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Bodyswap is a plot device or story trope involving two (or more) characters switching their physical bodies by magical, scientific, mystical or unspecified means. The device is used in canon and fanfiction alike, and fanfic may expand upon canonical instances of bodyswap.
In slash, het, and femslash stories, it is often the impetus for the two characters in a pairing to realize or act on their attraction for one another. It can also be used to "reform" a character by forcing them to understand the other character's perspective as a lesson that doesn't relate to romance, or simply to create humorous situations and misunderstandings.
Interestingly, Bandom has a lot of bodyswap stories, where Stargate Atlantis and Supernatural, fandoms from approximately the same era, and popslash, which has many of the same issues (milieu, multiple pairings, etc.) as bandom tend to favor genderswap, instead of bodyswap.
Bodyswap in Canon vs. Fanfic
In the Supernatural episode, Meat Swap, the trope was used to comic effect when Sam Winchester was switched with a teenage boy. The joke of the story was that Dean Winchester never noticed. This is completely unlike most SPN fanfic uses of the trope, where the switch is between Sam and Dean, and they often only try to fool outsiders, not major characters they have relationships with such as Castiel or Bobby. In fanfic, the device is rarely used just for plot purposes or comedic effect.
In many fanfic examples of bodyswap, the idea of bodily autonomy and consent is explored within the story. While in some stories it is glossed over, or ignored, many authors recognized the dub-con or non-con nature of using another person's body for sex. In contrast to this, the Gateverse series, SGU made bodyswapping an integral part of their plots, and did not have any qualms about swapped bodies engaging in sex. See GateFail 2009 for details.
TV Tropes provides a list of canonical examples of bodyswap.
- Draco Dormiens by Cassandra Claire (Harry Potter). When an accident in Potions class turns Harry into Draco and Draco into Harry, each is trapped playing the part of the other.
- Switch: A Comedy of Terrors by RivkaT is an early Clark/Lex bodyswap story in Smallville fandom.
- Isle of View by Sandy is a long and detailed popslash example.
- There's got to be a punch line in here somewhere by lyra-wing is a well-known Supernatural wincest story.
- Woke Up New by Zee is a bodyswap story in Merlin fandom where Arthur finds out about Merlin's magic because suddenly it's his own magic.
- Be Like Buchou by soundczech is a Prince of Tennis example in which Tezuka and Ryouma swap. It's also illustrated by Darkmousy.
- Familiarity by emungere, a Saiyuki ficlet in which Gojyo swaps bodies with Jeep.