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Jan. 13th, 2010

I'm not all that comfortable posting this, because while I generally follow the big fandom ---!fail debates, most of the time I'm too scared to offend someone or make a fool of myself to speak up, but between aviv_b's (now locked) RTD-finds-out-about-homophobia story, and the recent debate about (straight) women writing m/m fiction I have this sort of theory why TW fandom blew up so spectacularly after CoE, and it has a lot to do with this slightly uneasy alliance between gay people and the straight part of slash fandom, since both want the same thing, more gay storylines, and there's strength in numbers, and numbers count when it comes to TV. On the other hand that common interest doesn't mean that gay people (fans as well as those involved in the creation, especially in the age of the internet and fandom becoming increasingly mainstream and public) aren't aware of the more problematic aspects of slash fandom (fetishisation/appropriation), or that straight fandom doesn't tend to forget that for gay people it's also very much a matter of identification and representation, and not just, and that's putting it as politely and generally as possible, of fanish squee. (Cf. the 'But It's not about gay men, it's about female sexuality' argument.)

And for the straight side it all worked rather well ('Yay! Canon slash!'), and I'd hazard a guess that even after Ianto's death the greater part of TW fandom would probably have got over it after a while, if RTD hadn't spoken up about what he thought was problematic about—straight, beecause 'people picking up gay rights as an issue' clearly doesn't refer to gay fans—fandom, and suddenly it wasn't one happy family any longer.

So, yes, the 'hysterical women' comment was sexist and misogynist, everyone can agree on that, but after six months fandom can maybe start to look beyond that, and realise this was also coming from somewhere, namely a gay writer thinking he wasn't just dealing with straight women fetishising homosexuality and making judgements about what gay relationships were supposed to be like, but straight women now explaining homophobia to him. Now clearly the situation was more complex than that, clearly there were gay people as well as straight people who disliked CoE for a wide variety of reasons, but I think this was the main impression that came across, and I doubt anyone involved in TW fandom can honestly say that it was wholly unfounded in reality.

And considering that he stated this very explicitly more than once (here and here and probably elsewhere, too, but I wasn't following media that religiously and only picked up what was generally linked in fandom) I find it a bit worrying how this got swept aside almost unanimously by the straight part of fandom. Admittedly emotions were running high all round, and no one was thinking very clearly at the time, but after half a year maybe it's time to acknowledge that among other things there was also a lot of hurt privilege and entitlement in the post-CoE fallout. Because when straight people are gleefully writing RPF subjecting RTD to homophobia they honestly believe he doesn't know about, and are convinced they're doing it in the name of gay rights and karma I think this is a problem that isn't just limited to one writer, but symptomatic of the wider state of TW fandom.


*breathes* Okay. Now everyone tell me how hard I've failed.



[Obligatory disclaimer: I don't consider myself straight, but I'm also too not-much-of-anything-sexual to feel justified claiming any kind of queer label.

Obligatory disclaimer the second, for those who aren't on my friendslist and don't know me. Yes, I cried. Yes, I cared. Click the tag.]


ETA: I'll be at my sister's for the afternoon, so if I'm not replying to comments it's not that I'm ignoring anyone.

ETA2: Addendum, sort of.

More ETA, since my brain is slow and some things only untangled themselves in my head replying to the comments. If I wrote that post now, I'd phrase it a bit differently, because even while I thought I was being clear, different issues did in fact get jumbled together. The 'hysterical women' comment— and while we're at it, I was getting curious and looked for the exact source, and now I'm left wondering, was this ever said more publicly than (possibly off the record?) to the AfterElton writer who put it into his editor's note without giving the context or even a full quote? In any case, that comment is one thing, and I'm not going to tell anyone they can't be offended by its sexism, even if personally I can't bring myself to be very outraged, given the context, situation and the fact that we're all human and fuck up occasionally.

OTOH, the two interviews I've linked where he is clearly pissed off about straight people lecturing a gay man about gay rights and homophobia—that's a separate issue and a legitimate concern about what was happening in TW fandom, and something I don't think straight fans should immediately react to with outrage and discard as nothing but hurt vanity. It's an issue that deserves consideration, whether or not someone is willing to forgive killing Ianto or the 'nine hysterical women'.

