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Just The Introduction To The Opposites
"Over these houses, over these streets, hangs a pall of fear. Fear of a new kind of violence which is terrorizing the city."

A lot of comedy comes from switching around expectations. This trope is about a specific kind, where roles are reversed. But unlike "Freaky Friday" Flip, Prince and Pauper, and Swapped Roles, no explanation or justification is given, and it's as though this situation was always this way. The comedy is more about the absurdity of it all, than what happens to the characters.

Let's say hypothetically, a princess, wearing with Pimped-Out Dress, tiara and ermine cape, walks down a hallway one way, while her servant, in a French maid outfit, walks the other way, carrying some food. The princess bumps into the maid, causing the food to fall on the maid. The princess begs for forgiveness and tries to wipe off the maid's dress, while the maid hysterically snaps at the princess for being clumsy, and complains about how much her dress cost.

Occasionally used for drama and/or Satire, where the situation is meant to be thought-provoking instead of funny.

Named for You Can't Do That on Television, which would use that line as a Catch Phrase to start a series of such sketches.

Compare Opposite Day, Persecution Flip.

Super Trope of Gender Flip.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comicbooks 

    Film 
  • Little Man Tate contrasts the titular Tate, a very mature child, with his childlike, immature mother.
  • The film White Mans Burden is a dramatic example; it takes place in an alternate America where the majority/minority status of white and black people are reversed. In case that's not clear, their socioeconomic positions are reversed too, not just the numeric percentages.
  • The film The Wrong Man had a subplot of a greedy, ruthless farmer threatening the meek, struggling-to-get-by banker with closing his business down.
  • The Jerk starts with the character explaining he was born "a poor black child," only to discover his white roots when he first hears swing music on the radio.
  • íThree Amigos! has a scene where Chevy Chase's character is trying to blend in with the banditos as their leader reminisces about the good times they have had. He offers a few suggestions such as the time they "raped the horses and rode off on the women"

    Literature 
  • One scene in Moving Pictures parodies King Kong; a giant womannote  holds a normal-sized ape (the Librarian) in one hand while climbing a tall building.
  • "Disobedience", by A. A. Milne, is about a three-year-old boy whose mother wanders away from his supervision and gets lost.
    • Possibly better known as a Chad Mitchell Trio song usually called "James James Morrison Morrison" after the first line of both the song and the poem.
  • In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, there is a poem about five Golgafrincham princes who, amongst other things, 'rescue beautiful monsters from ravening princesses'.

    Live-Action TV 
  • You Can't Do That on Television is the Trope Namer; such sketches would often involve children being rewarded for poor behavior and vice versa, or put the kids in a position of power.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus did this a lot:
    • The sketch 'Northern Playwright' featuring a father behaving like a stereotypical worker, his no less stereotypical yuppie son, and the predictable tension between them. Except it turns out that the father is a famous playwright and the son is a coal miner. Just watch it here.
    • There was another sketch where a woman let an encyclopedia salesman into her home because he said that he was a burglar. Could have also been a Take That toward door-to-door salesmen: "I'd rather be robbed than suffer through your spiel!"
    • As well as one sketch about a world where everyone is Superman, but one of them is secretly... THE BICYCLE REPAIRMAN!
    • The "Hell's Grannies" sketch, about a gang of old ladies terrorising innocent youths.
    • "The Baby Snatchers"... gangs of men dressed up as babies who kidnap adults.
  • Pretty much the point of Absolutely Fabulous, where the daughter is the one telling the adults to turn the boom box down and to stop drinking so much.
    • The show grew out of a sketch on French & Saunders called Modern Mother and Daughter, which presented this as being somewhat Truth in Television.
  • In an episode of Grace Under Fire, a middle-aged dad was staying at his son's house, they have a fight, and the dad storms into his room and starts blasting swing music. The son pounds on the door and tells him to turn it down.
  • The weekly murder mystery Castle has the mystery-writer main character (played by Nathan Fillion) dealing with his party-girl cougar of a mother and his sage, sensible teenaged daughter, who also acts as his Watson.
  • Rutland Weekend Television:
    Presenter: Hello. Are people difficult bastards or not? To clear this up, I have with me in the studio one really difficult bastard...
    Difficult Bastard: Hello, good evening.
    Presenter: ...And the bishop of Summerset.
    Pope: Get lost.
    Presenter: Can I turn to you first, bishop?
    Pope: Shut up.
  • A sketch from That Mitchell and Webb Look where a husband and wife are arguing because he's just returned from a business trip and she finds a bra in his suitcase. She asks, mildly annoyed, if he's cheating on her, which he cops to absentmindedly. The fight escalates as she brings in other "minor" issues such as her desire to have a baby and secret gambling addiction, until she suddenly bursts into tears and he figures out what this is really about — that time he left the fridge door open and a whole quiche and some milk went bad.
  • Done as a Take That on A Bit of Fry and Laurie, when Laurie's character walks into a convenience store and requests EIGHT PACKETS OF CONDOMS, PLEASE, loudly specifying brands and styles, and furtively asking for Jason Donovan's latest single in between.
  • An episode of Scrubs had Elliot's boyfriend Keith upset with her because he wanted a committed stable relationship, and Elliot just wanted him for sex. Dr. Kelso treats their argument like an entertaining TV program: "It's like he's the chick and you're the dude!"
  • An episode of Boston Legal opens with a shopkeeper nervously eying a couple of tough-looking teenagers, fingering the silent alarm button as they step up to the register. One of them reaches into his jacket...and pulls out some cash. They turn to go, revealing Betty White standing directly behind them. She pulls a gun.
  • You're Skitting Me has a series of sketches where a pair of teenagers treat their parents like they were teenagers.
  • The famous "Having an English" sketch on Goodness Gracious Me: A bunch of Indians in Mumbai always end up in an English restaurant after a hard night of drinking, where it is considered good form to order "the blandest thing on the menu". This satirizes the stereotypical behaviour of English patrons in Indian restaurants.

