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Lies to Children

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Calvin: Dad, what causes wind?
Dad: Trees sneezing.
Calvin: Really?
Dad: No, but the truth is more complicated.
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When things are strange and complicated, people like to explain them by analogy. Sometimes, this analogy is over simplified; for instance, while atoms are usually described as a proton-neutron nucleus with electrons orbiting it like planets round a star, in reality they don't resemble the solar system at all. However, it is still useful because it gives the listeners a simple concept they can grasp, while a more accurate explanation would confuse them or simply go over their heads. Once they've learned the analogy, they can continue to more complex topics that will eventually lead to the truth of the situation — or to another, more complicated set of lies.

This is likely to backfire if the listener takes the analogy too literally.

The term was coined by Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, and used in the book The Science of Discworld. Discworld books occasionally make an odd analogy, then, when taxed, say, "no, it's nothing like that, but it's a lie you can understand."

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Truth in Television as the atom example above shows. Considering how much we don't understand of the universe, science itself is this to a degree. (Stewart and Cohen have come pretty close to saying that all human knowledge will always be like this, because no description of reality is the same thing as the reality itself.) That said, only add general Real Life examples, please. (ex: "the atom looks like a solar system.")

See also Phlebotinum Analogy. May pop up while giving The Talk, thus leading to Miss Conception. Compare Layman's Terms. We're pretty familiar with it here on TV Tropes, due to Reality Is Unrealistic.


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Examples:

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    Asian Animation 
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 85, Wilie wants to know where he came from. Wolffy, instead of giving him a straighter answer for his question, tells him he used to be a tadpole. Wilie tells the goats, who say that's not true, but Wilie doesn't think his father would ever lie to him and disagrees with the goats. Once Wilie does find out the truth about tadpoles, though, he's absolutely devastated and Wolffy goes as far as to get the goats' help to convince Wilie otherwise.

    Comic Books 
  • In Runaways, Gert lampshades the fact that their parents never told them they were supervillains by listing all of the things parents lie to their children about: Santa, The Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and God. (Of course, this being the Marvel Universe, all of those things actually do exist in some capacity.)
  • The Chick Tract "Fairy Tales?" is an extended rant against this type of thing, stating that even if it seems harmless, a lie is a lie, and it will still hurt. Of course, this being Jack Chick, he makes this point in the most hyperbolic way possible...
  • Gleefully subverted with Lies To Tell Small Children by Andy Riley (the author of Bunny Suicides), which contains such facts as "Milk feels pain", "Wine makes mummy clever", that there are things living in acoustic guitars that eat fingers, and that every year Scotland is towed southwards so as to have a summer.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • This is a Running Gag with Calvin's Dad from as the page quote illustrates, but always taking it so far from reality it can hardly count as helpful. He also explains the workings of a light bulb and vacuum cleaner as "magic".
    Calvin: [turns lamp on and off] Look, mom, magic!
    Calvin's mom: That's not magic!
    • Lampshaded in the strip the page quote comes from. After a Beat Panel, we get Calvin commenting to Hobbes about how "The trees are really sneezing today." Calvin himself decided he didn't care to hear the true, complicated answer.
    • He hilariously lampshades the trope and plays it straight in one strip where he tells Calvin that the reason he knows so much is because once you become a father, you get a book that explains everything in the world, which leads to this exchange:
      Calvin: Can I see it?
      Dad: Nope.
      Calvin: Why not?
      Dad: It tells you what it's like to have a kid.
      Calvin: SO?
      Dad: You aren't allowed to know that until it's too late not to have one.
    • Both of Calvin's parents had some pretty unique ways to get him to eat his dinner. Early in the strip, when he wouldn't eat, his dad told him "that's a good idea, Calvin, because it's a plate of toxic waste that will turn you into a mutant if you eat it." He couldn't finish fast enough. While his mom objected to it that time, she did it herself in later strips, telling him that stuffed peppers were "monkey heads", that the rice in soup was maggots, and that her casserole was "spider pie" (unfortunately, while such methods convinced Calvin to eat, they made his dad lose his appetite).