The one is about male privilege and prejudice, the other very much about straight privilege, as is using the sexism as an excuse to ignore the anger, lumping it all together; and they don't cancel each other out. This is essentially what I should have made clearer from the start. And I'll really shut up now; but on some level I keep naively hoping that attempting to untangle this whole mess might also eventually help a little bit towards making TW fandom a less toxic place again. I know, I know. *sigh*

Comments

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eumelia
Jan. 13th, 2010 12:17 pm (UTC)
Just stepping in here for solidarity!

I may write a follow up for my own post regarding this issue, and I may link to this, just giving to the heads up.

Edited at 2010-01-13 12:18 pm (UTC)
solitary_summer
Jan. 13th, 2010 05:28 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :)
elisi
Jan. 13th, 2010 01:10 pm (UTC)
Did you see Paul Cornell's comment on the issue? (Talking about CoE and how brilliant it was):

The outcry amongst fans was a shock to me, and hardened me in all sorts of ways (yeah, right, Russell T. Davies is 'a homophobe' because he killed your favourite character, I hope he kills your next three favourite characters too, and that you thus realise that accusations of sexism and homophobia aren't yours to throw around when all that's happened to you is that you've been asked to feel something).
solitary_summer
Jan. 13th, 2010 05:41 pm (UTC)
No, I hadn't, thanks for the link.
(no subject) - penguineggs - Jan. 19th, 2010 10:04 am (UTC) - Expand
smirnoffmule
Jan. 13th, 2010 01:50 pm (UTC)
May I link this? I'm just writing meta of my own on related issues, and I think you put this too well for me to need to rehash it.
smirnoffmule
Jan. 13th, 2010 03:01 pm (UTC)
PS I did link, sorry, because I wanted to get posted before I went out this afternoon. If you want me to remove the link, please say.
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(Deleted comment)
solitary_summer
Jan. 13th, 2010 06:50 pm (UTC)
I know you've just gone through an exhausting discussion about all this and appreciate you took the time to comment, so I'm a bit reluctant to even say this, but you'd have to go back as far as Ancient Greece to find a time where you could maybe say that women have been oppressed by gay men as a group, and even then it'd be a problematic claim, because the whole concept of sexual orientation/behaviour was so completely different and gay men who didn't play by the accepted rules were oppressed, too... I know this isn't what you meant to say, but it could be misread.

And I think the problem was from the beginning that fandom filed Jack/Ianto under slash and expected it to play by these rules, when in the end TW is SF/drama that has gay characters...

I suspect RTD pretty much meant it, minus the historical baggage he probably wasn't aware of, but since I don't see a lot of sexism in his writing, and given the circumstances and provocation at the time, I have to say it never bothered me all that much. If it did, I'd probably have to throw out a whole shelf of Thomas Mann books first. *rueful smile*

Edited at 2010-01-13 06:51 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
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tencrush
Jan. 13th, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC)
No, you haven't failed, you're right, that is the state of TW fandom and it's really quite gross. I came to pretty much the same conclusions about a month after CoE, in this post, but it boggles my mind that for a lot of people, things haven't really changed since then. I've been feeling very upset about the state of TW fandom since the big Ianto file came out, which quoted me from precisely that post. I would have found that really ironic had it not been for the fact that it made me really uncomfortable and embarrassed to be associated with a document that did precisely what I was trying to speak out against, appropriating real-life gay issues and twisting them to support your own agenda because two guys kissing makes you moist. I'm pretty much done with TW fandom, I don't think it can recover from this "hysterical women" perception, and I'm afraid I think it's a perception that's wholly justified.
solitary_summer
Jan. 13th, 2010 07:17 pm (UTC)
Okay, this is a bit difficult. I appreciate your comment. See, I've always liked your TW posts even if I didn't agree with everything you wrote, because I think you're intelligent and insightful and in the end mostly don't let your dislike completely overshadow that. But.

