The data behind Hollywood’s sexism | Stacy Smith


Today, I want to tell you
about a pressing social issue. Now, it’s not nuclear arms, it’s not immigration, and it’s not malaria. I’m here to talk about movies. Now, in all seriousness,
movies are actually really important. In film, we can be wildly entertained, and we can also be transported
through storytelling. Storytelling is so important. Stories tell us what societies value, they offer us lessons, and they share and preserve our history. Stories are amazing. But stories don’t give everyone the same opportunity
to appear within them, particularly not stories compartmentalized
in the form of American movies. In film, interestingly enough, females are still erased and marginalized in a lot of our stories. And I learned this for the first time
about 10 years ago when I did my first study
on gender role in G-rated films. Since then, we’ve conducted
more than 30 investigations. My team is tired. And I’ve committed my life as researcher and activist to fighting the inclusion crisis in Hollywood. So today, what I’d like to do
is tell you about that crisis. I want to talk about
gender inequality in film. I want to tell you how it is perpetuated, and then I’m going to tell you
how we’re going to fix it. However, one caveat before I begin: my data are really depressing. So I want to apologize in advance, because I’m going to put you all
in a really bad mood. But I’m going to bring it up at the end, and I’m going to present a silver lining to fix this mess that we’ve been in for a very, very long time. So, let’s start with the gravity
of the situation. Each year, my research team
examines the top 100 grossing films in the United States. What we do is we look at every speaking
or named character on-screen. Now, to count in one of my investigations, all a character has to do is say one word. This is a very low bar. (Laughter) Thus far, we’ve looked at 800 movies, from 2007 to 2015, cataloguing every speaking character
on-screen for gender, race, ethnicity, LGBT and characters with a disability. Let’s take a look
at really some problematic trends. First, females are still
noticeably absent on-screen in film. Across 800 movies
and 35,205 speaking characters, less than a third of all roles
go to girls and women. Less than a third! There’s been no change from 2007 to 2015, and if you compare our results to a small sample of films
from 1946 to 1955, there’s been no change
in over a half of a century. Over half of a century! But we’re half of the population. Now, if we look at this data
intersectionally, which has been a focus of today, the picture becomes even more problematic. Across the top 100 films
of just last year, 48 films didn’t feature one black
or African-American speaking character, not one. 70 films were devoid of Asian
or Asian-American speaking characters that were girls or women. None. Eighty-four films didn’t feature one
female character that had a disability. And 93 were devoid of lesbian, bisexual
or transgender female speaking characters. This is not underrepresentation. This is erasure, and I call this
the epidemic of invisibility. Now, when we move
from prevalence to protagonist, the story is still problematic. Out of a hundred films last year, only 32 featured a female lead
or colead driving the action. Only three out of a hundred films featured an underrepresented
female driving the story, and only one diverse woman that was 45 years of age or older
at the time of theatrical release. Now let’s look at portrayal. In addition to the numbers you just saw, females are far more likely
to be sexualized in film than their male counterparts. Matter of fact, they’re about
three times as likely to be shown in sexually
revealing clothing, partially naked, and they’re far more likely to be thin. Now, sometimes, in animation,
females are so thin that their waist size approximates
the circumference of their upper arm. (Laughter) We like to say that these gals
have no room for a womb or any other internal organ. (Laughter) Now, all joking aside, theories suggest, research confirms, exposure to thin ideals
and objectifying content can lead to body dissatisfaction,
internalization of the thin ideal and self-objectification
among some female viewers. Obviously, what we see on-screen and what we see in the world, they do not match. They do not match! Matter of fact,
if we lived in the screen world, we would have a population
crisis on our hands. So, as soon as I recognized
these patterns, I wanted to find out why, and it turns out that there are
two drivers to inequality on-screen: content creator gender
and misperceptions of the audience. Let’s unpack them really quick. If you want to change
any of the patterns I just talked about, all you have to do
is hire female directors. Turns out, the female directors are associated with,
in terms of short films and indie films, more girls and women on-screen, more stories with women in the center, more stories with women
40 years of age or older on-screen, which I think is good news for this crowd. More underrepresented — (Laughter) Sorry. (Laughter) Sorry but not sorry. More underrepresented characters
in terms of race and ethnicity, and most importantly, more women working behind the camera in key production roles. Easy answer to the problems
that we just talked about. Or is it? It’s actually not. 800 films, 2007-2015, 886 directors. Only 4.1 percent are women. Only three are African-American or black, and only one woman was Asian. So why is it so difficult to have female directors if they’re part of the solution? Well, to answer this question, we conducted a study. We interviewed dozens of industry insiders and asked them about directors. Turns out, both male
and female executives, when they think director, they think male. They perceive the traits of leadership to be masculine in nature. So when they’re going to hire a director to command a crew, lead a ship, be a visionary or be General Patton, all the things that we’ve heard — their thoughts and ideations pull male. The perception of director or a leader is inconsistent
with the perception of a woman. The roles are incongruous, which is consistent with a lot of research
in the psychological arena. Second factor contributing