    Fanfiction 
  • In born of hell('s kitchen), Matt and Jess don't want to bluntly tell their seven-year-old son they're actually superheroes with all the trauma it involves, and so try to gently ease him into the truth:
    • When Peter marvels at Matt's extremely high autonomy, Matt modestly admits he has very sharp audition and that his other senses kicked into overdrive after he went blind. That's not wrong, but that's not confessing he's got full-blown Super Senses caused by the chemical waste which ruined his eyes, either.
    • Jessica reassures Peter she never intended to give him for adoption, but was forced to do so by a very, bad man. Foggy later gives Ella Enchanted to Peter to read, as the story showcases how awful it is to be forced into obedience by preternatural means and as such will prepare the kid for the detailed version of his mother's past.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Parodied in Addams Family Values. Towards the beginning of the film, a normal little girl tells the Addams kids about the stork while Morticia is giving birth — Wednesday responds by bluntly, laconically explaining where babies really come from.
  • The Adventures of Baron Munchausen subverts this in the scene with the King and Queen of the Moon, who have detachable heads. At one point, the Queen's disembodied head begins making suggestive noises and expressions, prompting the Baron to awkwardly tell his Kid Sidekick that the King is tickling her feet in bed. Turns out the King is literally tickling the Queen's feet in bed.
  • This is one of the core themes of Finding Neverland. Sylvia is dying, but hides her condition from her sons and herself, or plays it off as a "chest cold". She also denied the seriousness of her late husband's illness, so now the kids are on guard, especially Peter. J.M. Barrie encourages them to use imagination to create reality through plays and stories. But where do fantasies end and lies begin?
  • In Ink, the soul of a little girl, Emma, is kidnapped, leaving her body in a coma. A Storyteller, captured while trying to rescue her, tries to explain what is happening and make the girl less afraid. "You still look like a little girl, but as soon as you came into this world, you started turning into a lioness." Emma replies, "You're full of it."
  • Robert Enrico's last film, Made In Winter, has a divorced father of three barricading himself in his farmhouse with his kids after their mom got custody. Similar to Life Is Beautiful, he tells them this is just a game, and keeps them thinking that right through the police negotiations and up until the armored security forces and SWAT teams arrive bristling with military hardware, and he shoots the kids and himself. This is based on the real-life Andre Fourquet tragedy in 1969 in the village of Cestas in southern France, although Fourquet was honest with his children.
  • In Miracle on 34th Street, Mrs. Walker tried to avoid this with her daughter, Susan, by telling her the truth about everything, in this case the reality about Santa Claus. The argument the movie makes is that kids can become bland and lack imagination if this is all they are taught.