Obviously you're not obliged to like either RTD or JB, and if JB makes grand sweeping statements about heterosexual relationships, by all means, call him on it. But the thing is, there are these two out gay men involved with the show, and somehow they're never gay in the 'right' way, the way you approve of. And you bring their sexuality into your criticism of them in ways that has made me very uncomfortable over time, especially when it's coupled with that level of hatred.

Sorry. I've kept out of your posts, because I didn't really see the point of arguing, but since you commented here, maybe it needed to be said once.
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kita0610
Jan. 13th, 2010 08:43 pm (UTC)
Well said.
solitary_summer
Jan. 13th, 2010 09:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
yehnica
Jan. 13th, 2010 09:19 pm (UTC)
Nail on the head, there.

Also, just for the record, the hysterical women comment didn't bother me much, because while I didn't love it - second hand embarrassment! - I took it as one of those things you say without thinking when people are hassling you. I can't say I would have reacted much better. And I get where he's coming from - I'm queer, one of my flatmates is gay, I have very few straight friends and apart from parts of my family and work/uni I don't really have to watch what I say, and we say un-pc stuff to each other all the time. It's that safe space thing and sometimes, well, you slip and it's ouch because obviously there's a difference between banter with your friends and say, public speaking. And while actors and the like are, I think, more used to watching what they say because public image is this huge thing, writers tend to lack that filter. Idk. It's not a huge deal to me, people aren't perfect all the time, etc.

That fic thing though. Wow. I had no idea what you were talking about, so I looked into it and daaamn I wish I hadn't. Bad taste in my mouth now.
solitary_summer
Jan. 13th, 2010 09:44 pm (UTC)
I took it as one of those things you say without thinking when people are hassling you.

Pretty much that. Maybe it's an age thing, maybe it's because I automatically try to see something from all possible sides, or maybe I'm just too apathetic, but I simply can't get that upset over one comment that wasn't even some horrible slur and doesn't come from someone with a horrible history of sexism and misogyny in his writing, especially given the circumstances. Like you said, people aren't perfect.

And yeah, that fic makes one feel dirty. And all that but-I'm-doing-it-for-gay-rights!-and-education! makes it even worse.
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starbrow
Jan. 13th, 2010 09:23 pm (UTC)
Maybe you're right and this is why I've never quite felt the same way as the rest of TW fandom, despite being deeply upset about Ianto's death and wanting him back.

I'm bisexual, and I was angered by first Ianto's comment about "it's not men, it's just Jack", then by his blatant fridging to move Jack's storyline on. While I agree RTD wasn't homophobic (characters displaying homophobia does not equal the author being homophobic) I do feel that these aspects of Ianto's storyline in COE were biphobic specifically.

First of all, Ianto was defined not as an individual with a sexuality of his own, but as someone who only existed in relation to the people he loved. The only time there's the slightest hint of an exception to this in the entirety of Torchwood is when he briefly seems to consider sleeping with Hart. Otherwise it's Lisa (not very sexual toward her, either) or Jack.

For this reason, Ianto's storyline is not under his own agency, but under Jack's, in a way it wouldn't have been had they not been involved. He becomes, in COE, nothing more than a plot device to Make Jack Feel. And those of us who identified with him naturally resented this.

Then of course, there was his death and Jack's resolution, which felt like a smack in the face to me. Bisexuals don't get happy endings on TV, not ever, and I'd hoped beyond hope that Jack and Ianto could get theirs, even if it was temporary. But instead they got "I hate the word couple" and a total lack of development - COE is supposed to take place a year after Exit Wounds and they're still at undefined 'dabbling' for all we could see.

I don't think I'm ready to forgive RTD for saying I was a 'hysterical woman' or for pretty much stating outright that all I wanted to see was pretty boys having sex on TV or that I couldn't handle 'realness' as if Torchwood was ever a show that was meant to have any level of realness in it. I'm not sure I ever will be.

solitary_summer
Jan. 13th, 2010 10:33 pm (UTC)
I think Ianto's arc suffered from two things mainly; S1 was very experimental, and, I think carefully testing how audiences would react to a SF show with a bisexual male protagonist in a gay relationship. The problem with S2 was that RTD yanked Ianto from the bier practically at the very last moment, and apparently there wasn't enough time to write a new arc for them for the second half of the season.

