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File:Switched-birth-dvd-out-today 9370.jpg

Sure, they look happy now.

ABC Family Teen Drama about two 16-year-old girls who were switched at birth.

Bay was raised in a Big Fancy House by the wealthy John and Kathryn Kennish. Daphne, who went deaf after catching meningitis as a toddler, was raised by single mother Regina Vasquez in a tough neighborhood. Neither girl knew that they weren't biologically related to their families, and in fact didn't know about each other, until Bay requested a DNA test.

Now, both families struggle to get along for the girls' sake, and the show takes its drama from that struggle.

Tropes used in Switched at Birth include:


  Emmett: {{[[[Suddenly Voiced]] speaking}}]


 Melody: [signing, to Emmett] You started going with Bay, and now you're sneaking around, lying, and talking about going to speech therapy!

    • Subverted - this is actually an extremely important point for Melody.
  • Badass Baritone: Emmett turns out to be this.
  • Badass Biker: Emmett, much to Kathryn and John's dismay.
  • Better as Friends: Daphne and Emmett.
  • Betty and Veronica: Daphne's the Betty and Bay's the Veronica to Emmett's Archie. Complete with hair colors.
    • Melody was the Betty and Olivia was the Veronica to Cameron's Archie.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Toby gives out to Emmett for treating Bay badly. He later has a heart-to-heart with Wilke about the kind of person he has to be to be worth Daphne's time.
  • Big Fancy House: The Kennish residence, with a nice guest house in the back.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Daphne and her friends use sign language, which is usually subtitled or interpreted for the audience's benefit; and Daphne's mom and grandmother both speak Spanish.
    • Specifically, they're signing using a mixture of ASL[1] and SEE[2] called Pidgin Signed English (PSE).
    • Angelo speaks Italian.
  • Billy Elliot Plot: A minor one, where John prefers Toby's baseball to his music as hobbies and professions.
  • Birds of a Feather: Emmett and Bay share a passion for art. Then again, both Emmett and Daphne can communicate easier and relate with each other because they are both Deaf.
  • Blessed with Suck: Emmett's father's family is open-minded and giving, but because of their youthfulness he's often forgotten.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Both the Kennishes and Vasquezes are forced to realize this during their attempts to live together peacefully.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Bay started out as a minor version of one.
  • Break the Cutie: Most of the characters (more or less), but Daphne is the most vulnerable target. Before finding out about the switch, she was very positive and well-adjusted. Afterwards, well....
  • Bus Crash: Averted. Ty doesn't die in the attack on his unit in Afghanistan.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: Wilke promises that Guitar Face will open for a notable band, but they end up playing the D Stage.
  • The Cast Showoff: Lucas Grabeel and Sean Berdy get to show off their musical skills in the fourth episode.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The guest house is this in the first episode.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Daphne's abilities as a human lie detector. They're established early in the first season when Toby takes her to a poker game to help him identify the other players' tells. Later on in the season, she asks Emmett if he cheated on Bay with Simone, and he lies and says it didn't happen. Daphne instantly knows he's lying, and he realizes that she now knows for sure.
  • Childhood Memory Demolition Team: A variation; Bay and Daphne must work together to save Emmett's motorcycle, which he built with his dad.
  • Citizenship Marriage: John tells Regina that the only way Angelo won't get deported is for him to get married to a United States citizen, with the implication that it should be her.
  • Conflict Ball: Good grief, every character has at least one. Some are juggling two or three, when they aren't playing hot potato with another one.
    • Such as Daphne and Bay fighting over Liam, then Ty, and later Emmett.
    • John suing the hospital for an apology.
    • Regina and Kathryn fighting over whether or not Regina can date Bruce.
      • Regina and Kathryn fighting, period.
      • Regina and everyone fighting.
    • Toby and his gambling woes.
    • Emmett and his mom disagreeing about him taking speech therapy and dating Bay.
    • Angelo showing up and pretty much making everyone upset, though Bay eventually warms to him.
    • Bay and Emmett having a huge spat about Emmett's living arrangements...which happens at the same time that Toby and Simone have a spat about Simone's trustworthiness, leading to Emmett and Simone sleeping together.
  • Continuity Nod: To Emmett and Daphne being fans of Deaf horror films when they make a "Dawn of the Deaf".
  • Cool Bike: Emmett's motorcycle.
  • Cool Car: The Kennishes have a whole fleet: a BMW convertible for the kids, Kathryn's Mercedes G-Wagen, and John's Porsche Panamera (which was an Aston Martin in the Pilot). This all might be Justified--John is a former major league baseball star, and currently owns a successful chain of car washes.
  • Cool Old Lady: Regina's mom, Adrianna.
  • Curtains Match the Window: The biological Vasquezes have dark hair and dark eyes.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Bay and Emmett get cut on some barbed wire during an attempt to tag an unused billboard. Bay explains her wounds as a nasty rosebush incident, and Emmett tells his mother he fell on a sprinkler head playing football at his friend's house.
  • Dance of Romance: John and Kathryn reconcile with one of these while chaperoning at the Carlton prom.
  • Dark Secret: The Kennishes kind of suspected that Regina knew something about the switch. And they were right. Around the time of Daphne's meningitis infection in 1998, Regina's husband had Daphne DNA tested, and Regina figured out then that the hospital had switched the girls at birth in 1995. Fearing that, as a poor alcoholic, she'd lose Daphne, Regina kept the secret to herself. Later, she hired a private investigator to track down Bay, and watched Bay from afar for several years. And now it's not a secret anymore.
    • So is Simone and Emmett sleeping together. Both felt too guilty to tell anyone else, though everyone finds out eventually anyway.
  • Dating What Mommy Hates: Melody greatly disapproves of hearing/Deaf relationships. That said, she eventually warms to Bay.
  • Dawson Casting:
    • Used - Katie Leclerc (Daphne) was born in 1986 and Lucas Grabeel (Toby) was too old for High School five years ago.
    • Averted - Vanessa Marano (Bay) and Sean Berdy (Emmett) are both 17/18.
  • The Determinator: Daphne, apparently inherited from her biological father.
  • Disabled Character, Disabled Actor: All the Deaf characters are played by actors with some sort of hearing impairment in Real Life.
  • Disabled Means Helpless: Emmett thinks that Bay thinks this when she tries to help him communicate with hearing people.
  • Disabled Snarker: Emmett seems to be this -

