"For if you wants to understan' an enemy, you gotta walk a mile in his shoes.
Den, if he's still your enemy, at least you're a mile away and he's got no shoes".
Den, if he's still your enemy, at least you're a mile away and he's got no shoes".
— Plateau, Troll philosopher, Discworld
Character(s) are forced to experience life from another's perspective. An Aesop results.
- Becoming the Mask: The personality that is supposed to be the person's cover becomes how they really are.
- Black Like Me: Character disguises themselves or is transformed into a non-white race to experience what life is like for people of said race.
- Body Double: A character gets a lookalike for dangerous situations.
- The City vs. the Country: A character moves from the city/country and experiences a drastically different lifestyle.
- Color Me Black: A bigot is turned into the race they despise.
- A Day in Her Apron: A man tries his hand at doing his wife's housework, but fails miserably.
- Disguised in Drag: A man disguises himself as a woman.
- Emergency Impersonation: A character is impersonated by someone in a not-even-similar costume.
- "Freaky Friday" Flip: When two or more people swap bodies.
- Freaky Friday Sabotage: People who swap bodies end up in unpleasant situations.
- Going Native: A character adopts the customs and morality of a group which they were originally sent to infiltrate.
- Grass is Greener: A character who longs to leave their terrible life behind to go somewhere they think is better.
- Identical Stranger: A person comes across and is mistaken for a lookalike.
- Just the Introduction to the Opposites: The roles in a stock situation are reversed without explanation.
- Literal Transformative Experience: A supernatural transformation leads to Character Development.
- Lost in Character: An actor gets so into character that they basically become the character.
- My Sibling Will Live Through Me: A character impersonates their deceased sibling.
- Persecution Flip: A (usually) privileged group of people find themselves getting treated like dirt by the (usually) oppressed underclasses.
- Personality Swap: Two people swap personalities.
- Prince and Pauper: Two identical people from different backgrounds switch lives.
- Sharing a Body: Two characters end up sharing a body.
- Stanford Prison Experiment: A psych experiment where volunteers are split between pretending they're either guards or prisoners.
- Sudden Humility: A character suddenly finds themselves in a difficult position another is routinely in and realizes the hardships it involves.
- Swapped Roles: Two characters swap roles to better understand each other's life.
- To Know Him, I Must Become Him: The hero decides that the only way to defeat their enemy is to understand how the enemy thinks.
- Twin Switch: Twins momentarily impersonate each other.
- Welcome to My World: When a character experiences what another character has to deal with most of the time.
- White Like Me: A black character pretends to be white.
- You Will Be Beethoven: A time traveler accidentally kills someone important and they have to "be" that person.
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Anime and Manga
- In episode 21 of Rune Soldier Louie, Melissa covers for Merrill when the latter is sick, and generally fails horribly. Interestingly, the main thing she learns from this isn't to appreciate Merrill's skills, but Louie's.
- Twilight Sparkle invokes this in Address Unknown (Remedy) by taking a potion designed to temporarily mimic Derpy's eye problems. As she tells Derpy later, "For a pony with normal sight to suddenly see like you do, it's entirely debilitating. I could barely stand, let alone walk; I knocked over everything in my path, and I nearly gagged from the intense vertigo it caused. But you... You may be slightly clumsy, and not fly entirely straight, but you've adapted to it enough to function as well as anypony else. Right now, I can truthfully grasp how amazing you really are. Not only have you adjusted to your condition, you've come close to nullifying its effects while enduring agonizing emotions all the while."
- An interesting variant pops up in the Crisis Crossover between RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse and the Celestiaverse. When both Lunas are bound into the moon by Antithesis, they learn that each of them, in a way, envies the other. C!Luna envies her double for having the strength of will to not fall into the Nightmare, and to rule alone for a thousand plus years with no hope in sight of regaining her sister. And L!Luna envies her double because, though she fell into madness, the madness ended, whereas Corona has not and may never regain her mind.
- one day at a time (Nyame): After losing most of his adoptive family to a line of tragedies outside his control, then becoming Batman and having to juggle being CEO to Wayne Enterprises, raising several children (three of whom are technically his siblings), and leading the Justice League, Jason Todd is a lot more understanding and sympathetic to his father Bruce Wayne.
- At First Sight: Early on in the movie, Amy uses a handkerchief to blindfold her own eyes and try to understand how Virgil can move through places despite his blindness. Lacking the trained sense of spatial awareness Virgil has, she quickly clashes against a pile of objects.
- The plot of Source Code, where a man is plugged into a machine that allows him to experience the last minutes of a dead man's life.
- This is the premise of Noggin's A Walk in Your Shoes, which takes two people from completely different backgrounds and switches their lives for every episode.
- The plot of nearly every Quantum Leap episode had this as a large component, if not the entire premise.
- The Lifetime Movie of the Week To Be Fat Like Me had a thin and popular teenager being forced into a fat-suit.
