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Film / Zerophilia

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Right after losing his virginity, college student and fraternity boy Luke starts noticing strange things happening to his body and discovers that he has a rare genetic factor that causes him to turn into a girl and back whenever aroused. Having already had been grappling with insecurity about his own masculinity, Luke initially insists on suppressing and having nothing to do with this new development... but soon enough starts finding himself becoming unsure about whether this is really the case.

Making things even more complicated is the fact that he'd recently started a relationship with his crush and One True Love Michelle, and his attempts to keep all of this from her create a rift between them while drawing the ire of her overprotective brother Max. And on top of that, when Max turns out to be quite taken with Luke's female form and starts flirting with her, Luke is forced into a confusing web of questions regarding his self-identity and sexuality...

A romantic comedy directed by Martin Curland and released on October 26, 2005 in Sao Paulo and October 13, 2006 in the US, starring Taylor Handley, Gina Bellman, Kyle Schmid, Kelly LeBrock, Adam Zolotin, and Marieh Delfino.

Tropes for the film:

  • Accidental Declaration of Love: Inverted. What finally convinces Michelle of Luke's loyalty is Luca admitting to Max that she finds him to be attractive but doesn't want to betray Michelle by dating him, even despite Michelle ostensibly having broken up with Luke for good. Luke didn't want to admit this to Michelle because he'd thought it would aggravate her fears of him cheating on her, but since Michelle and Max are the same person, this serves to both overturn her fears of Luke disliking her as Max and indicate to her that Luke's actual loyalty was never to her attractiveness or likeability, but her well-being.
  • An Aesop: "There's no 'supposed to be' anything, you just 'are'."
  • Animal Motifs: Tadpoles and frogs are visually invoked as a metaphor for metamorphosis, both in terms of the ways the zerophiliac transformations work and the exploration of self-identity that comes with it.
  • Beneath the Mask: As a result of her double life as a Sex Shifter, Michelle has two very different personas, both of which she considers to be important parts of her identity. Michelle's Girl Next Door persona shows fewer aspects that would be less socially acceptable for her to have as a girl (such as Max's auto repair hobby/job), and Max's more naturally confident attitude allows him to act aggressively or criticize others in ways that Michelle is more hesitant to. On the other hand, it's also a front that he puts up to assert his independence and cover up his insecurities regarding his fear of being disliked and abandoned, which Michelle is much more willing to be open about, and he's more detached and less expressive in social situations that Michelle is much better at participating in.
  • Beta Couple: Luke's friend Keenan and his girlfriend Janine, who apparently fell in Love at First Sight and are far more sexually experienced than Luke is. They're tight enough for Luke to call them "super-glue", so he wistfully sees them as a model for an ideal relationship. During the climax of the movie, Keenan's hyper-masculine Noble Bigot tendencies end up angering Janine enough to attempt breaking up with him, and his resulting Jerkass Realization also gets him to wonder if Janine would even want a guy in the first place; while they do end up making up quickly, the resulting conversation indicates that what actually made them work as a couple was that each felt the other to be their "other half", meaning that Luke may be better off pursuing that in a relationship rather than trying to meet the expectations of conventional heterosexuality.
  • Better Partner Assertion: Played for laughs; when initially asking Michelle out, the best Luke can muster up about how he'll be better than Michelle's "amoeba" of an ex-boyfriend is that he can be a "paramecium" (it's way more evolved). In actuality, Luke is quite the Insecure Love Interest; it's just that being better than a guy who had cheated on her with her own best friend isn't exactly a high bar (and even then, it amplifies Luke's antsiness about the idea of "cheating on her" even further).
  • Birds of a Feather: Luke and Michelle end up working out for each other because they both share an indefinite nature regarding their respective gender identities and are attracted to each other regardless of gender, allowing them to enter what amounts to a genderfluid bisexual relationship.
  • Bisexual Love Triangle: Luke is in love with Michelle but is starting to feel attraction to her brother Max, who's clearly attracted to Luke as "Luca" and actively flirts with her. It's a Two-Person Love Triangle; Michelle and Max are the same person, and Max had been flirting with Luca specifically because he was already aware of who she actually was.
  • Bi-Wildered: Prior to meeting Max, Luke had been attracted to girls to some rather extreme extents, so Max suddenly causing him to feel aroused enough to set off a gender change comes out of left field for him. Notably, Luke hadn't actually felt this way when he first met Max because he'd seen Max as a threat to his masculinity and his relationship with Michelle, but he starts feeling attracted to Max whenever Max affectionately flirts with him as Luca, implying that he has a general preference for girls but that Max had ended up being his Closet Key because he'd approached Luca in a way that didn't set off Luke's own insecurities about his masculinity.