 Liam: Do you speak English?

Emmett: [signing] No, Japanese.

  • Disappeared Dad: Bay's biological father, Angelo. She's not happy about this. He eventually shows up out of the blue in the midseason finale, after reading about the switch in a newspaper.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Emmett for Daphne.
  • Emo Teen: Bay. Travis, but his case is a bit more justified.
  • For Want of a Nail: Touched on every so often, as Bay, Daphne, and their families wonder how the girls would have ended up had the switch not taken place. Notable when Emmett and Daphne talk about Bay in the first episode:

 Emmett: [signing] Who's that?

Daphne: [signing] Me, in another life.

    • It's later touched on in a Dream Sequence. Daphne dreams that the switch never happened, and that she was Bay and Bay was Daphne.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Daphne and Kathryn both love to cook.
  • The Gambling Addict: Toby loves playing poker with his friends.
  • Gray and Gray Morality: Among the girls. Even "sweet, innocent Daphne" has been known to occasionally drink and almost had sex with Wilke.
  • Green Eyed Red Head: Daphne, which makes it all the more jarring when Regina refers to her as having been a blond, blue eyed baby.
    • Babies often have lighter hair for the first two years or so.
  • Hands-Off Parenting: Emmett's dad.
  • Hand Signals: Since a good amount of the characters use ASL/PSE, it's a given.
  • Happily Married: John and Kathryn.
  • Hidden Depths: Toby turns out to be pretty good at baseball, in addition to being a musician.
  • High School Dance: Carlton's prom happens in the first season spring finale.
  • Homage/Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: One of Daphne's favorite movies is Deafenstein, an incredibly cheesy Frankenstein adaptation performed entirely in ASL. It's a takeoff of the Real Life film Deafula, a 1975 version of Dracula done in ASL, with a similar reputation.
  • Hot Dad: John.
  • Hot Mom:
    • Regina. She has a LOT of suitors throughout the course of the show.
    • Kathryn as well. In one episode, she gets compared to Mary Jane Watson, though the reference is lost on her--she needs to be reassured by Toby that Mary Jane is indeed hot.
  • Humiliation Conga: Played for Drama with one of the protagonists. Everyone eventually finds out that Regina knew about the switch (and Bay's whereabouts) as far back as 1998. Daphne disowns Regina for lying to her for years. Bay disowns Regina for not trying to be a part of her life. The Kennishes are so put off that they pretty much evict Regina and make plans to take custody of Daphne.
    • Daphne goes through one too. She finds out that her mother knew about the switch; and then when she realizes that she is in love with Emmett because he has always been there for her, she finds out he is dating Bay.
  • Hypocrite: Emmett's angered when Daphne disapproves of him and Bay, whereas he's judged every love interest she's had during the show's run.
    • Bay has basically instructed Daphne to stand aside with every boy from Bay's world she's dated during the show's run - despite the fact that she's dated both Ty and Emmett, friends of Daphne.
  • I Am Not Spock: Those who've only seen Katie Leclerc act as Daphne find it slightly jarring to hear her speak in promotional material sans Deaf accent.
  • I Call It Vera: Emmett named his motorcycle Ripley.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All the episodes are named after famous paintings.
  • I Fight for the Strongest Side: Daphne wants to quit the Carlton basketball team because of their lack of determination. She eventually returns, though.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Daphne lets Bay ride with Emmett on his last ride of the motorcycle.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming after works of art, such as American Gothic, or Dogs Playing Poker.
  • Informed Flaw: People, including Daphne herself, say how Daphne is just as flawed as Bay, but... how, exactly?
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Deconstructed when the Buckner basketball coach only recruits Daphne to get a grant for a new locker room.
