"You really are a confounded fool. Aren't you? I'd heard everywhere that the Prince was an imbecile whereas his servant Blackadder was respected about town. Now that I discover the truth I am inclined to beat you to death."Two characters swap roles in life, usually gaining greater understanding of each other's challenges. In '50's and '60's sitcoms, this often took the form of Dad staying home to watch junior while Mom went to work. Later kids tend to swap roles with parents. Another common formulation, usually played for comedy over the aesop, is masters and servants swapping roles for some deceptive reason. Often begins with a fight, where the two characters are convinced they can do the other character's job better, and / or the other character has a much easier life. Usually ends up with a Be Careful What You Wish For aesop, with both characters realizing that they prefer their own roles. Regardless, this may dovetail into Nothing Is the Same Anymore. Compare with Hourglass Plot, Decoy Leader and Emergency Impersonation. More fantastical works may feature an Overnight Age-Up paired with a Fountain of Youth for characters whose different roles stem in large part from their age gap. If the characters don't just swap roles but literally swap bodies then it's a "Freaky Friday" Flip, which often invokes this trope. Prince and Pauper explores a change in class/economic roles.
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Anime and Manga
- One scene in the first episode of the anime Palm Town and in the manga has Nurse Alice telling Dr. George and his wife Jane that one patient is complaining of a headache and another wants onion soup...but the former wants Jane to examine him and the latter wants George to make the soup. (In a slight subversion, George is an excellent chef in addition to being a doctor, and it's not hard to imagine Jane having the better bedside manner.)
- In Destruction Flag Otome an ordinary(ish) schoolgirl reincarnates as Katarina, an otome game villain and rapidly derails the plot by becoming the new main heroine. The old heroine in turn becomes a love interest. Katarina goes from refusing to let her engagement to a prince be dissolved to instead being unable to get out of it herself after the prince falls for the new her. Two fellow rival characters instead become her friends even though they were supposed to hate her and then fall in love with her. One of those rivals, Mary, goes from an unrequited love with her fiancee into viewing him as being somewhere between a rival and a puppet. With this and a few other things she shows a sneaky, controlling streak that turns her from being a complete Proper Lady to having a bit in common with the original Katarina!
- All-New X-Men: Kitty Pryde, who was 13 and a half when she joined the X-Men, studied under Jean Grey and learned techniques for handling telepathic issues. Now she's an adult, teaching 16-year-old Jean from the past those same techniques.
- DuckTales: The story "A Switch in Time" shows Launchpad and Fenton changing jobs briefly. Chaos ensues, given that Launchpad is inexperienced with the GizmoDuck suit and Fenton has no inkling of how to fly a plane.
- Wolverine and the X-Men/Uncanny X-Men (2011): After Schism Wolverine and Cyclops swapped their roles, with Cyclops taking the role of the brooding, pragmatic Anti-Hero and Wolverine trying to fill in for Professor X. At least that was the intention; many people found themselves still rooting for Cyclops due to Wolverine acting like a huge, condescending Hypocrite most of the time.
- Naruto Reborn: Sasuke Uchiha: Naruto and Sasuke kill each other and in the afterlife, Naruto learns there's another world where Sasuke can do everything all over again in his body because this Sasuke died in the massacre. Instead, NARUTO has to go, not as himself (because he doesn't exist in that universe), but become Sasuke himself by being in his body. So he does that and literally has to live Sasuke's life and see how he felt about things. It's permanent, so there's no going back and since Naruto doesn't exist someone else has the Kyuubi.
- "A Day in Your Shoes" from Calvin and Hobbes: The Series has Jack and Jaqueline swap places with each other in order to determine which Brainstorm is the worst. Ironically, being that their masters are both Stupid Evil, it ends up becoming a bit of a moot point.
- The Daria fanfic Turnabour Confusion details the events of a week in which the Morgendorffer sisters exchange outfits and (eventually) places on the social ladder: Daria dresses like Quinn, leading to her becoming the most desired girl in school, while Quinn begins dressing in frumpy old clothes and becomes a depressed outcast.
