Truth Be Told, The Invention of Lying Is Woefully Misguided
- Friday, October 02, 2009
By telling lies left and right, he's wealthy, successful and even helped a few needy people along the way. Trouble is, even though he now meets Anna's requirements for a husband in the income and prestige departments, he still doesn't have the right genetics to ensure their children won't look like him. So while he's got almost everything he wants, he still can't get the girl. And somehow, even with his skewed moral compass, he won't trick her into marrying him either, even when he has the opportunity.
Really, a good point here could've been made in light of Mark's new circumstances or even about the importance of honesty, given our society's tendency to lie whenever it's convenient. But rather than develop that, Gervais, who co-wrote the script with his writing partner Matthew Robinson, heads in a different direction that completely (and unfortunately) changes the movie's tone.
See, Mark is dealing with another sad reality: his mom is dying and feeling hopeless about her future of "nothingness." To appease her sadness, Mark invents a "story" about a place where people go after they die, an eternal resting place where everyone gets his/her own mansion and is happily reunited with loved ones. As he elaborates on what's essentially heaven, she's immediately encouraged and eventually dies in peace. Case closed, right?
Hardly. Given that the nurses overheard Mark's story, word quickly spreads about this place where everyone gets a mansion and lives forever, and Mark is forced to answer to his now-adoring public. When asked how he knows this, and who told him by a crowd that's growing by the second, Mark "invents" the all-powerful Man in the Sky, an invisible being who has chosen to tell him—only him—specifically about these important matters.
Now of course, the troubling subtext here is that only a group of people this naïve could believe in God, right? After all, they'll take anything at face value, so why not belief in a higher power?
Truth be told, Mark does sound pretty ridiculous when talking about The Man in the Sky because he lacks anything close to reverence and has the story all wrong in the first place. Later, when Mark is forced to answer the people's very specific questions about the Man in the Sky and whether he's caused all the pain and suffering in the world, things get even more irreverent.
Saying he'll get back to them soon, he disappears so he can figure out "the rules" of how people qualify for heaven and how they should live in the meantime. Continuing the whole prophet Moses motif, he writes the commandments on two halves of a Pizza Hut box and eventually reports back to crowd, which only offers more opportunities for belief in God to look downright silly and intellectually unsophisticated.
Yet while taking these cheap pot shots at faith and The Bible in a decidedly Bill Maher Religulous fashion, what Gervais probably didn't realize is that there's ultimately a very refreshing truth in the midst of all the lies. And the moral he ends the story with is, ironically, straight from The Bible.
SPOILER ALERT: After Anna decides not to marry Mark's genetically superior arch nemesis, she goes for a walk and notices a chubby boy eating ice cream and subsequently, being teased for being "short and fat" by his peers. Immediately, she feels compassion for his hurt feelings and comforts him, a real turning point for her character.
Ultimately realizing that people, including her best friend Mark whom she's overlooked time and again, shouldn't be judged by their outward appearance, but by their hearts, it immediately brings to mind what God said in 1 Samuel 16:7 before Samuel anointed David, a small, shepherd boy who didn't exactly seem like the obvious choice: "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
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