    Literature 
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: At Greg's Garage Sale in Wrecking Ball, he puts broken toys on a table labeled "FUN TOYS" and outright says that he hopes kids who can't read will buy them.
  • Discworld:
    • In The Science of Discworld series, Lies-To-Children are not only explained in the non-fiction portions, but also used in-character (Ponder's Lies-To-Wizards and Hex's Lies-To-People) in the fiction segments.
    • The Lies-to-Darwin, since telling him the actual truth would be far too much of a Mind Screw.
    • In Night Watch, a history monk explains an aspect of time travel to Vimes using a metaphor involving jumping off a mountain as opposed to climbing it. Another monk complains that this is incredibly inaccurate, but the first doesn't care so long as Vimes understands what he needs to.
    • In Hogfather, Death explains to Susan that telling children little lies about such "non-existent" beings as the Hogfather and the Tooth Fairy helps train them to believe in the "big lies" — abstract concepts such as justice and mercy.
  • In the Judy Blume book Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself, Sally asks her mother how babies are made. Her mother mumbles something about how the husband plants a seed in the wife; ten-year-old Sally wants more details, so Mrs. Freedman buys her a book about it. Later on, her unmarried teenage neighbour gets pregnant and Sally asks how that's possible, since the book told her sex was something only married people did.
  • Merlin Athrawes in David Weber's Safehold series possesses enhanced abilities far beyond the human norm because he is a machine known as a PICA. However, the residents of the planet Safehold are trapped in anti-technology Medieval Stasis and lack the foundation to understand this. Merlin explains his capabilities by comparing them to those attributed to legendary heroes called seijin (Japanese for "holy men"). In particular, his access to high-tech surveillance allowing Merlin to spy on just about anyone, anywhere, are explained as visions that allow him to see the present, but neither past nor future.
  • Great Lies To Tell Small Kids by Andy Riley is partly this, and partly just trolling your children or younger relations: "Wine makes Mummy clever!" "Slugs are snails that couldn't pay the mortgage."
  • In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol, an instructor tells the recruits that they can get it because they come from industrialized eras; a Roman could not handle the idea of machines, and as for Babylonians, they have to be fed a line about a war between gods. When one recruit asks what they are being told, the answer is "the truth, but only as much as they can handle".
  • In Letters to His Son by British statesman Lord Chesterfield: "The good Protestant conviction, that The Pope is both Antichrist and the Whore of Babylon, is a more effectual preservative in this country against popery, than all the solid and unanswerable arguments of Chillingworth. [...] And that silly, sanguine notion, which is firmly entertained here, that one Englishman can beat three Frenchmen, encourages, and has sometimes enabled, one Englishman in reality to beat two." (letter 64)
  • In Little Star, Lennart convinces Theres to not leave the house by telling her that the world is full of "big people" who want to eat up the "little people" like her to the point that she is terrified of going outside.
  • Ma tells Jack a complex set of lies in Room, creating an entire cosmos. Once she confesses to him that television often shows "pictures of real things", she has to "unlie" about everything else.
  • Prior to surgery for urethral cancer, five-year-old Deborah Blau sees right through the doctors' cheery lies in Joanne Greenberg's I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. The lies are so ongoing and obvious that she comes to believe they're planning to kill her.
    "Now just be quiet. This won't hurt a bit," they had said, and then had come the searing stroke of the instrument...
    "What is this place?" she had asked.
    "Dreamland," had come the answer, and then the hardest, longest burning of that secret place she could imagine.
  • In The Dresden Files, Demonreach the Genius Loci commiserates with Bob the knowledge spirit over the fact that Bob has to explain the temporal ripples of a potential future catastrophe so terrible that its possibility is damaging the present using the analogy of a thrown rock. Harry Dresden, who had thought he had a fairly solid grasp of magical theory, is a bit put out.
  • In Oryx and Crake, the protagonist is left guiding the clueless, innocent, genetically modified humans called Crakers After the End. He really doesn't try to tell them the whole story of how the corrupt world of original humans was destroyed and what their creator Crake had to do with that (and died along with the rest), but instead goes straight for happy lies and mythological explanations, for example pretending that he too was created by Crake — as if Crake were God rather than a Mad Scientist.
  • In Matilda: Just after Matilda has shown her brilliance with numbers on her very first day of school, her classmate Lavender asks why Matilda can do it, and she can't. Miss Honey lies through her teeth and tells her not to worry, as she will soon catch up.