- The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic/Xenophilia fanfic Divided Rainbow is centered around this trope while also being a deconstruction of it. The first act of Divided Rainbow highlights how the 'Swapped Five,' (Twilight Sparkle's five Element-Bearing friends) are driving themselves into physical, mental, emotional, financial, and even familial ruination, because they are simply no good at filling each others' roles. The second act focuses on how these effects are counteracted.
- Into The Hedge continues the story of Divided Rainbow.
Films — Animated
- Disney Fairies The Pirate Fairy pulls this off when Zarina throws some multicoloured pixie dust at Tinkerbell, Vidia, Silvermist, Fawn, Rosetta and Iridessa, thus swapping their talents over. Fawn's a light fairy (Iridessa's talent), Iridessa's a garden fairy (Rosetta's talent), Rosetta's an animal fairy (Fawn's talent), Tinkerbell's a water fairy (Silvermist's talent), Silvermist is a fast-flying fairy (Vidia's talent), and Vidia's a tinker fairy (Tinkerbell's talent. She doesn't take this too well.)
- In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, Princess Twilight, having chased Sunset Shimmer from the pony world to the human world and defeated her with the Magic of Friendship, offers her forgiveness and redemption. Two films later and a lot of earned redemption later, Sunset defeats the human version of Twilight using the Magic of Friendship and offers her a second chance in My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games.
Sunset Shimmer: Take my hand, Twilight. I can show you another way, just like someone once did for me.
Films — Live-Action
- X-Men: Days of Future Past:
- Professor X was Wolverine's mentor in the original trilogy, but in 1973, Logan has to try to motivate and counsel an emotionally damaged Xavier. Not surprisingly, the abrasive Wolverine agrees with the past version of Charles that they "sent back the wrong man".
Professor X: Logan, you're going to have to do for me what I once did for you. Lead me, guide me.
- In X-Men: First Class, Xavier acted as a big brother figure to McCoy (they're about a decade apart in age), but after 1963, Hank becomes responsible for Charles. Although McCoy certainly prevents his friend from doing anything too self-destructive, he inadvertently becomes Xavier's enabler by inventing an addictive telepathy-blocking serum. Considering that Hank was probably only around 21 years old when he suddenly found himself in the position of being Charles' long-term caregiver (plus he has no experience looking after someone who is mentally ill), it's understandable that he couldn't help his former mentor as well as he would've liked.
- Professor X was Wolverine's mentor in the original trilogy, but in 1973, Logan has to try to motivate and counsel an emotionally damaged Xavier. Not surprisingly, the abrasive Wolverine agrees with the past version of Charles that they "sent back the wrong man".
- The movie Trading Places features two billionaires conspiring to swap the lives of one of their employees with a homeless man For the Evulz. This backfires on them epically when the two guys discover their involvement - and team up to get back at them.
- The Elvis movie Clambake, has millionaire oil heir Elvis swap places with a water-skiing instructor at a Florida hotel, to find a girl who isn't just interested in his money.
- Becomes a minor plot point in Metropolis, where Freder "trades lives" with one of the workers to
stalk Mariaunderstand the workers' plight better.
- In Mr. Mom, Michael Keaton becomes a stay-at-home dad when he is laid off and his wife finds a high-paying job.
- The movie Class Act.
- The 1991 film The Doctor starred William Hurt in the title role as an arrogant and emotionally detached medical professional, who is diagnosed with cancer and experiences the very same attitudes as a bed-ridden patient.
- In Charlie Chaplin film The Floorwalker, the floorwalker at a department store has embezzled $80,000 from the store and needs to make a getaway. He runs into the Tramp, who just happens to be his Identical Stranger. The floorwalker then tricks Charlie into switching roles with him. It doesn't work, as the police were already looking for Charlie and wind up arresting the floorwalker in his stead.
- The Disney Channel Made-for-TV Movie Model Behaviour. An average teenager discovers that she's identical in appearance to a famous model. The two swap lives for a week - the teen taking a stab at being a model, while the model gets to experience high school for the first time.
- The Scandinavian folk tale, "The Man Who Kept House", has a husband and wife switch roles for a day. They each decide that the other has the harder job.
