New Movie by the Creator of ‘The Office’ Secretly an Anti-religion Screed?

According to the October 2 issue of Entertainment Weekly, advertising for The Invention of Lying, the new film from comedian Ricky Gervais, carefully conceals the atheistic subject matter of the movie. Writer Adam Markovitz explained that in the film, set in a world where everyone tells the truth, "The people...have no concept of heaven, faith, or God- until Gervais’ character fabricates ‘the man in the sky’ to placate them.’"

Markovitz observed, "What you don’t know- thanks to a carefully crafted marketing campaign- is the movie’s actual subject: religion." (The film’s distributors are Universal and Warner Bros.) The EW article quotes Gervais, who is himself a non-believer, insisting that the film is "not atheist propaganda." However, the comedian also added that Invention of Lying "shouldn’t affect [believers] or their God. From what I’ve heard of God, he’s tough."

An article on MSN by Kim Linekin also discussed how the true plot of the film has been hidden in its marketing:

The poster for "Invention of Lying" would have you believe that it's a movie about a world where everyone tells the truth, except for one man who learns how to lie. Only that's just the set-up. The film ends up being more about what happens when that man invents religion in order to comfort his dying mother.

When British comedian Ricky Gervais ("Ghost Town," BBC's "The Office") came to screen "Invention of Lying" at the Toronto International Film Festival with his co-writer/director Matthew Robinson and costars Jennifer Garner and Rob Lowe, he spoke about how he doesn't actually anticipate much controversy from this hidden premise.

"I don't see why we would ever get hate mail," he said at the movie's press conference. "We decided that in this world, that's how religion started. It's an alternative world. It's in no way atheist propaganda. I love films about angels and things like that and I wouldn't go, 'Oh, they're coming down on one side here.' Like 'It's a Wonderful Life.' I don't leave the cinema with my faith or lack of it challenged. I don't think people should take this as anything other than an artistic choice."

It seems quite disingenuous for Warner Bros. and Universal to release a film while covering up its controversial subject matter. And if these two studios are embarrassed by the content, why are they making such a movie? 

[The brief, one paragraph Entertainment Weekly article from the October 2 issue does not appear to be online. If anyone sees a link, I'd be happy to post it.]

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