Brutal Honesty

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"The truth is like sunlight. People used to think it was good for you."
Nancy Gribble, King of the Hill

Since everybody in TV land spends all day desperately lying their way out of situations, one of the more reliable gags is to create a situation where you'd imagine the characters would lie, and have them be perfectly honest and straightforward instead.

A common twist on this is when the characters are brutally honest, but then their honesty is not believed. Sometimes, this is used deliberately.

A form of Bait and Switch. Often employed in "The Reason You Suck" Speech.

No real life examples, please; calling somebody a habitual liar is rude.

Examples of Brutal Honesty include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Goku from Dragon Ball. Subtlety is one of those things his grandfather forgot to teach him.
  • Luffy from One Piece seems to do this deliberately. Zoro and usually Sanji tend to follow suit.
  • Ichigo from the Onegai/Please series. Amplified by her snarkiness and social status.
  • Inuyasha. He seemed to be about six when he was orphaned, and seems to have survived for the next one hundred and forty six years rejected by both human and Youkai, no surprise he forgot what tact he'd learned from his mother.
  • In K-On!, Yui watches the light music club's first performance and tells them outright that they aren't very good.
  • Ouran High School Host Club's Haruhi is usually a Deadpan Snarker and sometimes it's because of this. Often times she's just stating the honest truth without realizing it might actually hurt someone's feelings.
  • Sai of Naruto.
  • Maria, the title "Devil" of Devil and Her Love Song. Granted, it's not just your simple truth that everybody pretends they don't notice, it's a sophisticated Brutal Honesty.
  • In the manga Black God, a side-story shows that Namu used to work as a fortune-teller and didn't make much money off of it as she didn't see anything wrong with giving the plain and honest truth. Such as flat-out telling a college kid he'd never pass college as he'd only look at porn all day in front of his mother and telling another man that he'd eventually die in the near future. It's no wonder she didn't get tips.
  • Ranma Saotome from Ranma ½ tells the brutal truth, but he tells Blatant Lies almost as often. Sometimes he tells the truth even when toning it down or lying may have served him better, especially when confronted with Akane—this can easily be seen as early as the first Martial Arts and Crafts story, where he proclaims Ryōga's declaration of Akane's progress to be nothing but the lovestruck Eternally Lost Boy lying through his teeth for Akane's sake. On the other hand, especially in the manga, Ranma will lie without a second thought if it suits his purposes, and is in fact one of the most deceitful, false-tongued, insincere members of the cast.
  • The "Magical Cooking" one-shot of the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Comic à la Carte official anthology book presented a dilemma for Nanoha and Fate. Their daughter, Vivio, had just proudly baked some cookies on her own. Unfortunately, the cookies were awful. After taking one bite, Fate ran through various thoughts on what's the best way to say this to her daughter without breaking her 9-year old heart. Nanoha, on the other hand...

Nanoha: (while brightly smiling at Vivio) It's terrible.

  • in Digimon Adventure, Tailmon has shades of this when she mentions all they can do while WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon fight is stand back and watch. After being called out on it as to if she even cares about her friends...

Tailmon: Would it make a difference if I said yes?

    • Terriermon from Digimon Tamers even moreso—his first line towards Takato is pointing out how bad a Tamer he is for losing his Digimon.
  • The eponymous character in Soul Eater. He consistently and bluntly tells his partner, Maka, that's she's flat and lacks sex appeal; he doesn't dislike Maka, though, sharing several incredibly heart-warming moments with her.
  • In Bakuman。, Takahama goes before the editor in chief of Shonen Jump to ask to get a new editor because he believes that his editor, Miura, won't let him draw what he wants. The editor responds that saying that is the same as admitting his own lack of talent, and that no artists, whether veterans or rookies, can change editors. He suggests that Takahama go elsewhere if he's dissatisfied, but Takahama, chastened, withdraws his request and apologizes. Mashiro and Takagi note that what the editor said was harsh, but he had a point and they should stop blaming Miura.