- The story of The Prince and the Pauper starts with a pair of identical people swapping outfits and going back to fill each others' role for a while... longer than either wants, it turns out. Oh, and while the prince is busy being a pauper, his daddy dies...
- In the children's book Bea and Mr. Jones, the titular characters (father and daughter) switch jobs, with Bea taking over her father's job in advertising, and Mr. Jones going back to kindergarten. They end up enjoying their new jobs so much that they decide to keep the new arrangement.
- In the final Time Scout book Skeeter poses as Armstrong to lure out a bad guy. That's because Armstrong isn't expendable; Skeeter is.
Live Action TV
- Kermit and Fozzie swapped roles with Statler and Waldorf in The Muppet Show with guest star: Hal Linden. Kermit and Fozzie thought that Statler and Waldorf could be the host while Kermit and Fozzie sits on Statler and Waldorf's balcony.
- The episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy and Ethel get jobs at the candy factory may be the most well-known example (thanks to the infamous conveyor belt scene).
- Jerry and Kramer swap roles in Seinfeld after exchanging apartments, resulting in a laid-back, sarcastic Kramer and a jumpy, wacky Jerry.
George: It's just like that story, "The Prince and the Porpoise".
- In the third series of Blackadder, the nincompoop Prince George swaps places with scheming butler Mr Blackadder to avoid being killed by the Duke of Wellington. The predictable occurs.
Blackadder: "...and the Pauper", sir.
George: Oh, yes! "The Prince and the Porpoise and the Pauper".
- The Haunted Hathaways: Michelle and Ray trade parenting duties, convinced that each other's children will be less stressful to manage. They learn the hard way they couldn't be more wrong!
- The Lois & Clark episode "Chi of Steel" (which juggled three gender-equality storylines) used this in the C-plot, with Martha and Jonathan swapping places. Since they weren't Down on the Farm however, Martha's new role consisted of playing checkers, while Jonathan did all the things she'd normally do on a visit to Metropolis (shopping, cooking, ironing Clark's cape...)
- On the Square One Television segment: Math Man, If Math Man is unable to play. The roll would be swapped to Mr. Glitch. If Mr. Glitch get the answer wrong, He would be eaten by Math Man (or at one time, Math Dog).
- My Family featured an episode in which Susan and Janey swap roles, with Susan as a single woman (and Ben trying to win her heart all over again) and Janey driven insane by the pressures of running a home and family.
- Leverage had an episode where Sophie wanted to be the boss for once, and the entire team wound up switching jobs out of their normal specialties temporarily. After some events they eventually decided to go back to their original roles. Despite all this, they did learn the basics of each other's specialties, which proved more useful as they progressed. Nothing Is the Same Anymore, indeed.
- The parent-child version features in an episode of Step by Step.
- On an episode of Dinosaurs, Robbie switched places with his father Earl as alpha male and family provider. He did it for the right to make decisions, but pretty soon the responsibility got too much for him. By the end of the episode, Robbie steps down from the alpha male position.
- In Charmed Piper and Leo ended up switching powers for a day because of unborn Wyatt. Piper had to orb all over the place being a whitelighter while Leo had to cope with exploding powers as well as suffering from pregnancy symptoms.
- Lab Rats: When Bree's frustration meter with Principal Perry reaches it's limit, she insists she could be a better principal then Perry. Perry accepts the offer and makes Bree Principal for one day, while she takes on the role of a student hooligan.
- In M*A*S*H, the 4077th decided to duplicate a British tradition of the officers and enlisted men switching places on Boxing Day (December 26th). Potter suspects that Klinger isn't assigning him normal assistant duties, which is true - in order to make the duties normal, he would also be sending Potter to Seoul to get oats for the Colonel's horse, among other things.
- In 2004, a New York TV station did a one-day swap of its morning and evening anchors during May sweeps.
- On Person of Interest, when Reese is recovering after being shot, he worked the computer while Finch got to be the legman.
- In one episode of White Collar, Neal and Peter pose as each other to encourage a witness to talk. It gets out of hand quickly.