  • Coming Of Age Queer Romance: The story basically amounts to this for Luke, whose experiences as a zerophiliac get him to reconsider his relationship with his gender and sexuality, and ends on the note of him rejecting all of the pressure around him to commit to a binary gender and joining Michelle/Max in living freely as both.
  • Deus Sex Machina: The changes associated with zerophilia kick in when a zerophiliac loses their virginity, and the changes are dependent on differering states of arousal, orgasm, and sex. The story itself forgoes treating it in a particularly fetishistic manner and approaches it as an outlet for Luke's Coming of Age Story and exploration of his sexuality.
  • Disappeared Dad: Luke's father passed away when he was nine, and in his childish innocence, he'd responded by trying to draw fish and smiley faces on his grave to make it look cheerier. He shrugs it off casually when telling Michelle about it, but he does actually miss his father every single day and goes to his grave to vent out his love for Michelle and his concerns about his zerophilia.
  • Distinguishing Mark: Michelle has a hawk tattoo on her left ankle, a remnant from her ill-fated previous relationship that she can't have removed because it's green (one of the most difficult colors to remove). The tattoo ends up serving as "incontrovertible proof" of Max's identity as Michelle's male form when he reveals it on his ankle to Luca at the end of the movie.
  • Does Not Like Men: Downplayed. Janine loves playing up the joys of being a girl to the point Keenan wonders if she actually secretly wishes everyone in the world were female, and she does seem to be attracted to girls as well (semi-jokingly offering at one point to sleep with Luca if she wants). That said, she's in a happy relationship with Keenan and is good friends with Luke, and she even expresses wistful envy at the idea of getting to try out being a boy, so she hardly seems to dislike boys and is mostly just aggressive about pushing back against the misogyny and male-dominated Fratboy culture around her. During his Jerkass Realization, Keenan genuinely worries that she might actually not want a man after all and that his Noble Bigot tendencies had effectively made him her Last Het Romance, but she makes up with him quickly and says that she enjoys his macho masculinity in an Opposites Attract sense.
  • Don't Say Such Stupid Things!: Michelle strongly believes in self-assertion and is frustrated with Luke's self-deprecating attitude, berating him for saying that he didn't expect her to agree to date him and calling it "a pathetic loser thing to say". When she learns that Luke had sex with Dr. Catchadourian specifically to stop his transformations, while the main problem is that she takes it to mean Luke doesn't care about her, she's also upset about the idea of him being so obsessed with what he's "supposed" to be that he would stoop to doing something like that.
  • Dork Knight: Luke cannot flirt to save his life, and his attempts at making conversation with Michelle (whom he's utterly enamored with) involve lots of awkward fumbling for words and clumsy attempts at following up on what she says. He's also incredibly loyal and devoted to her happiness, and Janine advises Michelle that she can trust him by referring to him as "a rock". All of this happens to be what gets Michelle to take an interest in him.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Michelle drops hints about her identity to Luke with increasing levels of unsubtlety over the course of the movie, and while they're easily missable at first, it eventually gets to the point where Luke completely disregards things that by all means should make no sense (Max saying Michelle had gushed about Luke's hockey skills when she'd never seen him play, Michelle knowing who Luca is despite supposedly having never met her, Max knowing Luca's identity as his "sister's" boyfriend yet still pursuing her). Eventually, Max has to shove it in Luca's face, even calling her a "moron" for good measure.
  • Femme Fatale: Dr. Catchadourian presents this way, making a number of sexually-loaded remarks from the very first minute, constantly trying to entice Luke into having sex (even if for his own good as a zerophiliac), and generally having a very sultry attitude about everything. He's playing it up specifically to get Luke as attracted to him as possible to ensure that they'll both change genders once they have sex, and once he gets his male body back, he acts more casual when flirting with Jeremy.
  • The First Cut Is the Deepest: Prior to starting her relationship with Luke, Michelle had just gotten out of a very nasty fallout with an Upper-Class Twit who had cheated on her with her now-former best friend. She does seem to generally recognize that Luke is a good person and is willing to give him chances, but she's still prone to worrying that he doesn't actually care about her that much. It's implied that Michelle's ex-boyfriend was disgusted by her male persona (and by extension the idea of her turning into a man whenever he had sex with her) and had thus cheated on her so he could have sex with a "normal" girl, resulting in Michelle constantly trying to gauge how Luke would react to the same thing and what he would think about her as Max.