  • It Got Worse: Daphne's already having a bad day, having just found out about Emmett and Bay dating. Then Angelo shows up to see Bay.
  • It's All About Me: Both Daphne and Bay believe they are victims of this from each other.
  • Jerk Jock: Liam's friends.
  • Just Friends: Daphne claims that she and Emmett are this when the Kennishes assume that they are dating.
  • Know When to Fold'Em: One of Toby's plot themes.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Wilke towards Daphne.
  • Lamarck Was Right: Daphne gravitates toward athletic endeavours, as her biological father John is a retired major league ballplayer. She is also a really good cook like her mother Kathryn. Bay is an aspiring artist, a trait that she seems to have inherited from her biological mother Regina.
    • Daphne even states that she believes she inherited her basketball skills from John.
  • Last-Minute Hookup: Subverted. Emmett and Daphne kiss, but he decides to stay with Bay.
  • Late Arrival Spoiler: Woe be to anyone who missed the episode "Game On," since ABC Family is already showing previews that deal with the hitherto unforseen twist of Emmett cheating on Bay with Simone.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Daphne and Ty.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: Plays whenever Emmett doesn't understand what someone's saying and we cut to the conversation from his perspective.
    • Daphne also had a scene like this during her first breakfast with the Kennishes.
  • Lovable Jock: Daphne as a basketball player.
  • Love Triangle: Bay and Emmett become a couple--right about the same time that Daphne realizes that she has a thing for Emmett herself.
    • Love Dodecahedron: Wilke decides he likes Daphne, who decides to fight for Emmett, who wants to make things work with Bay. And this being an ABC Family show, it'll only get more complicated from here.
      • And it does get more complicated with the introduction of another deaf teen named Travis, who seems to be getting off to a decent start with Daphne despite them initially getting off the wrong foot.
  • Mama Bear: The two main mothers on the show, with the addition of Melody.
  • Mistaken for Cheating:
    • Before the families reveal to the public that Daphne and Bay were switched, Kathryn's friends think that John has a relationship with Regina.
    • John, with Sarah Lazar. Daphne calls John out on it when she sees the two together at a restaurant, but he promises her that there's nothing going on, and that he was trying to talk Sarah out of writing her book about the switch. Kathryn also once had the same thoughts about John and Sarah.
  • Mistaken for Gay: The Kennishes' lawyer, which proves to be a plot point since she has a relationship with the hospital director.
  • My Beloved Smother: Emmett's mom Melody is this, and it's hinted that it's because of her ongoing divorce. It eventually drives Emmett to move in with his father.
    • Regina follows both Daphne and Bay around at certain points in their lives.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits: Toby tells Wilke this about Bay and Daphne in the fourth episode, but seems to be warming up to the idea of Daphne/Wilke (as long as Daphne's cool with it).
  • Mysterious Informant: Angelo had an informant who knew the inner workings of the hospital and had relevant information about the switch. However, now that Angelo is missing, the Kennishes have absolutely no idea who this informant even is.
  • Myth Arc: The show features a fair amount of continuing Soap Opera-esque storylines about relationships, as it is an ABC Family show and all. But the predominant storyline is the big mystery concerning the switch, and who knows what about it.
  • A Naked Shoulder to Cry On: Emmett and Simone.
  • Nice Guy: Emmett was this to Daphne.
  • Nonuniform Uniform: Buckner Hall's dress code seems to be "as long as it looks kinda-sorta preppy, no matter how revealing it is, it's fine by us."
    • A particularly Egregious example is during one episode where Bay walks around the campus in a tank top and plaid skirt that vaguely resemble the school colors.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Averted.