Comics[edit | hide]

  • Calvin and Hobbes
    • Calvin is caught by his visiting uncle while going through his luggage, and responds to the incredulous resultant question with "[I'm] going through your luggage. What's it look like?"
    • Similarly, when his mother catches him pounding nails into the coffee table in the living room with a "What on earth are you doing?!", there's a Beat Panel before he says, "... Is this a trick question?"
  • Dilbert

Dilbert: Your plan looks like it was written by a drunken lemur as a practical joke on other drunken lemurs.

  • New X-Men: When questioned by Surge concerning what happened to her boyfriend David during a demonic attack on the X-Mansion, most of the team made evasive and inconsistent references to minor injuries. X-23 provided a detailed report on how the demon lord Belasco ripped his heart out through his chest and noted that Elixir restored it before anoxia-induced brain damage could have happened.

Fan Works[edit | hide]

Trixie: Witness! This is the first time I'm hearing about this! Why did you not say anything to me regarding this earlier!?
Apple Bloom: Because I don't like you.
Trixie: *Wild Take* ...ARGH!!

  • In the Katawa Shoujo fanfic Weekend At Hisaos, Hisao meets with his old best friend Takumi, who is now in a relationship with Iwanako, the girl who confessed to him on the day of his first heart attack. He asks Takumi why he didn't tell him, and Takumi, after a little beating around the bush, says "You were an asshole back then," earning a Flat What from Hisao. Takumi goes on to explain that he understands Hisao was depressed, but his gloomy demeanor and refusal to talk made it difficult to be around him, leading them to give up after a few weeks, a statement Hisao agrees with.


Films -- Animation[edit | hide]


Films -- Live-Action[edit | hide]

  • The Big Bad in Waterworld likes children when he's asking for someone's opinion, since they tell the truth rather than what they think you want to hear.
  • In Spaceballs, Lone Starr pulls this repeatedly when he's sneaking aboard Spaceball One to destroy it. He grabs one guard by the neck and when the guard asks him what he's doing, he replies, "The Vulcan neck pinch." The guard then shows him the proper way to do it. Next he grabs a can of shaving cream from another guard and when he asks what Lone Starr's doing with it, Lone Starr replies, "This!", sprays the shaving cream in the guard's mouth and eyes, possibly drowning him.
  • The Invention of Lying features a world based around this. And note that it's not just that people don't lie, they don't even have a concept of it.
    • Taken to the ultimate extreme in that not only do they have no concept of lying, they have no concept of withholding the truth. Many times a character would not have had to lie simply by not saying anything but this doesn't seem to be an option either.
      • Apparently this also means never using tact, as a character invariably blurts out the worst possible answer to anything.
      • Fridge Brilliance: Not saying anything, or even leaving out details even to be tactful, is called a "lie of omission". They're so incapable of lying they can't even do that.
  • Ladyhawke gives us this example:

Soldier #1: Where is Navarre?
Phillipe: Navarre? Navarre? Ah, yes. Big man, black horse. I thought I saw him ride south, toward Aquila.
Soldier #2: Ha, then we ride north.
Phillipe: It isn't polite to assume that someone is a liar when you've only just met them.
Soldier #1: And yet you knew we would. We ride south.
Phillipe: (talking to God) I told the truth, Lord. How can I learn any moral lessons when you keep confusing me this way?

  • Liar Liar has this as a result of the wish, even to Fletcher himself.

Fletcher: All right, now let me tell you something. I'm a bad father.... I mean...

    • To clarify, Fletcher is a sleazy lawyer who makes a living on lying. He's not even able to argue his case without lying or asking a question that he knows will be answered with a lie. He almost manages to convince the judge to postpone the hearing for 24 hours (when the wish will expire)... until the judge asks if Fletcher can continue. Fletcher can.
  • The Lord of the Rings:

Faramir: You wish I had died and Boromir had lived.
Denethor: Yes. I wish that.