    Live Action TV 
  • Daredevil (2015). After barely surviving a convoy ambush, FBI agent Ray Nadeem is advised by his superior Tammy Hattley to tell comforting lies to his son, citing how her own father told her that the Level 4 decal on the chemical trucks he drove indicated that he was driving safe material when the opposite was true. However the scene serves as foreshadowing for The Reveal that Hattley is deceiving Nadeem, as she and the other FBI agents in her unit have been coerced into working for the The Kingpin.
  • Occasionally used in Doctor Who as ways to reassure companions.
    • For instance, in "The Eleventh Hour":
      The Doctor: You know when grown-ups tell you "everything's gonna be fine", you know they're probably lying to make you feel better?
      Amelia Pond: Yes.
      The Doctor: Everything's going to be fine.
    • The Fourth Doctor's education of Leela is pretty much entirely made up of this, since due to her extremely primitive background and absence of any education, even basic scientific principles seem like magic to her. It's bad enough when he's trying to explain to her what a robot is, so of course, when he's trying to explain genuinely mindbending Magic from Technology like how the TARDIS is Bigger on the Inside, things quickly get absolutely nonsensical.
  • On Community, Troy finds out on his 20th birthday that he's actually turning 21 because his mother told him that everyone's ten for two years, because fifth grade is hard for everybody.
    Troy: MOM, HOW MANY LIES HAVE I BEEN LIVING?!
  • In one episode of Star Trek: Voyager, Q brings some individuals from Earth's history to the ship for a judicial hearing (long story), including Isaac Newton. Janeway tries to explain the concept of being transported in time and gets some blank looks in reply, so she changes tack: "You're having a very strange dream."
  • In How I Met Your Mother, Loretta repeatedly lies to her children, including telling Barney his father is (among others) Bob Barker.
  • The Andy Griffith Show:
    • Inverted and Played for Laughs, as Andy is accused of this by Barney after telling Opie that David's sling was made of leather. Barney insists that Andy is filling his son's head with lies; leather has no snap to it and any slingshot MUST be made of rubber, despite rubber (and slingshots — slings are a different invention) not existing in King David's time.
    • Also Lies To Adult Drunks, when Andy told Otis that thunder was clouds bumping together.
  • Late in the run of Babylon 5 G'Kar becomes a somewhat unwilling spiritual leader among his people. In one of the scenes where he is trying to pass on his beliefs to his followers, he responds to the question "what is Truth, and what is God?" with a short speech about the unreliable nature of knowledge and the risk of mistaking the search for God with God itself (with an analogy that's sort of like going into Plato's cave with a flashlight). When his followers utterly fail to understand, he makes up "truth is a river and God is the mouth of the river" on the spot just to get rid of them.
  • Frasier: After Niles and Maris separate Niles tells his nephew that Maris won't be joining them for Christmas that year because she's in a coma. When Frasier and Martin look confused Niles explains that he thought the truth would be too upsetting for the boy.
  • Janda Kembang: When Laila hears Neneng and Seli talking about (child-trafficking) syndicate and asks what syndicate means, they try to spare her from the horror by saying that syndicate sells barbie dolls and chops their body. Since Laila loves her dolls, it still terrifies her.

    Other 
  • In "The Matrix as Metaphysics", philosopher David Chalmers argues that people unknowingly trapped in a Lotus-Eater Machine or other simulation wouldn't necessarily be wrong in most of their beliefs about the world, because we're not said to be wrong either even though most of what we believe is only lies-to-children. If we're not totally mistaken in thinking there are real, solid objects around us, when they're really made up of atoms made up of weird quantum stuff — then why would people thinking they're interacting with real objects be wrong just because those objects are at the bottom parts of a simulation? Sure there is something they don't know about the ultimate constituency of the objects they're interacting with, but is that different from how people in the past didn't know about atoms and quanta and how solid objects are mostly empty space? Of course, it depends on the details; if, for example, the people in the simulation had only recently been put there and used to live outside it, they'd be wrong in thinking the objects they see are real in the same way as what they experienced before. But if they'd always been there, the simulation would in some sense be what they meant by "real".
  • The Abelson–Sussman Lectures, in the second part of the first lecture, not only gives an excellent example of how an over-simplified model can be used to give (adult) students a starting point for understanding a complex system, but explains that the model isn't accurate before presenting it:
    If we're going to understand processes and how we control them, then we have to have a mapping from the mechanisms of this procedure into the way in which these processes behave. What we're going to have is a formal, or semi-formal, mechanical model whereby you understand how a machine could, in fact, in principle, do this. Whether or not the actual machine really does what I'm about to tell you is completely irrelevant at this moment.