For this reason, Ianto's storyline is not under his own agency, but under Jack's, in a way it wouldn't have been had they not been involved.

I do think he does have a bit more agency than that (embarrassingly long post about their relationship, in case you're interested), but yes. Jack is the protagonist, and CoE is his story; there's no arguing about that, either way.

COE is supposed to take place a year after Exit Wounds and they're still at undefined 'dabbling' for all we could see.

I wonder, though, if the majority of the viewers is considering this kind of timeline. To many people it might have seemed odder if there was a lot of development presumed to have happened off-stage, and the situation suddenly radically different. And from a writer's perspective development and conflict are the interesting parts of a relationship...
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wiredblowfish
Jan. 13th, 2010 09:48 pm (UTC)
I don't have much to say about these issues, but I really enjoy reading people's comments and the original post itself. (I'm all for forgiveness, but as a straight male, I was offended by RTD's remark because it was incredibly rude and graceless. He should be pretty damn happy people care about his work. I still love TW, even though COE wasn't my cuppa--I didn't mind character death so much as the grim, hopelessness I felt the narrative expressed.) But I'm psyched Series 4 is on deck:)

great post and discussion
solitary_summer
Jan. 14th, 2010 12:30 am (UTC)
Glad you liked the post; for me, unless it's a symptom of genuine, deep-running bigotry, the occasional rude comment doesn't bother me too much; especially in circumstances like these. It happens, none of us are perfect.
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lawsontl
Jan. 13th, 2010 10:23 pm (UTC)
No, you're right, no one should be accusing RTD of homophobia per se, but he's a professional writer, and he needs to take his audience into account. There ARE homophobes in his audience, and his writing - perhaps too subtle or perhaps too riddled with holes, depending on your viewpoint - did not make it clear where people should fall on the issue. Clem being able to "smell" gay, and Gwen and Rhys' tacit approval of his homophobia by saying nothing, for instance (after assuming the role of his parent, for all intents). How are we supposed to take that scene?

And I don't believe Ianto died because he was gay. On the contrary, he died because he was stupid. He and Jack were dumb enough not to use the resources at hand - Lois's knowledge, Torchwood's knowledge, JACK'S DIRECT EXPERIENCE - to better prepare themselves to confront the 456. And having BBC auto-responder e-mails tell me about the tragedy and the necessity of his death to atone for JACK'S sins is insulting. It was bad writing, lazy writing, out of character writing. Pick one. They shoehorned Torchwood into a pre-existing idea that RTD had for an entirely different show.

They also proved, beyond a doubt, that the opening credits of S1 and S2 were a lie (no wonder they skipped them for S3!). Torchwood was not ready. Torchwood had no backup plans, no disaster recovery solution, and for an organization whose job it was to save the world almost every day, you'd think they'd have had something better than "steal credit cards and computers and break into an old warehouse" as their Plan B. The Torchwood method, in RTD's vision, is to throw bodies at the Rift and hope one sticks. And I'm no longer interested in watching a show with that philosophy.

Homophobia, no matter the amount, really doesn't play into it. And it's frustrating that one of the biggest voices to revive my favorite character is clinging so hard to that cause.

Thanks for listening :)
solitary_summer
Jan. 13th, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC)
How are we supposed to take that scene?

That other than in 1965 homophobia is not acceptable any longer in 2009, I would say. Also showing Ianto more comfortable with his sexual identity than in the scene with his sister.

Can't speak for RTD, obviously, but I think it might have gone something like this—Clem smelling Gwen's pregnancy was a fixed plot-point, and then they decided to reuse the idea with Ianto, mostly for the "Oi, it's not 1965 anymore," line, and there's no other way Clem would have known. I don't think it goes a lot deeper than that. And I don't think Gwen and Rhys are tacitly approving anything, either; they're maybe a bit embarrassed and don't know what to say, considering Clem's mental state.