    • Ouch.
      • It's even worse in the book. In the film Denethor at least seems aware of what a terrible thing he's saying, and says it with some solemnity. In the book Denethor replies with "Certainly I wish it, for Boromir was loyal to me, and no wizard's pupil".
  • In Bulworth, the eponymous Senator, having a death wish, decides to tell the raw, unvarnished truth when out in public. It gains him a great deal of popularity with the general public, to the point where some voters in both major political parties write him in for President during the election. Unfortunately, it's only after he stops feeling suicidal that his brutal honesty pisses off the wrong person, who proceeds to kill him at the movie's end.
  • Tony Stark's press conference at the end of the first Iron Man movie, when he starts reading the "official explanation" for his power-armored shenanigans, then throws it away and reveals his Secret Identity.
  • David Norris' atypically sincere concession speech in The Adjustment Bureau, with some very unflattering remarks about his spin doctors, saves his reputation as an honest "people's candidate" and his political career.
  • In S.O.B., Tim Culley asks Felix Farmer "Have I ever lied to you?" and Felix replies "No". Tim goes on to say "Well I have, repeatedly. But the fact that I just admitted I have lied to you in the past means you can believe me now".


Literature[edit | hide]

  • A number of characters from A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Sandor Clegane, an embittered Nietzsche Wannabe that's perfectly willing to shatter people's fancy delusions.
    • Ser Davos Seaworth, a common smuggler raised above his station that's so loyal to his king that he makes a point of avoiding the ass-kissing behavior others display.
    • Stannis Baratheon, Davos's boss, seems incapable of sparing anyone's feelings even if he tried.
    • Tyrion Lannister is also adept at using this for his own purposes. Especially noticeable in his treatment of Jon Snow, who incidentally is one of the few people Tyrion calls 'friend'. One of the things he likes about his Dragon Bronn is the latter's lack of pretension, and tendency to be completely open about what he thinks of their Crapsack World. On the other hand, when Tyrion makes the mistake of Calling the Old Man Out and demanding to know why he is denied his rightful inheritance, Lord Tywin responds with a truly vicious (and totally undeserved) "The Reason You Suck" Speech, spelling out everything he hates about his dwarf son.
  • Ax of Animorphs once met a small girl in a hospital. She asked him if he was a fairy and what his name was. He answered her correctly and politely.
    • Can't remember the exact wording, but Ax was somewhat known for this.

Cassie: We're all just worried that this mission will, you know, be a little rough on you, Marco.
Ax: Yes. Also, that the fact that this mission involves your mother will damage your judgement and cause you to make unwise decisions that might result in all of our deaths.

  • Wallace Wallace of No More Dead Dogs practices this due to the fact that his father told him about fighting in the Vietnam, making his son very proud of him. Wallace is disappointed to find out that his father was lying about the whole thing (he was too young to have even been in the army during the Vietnam conflict.) His incredibly harsh but entirely honest book report on "Old Shep, My Pal" leads to his English teacher (who's directing the school play of the book) to believe that he never read it.
  • In My Fair Godmother", the main character tells her sister that she has to go back in time to rescue the guy who disappeared from his home in the present. It's safe to say that her sister didn't believe her. However, it might be inverted because she cannot lie without having to spit up a frog or something.
  • Scott Adams endorses this trope as a quick, reliable way to make a situation funny in The Joy of Work.
  • Luna Lovegood of Harry Potter is known for being painfully honest at times. Slightly averted when no one really minds because the things she says about others aren't very critical, and she reacts with a confused stare instead of an argument when people disagree with her. And then subverted when her Brutal Honesty starts causing discomfort in Harry because she's honest about her own life, namely that everyone considers her crazy and picks on her, and she doesn't have any friends.
  • Niccolo Machiavelli's book The Prince is all about it.
  • Ozonne from the the Disgaea novels. When Laharl asks her what she thinks of him the first time they meet, she says she thinks he is "a weak and incompetent brat". Later, after she falls for him, she asks him casually to marry her.
  • Christopher, the title character from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, is autistic and can't lie. He explains this by saying that if he said he ate Corn Flakes for breakfast when in fact he had Cheerios, he would be thinking about something that hadn't happened; but then he'd think of other things that hadn't happened, for example, that there hadn't been a scuba diver at the table, or an elephant, and so on, and would get so wrapped up in thinking about what didn't happen that he'd forget the lie he'd told in the first place. It goes so far that he considers anything that didn't really happen a lie, even fiction (the one exception is Sherlock Holmes novels, which he enjoys). It's not just lying, either - he can't pick up on social cues, so he doesn't know what's appropriate to say and what isn't, and so has to be told not to say that one of his classmates is so stupid he would eat pound notes, coins, and his own poop. This is Truth in Television for many people with autism.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Kyle from Kyle XY is a variation of this. He's never really rude, he just tends to immediately say what he thinks, until he wises up as the series progresses.
  • In Mad About You Paul is defending his decision to invest a large sum of money in a virtual reality device. He's trying to tell Jamie how amazing the device is, she asks him what he used it for, and since the audience saw him use it to be very intimate with a virtual Christie Brinkley, we see how this is an awkward question...but then he immediately says, "I gave Christie Brinkley a massage," and goes on to describe in detail how much he enjoyed it.
  • In the Friends episode "The One with the Butt", everyone says non-committal positive-ish things about Joey's terrible play, except Chandler, who says "Awful play man, woah!". He's too excited about the beautiful girl who just agreed to go out with him to care about lying.
  • The Class: Kat. Always. Her first line ever in the show was "I gotta say, while parties normally bum me out, this one sounds particularly creepy." She continues to say, "I have no recollection of either you or Joanne, but you really sound like people I would hate."
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • Buffy gets caught going through a blood bank's records, and when asked "What are you doing?" she says, "Breaking into your office and going through your private files."
    • In one episode where Buffy gains telepathic powers, it is actually conclusively demonstrated that, yes, Cordelia says exactly what she thinks.

