How to Avoid Swapping Bodies (According to Movies)
Picture this: you’re walking down the street. You’re minding your own business. Thinking of a loved one, eating an ice cream cone, or perhaps making an unfair value judgement about some guy with a stupid hat. Suddenly, there’s a flash of white light and a dizzying sensation. Something’s not right, and soon you realize just what that something is — your consciousness is now housed in someone else’s body.
Think it won’t happen to you? Think again. Body swaps are a serious problem, affecting dozens of people over the past hundred years or so. They happen in movies. TV shows. Books. Even once in real life, when scientists cut the heads off of a monkey and sewed it onto another monkey’s headless body (proving once and for all that scientists will do anything if you triple-dog-dare them to).
Look at your computer screen. Even websites are not immune to this body swapping epidemic. Neither are you. But by drawing on a long tradition of consciousness-swapping films, I’ve assembled a handy how-to guide to ensure your thoughts stay in your own head.
Do Not Wish for a Body Swap (Especially at the Same Time Someone Else Is Doing It)
Obvious, but probably worth saying anyway. There’s some appeal in a body swap. I’d like to be Kevin Feige (finally, a She-Hulk movie!), and someone who’s being mauled by wild dogs right now might want to be me. And in the case of a Freaky Friday (the ‘76 version, anyway — the next two remakes don’t involve any wishing) a daughter who struggles to get through to her mom might want that mom to try a day of teenage hormone angst and field hockey. Ditto for Mom and her various Momly responsibilities.
But the consequences can be disastrous. The obvious casualties will occur: social cues will be missed, anything involving physical activity will be clumsy and awkward, school and work duties will be grossly mismanaged. But that’s not the biggest of deals — instead, think to the end of that first Freaky Friday, when mother Ellen (Barbara Harris) and daughter Annabel (Jodie Foster) suddenly swap back into their original bodies whilst one is driving a car and the other is trying to waterski. You just wanted that irritable mom/daughter to spend a day in your shoes, and now look what’s happened. You’ve been thrust into a high-speed, life-threatening situation where one wrong move means horrific death (or it would, if Freaky Friday wasn’t a G-rated Disney movie). No one wants that. So next time your teenage son rides his skateboard through the house, don’t say the word “wish.” Don’t even think it. Just accept that his destroying of all of your things is part of the great coming-of-age experience.
Think It’s Magic? Don’t Touch It.
If you’re lucky, a body-swap will come with a one-day-only clause, like Freaky Friday’s does. But it doesn’t always work that way. Take 1988’s Vice Versa. Marshall (Judge Reinhold) and his son Charlie (Fred Savage) had already broken rule #1, wishing for a switch out of frustration over a father/son who just doesn’t get it. And because their wish involved a magic, wish-making skull, and because that skull was promptly stolen by bad guys, Marshall and Charlie risk permanent life in each others’ bodies. Temporary body swaps have some upsides (important life lessons, mostly) among their many potentially life-ruining downsides, but permanent body swaps are all bad. If Charlie had to spend the rest of his life married to his mom, things would get real creepy, real fast.
Any magic object can be lost or stolen, which makes their body-swapping potential all the more dangerous. So here’s the best way to avoid any risk of permanent swap: just don’t touch. If you find yourself in a heated argument with someone and you think body-swapping might offer some perspective to both sides, be vary cautious of any items you come into contact with. Has a mysterious Chinese woman offered you a fortune cookie, a la 2003’s Freaky Friday? Don’t touch it. Have you, like Rob Schneider in The Hot Chick, found a single earring in the street? Don’t put it in your ear (actually, whether you’re trying to avoid body-swapping or not, that’s good advice). Anything that could reasonably be imbued with magic powers should be approached with extreme caution, and probably not approached at all. One minute you’re reaching towards that sparkly gold coin, and then blammo, Rob Schneider’s stuck inside you for the rest of your life.
Stay Away From Dogs During a Thunderstorm
As far as body swaps are concerned, inclement weather and canines absolutely do not mix. If, by chance, you happen to be outside during a thunderstorm and see a dog nearby, here are a few helpful questions to ask yourself:
For the record, I have never seen Every Dog Has His Day (or Every Dog Has His Date, as IMDB has it), but I’m now making it my life’s goal to do so. As we all should.
Move Slowly Around the Elderly
It’s not as prevalent as the parent/child combination, but the old person/young person swap can still be found. And in noteworthy cases, (Prelude to a Kiss, 18 Again!, Dream a Little Dream), there’s one common denominator — a collision with or near an elderly person. 18 Again! saw one George Burns plow his car through a shop window with a grandson (Charlie Schlatter) in the passenger’s seat. When they wake up, it’s in each other’s bodies. And Dream a Little Dream saw two impressionable youths sprint into each other by mistake while an elderly couple meditate nearby. The result? Two senior citizens in teenage bodies, and two teenage consciousnesses trapped in a weirdly complicated and mildly stupid dream state.
If you see an elderly person in your immediate vicinity or suspect one to be nearby, move as slowly as possible and keep an eye on your surroundings while also keeping an eye out for dogs. Remember, it only takes one speeder to cause a collision, and any collision could do it, no matter how small (all it took in Prelude to a Kiss was two pairs of lips touching, and then Meg Ryan was inhabited by so much elderly man). So don’t be afraid to alert others to the potential danger nearby. Sure, saying “Excuse me, could you stop jogging? There’s an elderly woman in that house and I’d like to keep her soul from inhabiting my body,” will attract some weird looks, but that weird look is worth a senior-free brain.
Don’t Do Anything You Wouldn’t Normally Do
Look, we can beat around the bush here or I can just come out and say it: the single, most surefire way to avoid swapping bodies is simply to never do anything you wouldn’t normally do on a day-to-day basis. Because all those things listed above are not things people normally do. Nobody tries on jewelry found on the street, touches a human skull or slams into the elderly on a regular basis. Maybe, if you’re a Frazzled Mom, you often wish for your Unruly Teenage Daughter to see things from your point of view, but for everyone else the point still stands.
So if you want to ensure, once and for all, that you’re going to wake up tomorrow as you, and not a dog or an elderly gentleman or Jamie Lee Curtis, just follow your routine to the letter. Don’t be like Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds, who broke the “go to the bathroom in a bathroom” rule in The Change-Up and peed in a magic fountain. Don’t crawl into any damp tunnels you find behind a filing cabinet. Either you end up inside John Malkovich, or you come back out feeling cramped and covered in dirt. You wanna keep your brain just where it is? Just let common sense take care of it for you.
Adam Bellotto is a contributor to Pajiba.