    In fact, this is an engineering model, in the same way that, [for an] electrical resistor, we write down a model V = IR — it's approximately true, but it's not really true; if I put enough current through the resistor, it goes boom, so the voltage is not always proportional to the current, but for some purposes the model is appropriate.

    In particular, the model we're going to describe right now, which I call the substitution model, is the simplest model that we have for understanding how procedures work and how processes work — how procedures yield processes.

    And that substitution model will be accurate for most of the things we'll be dealing with in the next few days. But eventually, it will become impossible to sustain the illusion that that's the way the machine works, and we'll go to other, more specific and particular models that will show more detail. [emphasis added]

    Religion 
  • Many branches of theology or religious philosophy, Christian or otherwise, would say that it is impossible to speak of the divine or transcendental in any other way than through analogies that will always be imperfect. Others would say even that is impossible and that it can only be "described" through negations, stating what the transcendental is not but never what it is. A common criticism is that this idea doesn't actually mean anything, since none of the terms can be defined. For example: "The Tao that can be spoken of is not the true Tao."note 
  • "Children's Bibles" are frequently guilty of this, trimming down some of the nastier material, particularly in the Old Testament, often to the point of outright misstatements.
  • In one part of the Old Testament, the Hebrews are at war with an enemy nation and God prolongs the day unnaturally to aid them. Modern believers defend His claim of "I stopped the sun!" to mean "Actually, He stopped the Earth (which itself is no small feat) but He understandably didn't feel the need to give His Chosen People a class in advanced astrophysics. At least, advanced for the time."

    Tabletop Games 
  • One thread on the Mutants & Masterminds messageboards portrayed Freedom City's Daedalus as strongly disapproving of these, ever since he warned his son that if he flew too close to the sun his wings would melt, and Icarus found that, if anything, the higher he got the colder it became, so obviously it was perfectly safe...

    Video Games 
  • Metro 2033: A very sad example is shown in the first station, where you see a boy and a father talking with each other. The boy asks when his mother will return from some journey, and his father only replies, "Soon," and mentions if only she could see how much he has grown up. Given the nature of the setting, it's safe to say his mother is probably lying dead in a tunnel somewhere.
  • Another sad example in Fallout: New Vegas: Honest Hearts. Randall Clark, an old, weary survivor, leaves gifts of food and medicine for a group of starving children, watching over them from a distance and keeping them safe. When they begin to regard him as an angel or a God-figure, he does not want to shatter their illusions and leave them worse off when he dies. Thus, he leaves one final gift, and a note saying that he must depart deep into the mountains, but that he will always be watching over them. He then becomes known by those children's descendants as "The Father in the Cave."
  • Dark Seed II uses one as an odd plot point. Years ago, when Mike had nightmares of monsters coming out of his closet, his mother pretended to lock it. It actually does contain a portal to the Dark World. It's not really locked, but Mike doesn't figure it out until someone reveals the deception to him (and the player is incapable of opening it before then). When confronted, his mother barely remembers it and can't believe he never figured it out.
  • In Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney, the entire mess got started when Espella's father didn't want her to ring a big bell because he wanted to save that for a special occasion, so he brought up a witch from local folklore and told her that if she rings the bell, the evil witch would possess her. This backfired when the bell was rung and it did cause disaster, causing the poor traumatized girl to believe she was possessed by a witch.
  • Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth: When the weather control satellite Amaterasu goes offline and needs to be rebooted before the lands it was influencing experience an ice age, the protagonist Haku finds it difficult to explain what he's trying to do to the pre-gunpowder natives of the land. He eventually declares that a divine "star" had been shining down on the land, but now this star has been closed off. He needs to find some ancient mystical relics (a computer terminal) in order to talk to the star and bring it back. His allies accept this.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: Near the end of the game, Aloy starts finding herself having to do this. She knows more about the Old Ones and their technology than almost anyone else alive, so she has to explain to her primitive tribe how an AI grew her in an artificial womb as a clone of its creator, because she would have administrative access to all the terraforming sites across the world, so that she could fight a rogue subprocess that was designed to un-terraform the world in case things went wrong but was now acting independently and was activating the uncontrollable machines that destroyed the world in the first place, and then she can reboot the dead AI so that it can continue the terraforming properly. There is no way she can explain any of that in a reasonable amount of time, even if they were inclined to believe her. She goes with a simpler explanation: The All-Mother created Aloy to lift a curse and kill a Metal Devil. Which isn't wrong, but is certainly missing a lot. It doesn't help that she's still reeling from the revelations and can barely get her words out straight.
  • Yes, Your Grace: There is a young child in the game, and the player is controlling her father. The option to sugar-coat things for her shows up several times, and is sometimes the only way the player will be allowed to approach certain subjects.