to inequality on-screen is misperceptions of the audience. I don’t need to tell this crowd: 50 percent of the people
that go to the box office and buy tickets are girls and women in this country. Right? But we’re not perceived to be a viable
or financially lucrative target audience. Further, there’s some misperceptions about whether females can open a film. Open a film means that if you
place a female at the center, it doesn’t have the return on investment that if you place a male
at the center of a story does. This misperception is actually costly. Right? Especially in the wake
of franchise successes like “The Hunger Games,” “Pitch Perfect” or that small little indie film,
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Our own economic analyses show
that gender of the lead character doesn’t play a role in economic success
in the United States. But what does? Production costs alone or in conjunction with how widely
a film is distributed in this country. It’s not the gender of the lead character. So at this point, we should
all be sufficiently depressed. No change in 50 years, few female directors
working behind the camera and the entertainment industry
does not trust us as an audience. Well, I told you
there would be a silver lining, and there is. There are actually
simple and tangible solutions to fixing this problem that involve content creators, executives and consumers like the individuals in this room. Let’s talk about a few of them. The first is what I call “just add five.” Did you know if we looked
at the top 100 films next year and simply added five female
speaking characters on-screen to each of those films, it would create a new norm. If we were to do this
for three contiguous years, we would be at gender parity for the first time
in over a half of a century. Now, this approach is advantageous
for a variety of reasons. One? It doesn’t take away jobs
for male actors. Heaven forbid. (Laughter) Two, it’s actually cost-effective.
It doesn’t cost that much. Three, it builds a pipeline for talent. And four, it humanizes
the production process. Why? Because it makes sure
that there’s women on set. Second solution is for A-list talent. A-listers, as we all know,
can make demands in their contracts, particularly the ones that work
on the biggest Hollywood films. What if those A-listers simply added an equity clause
or an inclusion rider into their contract? Now, what does that mean? Well, you probably don’t know but the typical feature film has about 40 to 45
speaking characters in it. I would argue that only 8 to 10
of those characters are actually relevant to the story. Except maybe “Avengers.” Right? A few more in “Avengers.” The remaining 30 or so roles, there’s no reason why those minor roles can’t match or reflect the demography of where the story is taking place. An equity rider by an A-lister
in their contract can stipulate that those roles reflect the world
in which we actually live. Now, there’s no reason why a network, a studio or a production company cannot adopt the same contractual language in their negotiation processes. Third solution: this would be for
the entertainment industry, Hollywood in particular, to adopt the Rooney Rule when it comes to hiring practices
around directors. Now, in the NFL,
the Rooney Rule stipulates that if a team wants to hire a coach
from outside the organization, what they have to do is interview
an underrepresented candidate. The exact same principle
can apply to Hollywood films. How? Well, on these top films, executives and agents can make sure that women and people of color
are not only on the consideration list, but they’re actually
interviewed for the job. Now, one might say, why is this important? Because it exposes or introduces
executives to female directors who otherwise fall prey
to exclusionary hiring practices. The fourth solution is for consumers like me and you. If we want to see more films
by, for and about women, we have to support them. It may mean going
to the independent theater chain instead of the multiplex. Or it might mean scrolling down
a little further online to find a film by a female director. Or it may be writing a check
and funding a film, particularly by a female director
from an underrepresented background. Right? We need to write, call and email companies that are making and distributing films, and we need to post
on our social media accounts when we want to see
inclusive representation, women on-screen, and most importantly,
women behind the camera. We need to make our voices heard
and our dollars count. Now, we actually have the ability
to change the world on this one. The US and its content, films in particular, have captured the imaginations
of audiences worldwide. Worldwide. So that means that the film industry
has unprecedented access to be able to distribute
stories about equality all around the world. Imagine what would happen if the film industry aligned its values with what it shows on-screen. It could foster inclusion and acceptance for girls and women, people of color, the LGBT community, individuals with disabilities, and so many more around the world. The only thing that the film industry
has to do is unleash its secret weapon, and that’s storytelling. Now, at the beginning of this talk, I said that films — that they can actually transport us, but I would like to argue
that films, they can transform us. None of us in this room have grown up or experienced
a storytelling landscape with fully realized female characters, none of us, because the numbers haven’t changed. What would happen
if the next generation of audiences grew up with a whole
different screen reality? What would happen? Well I’m here to tell you today that it’s not only possible
to change what we see on-screen but I am impatient for it to get here. So let’s agree to take action today to eradicate the epidemic of invisibility. And let’s agree to take action today to agree that US audiences
and global viewers demand and deserve more. And let’s agree today that the next generation
of viewers and audiences, that they deserve to see the stories we were never able to see. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “The data behind Hollywood’s sexism | Stacy Smith”