Cordelia: I think it, I say it. It's my way.
--
Cordelia: Tact is just not saying true stuff. I'll pass.

    • And then again with Willow, of all people:

Faith: Go ahead, Will, give me the speech. "Don't do it, Faith! We can help you! It's not too late!"
Willow: (chuckling suddenly) It's way too late.

    • Anya is another example (this is apparently Xander's type.) When she and Spike are drowning their sorrows together, he tells her that this is why she's the only one he wouldn't bite if he got rid of the chip.

Spike: I have nothing but respect for a woman who is forthright. Drusilla was always straightforward. Didn't have a single buggering clue about what was going on in front of her, but she was straight about it. That was a virtue.

  • Teal'c of Stargate SG-1 epitomizes this trope. Up to and including describing just exactly how he got that emblem on his head to a bunch of inner city punks.

Teal'c: Remove yourself from my path.
Punk: Listen to this guy. I'll remove myself when you tell me how they tattoo like that in Chulak.
Teal'c: The skin is cut with an Orak knife and pure molten gold is poured into the wound.
Punk: Ow, man, don't that hurt when they do that?
Teal'c: Tremendously.

Kirk: You didn't think I had it in me, did you?
Spock: No, sir.
Kirk: *confused and slightly hurt expression*

Castiel: I owe you an apology.
Dean: Cas, it's okay.
Castiel: You are not the burnt and broken shell of a man that I believed you to be.
Dean: (caustically) Thank you. I appreciate that.

    • "You Can't Handle the Truth" features an influence that forces people into this. Several committed suicide, and one was murdered.
  • Lie to Me: At the beginning of the series, Loker has a policy of going out of his way to tell the absolute truth at all times. For whatever reason, this also means that he says anything that comes to mind from moment to moment.
  • How I Met Your Mother
    • In the episode "Stuff", Lily takes part in a long, dull play and everyone tells her it was wonderful while Barney is the only one to be completely honest and tell her it sucked. Because he believes friends should be honest with each other. Barney.
      • He goes on to prove that friends should say that their plays suck by challenging them to come over to his play and still maintain their tactful lies. His play consists of saying "moist" over and over for an hour (Lily hates that word), followed by half an hour of discharging a squirtgun in Lily's face. After that came the epic saga of a singing, dancing robot that falls in love with a toaster. It was so monstrously bad hat Marshall used the second slap he won in the slap bet to put an end to it.
    • He does this a lot, actually. The other characters will be giving the gentle, not-hurting-your-feelings answer and he'll be saying the brutal truth every time.
    • Barney believes that friends should be honest with each other. The women he lies to in order to get into bed aren't his friends.
    • There's another brilliant exchange where Robin asks if the gang have ever watched her show, and they all lie and say "yes", except Barney who says he's never seen it. Then she asks what their favourite part is and they all make something up, except Barney, who repeats that he's never seen it. Finally:

Robin: You've never watched my show, have you?
Barney: (with the rest of the gang's protestations) That's what I've been saying this whole time.