    Music 
  • Against Me!'s video for "Thrash Unreal" features a group of well-dressed, respectable looking adults going to a party... which immediately devolves into a mosh pit when they get hammered off the wine.

    Radio 
  • In Acropolis Now, set in Ancient Greece, homosexuality is the norm and sex with girls is something only done for reproductive purposes. Straight characters are seen as a bit weird.
  • Used on the Martin Molloy radio show. After a news story about two pensioners who were arrested after an argument over a poker machine turned into a violent punch up, Mick Molloy launched into a spiel about how old people today had no respect for authority and how teenagers were sitting at home at night, too scared to go out because of the gangs of old people roaming the streets, and how what old people needed was another dose of national service.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Stewart Lee "Later on I'll be explaining how my tragic and ultimately fatal heroin addiction helped me overcome my previous dependence on Born Again Christianity."
  • Towards the end of his one-man show, Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding, Christopher Titus imagines what would've happened if his mother's mental institution had had an open mike night:
    My mom would be up here, and you'd be reading about me as her crack-addicted son. A man can dream, can't he?

    Tabletop Games 
  • One of the big conflicts among the Imperial Inquisition of Warhammer 40,000 is between "puritan" inquisitors, who uphold the strict, dogmatic, xenophobic credo of the Inquisition to the letter, and "radical" inquisitors who play fast and loose with the rules, often believe that the ends justify the means and have a tendency to question authority and orthodoxy in all matters. A puritan, for example, upon uncovering the activities of a Chaos cult, would launch a straightforward purge and burn them all at the stake, no questions asked. A radical might very well try to infiltrate the cult, learn what they're doing and subvert their activities - possibly even taking their daemon-cursed artefacts to turn against their creators. So far so good - and in line with modern cultural expectations we might expect that the inflexible puritans would tend to be the old-fashioned fuddy-duddies, while the radicals are the dynamic fresh blood who can see beyond the stifling hidebound dogma. But thanks to the nature of the job it very much tends to be the young, freshly-appointed inquisitors who are the puritans and the older, grizzled, seen-it-all-before veterans who are the radicals. They hit the galaxy as fiery dogmatics (the general default state for Imperial citizens), but decades or centuries of seeing how complicated and clandestine the Imperium and its enemies are tends to give them a more nuanced, less black-and-white outlook. The Gregor Eisenhorn trilogy of tie-in novels takes this transition as its major premise - following the career of the young, puritanical Eisenhorn as his experiences gradually turn him into the most radical of radicals.

    Videogames 
  • This occurs between two minor NPCs in Final Fantasy XIII. The player first meets the father who complains that he lost his son and his son told him that he should always stay in one place if they get separated, while the son is nearby complaining about his father getting lost. When father and son meet up the son chastises the father for not staying in one place as he was told. Considering the tiny number of NPCs and otherwise standard NPC dialogue in the game it's rather odd that they would bother to add this bit of characterization in an area where many gamers will miss it (one must explicitly intentionally backtrack to hear the final conversation between father and son).
  • The manual for {{Kingdom o' Magic}} mentions that "The Good, Old-fashioned Quest" is about how you have to rescue the dragon, steal the princess, and slay the treasure. (It is in fact a lie - there is no princess, and you deal with the dragon and the treasure in the traditional way, insofar as calling a mob hit on the dragon counts as "traditional".)

    Webcomics 

    Web Originals 
  • This video from The Onion News Network portrays AA as a life-destroying addiction which can only be countered by consumption of alcohol.
  • In these two College Humor sketches, a gamer is bullied and sexually harassed by gamer girls. Warning, audio is NSFW!

    Western Animation 


Identical StrangerIn Another Man's ShoesLost in Character
Just Like Making LoveComedy TropesJuxtaposition Gag

alternative title(s): Introduction To The Opposites; Stock Comedy Reversal
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