  1. Nonsense. Movies are creative works of art that are funded and financed by producers that evaluate it for profitability, PERIOD. They don't care if it stars a talking dog (literally) if they think it will make money and it 'tests will' with prospective audiences. That simple. There is no sexism. Its a business. This is a fishing trip down the circular river of circular logic.

  2. So you want 4% of the U.S population to appear in 100% of movies? That's the percentage of african american women in the U.S by the way

  3. YOU KNOW WHO IS NOT REPRESENTED IN HOLLYWOOD AND MOVIES, ME AN APACHE ATTACK HELICOPTER AND IT'S NOT FAIR EVEN BLACK HAWK HELICOPTER GET REPRESENTED MORE, THEY EVEN MADE A MOVIE ABOUT THEM.

  4. Who else downvoted without watching it? Thumb this up, it's time we stop this BS of finding problems where they don't exist. Sexism has been long dead, so has racism. It's not a big problem and the future generation will wipe out any remaining. You are in control of where you go in life, if something goes wrong blame yourself.

  5. I personally really enjoyed this TED talk, but am very surprised at the overall reaction in the comments section and the dislike to like ratio! I think that we not only need to spread the word about this issue, but create healthy discussion with our friends and community about gender parity in Hollywood in general.

  6. movies are art. they are not meant to be politically correct or all inclusive. you cant make them that way either. you cant tell people what they can or cannot artistically create. art is art.

  7. So what she wants is films to tick the boxes and promote ideology she supports.. like if you want to tell a story you shouldn't unless it ticks all her boxes. hmm it reminds me of something more sinister from the history books.

  8. I'd consider myself a feminist but I think it's important to recognise entertainment doesn't need to meet every demographic equally. In the UK we have this stupid thing where every image will have one of every race. This is not how things work…

    If you have a builder then yes, they can be a woman but a vast majority are male. It is not sexist to show two builders and have them both male.

  9. Well, what a surprise! A TED talk that mentions underrepresentation and women, and gets thousands of down votes. You know what could do with more female involvement? Viewing of, voting on, and commenting on YouTube videos.

  10. Not one mention of the writers who now have to write socially-responsible stories with 50% women, three of whom must be gay, two black and one handicapped.
    No recognition that many movies are about war, submarines, and things that didn't involve many women characters.

  11. I highly disagree with regulating art such as movies and films.

    The creation of art and movies should be free from any rules or parameters. Only in this way artists, directors and screenwriters can use their full creativity and present what they WANT to present, not what the society or government or whatever entity wants them to do. This is the freedom of art. Imagine someone sitting next to them telling them what they can and can't do when creating a movie. What a horrible thought. I think this is another example of how the new authoritarian left strives to achieve virtue by vicious measures.

    Only because females are underrepresented in the amount of things they say in movie, doesn't mean they have less important roles than the males, even if they appear in higher numbers!

    Lets take the war movie 'Saving private Ryan' for example. It is about history (second world war) in which obviously the huge majority of fighters were male. However, one very important role is the mother of private Ryan, because after she loses three of her for sons in the war, a squad is sent out to save her last son, Ryan, so she doesn't lose all their sons. Clearly, it has a more or less happy ending, because Ryan is saved and many soldiers died in the process, all with the goal to save that one last son of the mother.
    Now, do you see the difference between the importance of characters and the fact that they talk? I'm not even sure if she said a single word in the whole movie! Yet she was one of the main roles.

    Finally, I think its very important that topics like these and other rather negatively rated ted talks have a comment section that is not censored. Especially controversial talks like these HAVE to be debated in society, in order to reach agreement and solutions and preventing debates only makes it worse.

  12. Ted, for gods sakes. People have always watched and will always watch and visit TED Talks for intelligent, good and well made presentations/talks. We do not watch TED for narrow-minded Buzzfeed content. Please, do not turn into another overly-feminist channel like so many others do this time.