    Web Comics 
  • From Adventurers! at a magic school:
    Ardam: Sir, is that really how summoning works?
    Teacher: No, but it'll do until the practical course next year.
  • xkcd:
    • Strip 803 gives us the airplane wing, and several options for what to do when a child confronts you with the lie.
    • The very common analogy that gravity is like objects "pressing down" on a sheet, shown very well in strip 895. And subverted in strip 1158.
    • 1818: Rayleigh Scattering has someone explaining to a child that the sky looks blue because air is blue and reflects blue light, same as any other material. When another adult tries to explain it's more complicated, the first retorts that there's a more complicated mechanism behind every colour, so why do you have to go all quantum with this one? The other adult concedes the point — but less so when the first one starts saying planes are kept up by lots of little birds.
    • In "Chernobyl", white hat guy won't even listen to a more exotic explanation about what happened at Chernobyl than one that's phrased as "banging rocks together to make heat and then banging them too hard."
  • Max and Zoey's dad from Paranatural. "You'd better be ready by eight o-clock, Zoey. In mayview, they send tardy kids to the mines." She does call him out on it, though.
  • In Homestuck, Jake English's grandmother tells him that she chose that last name because it was the name of her Wicked Stepmother's ex-husband, on the basis that Jake was too young to understand that it was actually the name of a powerful demon that said Wicked Stepmother feared and obeyed.
  • Subverted in Girl Genius here and here, when a young Agatha asks about her locket. Barry tries to tell Agatha one of these lies, but she starts questioning how illogical it is.
    Barry: Um... it's science.
    Agatha: Ah. You mean you'll explain when I have a sufficiently advanced background education.
  • In Freefall, explaining failed. So Florence told Helix that he has to keep Mousie company in sleeping.
  • Original Life has Fisk tell a young Janie that babies come from Wal-Mart.
  • In Dragon Mango — how do you keep a little girl who can teleport out of a fight? Tell her she has to watch the chickens, which the attackers are probably after.
  • Reality Is Out to Lunch in Awful Hospital, so the beleaguered protagonist has to grope at understanding the infinite weirdness of the Perception Range with children's books as references. Justified in that a being's subjective experience — including the content of some books — is limited to what they're able and willing to perceive, and Fern has to start from Square One, but it leads to situations like Fern being knocked unconscious by a picture-book Tome of Eldritch Lore that describes a reality warping Eldritch Abomination in terms of a solipsistic undead cake.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Oversimplifying things comes from several sides:
    • Sigrun has to simplify combat-oriented things for Emil both because of him being new to the whole combat thing and not being a lover of big paragraphs herself.
    • Tuuri takes advantage of the fact that she needs to translate everything to Lalli to tell him about only the part of the bigger picture he needs to know about to do what's expected of him, and tends to oversimplify even that due to his Ambiguous Disorder. She also settles with letting Lalli's new Flat-Earth Atheist friend think he's sick in a mundane way when a Power-Strain Blackout leaves him bedridden.
    • Mikkel frequently simplifies things for Sigrun because of the "not a big paragraph woman" aspect of her personality, to the other members of the crew both due to them being much younger and there not being much time for complex explanations in an emergency, and to Reynir because his circumstances are bad enough without him being aware of the full range of things that can go south.
  • In The Order of the Stick, strip 1141, a god starts explaining to two of his followers something about how divine powers work, but they don't understand what he's saying (it's sort of Magi Babble with esoteric terms borrowed from physics and elsewhere), so they ask him to go "three degrees dumber". The result is that he ends up talking mainly about the different colours of the gods' auras and powers.
  • At the beginning of Darths & Droids, the GM tries to explain the first two players that their character class is Jedi, but after they start quibbling about his explanation of what that means, he just tells them they're Monks (as in Dungeons & Dragons). It's close enough that they get a feel of what he means, or at least a feeling as if they understand.
  • Dragon Ball Reboot:
    • When Gine was asked by her eleven-year-old son Kakarot why he couldn't go outside during a full moon, she doesn't believe he's ready to learn about his Saiyan biologynote  and lies to him that a dangerous monster roams outdoors at night. This leads to a tragic case of Poor Communication Kills when Kakarot sneaks out at night to fight the fictional monster and transforms into a Great Ape after staring at the moon, which results in Grandpa Gohan getting killed during Kakarot's ensuing rampage.
    • The morning after Kakarot's aforementioned rampage, he (having no memory of the previous night) asks his mother why his tail is gone (Gine cut it off to revert him to his normal form) and what happened to Grandpa Gohan. Not wanting to burden her son with the guilt of having accidentally killed his honorary grandfather, Gine simply tells him that Gohan died while performing a Heroic Sacrifice and assures him that his tail will eventually grow back. This gets subverted later on as Gine does tell Goku the truth of what happened after he's had enough time to process and grieve Grandpa Gohan's death.