- In Red Dwarf Rimmer is forced to act the part of Ace Rimmer (what a guy!) for the rest of his life, whilst Ace dies as Rimmer. Doesn't quite fit the above tropes, as he exits the series in this way, and we never see him drop the act.
- One episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had Will's fat jokes annoy Uncle Phil's personal trainer to the point where she challenges him to spend time in a fatsuit to see exactly what his uncle goes through. Rather famously, it includes him trailing his girlfriend Lisa on suspicion that she's cheating without realizing that his pants are dropping.
- This is the basic premise of Undercover Boss. CEOs and founders of companies go undercover as normal entry-level employees. Most of them haven't done that type of work in years, if at all. Hilarity Ensues.
- Bob Dylan's "Positively 4th Street" ends on a subversion:
I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoesAnd just for that one moment I could be youYes, I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
- Joe South's "Walk A Mile In My Shoes":
If I could be you, if you could be me, for just one hourIf we could find a way to get inside each other's mindsIf you could see you through my eyes instead of your egoI believe you'd be surprised to see that you've been blind
- Depeche Mode's walking in my shoes is entirely dedicated to this:
I would tell you about the thingsThey put me throughThe pain I've been subjected toBut the lord himself would blushThe countless feasts laid at my feetForbidden fruits for me to eatBut I think your pulse would start to rushNow I'm not looking for absolutionForgiveness for the things I doBut before you come to any conclusionsTry walking in my shoesTry walking in my shoes
- Men's and women's gymnastics emphasize different parts of the body: men's is more about the upper-body, core strength, and stamina, while women's is more about flexibility, balance, and coordination. There are quite a few videos online of gymnasts trying the opposite sex's routines with mixed results (like here and here).
- This one goes back at least as far as William Shakespeare: in Henry V, the title character disguises himself as a common soldier in order to learn the thoughts of the men he's about to lead into battle — a scene Data recreates on the Holodeck in The Teaser of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Defector".
- In Ben 10 Secret of the Omnitrix, Azmuth says that this was the reason why he created the Omnitrix in the first place (word for word).
- In the Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes episode "Bait And Switch", a power swap forces Reed to experience the problems Ben goes through on a day-to-day basis.
- Johnny Test: Johnny and his dad are always at each other's throats, Johnny for ignoring his father's demands to goof off, and Hugh for constantly breathing down his son's neck, both complaining that they are ungrateful and not understanding to each other's plight. Susan and Mary use an invention to switch their bodies so they can switch roles for a day. In Johnny's body, Hugh is constantly beaten up by The Bully and harassed and failed by Johnny's Sadistic Teacher, while Johnny in Hugh's body becomes a Henpecked Husband who gains Amusing Injuries with chores gone wrong, and a Lethal Chef who blows up burnt cupcakes. In the end, they promise to give each other more slack… only for Susan and Lila to repeat the conflict from before and agree to the same experiment.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
- The plot of "Magical Mystery Cure". With the exception of Twilight, the mane cast have switched jobs, and their incompetence causes all sorts of trouble. It starts out funny seeing them convinced they should do a job they are clearly horrible at, but quickly becomes downright depressing.
- In the season 7 episode "A Royal Problem", the princesses Celestia and Luna are bitter with each other as they believe the other's work is easier. After Starlight Glimmer casts a spell to swap their Cutie Marks (magical butt symbol that represents a pony's job and powers), they agree to switch places. Luna finds out that having to keep smiling all the time while having meetings with important ponies and appearing at public events is harder than she thought, and Celestia almost causes severe psychological damage to Starlight Glimmer when she fails to keep Starlight's nightmare in check.
- Happens literally in an episode of Rugrats (1991) when Know-Nothing Know-It-All Angelica states that switching shoes does indeed change who you are. Angelica and Chuckie end up swapping shoes as well as personalities. In the end, It Was All A Dream.
- Big City Greens: The episode "Cricket's Shoes" is all about this. When Cricket falls sick, he gets the rest of his family to do what he was going to do that day (Tilly has to work at Big Coffee, Gramma has to hang out with Remy, and Bill...has to run through a dog park covered in meat). By doing his daily duties, the other Greens learn what Cricket has to go through each day.
- In 1697, Russian Czar Peter the Great traveled to western Europe incognito and spent several months working in a Dutch shipyard, in order to study the customs, traditions, and technology of the Western powers.
- See also Gustav II of Sweden some decades earlier, who traveled incognito (and much more concealed than ol' Pete) as Captain Gars (Gustavus Adolphus Rex, Seciae; Latin for "Gustav Adolf King of the Swedes"). His "alter ego" becomes a convenient political device, at the end of the novel 1632, and is used on occasion throughout the earlier parts of the series.
- Taken literally with Walk A Mile In Her Shoes: The International Men's March To Stop Rape, Sexual Assault & Gender Violence. The male marchers can't always manage a full mile in high-heeled shoes, but they try.