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6 Big Questions Left Unanswered By Body Swap Movies

By Christopher Campbell | Think Pieces | April 1, 2014 |

By Christopher Campbell | Think Pieces | April 1, 2014 |

Body swap movies are based around one of the craziest premises in all of storytelling, so of course they leave us with a lot of questions in the end. Some of them could possibly be found in the original appearance of the concept, F. Antsey’s 1882 novel “Vice Versa: A Lesson to Fathers,” or maybe from Antsey himself. There have also been other literary takes on the idea by such authors as P.G. Wodehouse, H.G. Wells, H.P. Lovecraft, R.L. Stine and even some with full first names. Any of them might go into more detail about the specifics. But I shouldn’t have to read a book to fill me in on a movie.

As far as the cinematic versions of body swapping are concerned, they’re all pretty vague and ignorant about what’s really going on. They’re just an outlet for the usual jokes that come with transference between two very dissimilar people (or animals). Ever since seeing the first adaptation of Freaky Friday as a kid, I’ve been wondering beyond the comedy and the morals of these stories. I’ve been dying to know the truth about all of the following. I’d wish I could switch places with someone who has all the answers, but I guess that wouldn’t work since I’d still have my own brain and knowledge and would only benefit if that person had tattoos of the answers.

How Does Body Swapping Work?

Obviously, to start with, there’s the question: how the hell does this idea work? Each movie has its own mystical Macguffin for what causes the switch, be it a bedazzled skull or a magic fortune cookie or an ancient tribal medical serum. Sometimes there’s no prop involved and it’s just a matter of two people saying they’d rather be the other guy at the same time while peeing in a fountain.

But there is no definite answer to that question because it’s not really scientifically possible to swap bodies with another person. Yet. While there have been experiments with head transplants, some slightly successful (watch this), brain transplants are still considered undoable. There is belief that one day we’ll be able to upload our entire mind to a computer, so perhaps we’ll be able to do the reverse, too. And if that happens, we could download a person into another’s body.

If It Only Entails Soul Transference, Shouldn’t Memories and Knowledge Be Left Behind?

In most of these movies it looks like the exchange is completely non-physical, which would imply souls and not brains. There is actually a belief that this can occur, through a process involving “walk-in souls.” Memory, knowledge and personality are not part of that swap, and in face you might not know that you’ve had your soul switched for another (there is a test to find out, though). The body swapping in the movies should follow the same logic, but then there wouldn’t be much of a plot, because the two people wouldn’t even consciously feel that different and there would be no funny situations where the characters don’t know how to do something they should know how to do.


Why Are Teens So Immature As Adults?

When we’re dealing with the common body swap of a parent and their child, the latter is usually at least a teenager (Savage was only 11 when he made Vice Versa, but he’s always been old for his age), yet after the swap occurs, the adult actor becomes extremely childish in a way that seems unrealistic — yes, I’m questioning the realism in a body swap movie.

Dudley Moore in Like Father Like Son might be the worst culprit given that he’s supposed to have Kirk Cameron, a nearly 18-year-old, not at all mentally challenged high schooler, inside his head. Is there something about the change that exaggerates your maturity level? Big also has the problem of Tom Hanks seeming to play a bit younger and more naive than his 13/14-year-old self would behave.

Why Are the Adults So Oblivious As Kids?

There must be something in the transfer, because on the other side of the coin is the adult trapped in the kids’ body who is also apparently now a moron. He or she doesn’t know how to talk to people in general, let alone other teens (particularly girls and bullies), doesn’t know how to dress age-appropriately, doesn’t know that school cafeterias don’t offer Grey Poupon as a condiment and doesn’t know that it’s a bad idea to drink alcohol with your kid’s body.


Why Aren’t Physical Talents More Difficult For Body Swappers?

Nearly all of these movies have characters with unique physical talents, typically of the athletic or musical variety. In both the 1988 version of Vice Versa and the 2003 version of Freaky Friday, the kid plays an instrument — the drums and guitar, respectively. At some point, the kid-inside-parent performs, making it look like the adult is really cool. But even though the main skill involved in playing these instruments is mental, there’s a good chance that those parents’ hands would take some getting used to as far as the physical manifestation of the mental skill is concerned.

Just imagine playing the drums when you’re as small as Fred Savage and have to reach more in your mobilization around the set than if you were as tall and gawky as Judge Reinhold. You’d at least need a little time to practice with your new shell.

If You Have Sex While You’re In Another Person’s Body, Is It You or Them Having the Sex?

Many body swapping movies tease the idea of sex in an uncomfortable way, like having the dad or future step-dad trying to sleep with his wife/partner not knowing that it’s really his daughter/step-daughter inside the adult woman’s body. Certainly if that sex occurred it would be traumatizing for the child.

The experience would be both physical and mental/psychological. Yet in the recent movie The Change-Up, the debate on whether or not a guy would be cheating on his wife while having sex with another woman while in his buddy’s body is concluded with the agreement that it’s not. It’s more like masturbation, a purely mental act.

Uh, but it’s not like that at all and to even ponder the notion is to disrespect the woman who is also involved in the scenario as treating her like an object. Overlaying the two situations makes it clear, if you can’t see it. Although not truly a body swap movie, Big involves a similar issue, and the answer there is that, yes, Elizabeth Perkins’s character committed statutory rape by sleeping with a man who has the maturity of a 14-year-old boy.

Okay, so plenty of men have that maturity level. But he literally has the mental capacity of a 14-year-old boy. Because he’s a 14-year-old man who’s 30 years old. It’s still mystical, magical, Zoltar-incited statutory rape.

Christopher Campbell is the weekend editor for Pajiba.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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