    Web Original 
  • Theoretically invoked in this Vlogbrothers video by John, averted once Hank made this response.
  • In Worm, Tattletale describes the supervillain Night's powers to Skitter this way.
    Tattletale: Okay, well, imagine that this woman got powers that let her turn into something so wrong that she's got some sort of mental block that keeps her from transforming if anyone can see. Maybe because she's so ashamed of being seen like that. When nobody's looking, though, she's a monster. Lightning fast and all sharp.
    Skitter: That's...
    Tattletale: Not even remotely close to the truth. But it's the best I can offer you. Don't take your eyes off her.
  • On Not Always Healthy, we see a major downside to this: A middle-aged woman refuses to believe that "fixing" her dog is castration, and is convinced that he needs to have his dewclaws removed or he will start to act like a human... because this was what her parents told her as a child so they wouldn't have to explain castration to her.
  • Used as the central gag in the SF Debris video "It's not easy, being God. God is dictating what will become Genesis to Moses and tries to explain that he fashioned Eve by modifying Adam's DNA. He tries to explain the concept a few different ways, eventually settling on the rib story as the closest thing Moses could understand. He also gives a rather poetic explanation of the symbolism of creating light first thanks to it's keystone place in physics... and the only part Moses remotely comprehends is "it was good".

    Western Animation 
  • South Park:
    • When Kyle learns the truth about the tooth fairy, he doesn't take it well. This all leads Kyle to become something of a Straw Nihilist, concluding with him losing his corporeal form because of the Logic Bomb he'd been reading about.
      Kyle: Dad, there is so a tooth fairy, huh?
      Gerald: What? Oh. Kyle, let's have a little talk.
      Kyle: Oh my God! You did lie to me.
      Gerald: No. Kyle, she's just make-believe. Like Peter Pan.
      Kyle: Peter Pan, too??
      Gerald: Kyle…
      Kyle: What about Moses and Abraham?
      Gerald: Well, they were probably real.
      Kyle: Probably?! Is Atlantis real??
      Gerald: Probably not.
      Kyle: Wahahahah!
      Gerald: Look, Kyle, adults make up those things because they're fun for children.
      Kyle: Fun for children?! Fun for children?! Look at me, Dad! I don't even know what's real anymore! Weaaaah! [runs out the door]
    • The episode "Crack Baby Athletic Association" does something similar... only instead of Santa, it's Slash. Yes, that Slash.
    • The main focus behind Butters in "Sarcastaball". Butters is led to believe that his sperm is the product of his most inner and pure emotions; leading him to spread it to others. To drink. The episode ends with Butters having an erection, and being Butters he summons his dad for answers; his father tells him that it's a friend compass, it points towards his friends. Right now it points towards upwards, towards Jesus.