  • Gender Bender: Any zerophiliac (a rare genetic condition involving an extra Z-chromosome) will end up transforming into the opposite gender whenever sexually aroused. It starts as a "morphescent" stage when the person loses their virginity and is a messy Partial Transformation variant until they have a proper orgasm (via sex or masturbation) and complete their full first transformation, after which the change happens in a more controlled manner. Completely stopping it by becoming "adulmorphic" requires having sex with another zerophiliac. In actuality, an adulmorphic zerophiliac will still change if they have sex with a zerophiliac they're attracted to, which is why Dr. Catchadourian (who is exclusively attracted to men) manipulates Luke into having sex with him to get his male body back.
  • Gender Bender Angst: Luke's troubles regarding his newfound gender-bending have to do with the fact that although he's actually surprisingly comfortable with it, he's having a hard time confronting the new questions about his gender identity that this poses, putting him at a crossroads between Noble Bigot Keenan insisting that he should be a straight guy, well-intentioned but forceful Janine playing up the virtues of being a girl, and Dr. Catchadourian insisting that he needs to make a choice at some point. Meanwhile, Michelle actively enjoys her ability to change at will and resents the idea that anyone is "supposed" to be anything, and after Luke likewise decides that he can be both a boy and a girl as well, both of them are satisfied with going back and forth to their hearts' content.
  • Gender-Blender Name:
    • Keenan is surprised to learn that Dr. "Sydney" Catchadourian, the doctor he'd contacted for advice on Luke's health concerns, is a woman. As you might expect, he continues to use the name even after getting his male body back.
    • Max points out that the name "Luca" is actually a masculine name in Italian, making Janine's attempt at giving her a Lazily Gender-Flipped Name backfire into being more gender-ambiguous than expected. One might also notice something similar about the name "Max"...
  • Hero's Classic Car: At the start of the movie, Luke gets himself a classic car that Keenan and Janine find to be embarrassing, but when he takes the car to Max's auto repair shop, Max thinks the choice of car is great. It's an early hint at them being more of Birds of a Feather than it seems at first, and is implied to be one of the reasons Michelle is drawn to Luke's sentimentality.
  • I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: Luke had been fostering a crush on Michelle prior to properly meeting her at the beginning of the movie and is thrilled about her actually giving him a chance, so he's not quite sure how to approach her or talk to her even after they start dating. It's because of this that he can't bring himself to open up about his zerophilia, because he thinks she's just giving him a chance instead of actually liking him all that much.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: It's implied that Michelle's emotional scars about her last relationship aren't as much about the cheating in principle as it is the fact that her ex-boyfriend disliked her enough to toss her aside, and her biggest mistake in figuring out Luke's potential attitude towards her is that she flirts with Luca as Max to see how she responds, taking every negative response as "Luke is turned off by Max" and underestimating how much he would consider it a cardinal sin to even think about anyone else. To her credit, Luke had been incredibly unclear about his feelings and how much he knew about Max's identity, but it does seem that Michelle wouldn't have had a problem with Luke functionally cheating on her with herself as long as it meant that he still liked her either way.
  • Inconvenient Attraction: The main reason Luke has a hard time dealing with his increasing attraction to Max is that Michelle is by far his One True Love, so answering Max's affections would mean he'd be cheating on her with her own brother. Unfortunately, he really is attracted to him, to the point the thought of a shirtless Max is what triggers Luca's transformation back into Luke after having struggled with getting sufficiently aroused for a long time.
  • Insecure Love Interest: Luke thinks it's a miracle Michelle is giving him the time of day at all and is constantly afraid that he can't be good enough for her, all while Michelle thinks Luke is already great but is constantly worried about the idea that he doesn't care about her. And that's before the part about the fear of Shapeshifting Squick comes in...
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: While there are a number of other factors, Luke's biggest reason for refusing to acknowledge the idea of being anything but a straight male is that he believes Michelle would only want a "real man" and deserves nothing less, and he struggles to acknowledge the idea of even being attracted to Max because he sees it as betraying Michelle. This is the main reason he keeps giving Michelle the wrong idea whenever she attempts to gauge how much he likes her or Max; she assumes his potential interest is based on what he claims to like or be attracted to without taking into account that he's willing to deny his own feelings because he thinks it's necessary to make her happy. She eventually figures it out when Luca tells Max that she's still wishing for Michelle's happiness regardless of whether they're together or not and even rejects something that she should theoretically want in every way (a relationship with a boy she finds attractive who openly likes her in that form) because she still believes it would hurt Michelle.