To be perfectly honest, I don't want to go over the discussion about how stupid it was again. If you're really interested, I've written something about the narrative structure of CoE here. Having been on the run (and in Jack's case, blown up and buried in concrete), they had no resources, no plan, no knowledge about the situation except what the got from Lois's lenses, and time was running out fast. Moreover, they'd been watching the footage with all those people standing around the glass cage without any protection whatsoever. Even Jack never saw the 456 before, and all they'd done in 1965 was offer and deliver a cure for a virus that had already mutated naturally. Maybe it simply didn't occur to them. Shit happens and hindsight is 20/20

And team Torchwood has always been a bit of a mess and at least in S1 half of the time was creating the problems they then had to solve, which actually people have been pointing out long before CoE...
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coldwater1010
Jan. 13th, 2010 10:49 pm (UTC)
"And I don't believe Ianto died because he was gay. On the contrary, he died because he was stupid. He and Jack were dumb enough not to use the resources at hand - Lois's knowledge, Torchwood's knowledge, JACK'S DIRECT EXPERIENCE - to better prepare themselves to confront the 456. And having BBC auto-responder e-mails tell me about the tragedy and the necessity of his death to atone for JACK'S sins is insulting. It was bad writing, lazy writing, out of character writing. Pick one. They shoehorned Torchwood into a pre-existing idea that RTD had for an entirely different show."

Not to mention they spend the first episode running around trying to find kids to experiment on and no-one thinks of Clem, not in that episode or later on when he's standing right there.

You're right about Torchwood being the most unprepared orginisation ever. You'd think for a company that loses staff as frequently as it supposedly does they'd also have contingencies in place for staffing, one that didn't just rely on their friends being able to fill in, but apparently not.

I suspect in a perverse way all this focus on RTD's alleged homophobia works in his favour. It's an accusation he can easily deflate by shipping in a new male love interest for Jack next season and it detracts people from looking at the other, probably more legitimate flaws with COE.
phaetonschariot
Jan. 14th, 2010 08:59 pm (UTC)
Particularly since there was such a strong emphasis on "before Gwen no one had a life outside Torchwood".
(no subject) - penguineggs - Jan. 17th, 2010 04:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
fide_et_spe
Jan. 13th, 2010 10:51 pm (UTC)
Lawson in fact has said what I would say about CoE, but one thing that I do want to comment on is that I don't think RTD"s attitude is OK. Not just because I don't like being called hysterical, but mainly because I hate being called stupid. I happen to have read a lot of poetry, I'm not interested in Supernatural and I don't care about the pretty boys. It was the pomposity that was so awful. But then I know many non fannish types who can't abide the behind the scenes DW and TW shows because they say they find RTD so pompous. He is like that, it's just unpleasant to see how it translates when he attacks the fans.
solitary_summer
Jan. 14th, 2010 12:22 am (UTC)
There's probably not much sense in arguing, but since you commented—the point of this post wasn't saying that it was okay, but to point out where (IMO) he was coming from with these comments, because I think in this case context does matter.
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kel_reiley
Jan. 14th, 2010 06:38 am (UTC)
thank you for writing this :)
may i link to it?
solitary_summer
Jan. 14th, 2010 07:37 am (UTC)
Of course! :)
abby_juniper
Jan. 14th, 2010 07:16 am (UTC)
You've made some really good points here; only, I'm gay -- I've experienced homophobia and still do, nearly every day -- and yet I felt that some of CoE was most definitely verging on homophobic. The "smells queer" comment is the one that sticks out in my head the most, tbh -- it definitely gave off the wrong message as then I had people sniffing me and saying "ew, smells queer" for days afterwards. :-/ The comment from Johnny didn't come across as homophobic to me, just affectionate. And the "and who's the queer?" from Clem wasn't really homophobic, just reflecting the times he came from.

Also, there were people who had watched CoE then explaining to non-watchers "yeah, the gay guy gets killed off and the other kills his grandson" -- which is totally the wrong message, if you ask me. I think that sometimes fandom forgets that people who don't have much to do with LGBT issues or fandom don't actually think "Oh, that's homophobic...that's bad"; they take it as fact that gay characters deserve to be killed. Which isn't what CoE was about. :-(

(Sorry if this is jumbly and rushed -- I've gotta rush to catch a train.)
solitary_summer
Jan. 16th, 2010 12:43 am (UTC)
(Sorry it took me so long to reply, but I came home late & not very sober yesterday...)

it definitely gave off the wrong message as then I had people sniffing me and saying "ew, smells queer" for days afterwards. :-/

Yikes. Sorry that happened to you. I agree that this maybe wasn't the best idea ever to show Ianto dealing with his new(ishly)found gay identity...


