Posts by Kahm
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The Invention of Lying, a recent comedy starring Ricky Gervais and Jennifer Garner, has a unique premise, so it's fitting that it be reviewed from a unique perspective. I am no movie maven — in fact, I likely have less expertise in the genre than most of the American population. But what I am is a theologian (or rather, a theologian-in-training), and that expertise made this movie one I can't resist talking about. [Note: Spoilers follow. –Ed]
Ricky Gervais stars as Mark Bellison, a rather unremarkable man in a remarkable world. The society in which Mark lives is, quite simply, one where no one has ever learned to lie. It's not that they've chosen to always tell the truth — the ability to do otherwise has never been imagined or developed, ever. As a result, a world that looks at first glance just like ours — down to the same technology and brands — is in fact a world with no fiction, no religion, no pretense, no imagination at all. Empathy is, at best, a vague concept, and it stops no one from saying what they think anyway; there is not only no politeness, but also no filter, so a person is just as likely to comment on someone's hideous choice of clothing as to divulge their own erectile dysfunction. This world does require some willing suspension of disbelief, but this comes easily to an audience who find themselves preoccupied with comparing the painfully hilarious conversations between characters to their own nuanced methods of communication.
Mark, through a random and unexpected evolution, suddenly finds himself the only person on earth who can lie — and, as no one else can but take his word as utter truth, he soon realizes that this ability is nothing less than a superpower. Yet in a wrenching attempt to use his powers for good, he paints a poignant, if endearingly childish, idea of heaven for his despairing, dying mother. Though she dies happy, as he'd hoped, the nurses who overhear naturally take his words as dogma (bad theology pun intended) and spread word of the man who knows something new about what happens after death. Mark's unintentional career as a prophet begins as he tries to use his ability to make everyone happy, imagining for them a vague religion based around the "Man in the Sky" who created everything, controls everything, and determines who is worthy of spending eternity in a mansion after they die.