THE WITCH (Miraculous Ladybug). After the events of "Chameleon", Marinette wanted to expose Lila, but Adrien convinced her to stop by reasoning that her lies would catch up to her eventually without their involvement. While he's technically correct, the story deconstructs this: Sure, Lila's lies caught up to her... but only after she'd done so much damage that the latest Akumatized villain is Witch Hunter, who wants to outright burn Lila at the stake for her crimes. And her many cruel actions have made most of the main characters susceptible to Witch Hunter's More Than Mind Control that convinces them that burning Lila alive is the right thing to do.

    Film — Animated 
  • 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, it inevitably results in one of the most painfully Played Straight examples of this trope in animation history...
  • 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?
    RJ: NOTHING!
    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. In contrast with most examples of this trope, Oscar reveals his lie to the world of his own volition and, for the most part, does not face any negative consequences for it.
  • 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 with 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 accidentally learns the truth much to his great disappointment, therefore playing this trope straight.
    Tigger: (angry and heartbroken) Oh... oh, now I understand; it was all a big joke. Well... that's alright. 'Cause somewhere out there, there's a tigger family tree, full of my real tigger family! I've got a letter to prove it! (steps out of the door into a snowstorm) And I'm gonna find them. So... TTFE. Ta-ta... FOREVER! (leaves, slamming the door behind him)
  • 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.
  • Played painfully straight in the film Klaus when the villains forcibly reveal that Jesper initially only set up his kids' toy-ordering scheme with Klaus because he wanted to mail enough letters to be allowed to leave Smeerensburg and resume his life of luxury. Jesper's friends all react very negatively to the facade and Jesper comes close to leaving the island before ultimately deciding to stay in order to earn forgiveness.

    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, Gwen claims that she's Newton's to get away with squatting in his empty house, resulting in a Snowball Lie that involves the entire town. Gavin ends up going along with the lie because it makes it old girlfriend jealous. Averted when it looks like the lie is finally going to be revealed, but it isn't. The relationship ends up becoming real, and they never bother to reveal that it was originally made up.
  • 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.

    Literature 
  • 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.
  • In the third part of Skippy Dies, after he starts acting out in school as a response to Skippy's death, Ruprecht's parents come to visit the school. This reveals that nearly all of Ruprecht's grandiose claims about himself were false— his parents are plumbers, not famous explorers, and he transferred schools due to a embarrassing gym class incident. This cascades into a reveal that Dennis faked the success of Ruprecht's portal, and that nearly all Ruprecht's brilliant inventions were likely fake as well.

    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.

    Theatre 
  • This occurs in The Importance of Being Earnest when both Jack and Algernon reveal that neither of them are named Ernest.
    Cecily: Are you called Algernon?
    Algernon: I cannot deny it.
    Cecily: Oh!
    Gwendolen: Is your name really John?
    Jack: I could deny it if I liked. I could deny anything if I liked. But my name certainly is John. It has been John for years.
    Cecily: A gross deception has been practised on both of us!
    Gwendolen: My poor wounded Cecily!
    Cecily: My sweet wronged Gwendolen!

    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.
  • The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince: The wolf, who took on the form of a princess to avoid scaring the blind prince and escort him to the witch's home so she can heal his eyes, has her secret revealed at the worst possible moment when the moon shines down and forces her into her true form while she's holding the prince's hand. Recognizing the claws that scarred his face and realizing the princess is the monster that attacked him, the prince angrily calls her a liar and a monster, though he does regret it and apologizes to her when she still goes out of her way to save his life.

    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 Clichés". In other videos he notes that he absolutely hates this type of plot for creating weak drama and very rarely sees a movie where he thinks it works (How to Train Your Dragon and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted being notable exceptions).
  • Pops up a lot in Marble Hornets, but especially in season 3. Entry #59 has Tim calling out Jay on not only stalking him, but inadvertently making the situation with Alex and the Operator worse with no progress to show for it. And then it gets flipped on its head in Entry #75, when Jay calls out Tim for hiding a tape from him when Tim specifically told Jay to not keep any more secrets.

    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).
  • Spongebob Squarepants:
    • In "Squilliam Returns", Squidward lies to Squilliam that he owns a five-star restaurant, but Squilliam calls his bluff by inviting himself and his friends to dine at said restaurant that very night. With considerable help from Spongebob, Squidward successfully disguises the Krusty Krab as a five-star restaurant, but the ruse is ultimately rumbled and Squidward is forced to admit he's just a cashier. There then follows a Double Subversion: Squilliam claims that he's been lying about his success, and that he's also just a cashier, but immediately admits he was joking: "Of course not! I'm filthy stinkin' rich!"
    • After SpongeBob is mistaken for a lifeguard and rolls with it for the popularity, he then goes to overprotective lengths to hide that he can't swim, only to end up exposed when his attempts to save Patrick result in him drowning alongside him. Parodied in that the beach-goers don't even act upset and just walk off uninterested in saving them (one of them is even heard saying they're simply done with the beach), and Larry reveals they weren't deep enough in the water anyway.
    • Another episode has a subversion similar to the Fairly Odd Parents example above. Mr. Krabs invites his old Navy buddies to a reunion at the Krusty Krab, but moults his shell just beforehand. Too embarrassed to attend without it, as his tough shell was his most famous trait, he has Spongebob wear his discarded shell and pretend to be him. When the ruse is eventually rumbled, Krabs appears and reveals the truth - at which point his Navy buddies admit they've also been lying about their traits (for example, one who had a torpedo embedded in his stomach has since had it removed).
  • 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.
  • Played straight, and then Subverted in the American Dad!! episode "Chimdale." Stan reveals to Steve that he's actually bald and has been wearing a wig the entire series, and then is caught wearing the wig at work after lying to Steve that he wouldn't wear it. The drama culminates into Stan revealing to the rest of the family. Turns out, they all already knew and didn't tell Steve or Stan because they (correctly) assumed the two would overreact.


 
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The Liar Revealed (Doug Walker)

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

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