    • The episode "My Future Self 'n Me" parodies the issues of what to tell kids about drugs. A corporation exists in that episode to set up a fake time-travel scenario where an actor playing a future version of the child shows up, claiming to have somehow traveled back in time. The "future" version of the child talks about how after trying drugs, he became a total loser. The episode also mentions anti-drug organizations exaggerating the connection between drug providers and terrorist organizations. In the end, Stan's parents decide that he's old enough to understand a more complicated explanation about drugs.
  • The KaBlam! series of shorts "Life With Loopy" often had plots revolving around the lies Loopy was told. For instance, she confronted Mother Nature after being told thunder is just her bowling.
  • Moral Orel: Most of the stuff Orel is told could fall under this category (Children's Crusades being successful due to their innocence, etc.). This eventually led to an episode where Reverend Putty proclaims that nobody should give Orel advice. Naturally, this also backfires in spectacular fashion.
  • In The Spectacular Spider-Man, when Venom webs up Gwen to a Thanksgiving parade balloon, a little boy notices and points it out to his mother. She's visibly shaken, but in an obvious attempt to keep her son calm, she says, "She's so lifelike!"
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Aang has heard about positive and negative jing, an aspect of elemental bending. King Bumi has to explain that the young Avatar's understanding is incomplete and his current plans rely on his mastery of neutral jing. When Aang expresses surprise that there are three types, Bumi offhandedly states, "Well, technically, there are 85, but let's just focus on the third."
  • The Simpsons:
    • This is Marge's reaction in "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish" when it's Homer's Last Day to Live, doing her best to give him a good sendoff but dodging the kids' questions about it by saying it's nice to "sometimes" dress up for dinner and use the fine china. Good thing he lived after all or that would have been hard to explain.
    • Alluded to in Lisa's poem "Meditations on Turning Eight" in "Stark Raving Dad":
      I had a cat named Snowball,
      She died, she died.
      Mom said she was sleeping,
      She lied, she lied!
    • Naturally, Homer sucks at this. See "Homer's Triple Bypass," when his children are worried about the risky surgery in question.
      Homer: Kids, kids, I'm not gonna die! That only happens to bad people.
      Bart: What about Abraham Lincoln?
      Homer: Um...He sold poisoned milk to schoolchildren.
    • Ned Flanders' kids are ridiculously sheltered due to his doing this a lot. When they watch the ultraviolent cartoon Itchy And Scratchy, a horrified Rod asks what the "red stuff coming out of Kitty's ears" is.
      Ned: Uh, th-that's just...raspberry jam.
  • Very frequently in Rugrats Angelica will lie to the babies, usually to scare them, but sometimes to trick them into doing what she wants. However, due to the fact that she's not much older, and due to quite a few contrived coincidences that sometimes occur throughout the episode, she'll often end up believing her own lies.

"Man, the trees sure are sneezing today."


Alternative Title(s): Lie To Children

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