  • Seinfeld
    • One of Kramer's distinctive traits, most notably when he tells George's girlfriend that she needs a nosejob (and then after seeing the results tells her she got "butchered.") Word of God is that this was based on a family friend of one of the writers.
    • Elaine, too: she told "Crazy Joe" Devola to his face that he has a terrible singing voice. Granted, she didn't know it was "Crazy" Joe Devola at the time.
    • Subverted in "The Kiss Hello". Jerry and Elaine are trying to get Elaine's friend Wendy to change her outdated hairstyle but don't have the guts to tell her. Instead, they bring her to Jerry's apartment in the hopes that Kramer will say it. Instead, Kramer compliments her hair, then when she says she was thinking of changing it, he encourages her to keep it.
    • On an episode where George is doing the opposite of what he normally does, he says "Hi, my name is George. I'm unemployed and I live with my parents" as a pickup line. It works.
      • He later meets that woman's employer, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, and tells to his face how his horrible decisions have slowly ruined the team. "Hire this man!"
  • A Running Gag in 3rd Rock from the Sun, especially in the earlier seasons. One of the examples in which it usually just ended up getting the Solomons seen as either hilarious or insightful.
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry David does this constantly, especially when he's trying to get an answer from someone he thinks is lying. Of course, he is a massive liar himself.
  • Leverage's Parker does this a lot, but she can't help it since she's a very socially awkward person and doesn't know when she's said too much. Word of God says she has Asperger's Syndrome, a type of high-functioning autism, and this a very realistic portrayal, especially when it comes to moments of unintentional brutal honesty.
  • In Entourage, Turtle tries to track down a girl named Kelsie to whom he spoke with on the phone but hasn't yet met. Thinking he's found her, he asked a girl if her name was Kelsie and she replied, "Even if it was, I wouldn't admit it." Turtle walked away, cursing brutal honesty.
  • Alex from Greys Anatomy is a big fan of this trope.
  • King Léodagan in Kaamelott practices brutal honesty. All the time. Emphasis on the "brutal". To the point the very rare times he tries deceit, he's a Bad Liar.
  • In the That '70s Show episode "Eric's Burger Job", when the guys apply for a job at a local fast food restaurant:

Interviewer: Name something about yourself that you consider to be a weakness.
Hyde: I'm brutally honest... pinhead.

Amy: So what's wrong with me?
River Song: Nothing, you're fine.
The Doctor: (reading off her vitals) Everything, you're dying.
River Song: Doctor!
The Doctor: Yes, you're right, if we lie to her, she'll get all better!

Patricia: Sorry, I bet I've been driving you all crazy.
Everyone: (in an attempt to be polite) No.
Jerome: Yes.

  • Video game review show X-Play bills itself as giving brutally honest reviews.
  • Abed on Community has been called out on this behavior by his classmates on more than one occasion.
  • Carly Shay on iCarly does this to Sam and Freddie after reaching her breaking point when they drag her into yet another fight (the last of several) during the episode iDate Sam & Freddie. She points out that both their behaviour (Sam being a complete pig when they are on a date, and Freddie being a 'whiny nub' for pointing it out) and finally ends it by telling the two of them that they shouldn't be dating at all.
  • Drake Bell Drake and Josh does this to Josh Peck when he bursts into their room yelling at Drake asking if he took the $2,400 they were going to use to buy a car (Drake bought a chimpanzee instead). Josh continues to ask and paces back and forth even after Drake openly admits to taking the cash.
  • Hiromu Sakurada, the Rookie Red Ranger of Tokumei Sentai Gobusters, tends to be blunt to the point of rudeness primarily because he trained alone; Closer to Earth Robot Buddy Nick does his best to get Hiromu to curb this habit.
  • In the Torchwood pilot, the team (sans Gwen) is testing the Resurrection Glove (AKA Risen Mitten) on a murder victim (they're only interested in the glove, not the murder). This time, they choose to go with this approach when the man asks what's going on. After he dies again (permanently, this time), they mention that last time they tried to tell the guy he was injured, only for him to keep screaming for an ambulance. They actually get some results via Brutal Honesty.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • In the lore of Warhammer 40,000, it's revealed that Malcador the Sigilite, the Emperor's right-hand man, often got away being blunt and straight-forward with his comments regarding the Imperium's direction and the Emperor himself. The Horus Heresy books go further into this as well, with the Emperor even welcoming his criticisms.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Suikoden Tactics has Wendel, who asks Kyril why he didn't help out during the last war. When he tells her why (Heroic BSOD lasting three years), she calls him weak, then adds that at least he's strong now.
  • Dragon Age gives all six Wardens a Brutal Honesty line upon meeting King Cailan, but grand prize has to go to the City Elf's.

