Created By: CalamityJane on June 24, 2012 Last Edited By: CalamityJane on July 5, 2012

Role Reversal Episode

A plot where character roles are switched.

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Trope
Remember that one show, where The Hero was out to stop the Big Bad from using his army of Mooks to Take Over the World? Or the one where The Leader took his True Companions out on a quest to Rescue The Princess? Well, turns out there's an episode, sequel, or adaptation where the roles have been swapped! Who was once called the Big Bad is now out to stop The Hero from using his mooks to Take Over the World, or it's the Badass Princess who is out to rescue her Distressed Dude with her True Companions.

This is a plot where the characters themselves swap places in the story. A common plot in Long Runners, as seeing how the characters react to being in another place where they have to think outside their box can make for good Character Development.

Super-Trope of Mirror Universe, as while Mirror Universe specifically counts for a world where Good Guys replace Bad Guys, this one also includes stories where who was originally The Big Guy becomes The Smart Guy, and other similar swaps.

Compare/Contrast Swapped Roles, "Freaky Friday" Flip.
Examples:

Comic Books
  • The Transformers: Shattered Glass continuity revolves around the heroic Autobot Cliffjumper trying to survive in a universe where the Decepticons wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Autobots.

Film
  • In Rush Hour Jackie Chan's character is a Fish out of Water in LA. In Rush Hour 2 Chris Tucker's character is the fish in Hong Kong. Many of the same jokes are repeated.

Literature

Live Action TV
  • Community: The character Pierce is typically portrayed as racist and a bit unhinged, while Jeff is the cool guy everybody loves. In the episode "Biology 101, Jeff is portrayed as the maniac who makes racist statements and takes an axe to the study table, while Pierce is the one everyone admires.
  • In NewsRadio, Matthew has enough of Bill belittling him and punches him square in the mouth. Bill, humbled by the experience, becomes meek and bumbling, while Matthew, Drunk with Power, takes over Bill's position as office jerk. Normalicy is restored when Bill accidentally slaps Matthew, snapping him out of his ego trip, while Bill returns to being his obnoxious self.
  • An episode of Mad About You had Jamie accidentally trade purses with her zany sister; Jamie becomes gradually more and more scattered, while her sister becomes the responsible one.
  • Seinfeld: George decides that every decision he makes is wrong so he'll do the opposite of whatever his gut tells him to do. He becomes quite successful. Meanwhile Elaine has lost her job and is in a downward spiral. At one point she even realizes, "I've become George!"
  • Maid Marian and Her Merry Men has a long-standing example where Maid Marian switch her role from the typical Damsel in Distress into The Leader/The Smart Guy.

Western Animation
  • In Sonic Underground, Sonic and his three siblings are freedom fighters against the tyrannical Robotnik. However, the episode Six is a Crowd has the main trio visiting an alternate universe where they are the tyrannical leaders and Robotnik is the freedom fighter.
  • The episode "Doofania" of Phineas and Ferb has Doctor Doofenshmirtz and Phineas essentially trade roles for a day. The two storylines traded importance, significant catchphrases, and Phineas's invention caused Doofenshmirtz's to vanish for some reason.
  • Totally Spies! has Clover (a member of the Power Trio) and Jerry (the elderly Big Good with a sense of humor) switching personalities for an episode. It is one of the best comedy episodes in the series.
Community Feedback Replies: 15
  • June 24, 2012
    WackyMeetsPractical
    Not to be confused with Swapped Roles.

    Community: The character Pierce is typically portrayed as racist and a bit unhinged, while Jeff is the cool guy everybody loves. In the episode "Biology 101, Jeff is portrayed as the maniac who makes racist statements and takes an axe to the study table, while Pierce is the one everyone admires.
  • June 24, 2012
    Routerie
    This seems to be a variation of the larger Role Reversal trope by which two characters eschange roles between a story's start and conclusion. (How have we missed that?)
  • June 24, 2012
    Andygal
    Warbreaker has the two princesses Vivenna the Proper Lady and Siri the Rebellious Princess, Vivenna was originally supposed to marry the God Emperor of Hallandren but their father decided to send Siri instead, after which Vivenna decided to "rescue" Siri from the "evil god king". By the end of the story Siri is Happily Married to said God King (who is not actually evil), and Vivenna is an Action Girl in training and has gone Walking The Earth.
  • June 26, 2012
    TonyG
    In News Radio, Matthew has enough of Bill belittling him and punches him square in the mouth. Bill, humbled by the experience, becomes meek and bumbling, while Matthew, Drunk With Power, takes over Bill's position as office jerk. Normalicy is restored when Bill accidentally slaps Matthew, snapping him out of his ego trip, while Bill returns to being his obnoxious self.
  • June 29, 2012
    Rognik
    • The episode "Doofania" of Phineas And Ferb has Doctor Doofenshmirtz and Phineas essentially trade roles for a day. The two storylines traded importance, significant catchphrases, and Phineas's invention caused Doofenshmirtz's to vanish for some reason.
  • June 29, 2012
    Duncan
    An episode of Mad About You had Jamie accidentally trade purses with her zany sister; Jamie becomes gradually more and more scattered, while her sister becomes the responsible one.
  • June 29, 2012
    randomsurfer
    • In Rush Hour Jackie Chan's character is a Fish Out Of Water in LA. In Rush Hour 2 Chris Tucker's character is the fish in Hong Kong. Many of the same jokes are repeated.
    • Seinfeld: George decides that every decision he makes is wrong so he'll do the opposite of whatever his gut tells him to do. He becomes quite successful. Meanwhile Elaine has lost her job and is in a downward spiral. At one point she even realizes, "I've become George!"
  • June 30, 2012
    desdendelle
    I think Starcraft 2 deserves a mention, but I haven't played much of it, so I've no idea how to write an example for it.
  • June 30, 2012
    Koveras
    The title may be misinterpreted as "a plot where two characters start off each representing a certain opposing ideals but in the end, their roles are ironically reversed". Maybe call it Role Reversal Episode to emphasize that this is a temporary thing, rather than a plot-spanning progression?
  • June 30, 2012
    falver
    Villain Protagonist and Hero Antagonist should be applicable in-story. Simply, if the only requirement is role reversal, it shouldn't matter who was what until the role is reversed.

  • June 30, 2012
    CalamityJane
    Duly noted, Kolveras/Falver. Description edited.
  • June 30, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Rush Hour is a film, not Live Action TV.
  • July 2, 2012
    Lorialet
    Totally Spies has Clover and Jerry witching personalities for an episode. It is really one of the best comedy episodes in the series.
  • July 5, 2012
    CalamityJane
    bump
  • July 5, 2012
    arromdee
    There were a few X-Files episodes where Mulder was the skeptic and Scully was the believer. Technically the characters didn't change at all (Scully believed in religious situations) but in terms of story roles, they were reversed for one episode.
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