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 realising that they prefer their own roles.
Contrast with Prince and Pauper
, 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. Compare with "Freaky Friday" Flip
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.)
- ''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 & Hobbes: The Series is this - 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.
- The movie Trading Places.
- 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 Maria understand 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.
- This happens in the Scandinavian folk tale "The Man Who Kept House."
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
George: It's just like that story, "The Prince and the Porpoise".
Blackadder: "...and the Pauper", sir.
George: Oh, yes! "The Prince and the Porpoise and the Pauper".
- The Lois and 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...)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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, albiet 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Occurred between Plankton and Mr. Krabs in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode The Algae's Always Greener, though it really only affected Plankton in the end.
- In another episode, Plankton and Mr. Krabs posed as each other to settle a bet of who would win if they had reversed roles.
- Likewise in The Plankton Show where he switches roles with SpongeBob.
- 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, would also be a great cook.
- In the My Gym Partners A Monkey 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.
- 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 culiminates with Chris getting a heart attack from all the stress and the roles 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 episode "Blondas Have More Fun" feature 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. Turners under the guise that a psychology trick was really working and in fact used the book to deal with al 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.
- This happening is the plot of the season 3 finale of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic "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" as well. Thanks to an Artifact of Doom Trixie becomes worlds more powerful than Twilight 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 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 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 a Southern Belle.