Will Modern Technology Render Body Swap Movies Pointless?
What is the point of body swap movies? The genre’s most traditional aims are to offer up a little bit of perspective - both to its characters and its audience - and remind everyone that the grass is not always greener on the other side, no one ever really knows what goes into another person’s life, and other similarly fluffy life lessons that most people should be able to learn without switching bods with their parents or whoever else happens to eat a magical fortune cookie in their general vicinity. But with modern technology, the rise of social media, and increasing “connectivity” seeping into every corner of life and culture, can the body swap movie survive?
In the case of Freaky Friday, probably not.
Let’s start with a brief history lesson on Freaky Friday and its multiple incarnations. Like the boy-centric Vice Versa and Like Father Like Son, the Freaky Friday films (as adapted from Mary Rodgers’ 1972 book of the same name) focus on a pair of mismatched moms and daughters, a big spin on both the “parents just don’t understand” and “damn kids!” troubles that drive both real life and some cinematic dramas.
Basically, in each of the three Freaky Friday films, spunky teen daughters can’t understand their harried moms, and vice versa. Even worse, they don’t seem even seem to be that interested in rectifying the problem. Until, of course, they make the mistake of saying something wholly innocuous like “I wish I could switch places with her for just one day” while their counterpart also says the same thing at the same time (as is the case in the 1976 version of the film) or touching some magical amulets (which happens in the 1995 take) or even eating some enchanted fortune cookies (the inciting incident in the 2003 version). The only way to really get out of this particular pickle is to live life as the other person for one day, to really get into them, and then probably do something insane like compete in waterskiing competition or an open mic night. Whatever, really.
There are, of course, a handful of body swap-fueled productions that debuted during the rise of social media, including 2011’s The Change-Up, though the influence of technology is largely left out of those films. The last Freaky Friday (that’s the Lindsay Lohan- and Jamie Lee Curtis-starring version) actually included a techy subplot: Curtis’ Tess is a busy businesswoman who is a slave to her various devices, including a cell phone, a Palm Pilot (?), and a Blackberry.
But Tess doesn’t have Twitter or texting or Pintrest or Facebook or Klout or whatever to distract her — it’s just another way in which the real world intrudes on her life, it’s not another way in which the Internet world is invading things outside the web. Lohan’s Anna doesn’t have any of that stuff either — Twitter first launched in 2006, long after the movie hit the big screen — she’s a regular teen with regular teen stuff going on.
It’s easy to get into Anna’s life, because it’s all in “the real world.” The same with Tess’. Neither mother nor daughter needs to contend with social media to figure out what life is like for the other, because you know what would happen if Freaky Friday happened today? Anna wouldn’t leave the house, she’d stay on her iPhone and iPad and iMac all day, tweeting and texting and tumbling and whathaveyou (damn kids!). Her mother would not have to learn anything about her life, because Anna would be able to continue to live it while in her mom’s body — through the magic of the Internet. Similarly, Tess could conduct every aspect of her business remotely. She could even plan her wedding via Gchat!
No one would have to know what was going on (until, if we’re going with a straight adaptation of the 2003 version, the very key open mic thingie and something mildly important like a damn wedding) for the vast majority of the day, and Anna and Tess would be able to live their lives as normal, because they could do it all virtually. No one would learn anything. They’d never get unswitched — or, at the very least, they definitely wouldn’t unswitch over the course of one day, so you can just throw out your cute little alliterative title right now. Freaky Weekend. Freaky Weekend and Also Monday and Tuesday. Freaky Half-Week. Doesn’t have the same ring, does it?
Get off the web. Save body swap movies.
Kate Erbland is an associate editor for Pajiba.