Cailan: And how are things going in the Denerim Alienage?
Warden: I killed the Arl's son for raping my friend.
Cailan: Well... Wait, what?


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Used in Schlock Mercenary, and probably inspired a rule about air vents.
    • Petey also often approaches politics this way. Possibly due to his low opinion of politicians and/or twisted sense of humor. Like here (two pages later he claimed "information wanted to be free" and 9 more pages later proclaimed "I have more than a little experience with blackmail myself"):

Ennesby: From the Fleetmind, there is a single ship, the Plaited Daisies.
Captain Tagon: Oh, there's a nice, peaceful name. I assume it's one of Petey's "Devastator" class warships.
Ennesby: Actually, he's dubbed this class "Extortionators."

Dr. Upton: "Vashiel, tell me, how incompetent is your brother?"
Vashiel: "Oh, very incompetent sir, most of the time!"

  • Done in The Pain - When Will It End in a (NSFW) comic about the reinventing of the Democrats as "The Sex Party".

Confronted with charges of sexual impropriety, the Sex Party candidate responds:
Candidate: Yes. I fucked that woman eight ways to Sunday. I fucked her like I was Paul Bunyan and she was a flapjack the size of Lake Tahoe. I intend to fuck her again immediately after this press conference. Next question?

  • IJDC: Devin has a few of these moments.
  • While Tina of Wapsi Square is usually extremely positive and has been known to, in the words of the other characters, "Blow sunshine up your ass," she considers it her duty to be brutally honest with those she considers friends.
  • Subnormality: Exemplified by a great many of the characters in "The Service".

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Tinkerballa in The Guild. Emphasis on the brutal.
  • Sean Malstrom. It's debatable just how much he actually tells the truth, but the sheer bluntness of his words that definitely are true make him all the more hated.
  • Dana in Echo Chamber is certainly not afraid to let Tom know how much he, his work, and his webshow all suck.
  • Sasha in Greek Ninja never hesitates to tell the truth even when it's devistating.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

Giraffalaff: (to Elefun) Can you keep a secret?
Froggio: Well... no.
Giraffalaff: I wasn't whispering to you!

Jimmy: You wouldn't want to crush my all time number one dream, would you?
Lucius: Yes, yes I would.

  • This is a common gag in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. Rainbow Dash is the most frequent offender, but others include Fluttershy (when she's pressured into answering a question she'd rather avoid), Applejack (as an unfortunate consequence of her virtue of honesty), Twilight Sparkle (out of sheer awkwardness), and even Spike (as the youngest of the major characters.)
    • Played for Drama in the Season 2 episode, Putting Your Hoof Down, where Fluttershy does it so brutally it could be considered a verbal No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
    • In the "Canterlot Wedding" two-parter, it's arguably a Shoot the Dog moment when Twilight, in front of her friends and mentor and big brother, calls the mare the latter's getting married to evil. Everypony else is shown to be remarkably angry at her for this, but Twilight turns out to be right about this, and if she held back, no one would have found out until it was too late.
  • The Simpsons does this a lot. In one episode, Marge asks Reverend Lovejoy why the church needs to build such a tall steeple. He replies, "To compensate for my own sense of smallness."
  • Daffy Duck in The Looney Tunes Show. This drives everyone crazy except for Foghorn Leghorn, who sees him as an Honest Advisor.
  • Commander Feral in Swat Kats. Diplomacy is not his strong suit.


Other[edit | hide]

  • Big Bill Hell's, originally produced for a faux award show called The Ad Follies, runs on this trope.

"It's our belief that you're such a stupid motherfucker, you'll fall for this bullshit. Guaranteed!"