  • I Want to Be a Real Man: Even before his zerophilia starts really kicking in, Luke is insecure about his masculinity, and part of the reason he initially resents Max is that he's jealous of him for being the macho, suave guy he's too sensitive and sentimental to be. This gets even more complicated when he finds himself becoming attracted to those qualities when Max channels them into flirting with Luca, and all of this only further reinforces his fear that he can't be enough of a man for Michelle. Keenan and Janine later discuss their Opposites Attract relationship in the sense of them being each other's "other halves", suggesting that Luke's attraction comes from the need to have someone fill in the qualities he lacks instead of forcing himself to be something he's not; Michelle, for her part, states outright that she's interested in Luke for his sensitivity and even calls Max's behavior out as (or, more accurately, admits her own behavior to be) posturing to look cool. Naturally, Luke finding out that Michelle actually is Max gets him to throw his concerns out the window.
  • Jerkass Realization: Janine eventually gets sick and tired of Keenan's Noble Bigot attitude and tries to break up with him, causing him to realize that he'd constantly been making her upset and dial down a little on it. Fortunately, she makes up with him very quickly when they work together to help Luca during the climax of the movie.
  • Lazily Gender-Flipped Name: Janine comes up with the name "Luca" for Luke's female form on the spot when trying to explain her presence to Max. The blatant obviousness is lampshaded by Keenan, who looks at Janine irritably, and Max, who points out that "Luca" is actually a masculine name in Italian. We eventually find out that Max was not even remotely fooled by the farce of her being Luke's "cousin", meaning that this was most likely his way of poking fun at how transparent the name was.
  • Living a Double Life: Michelle attends school as a political science major while running an auto repair shop as Max. She generally seems to prefer socializing casually with others as Michelle since she doesn't quite gel with the sort of Wacky Fratboy Hijinx culture Luke hails from, but she has no qualms about changing into Max whenever she needs to pretend to be someone else or wants to get involved in something that would be easier to do as a guy.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Feeling that Max dislikes him for being his sister's boyfriend, Luke responds to a request from Michelle to get along better with Max by approaching him as Luca, knowing that Max has an affinity for her. Unfortunately, this works too well due to Luca's Inconvenient Attraction kicking in and getting her to respond to Max's flirting before abruptly cutting him off, leaving Max confused and upset at the mixed signals. In fact, since Michelle and Max are the same person, Max had always wanted Luke to like him in both forms, and the fact Luca knows Max likes her eventually pays off when she tries to cheer him up by assuring him that she does find him attractive, something she would have been far too afraid to tell Michelle at the time.
  • Man, I Feel Like a Woman: Discussed and averted. Janine tells Luke that turning into a girl to do this should be a boy's dream, but when Luke finally does his first transformation into Luca, she's mostly just mystified by it and even has trouble summoning up the stimulation to change back. The fact she feels "the same, I guess" in her female form and has to invoke Suspiciously Specific Denial to claim otherwise is an early hint that she might not actually be as against being a girl as she claims.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Downplayed. Luke and Michelle are still as masculine and feminine as you'd expect an average boy and girl of their age to be, but they're interested in each other because they're not quite on the extremes their respective genders would suggest: Luke is much more sensitive and sentimental than your average Fratboy, while Michelle is more down-to-earth and willing to ignore expectations of feminine decorum. It's played with when it comes to their alternate forms: Max has the exact set of masculine traits that Luke had envied at the beginning of the movie, and Max and Luca express attraction and intimacy in ways that more closely resemble a stereotypical suave male charmer with an earnest Nice Girl, but it's also implied that they're actively indulging in the repressed masculinity/femininity that they couldn't express openly as Michelle and Luke, and they still occasionally have their moments of acting contrary to gendered expectations.
  • Master of the Mixed Message: Luke dislikes the fact that Max is apparently obstructive regarding his and Michelle's relationship, but Michelle wants Luke to get along with Max for her sake, and on top of that, Luke finds himself becoming receptive to Max's flirting but is compelled to push him away out of fear of betraying Michelle and denial of the Luca persona, leaving Max very confused and upset about what's going on. On top of that, Michelle is already aware that Luke is a zerophiliac, but she can't get a read on how much he knows or what's going through his head and can only assume the worst.