- American Pickers had Danielle go out picking while Frank watches the shop. Danielle hated how dirty picking really is and Frank is not very good at getting picking leads.
- The Brady Bunch does this at least twice, once with the parents changing roles and once with Greg and Marcia swapping scout troops.
- Welcome Back, Kotter had at least one episode where Kotter and Woodman changed jobs (teacher and principal), resulting in a personality swap as well.
- In the It Takes a Thief (1968) episode "Turnabout", Al Mundy (a Gentleman Thief turned government spy) breaks his leg, forcing his boss Noah Bain to handle their latest assignment while Al talks him through it.
- See Dad Run: The premise of the show revolves around an actor who played a much-loved TV Dad who's show is not off the air after a long run, while his wife returns to acting on a soap opera since he is able to be a stay home dad. Needless to say Hilarity Ensues. Especially since he's more like Cliff Huxtable on-screen and Homer Simpson offscreen. Al Bundy at best.
- One episode of Home Improvement has Al temporarily taking over for a cooking show, with Tim as his cohost. At first, Tim tries to joke around and steal the show like he always does, until he learns that it's important for him to not always be the center of attention, at which point the two have a second role-reversal, with Al becoming the bumbling host and Tim being the Hypercompetent Sidekick.
- On April Fools Day 1997, Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak and Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek swapped roles for the day. Wheel also had Pat and hostess Vanna White playing, with Pat's wife, Lesly, as hostess.
- Also, In the 1996 college week on Wheel Of Fortune, Pat Sajak and Vanna White swapped roles during the bonus round when Pat Sajak had a sore throat and wanted to get his voice rest.
- For April Fools Day in 2013, The Price Is Right had the host and the announcer swap roles with the models, leading to funny moments of Drew Carey showcasing the prizes like the models do.
- The Tru Calling episode "The Last Good Day" swapped Tru's and Jack's rewind roles, when the victim asked Jack for help and Tru had a vision of how she died. Both were severely freaked out.
- Max And Shred: In "he Switch Jolly Mambo Varial", teen siblings Alvin and Abby both think each other's lives are easy, so they switch their extracurricular responsibilities for a day.
- The Stargate SG-1 episode "Window of Opportunity" sees Jack and Teal'c forced to take over the role of The Smart Guy from Carter and Daniel because they are the only ones aware the team is trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop. They're forced to learn Ancient (in-universe, an Ancient Astronauts ancestor of Latin with a different alphabet) so they can decipher the workings of an Ancient machine and solve the plot.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000: One episode had Pearl try to test why Failure Is the Only Option by swapping places with Mike. Pearl joined Crow and Tom in the theater, while Mike hung out with Bobo and Brain Guy.
- Danny, Jesse, and Joey switch roles with the girls in an episode of Full House With both parties learning in the end that it's not as for each other as they once thought.
- Hannah Montana: In one episode, Jackson and Rico once switched roles. It turned out that Rico made the switch so he could avoid getting beaten up by the brother of a kid he made fun of and have Jackson take the fall.
- The Kate Rusby song "The Old Man" about a man and his wife swapping jobs for a day. One of the '1950s' style stories as mentioned above, albeit based on much older material.
- The Lonestar song "Mr. Mom".
- Tranio (a servant) switches places with Lucentio (his master) in The Taming of the Shrew so that Lucentio can woo Bianca.
- Older Than Feudalism: In Aristophanes' The Frogs, the god Dionysos and his mortal servant temporarily pretended to be each other to trick the gatekeepers of Hades, in addition to their earlier deception of dressing Dionysos up as Heracles. This results in Dionysos getting whipped, beaten, and generally abused for various reasons, while his servant basically snickers in the background.
- In Hyrule Warriors, a hidden weapon that Link can unlock through Adventure Mode is the Great Fairy. When this weapon is chosen, Link ends up being stuck into a bottle and forced to watch as a hugely powerful Great Fairy handles the fighting for him, in a reversal of the traditional role of Link being the adventurer and fairies sitting in bottles waiting to be called upon to heal him.