As for the rest... It's difficult. If someone's already homophobic, they'll probably see pretty much everything from that angle, whatever the intended message, unless it's written in such large letters that it eclipses the narrative and makes any complex drama impossible. And maybe not even then.

Personally speaking, I thought the two of them confronting the 456 was such an incredibly powerful moment, and even when it ends tragically, even with Ianto's death... the way you then see the Prime Minister and the others watching this on the screen, all that love and grief, for me the message very much was, don't you even dare judge. LIke Gwen later says to Rhiannon, that was what Ianto died for, trying to save their children and the ones they were planning to hand over.

And Jack killing Stephen is incredibly complex and hard to watch, but it's never less than clear what it costs him, and why he does it, and in the end he is saving all those children.

The thing is, I think RTD was perfectly aware what a fine line he was walking there. He's gay, he writes for TV, how could he not know these tropes? Any discussion should at least be based on the fact that he chose to ignore/write around them because he wanted to tell this story, rather than assume he somehow managed to be completely unaware of them, which is what I've seen people do quite often.
fic_faery
Jan. 14th, 2010 07:45 am (UTC)
You do make some valid points but I think you over generalized and made a few too many assumptions for me to really support the opinion. Especially when it comes to fandom's sexual orientation and the reasons they connected with Ianto Jones and/or Jack and Ianto as a couple.

RTD said it himself, if you create likeable characters and good drama (Though some people will debate the 'good' in good drama when referring to TW COE and after rewatching and just comparing with previous TW canon it really can be debated but caught up in the whirlwind of a 5 night broadcast it was hard to deny it was captivating)then people are going to feel things and he wants them to feel. So I don't think fans having a strong reaction to Ianto's death is something bad. There's a long history of fans and viewers not necessarily a part of the fandom protesting shows cancellations, character death or just stupidity.

The majority of fandom probably 'blew up' after Ianto Jones' death because he's always been a popular character and well, he died. And the outrage probably continued because a highly anticipated Torchwood series was stripped of everything identifiable as Torchwood by the end of the first episode. By the end of the five nights the only thing still Torchwood was Jack's great coat (though the man beneath it was obviously a broken shell of his usual self) and Gwen's life despite the hardships of Torchwood remaining arguably untouched and happy.

I think the gay issue comes up because well, they made it an issue in COE. Every episode there was a mention of it. It's like they didn't have the time to show us that Jack and Ianto were in a relationship and Ianto was having some identity and committment issues so they just told us... a lot. So of course if the show (who in the previous series set a standard of having a rather sexually fluid cast and world views) makes an issue of Ianto being gay it's undoubtedly going to come up that the gay character died.

I imagine a lot of upset and outrage won't settle down until Ianto Jones is brought back or they know for sure about season 4, if it will happen or not, and then how it will play out. You can't honestly say that COE had a lot of closure. Despite not always liking the journey, at the end, I felt Jack's farewell was a good place to stop it but it did leave things sort of emotionally raw for viewers with plenty of loose ends.

Yes, people in the aftermath felt turmoil and lashed out and sure there's probably a group of people who are a bit too forceful and idiotic in their views. But it's hardly the majority and even beneath the accusations they could have some valid points.
kelpietree
Jan. 14th, 2010 08:05 am (UTC)
i rather agree.
I was disappointed with the show because i liked the characters and i wanted to see more of them. It made me terribly sad that they died in the show and it seemed to be moving from the original 'model' attracted me to it. On the whole i find the whole thing, Torchwood and Jack's stories, to be terribly tragic and sad. yes i was hurt when Ianto died, it was because i liked him as character, and i liked him with Jack. I identified with his pain. I'm still missing about Owen too. Those characters had such interesting potential.
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