  • Mentor in Queerness: Luke gets his information on zerophilia from Dr. Catchadourian, both in terms of the technicals of how zerophilia works and in terms of advice in how to navigate the questions of self-identity it brings. Or so it seems at first, but even putting aside his plan to manipulate Luke into serving his own needs, he also causes Luke a great deal of trouble by projecting his own past experiences onto him, suggesting that Luke must feel the same Trans Equals Gay fallacy that he'd fallen into in the past and pressuring him to make a decision on what he's "supposed" to be. This ends up being a very poor fit for Luke's specific insecurities, and the one who actually ends up helping him the most in the end is Michelle; thanks to her identifying Luke's zerophilia early and establishing clear investment in Luca as Max, Luca eventually becomes comfortable enough around Max to confide all of her actual feelings in himnote , and Michelle's precedent of having already figured a stable life balance and relationship with her own genderfluid identity allows Luke to join her and take her philosophy of living freely to heart.
  • Misery Builds Character: During one moment when Luke is in particular denial about his situation, Dr. Catchadourian advises him "Well, that's the thing about the truth: it'll set you free, but first, it'll really piss you off." It's implied to be a reflection of his own experience of choosing to stay as a woman being exactly what got him to realize that he identified as male after all, and he'd presumably considered it to be one of his self-justifications for betraying Luke during the climax of the movie, figuring that putting him in a similarly uncomfortable situation would help him learn a good lesson.
  • The Modest Orgasm: Very much averted; not only does Luke masturbating to trigger his first transformation into Luca go by very noisily, Luca also has an extremely difficult time getting enough stimulation to change back, and she ends up yelling so much during the actual process that Janine calls her a "screamer". Michelle's change into Max goes by much more quietly, albeit more because it's implied she's already used to doing this regularly to constantly change back and forth at will.
  • Mutual Pining: Luke thinks Michelle is "giving him a chance" at best, so he constantly has to worry about what it'll take for him to lose Michelle's favor, and while her Michelle's stance on Luke in turn is initially presented ambiguously, it's eventually confirmed that she indeed had genuine interest in him from the get-go and had been desperately trying to get closer to him in both of her forms. Despite her occasional lashing out about feeling that their relationship isn't going to work, she does actually want to make it work, and she continues trying to reach out to him and subtly giving him chances to prove himself to the very end.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits: Max is extremely defensive of Michelle and critical about the way Luke handles their relationship, which makes Luke even more unsure about how to handle the fact that Max is clearly attracted to him as Luca and vice versa. The defensiveness is actually from Michelle getting overly emotionally flared up and venting her frustrations about her difficulty in understanding Luke, and in fact Max is very happy to learn that Luke/Luca does indeed like him in the end.
  • Noble Bigot: Keenan's macho fraternity-boy mentality gives him a bad habit of making insensitive, misogynistic remarks regarding gender stereotypes and sexuality, and although he doesn't explicitly frame it as a bad thing, he vehemently refuses to believe that Luke might be anything but a straight male and starts becoming distant from him, making Luke feel even more self-conscious about his identity. Janine is not amused and is quick to call Keenan out when necessary. He does lighten up on it after his Jerkass Realization, apologizing and admitting that he was mainly overwhelmed by everything around him changing so drastically, but although he's supportive of Luke when it comes down to it, he's still weirded out by the idea of Luke being anything but male and can only attempt indicating otherwise with "I just don't want you to think I'm 'zero-phobic', or something."
  • One True Love:
    • Regardless of Luke's gender identity or whomever he's attracted to, it's made clear in no uncertain words that Michelle is the only one he's in love with and that he would do anything for the sake of her happiness. Even after thinking their relationship is ruined for good, Luca still tries to send her wishes for Michelle's happiness and turns down a relationship with Max out of a belief that it would mean betraying Michelle; learning that they're actually the same person leads to her immediately starting a makeout session on the spot with him.
    Luca: What do you think? I mean, if I wasn't 100% sure which one I'm supposed to be. If you had to say.
    Keenan: All I know is, every time you look at Michelle or even think about her, you smile. What the hell else do you need to know?
    • Keenan and Janine are also very in love with each other despite the occasional Belligerent Sexual Tension, and although they do get dangerously close to breaking up near the climax of the movie, they make up very quickly and decide that they complete each other.
  • Partial Transformation: A zerophiliac who has yet to complete a full transformation will be in an unstable state where random body parts will start transforming and reverting in response to even the smallest amount of arousal. Luke is about as weirded out by this as you would expect anyone to be by their own body parts transforming uncontrollably, and it's only after his first full transformation into Luca when he finds himself feeling comfortable enough to start questioning his gender identity.
