14 September 2011

a matter of tact

Yes, I realize that this title is terrible, even for me. My sincerest apologies.

As I was getting ready for class today, my mind wandered to the subject of the Jim Carrey film, Liar, Liar (as it is wont to do). When viewing this film for the first time as a small child, I was taken in by the slapstick humor and elasticity of one Mr. Carrey’s face. But, since that initial viewing, questions about the film have plagued me, finally spurring me to write about them today.

The premise of the film is simple enough: a pathological liar loses the ability to lie for an entire day, thanks to his son’s birthday wish. Hilarity ensues.

But, at least from my point of view, it doesn’t have to. Sure, that version of the film would have been far less entertaining, but it also would have been less infuriating.

Let’s suspend disbelief and deem this involuntary bout of honesty a possibility. Carrey immediately spews his honest opinions about those around him, performs horribly in court, and has a memorable interaction with a pen during the course of the movie.

All of these things make for great comedy, but logically, I have a problem with the plot. Was there a clause of the wish that somehow went unmentioned? Did he lose his filter completely? My point is, it was as though every thought he had needed to be verbalized, regardless of social convention. Why couldn’t he have just kept his thoughts to himself? He didn’t necessarily have to tell his boss that she was repulsive, nor did he need to scream that his client was guilty. He could have thought it, but rather than lie outright, he could have just opted not to say anything at all.

My argument could be invalidated, however, if the filmmakers were taking a stance on honesty, equating withholding the truth with verbally lying. Then, not only would they be questioning whether honesty is the best policy, but they would shatter the foundation of what constitutes a lie. This film could have had the potential to alter social conventions forever.

But, since I don’t know the filmmakers personally, nor do I know anyone who would be willing to discuss such matters with me, I won’t know for sure. These questions will simply persist in my mind, among other queries (How can I get my hair to behave? Why is everything so expensive in Stockholm? How did I manage to chip off such a large portion of my nail polish without noticing?)

I do think that honesty is important in any relationship, but I also value the silence that comes when something doesn’t need to be said. In fact, I think that the sign of a true adult is one who knows when to shut the hell up.


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