- Every Super Mario Bros. game ever made has Princess Peach getting kidnapped and Mario and Luigi setting out to rescue her. Every game, that is, except for Super Princess Peach. There, Mario and Luigi get captured and it's up to the princess to bail them out!
- Season 2 of Batman: The Telltale Series flips around the relationship between the Joker and Harley Quinn; Joker is madly in love with Harley and eager to impress her, while Harley seems to care a little for Joker but doesn't hesitate to exploit his feelings for her to manipulate him. This dynamic does change by the end of episode 4, though.
- During one of Strong Bad's emails in Homestar Runner, Homestar and The Cheat switch roles for no apparent reason at all. This causes issues for Strong Bad, who is attempting to redo emails, and a delight for Marzipan, who can be found on a bit of a date with The Cheat in an Easter egg.
- Furry Experience did an arc where Ronnie (PE major, has to pay own tuition) and Cat (Art major, parents pay as long as she gets good grades) swapped for a week, disastrously.
- In UC, new transfer student, Kelsi, thinks that the reason, resident goth, Nicodemus is bullied is because of the clothes he wears and in her words that he is an "Angst-Filled Sock Monkey";. Nicodemus thinks that she doesn't understand him and wouldn't last a single day in his shoes. They decide to switch clothing styles for a day and see which one is right. By the end of the day, they are both declaring the other the victor.
- Sword Princess Amaltea has a chapter dedicated to discuss the Double Standard in a matriarchy thanks to their protagonists swapping sexes, basically in a way for both of them to understand the other's point of view and how the world works for the opposite sex.
- Mario Party TV: Discussed at the end of the first episode of Season 5. When the group started out, Holms was the skilled player who kept getting screwed over by the other players and got salty about it, while Clel was largely calm but consistently in last place. Nowadays Clel is the one taking the lead and then being screwed over by everyone else, while Holms never gets the success in the first place. Punctuated by Holms deciding not to get his hopes up, while Clel says "Bullshit!" on several occasions.
- In one episode of Dilbert, he swapped roles with a guard. At the end after failing to do the job he swapped roles with Ratbert.
- SpongeBob SquarePants
- Occurred between Plankton and Mr. Krabs in "The Algae's Always Greener", though it really only affected Plankton in the end.
- In "Spy Buddies", Plankton and Mr. Krabs posed as each other to settle a bet of who would win if they had reversed roles.
- Rocket Power: Trying to prove which of their chosen sports requires more talent, Reggie Rocket and Cleo swap events at Winter Fest, with Reggie ice dancing and Cleo playing on her ice hockey team. Subverted in the fact that they're both good and not only win their respective events, but impressed the other.
- The Maryoku Yummy episode "Now You're Cooking!" had Omoshi and Maryoku switching jobs, mostly because Omoshi was annoyed that Ooka bragged that Maryoku, the best wishsitter in Nozomu, would also be a great cook.
- My Gym Partner's a Monkey:
- In the episode "Le Switcheroo," the animal school's counselor Mr. Mandrill had the grouchy gym teacher Coach Gills and the lone human student Adam Lyon trade places for a day when both began complaining to the principal about each other. Hilarity Ensued when the entire school somehow fell for their Paper Thin Disguises (Adam wore Coach Gills's bow in his hair and Coach Gills wore one of Adam's shirts below her fish bowl), but both learned the Aesop Mr. Mandrill was aiming for and gained new respect for one another.
- Another episode had Miss Warthog knocked unconscious and replaced by Adam, who was replaced by Jake, who replaced by Windsor, who was replaced by Lupe, and so on.
- An episode of American Dad! had Stan and Roger swapping roles after Stan got frustrated with Roger acting like his concerns (running out of cookies to eat while watching soap operas) are a big deal. Roger quickly gets stressed out with actual work, accidentally hits Francine, and the neighbors mistakenly get the idea that Stan is beating her (not at all helped by the fact that, to do Roger's "job", he lazes about the house all day in underwear and a bathrobe and lets his hygiene slide).