  • Pet the Dog: Dr. Catchadourian does at least have some degree of genuine investment in helping Luke as a fellow zerophiliac, and his willingness to exploit him is mainly out of desperation for his male body back. He'd prefer it if Luke's goals could line up with his as much as possible; he tries to steer Luke towards choosing to be a girl as if hoping that he wouldn't have to deceive him, and when Luke decides that he wants to stay as a boy, Dr. Catchadourian admits that he's glad Luke is at least certain about wanting to make the transformations stop, since he'd never be able to live with himself if he'd pressured Luke into doing it when he wasn't ready. Even after betraying Luke, he still leaves Luca with the last bit of information about how she can change back and advises her that this won't change her gender identity, implying that he'd justified his actions to himself by figuring that she could still figure out the rest out on her own and that he doesn't see it as any worse than putting Luke through what he himself had to endure.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Luke is worried that Michelle would be grossed out by his transformations or wouldn't want a boyfriend who also identifies as a girl, and he agonizes over his increasing attraction to Max because he doesn't want to make this into A Family Affair and is aware Michelle has hangups over her last boyfriend cheating on her, but he can't bring himself to ask about this instead of assuming (something Keenan even calls him out for) because he thinks it's a miracle she's bothering with him at all. Michelle is aware Luke is a zerophiliac but is still afraid that Luke would reject her male form and has been trying to test the waters to see if it's possible that he could still be attracted to or like her that way, but Luke's refusal to acknowledge Max to her face gets her to believe that he genuinely doesn't care for him. Her attempts at dropping hints about her identity go clean over his head, and things only fully iron out when Luca, completely unaware that she's talking to the person in question, finally spills all of the details about her own feelings on the matter to Max's face.
  • Pretending to Be One's Own Relative: Keenan and Janine pass "Luca" off to Max as "Luke's cousin" who just happens to be visiting. Max, who is similarly posing as "Michelle's brother", plays along but doesn't actually buy it at all.
  • Questionable Consent: Dr. Catchadourian turns out to have been emotionally manipulating Luke into having sex with him out of desperation by fostering Luke's dependency on him for information about zerophilia, selectively omitting and even falsifying things. He does at least try to get Luke to agree to the arrangement to some degree, but once they get around to the sex, he tricks Luke into letting him tie him to the bed, resulting in it effectively becoming rape as soon as Luke realizes he's been tricked. Dr. Catchadourian even tries to justify it afterwards by claiming that he at least made it a great experience while he was at it.
  • Raging Stiffie: Luke being prone to getting aroused is a big reason that he has a hard time hiding the physical effects of his zerophilia. According to Keenan, it's because he can find attractive qualities in girls that other boys would consider to be ugly.
  • The Reveal: Three-quarters into the movie, it's revealed that Michelle's "brother" Max is none other than Michelle herself in her male form and that Michelle is another zerophiliac, recontextualizing all of the interactions between the "siblings" and Luke/Luca up until that point.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Once you know everything about the truth behind Michelle and Max, a number of early scenes come off very differently:
    • Luke first properly meets Max and Michelle when he takes his car to Max's auto repair shop, with Max upcharging him with a fee for "T-sprocks" before Michelle informs Luke that T-sprocks don't exist. The entire thing had been a justification for Max to go into the back to fetch the nonexistent T-sprocks, transform into Michelle, and come out to flirt with Luke. On top of that, if you look closely at Max's behavior during their first meeting, you can see him visibly checking Luke out and subtly trying to restrain a transformation, meaning he'd really been hot for Luke from the get-go!
    • One of Luke's early Involuntary Shapeshifting episodes involves him playing pool with the others, during which Michelle accidentally hits a ball in a way that shoots off the table and hits his groin, which he shrugs off abnormally easily before realizing how unusual this is and quickly excusing himself. If you look at Michelle's face during the scene, her expression of surprise turns into full on-shock once she sees the way Luke reacts, implying that this is when she first caught onto Luke being a zerophiliac and the actual reason for his sudden health-related absences.
    • The next day, Luke and Keenan are practicing hockey when Michelle and Janine drop by to check in on Luke, and Luke has to restrain another Partial Transformation while Keenan hastily tries to make excuses for what's going on by saying that they need some guys-only time. Knowing that Michelle is suspecting Luke of being a zerophiliac at this point, you can see her eyes carefully looking at his body, especially his chest area, to try and confirm her suspicions. Her showing up to visit Luke as Max shortly after implies that she'd switched forms and come to visit in the hopes of investigating further, knowing that Luke was trying to hide it from her as Michelle.