 Wilke: So if Bay's not really your sister, you could totally take a run at that?

Toby: NO!

  • Oblivious to Love: Daphne, to Emmett.
  • Off to Boarding School: Due to Wilke getting low grades and slacking off, his dad threatened him with boarding school several times. His dad eventually does it.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: A brief one between Bay and Simone. Bay is trying to console Simone about the tournament loss, and Simone is still feeling guilty about hooking up with Emmett. Simone eventually catches on and doesn't reveal what happened.

 Bay: So I heard what happened at the tournament...

Simone: [HUGE Oh Crap look on her face] Yeah, about that...

Bay: Don't worry about it, you shouldn't blame yourself.


  Bay: If vampires can date humans, I really feel like Deaf people can date hearing. At least neither of us wants to suck the other's blood."

  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Both Ty, and later Emmett, do this to Bay.
  • Sitcom Arch Nemesis: Kathryn and Sarah Lazar.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Wilke.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: After Regina's secret comes out, the Kennishes' lawyer advises that it's too late for a custody battle, since by the time it's settled the girls would be eighteen (legal adults in US) anyway.
    • Also, if this happened in real life it would be national news, with possible federal kidnapping charges for Regina whether the Kennishes forgive her or not.
    • Subverted in one instance where Social Services almost took Daphne away from Regina.
  • The Speechless: Melody, and Emmett, but, Emmett does speak in the summer finale.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Bay and Emmett.
  • Stop Helping Me!: Emmett gets offended when Bay tries to interpret and defend him.
    • Again when Bay tells Melody about Emmett's desire to drop out of high school. And again when Bay expresses concern to Cameron over Emmett's well-being, leading to Cameron giving up Emmett's custody to Melody. To say that Emmett isn't pleased would be an understatement.
  • Switched At Birth: Well, yeah.
  • Tactful Translation: Daphne sometimes does this for Emmett.
    • The police interpreter for Melody.

 Melody: [Signing] That is a load of crap!

Interpeter: [To Police Officer] ...she doesn't believe you.

  • Tall, Dark and Handsome: Angelo Sorrento, Bay's biological father.
  • That Which Must Not Be Named: Bay's biological father, aka Regina's ex-husband. Regina, Daphne, and Adrianna absolutely refuse to tell Bay anything about him, other than that he left when Daphne was three. However, he does end up showing up.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: A "next week" trailer spoiled the intended Wham! Line about Angelo being a fugitive.
  • Translator Buddy: Daphne operates as this for Emmett when he's around the Kennishes.
    • Emmett worries that if he and Bay keep dating she will come to resent him for making her fit this role.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Emmett and later Daphne.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: When Emmett gets over Daphne and starts pursuing Bay, Daphne realizes she's loved him all along.
  • Unusual Euphemism: As a running gag with Emmett, Bay intentionally calls herself a "vegetable" in sign language whenever she means "virgin."
  • Vocal Dissonance: Emmett turns out to have a surprisingly deep voice for a teenager, although that also can have something to do with him being deaf--the deeper your voice goes, the easier it is to feel the vibrations and know you're making sound. For instance, compare the pitch of Katie Leclerc's normal voice to Daphne's.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Regina is on the end of several after her Dark Secret is revealed.
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: The gay bar that the gang goes to trying to find Daphne and Bay's 'dad.' It's obvious that it's a gay bar to everyone except Bay.
  • X Meets Y: Emmett's character was described by the producers as "Deaf James Dean".
    • Invoked in universe by Bay.
  • Yoko Oh No: Simone tries to change Guitar Face's sound as soon as she starts dating Toby. However, she specifically denies being this, with varied evidence.
  • You're Not My Father: Invoked by Bay after she discovers the truth. Her parents aren't happy to hear this.
    • Invoked by Daphne to Regina after she learns Regina knew about the switch.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Emmett, after much guilt and deliberation, confessess to Bay during prom that he slept with Simone after the tournament. Unsurprisingly, she doesn't take it well.
    • In the same episode, Kathryn has an Almost Kiss with Craig the lawyer. He quickly apologizes, but she admits that it wasn't all on him. However, she is horrified by it, and as a result she quickly reconciles with John.
  1. American Sign Language
  2. Signed Exact English