- Family Guy plays with this trope a bit. Chris and Meg swap roles with their parents in the usual 'who has it harder' role. Surprisingly, (or perhaps unsurprisingly) the kids were right; Chris gets a promotion at work and Meg makes excellent dinners while having enough time to clean the entire house in just an hour. Lois and Peter have a miserable time at school because all the kids bully them. It then begins to be mildly deconstructed: While Peter's boss and the kids' principal were notified of the experiment, Peter's boss decided to fire Peter and replace him with Chris, showing the potential consequences. Reality Ensues when downsizing occurs and Chris is given more work to compensate. Initially being able to handle it, the long nights and the stress of handling finances get to him and he takes up drinking. It culminates with Chris getting a heart attack from all the stress, and the roles go back to normal.
- Done with Skipper and King Julien in an episode of The Penguins of Madagascar. In a strange variant of this trope, Julien earns Skipper's praise for successfully handling that episode's mission (even if by accident), but at the end of the episode, they're back to being Friendly Enemy.
- The Fairly Oddparents:
- The episode "Blondas Have More Fun" features Wanda and her "identical-yet-somewhat-hotter" twin sister swapping roles to learn the difficulties of each other's lives.
- Another episode included Timmy wishing to be Cosmo and Wanda's fairy godparents, to prove that being a kid was harder than being a godparent. It quickly spirals out of control with Cosmo and Wanda having to tag in being the visible Timmy, along with curfew and Vicky, and Timmy constantly fails many times of getting magic down (he spent an entire night trying to turn into a goldfish with gills).
- Timmy and his Mom once swapped roles in an unusual portrayal of the role. Mrs. Turner under the guise that a psychology trick was really working and in fact used the book to deal with all the problems Timmy faced in school while Timmy coped with the grueling work his mom did. While it initially looked like that his Mom had the harder life, she stated that her day was stressful because of how nuts everyone seemed to be and happy that Timmy grew up well-adjusted before the roles were swapped.
- Alvin and the Chipmunks: Alvin and Dave swapped roles, allowing Alvin to understand how hard parenting is.
- A Dudley Do-Right episode featured Dudley and Nell switching places, with Dudley doing the housework and Nell being a Mountie, ending up being a much more competent one than Dudley.
- One episode of Garfield and Friends has Garfield having a nightmare where he's in Jon's position and constantly has to put up with his cat's troublemaking, making him understand what his owner goes through better. Jon in turn had a nightmare where he was a cat and apparently had a horrible experience about it, making him appreciate his pet more.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic uses this quite frequently:
- This happening is the plot of the season 3 finale of "Magical Mystery Cure". Twilight performs an unfinished spell that switches the cutie marks of her five friends, which leads to them struggling to fill new roles for which they're totally unsuited (like fun-loving Pinkie Pie trying to be a serious, hard-working farmer like Applejack, only to make a complete mess of Sweet Apple Acres, or Shrinking Violet Fluttershy trying, and failing, to make ponies laugh like Pinkie does).
- It happens in "Magic Duel", Trixie becomes worlds more powerful than Twilight thanks to an Artifact of Doom and effectively smears her all over Ponyville in a magical duel before exiling her. Twilight goes on some Training from Hell but realizes she's simply not powerful enough, so she instead relies on stage magic, deception, and trickery—Trixie's own methods—to win in a rematch.
- In "Simple Ways" Rarity pretends to be a stereotypical farm bumpkin when the pony she's had a long crush on shows interest in Applejack rather than her, claiming that she's always been this way and just never showed it before. Applejack teaches her a lesson by pretending to be an equally stereotypical Southern Belle.
- In "A Royal Problem", when Princesses Celestia and Luna stop appreciating each other, Starlight Glimmer switches their cutie marks in an impulsive panic, forcing the two to switch places for 24 hours. As a result, Luna experiences Celestia's burden of being a Slave to PR, while Celestia realizes that being a Dream Walker is more lonely and emotionally taxing than expected.
- In the Julius Jr. episode "Pirate Julius", Julius and Diamondbeard swap roles for a while so Julius can see how it's like being a pirate and Diamondbeard can see how it's like being an inventor.