    • When Max meets "Luca" for the first time, she, Keenan, and Janice make a number of clumsy explanations to try and divert Max's suspicion. Max accepts the explanations and proceeds to immediately flirt with Luca on the spot. Judging by Max's facial expressions during this scene, he isn't fooled by the claim of Luca being Luke's "cousin" at all, is amused at how terrible the cover-ups are, and is especially delighted to confirm that Luke/Luca is a fellow zerophiliac. Luca hastily responding to the nature of her Gender-Blender Name in Italian with "uh, yeah, I'm part-Italian" had also probably backfired much worse than it had seemed at first, because Max had likely said that to see how she responded and taken the affirmative response as Luca trying to hint at her identity instead of trying to cover it up.
    • Max then says that he's a huge hockey fan and had dropped by to ask about Luke's hockey skills, leading to him watching the game Luke plays with the other boys the next day. You can see Max coming up with the hockey explanation on the spot after he'd caught sight of the stick on the wall, and it's later revealed that he doesn't have much of an affinity with hockey at all; during the game, his attention is pretty much fixated only on Luke, indicating that he'd mainly seen it as a way to get closer to Luke since he knew Luke loved the sport.
  • Second Law of Gender-Bending: Downplayed and subverted. According to Dr. Catchadourian, or at least if his words about it are actually to be believed, a zerophiliac will only change if at least some part of them wants to (unconsciously or otherwise), so the fact Luke is capable of changing at all inherently suggests that, regardless of what he claims, he's not entirely against the idea of being female. However, this seems to apply strictly to whether they're feeling up to changing at the moment and not to their overall gender identity, so it's entirely possible for a zerophiliac to change while they're still questioning their identity but later decide that it's not for them. Dr. Catchadourian's motives stem from the fact that he'd been desperate to make the changes stop back when he was still questioning but currently feels that staying as a woman was the wrong decision in retrospect, and Luke eventually decides that he'd rather not commit to a single gender at all.
  • Secret-Identity Identity: Michelle acts much more loudmouthed and aggressive as Max (with it being implied that she indulges in getting to act masculine in ways she can't as a girl), and she considers her identity as Max to be an important enough part of herself that she doesn't believe Luke can truly like her unless he can like her as Max as well.
  • Sex Equals Love: Averted. Luke loses his virginity to a random woman from England whom he "didn't go all the way with", and he later has sex with Dr. Catchadourian for purely pragmatic reasons in the hopes of getting his gender switches to stop for the sake of his actual girlfriend, Michelle. A late scene has Luca ask Keenan and Janine what it's like to have sex in the sense of actually making love, to which Keenan responds that the best part is not the sex itself, but lying together right afterwards. Luke and Michelle's lovemaking at the end of the movie is depicted not only with actual sex but also a number of tender conversations in between.
  • Sex in a Shared Room: When Janine tries to help Luca masturbate in order to trigger a transformation, her descriptions end up turning Keenan on to the point that both of them start having sex on the spot. After turning back, Luke opens the bedroom door to see them mid-act in the middle of the hall.
  • Sex Shifter: Michelle uses her abilities as a zerophiliac to switch back and forth whenever she feels like it. Having sex with Luke at the end of the movie results in her being reliant on him to maintain her double life, but he's happy to oblige.
  • Shape Shifters Do It For A Change: Played with. Being zerophiliac does not impact gender identity or sexuality, so Luke changing into a girl and back ends up forcing him to confront his identity and sexuality as a whole. Luke's confusion regarding his own sexuality does have to do with his transformations into a girl, but it's implied to be tied more closely to the circumstances of how Max became his Closet Key. Ultimately, while Luke and Michelle end up gravitating towards being a male/female couple most of the time, their bisexuality carries across forms; a Rewatch Bonus reveals that Michelle had actually been in Max's form when initially taking an interest in Luke, and their string of lovemaking sessions depicted at the end of the movie includes instances of them as a gay couple and as a lesbian couple.
  • Shapeshifting Squick: Luke is concerned that Michelle would react this way if she found out about his nature as a zerophiliac, and the feeling in this regard is mutual, since it's implied that Michelle's last boyfriend really did see her this way and cheated on her for it.
  • Speculative Fiction LGBT: The movie primarily centers around a young adult having to question his own gender identity and sexual orientation, with his confusion about the issue and experimentation with it being reflected through his transformation into a girl and back. His relationship with Michelle also ties into Trans Relationship Troubles regarding fear of coming out to a partner and navigating the issue of attraction that comes with it.
  • Sympathetic P.O.V.: Dr. Catchadourian's plan involves him emotionally manipulating Luke and pressuring him into a Questionable Consent situation before tossing him aside, and the others understandably react to his betrayal with disgust, but his desperation over wanting his male body back is genuine and framed entirely sympathetically. After Luke agrees to have sex with him, the audience is shown a scene of him buying tons of masculine clothing and trying them on with pure joy and relief, and it's also implied that he was extra motivated by wanting to pursue his crush on Jeremy, since it's the first thing he does as soon as he gets his male body back. In other words, his struggles with figuring out his identity and desire to pursue love weren't all that different from Luke's, and a good amount of his advice for Luke did come from a genuine place; it's just that he was only willing to help him when it also benefit himself and didn't hesitate to (literally) screw Luke over as soon as his goal was in sight.
  • They Would Cut You Up: Zerophilia is rare enough that Luke and Keenan hadn't heard of it (Janine had read about it, but didn't believe it was real), and Dr. Catchadourian warns Luke that if he tells a doctor about it, it'll lead to this happening to him. In fact, this probably isn't actually true, since Dr. Catchadourian had a stake in getting Luke to be dependent on him for his information on zerophilia and had been constantly insisting "trust me, I'm the expert" whenever he or his friends questioned anything. Meanwhile, Michelle had already figured out her own stable life balance prior to the start of the story, meaning she was able to find reliable information back when she'd lived in New York.
  • Third Law of Gender-Bending: Downplayed. Luke was already grappling with his masculinity prior to his zerophilia emerging, but while he does subtly indulge in getting to act a little more feminine as Luca, it's not in a particularly drastic sense and mostly ties into how he doesn't feel exclusively aligned with one gender. The same goes for Michelle, who's willing to do in-your-face things like put her foot on the dinner table even as a girl, but is more openly loudmouthed and aggressive as Max to the point she's worried about whether Luke can like Max in terms of personality as well.
  • Trans Equals Gay: The fallacy is brought up in-universe: Dr. Catchadourian had initially decided to live as a woman specifically because he believed it felt more natural with the fact he was exclusively attracted to men, only to find that he really didn't feel comfortable as a woman after all and decide that he'd rather live as a gay man instead. Dr. Catchadourian also speculates that being attracted to Max has made Luke secretly want to be a girl for him, and Luke's insecurity leads him to feel that he should want to be a man for Michelle, but it's ultimately portrayed as a mess of tangentially related issues rather than being completely tied together.
  • Transparent Closet: Jeremy the barman is gay and in the closet, but pretty much everyone around him can tell, since Janine advises Dr. Catchadourian against trying anything with him and Dr. Catchadourian immediately goes right to flirting with Jeremy as the first thing he does when he gets his male body back. Jeremy hastily trying to cover it up to Keenan gets this as a response:
    Keenan: Jeremy, please, I so profoundly don't care if you're queer. Trust me, around here, that's nothing!
  • Trans Relationship Troubles: As Luke slowly starts to reconsider his position on his gender, the biggest issue looming over his head is his fear that Michelle would want a "real man" and not "some guy who thinks maybe he's supposed to be a girl sometimes." Michelle feels the same way, being afraid that Luke wouldn't accept her nature as a zerophiliac or her male persona as Max, and spends most of the movie trying to drop hints and gauge whether this is really the case.
  • Trans Tribulations: Luke realizing that he might not be against being a girl results in him going through the same kinds of things that you'd expect any trans person newly questioning their identity to go through, and Keenan, Janine, and Dr. Catchadourian pressuring him to make a choice mirrors the experience of a nonbinary person being pressured to commit to a gender even from otherwise well-meaning people around them. Luke eventually decides that he overall prefers being a boy but does still identify as a girl, and ends up embracing genderfluidity alongside Michelle/Max.
  • Wacky Fratboy Hijinx: Luke and Keenan hail from a fraternity with this kind of aura. The most they're seen doing is playing back-alley hockey matches, but it sets the backdrop for Keenan's Noble Bigot attitude and Luke's insecurity about his own masculinity, since Luke himself isn't much like a stereotypical Fratboy at all. On the flip side, one early indication that Max is more of a softie than he initially seems is that he's noticeably a bit out of place when he tries to get into hockey to get to know Luke (who loves hockey so much that he doesn't even bother hiding it as Luca) better.
  • Wham Shot: Max's true identity is revealed via a short sequence of Michelle going into the shower, quietly transforming herself into a man, and walking out with the mirror showing Max's face.