  13. I don't think her speech would constitute an "idea" worth sharing.
    Numbers don't have to match. It's creative content, you just can't dictate the way it goes.
    Art and rules don't generally mix well.
    Secondly, why is it that gender inequality tenets attack a "beauty notion" that happens to be enjoyable for most males? The beautiful is by definition rarer than the majority. So of course it won't portray "averages" well. Good looking people is what people enjoy watching. We don't shove "whatever" looking guys at w.r. activists. You just can't dictate another person's taste.
    If you are in the "whatever" looking people, I suggest you switch genres and check out documentaries.

  14. I don't want to see any movie from this woman, she's boring, pro dictatorship. She has no clue of entrepreneurship, art, distraction and market mecanism. Maybe people that are paying the movies want something out of the ordinary/average, and they get to choose. If the movie are what they are it's because there is a free market, go live in north korea if you want regulated art

  15. I appreciate that you didn't disabled the comment section. As far as I can tell this is a first on a topic such as this, but I feel tired of arguing the same myths over and over. So in short. I don't believe you have been honest with us and gender studies is never a good idea. Half right is still kinda wrong

  16. human beings are born with myriad different capacities. If they are free, they will not be equal….if they are equal, they are not free.

  17. i love how she makes a big deal about poc, but they were the least underrepresented of the categories she showed. hmmm

  18. This is not a quality intellectual talk. It's simply misleading. Shows how you can distort facts for your own political motives

  19. I have a question to all those people who decided to dislike this video. Do you genuinely dislike the content of this talk because you disagree with her statistically-backed findings, or are you simply insecure that this woman wants to rectify Hollywood's demonstrated sexism? Think twice before answering that to make sure it's not the latter.

    Because if your refutation to this talk is, "BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MEN BLAH BLAH", I think you suffer from a very deep-rooted insecurity. Do you know how I know? Because I used to think like like all you when I was a teenager and just ignorant. Want to know how I changed my perspective? I listened. LISTEN to what she's saying. This woman is obviously educated and knows what she's talking about.

    The fact of the matter is that you are not a woman. Women face a much different reality than what we men do. If you fail to acknowledge that, then YOU are part of the damn problem. And to be honest, IT IS OKAY if you don't know what it feels like to live as a woman on this earth. I don't. I don't know what it feels like to have my entire gender portrayed as sexualized objects since literally the inception of Hollywood, and I will never know what that feels like. But here is what I do know. Women, the other bloody half of OUR shared society, are hurting, upset, and want change. Listen to their grievances and hear their voices. Do you sincerely think that the women making such claims are irrational and foolish? NO. Just start listening before opening your damn mouths. It's not that difficult.

    And I have never commented on a YouTube video before. The only reason I am doing so is because this is a TedTalk, and my understanding was that the people who would watch such videos are proponents of science, innovation, and progress. I am appalled and disappointed that the same people who praise other TedTalks would talk about this one in such a disparaging manner. I would never have expected this sort of reaction from TedTalk viewers. This is 2017, people. Just listen. That's all it takes.

    "The first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one" – Many of the greatest leaders and freedom fighters of the 21st century.

  20. What are these films about??? She doesn't explain this AT ALL from what I could see and hear. I like her thinking to an extent, but I also think she's misleading… Also, does she understand how hard it would be to fit all these personalities into these "stories"?

  21. She started talking about that the Idea of a leader is most likely male but that is actually pretty logical.
    If you simply look at our human nature then you know that men and woman have allways devided roles. men hunted because they have more sports capebilities (we still make that difference in most sports today) and woman cared for the children (I guess because they have been closer to the child before it was born) and hunting requires a lot of leadership where caring doesn't.

    I don't claim to know everything but I do recocnise that there are differences between men and woman.

  22. Talking about Sexism her whole audience is female what she got something about men? Do this same talk in what want 50/50 equality, just try it.

  23. Nah, who cares? The film industry is an overly corporate cesspit taken over by marketing hacks anyway. Don't like the movies the way females are treated in movies, vote with your wallets. Been doing that for years because I find movies these days are a joke filled to the brim with special effects.

  24. so 26% of the films features one female disabled speaker, thats a huge overrepresentation and I cant remeber that in 2015 every fourth film feature a disabled female. The speaker wonders on the other hand why the number is so low

  25. I can't believe TED allowed this crap on here… lets create issues where these is none, to beat down men more and more… this is unbelievable.

  26. If women want equal everything, then they can have equal everything. Just make sure that there are equal numbers on women in the army, doing manual labour tasks and things that men historically do.

  27. as donald trump answered a woman who asked "will woman get paid as much as men", trumps answer was "if you can do as good of a job". which is soo true, woman and men are not the same, with not the same capabilities. the real reason women get paid less is because they can't do the jobs that really make our country have what it has. woman are okay as teacher for small kids, or working as some desk job, or making a sandwich. but not for truck driving, farming, researching, engineering, being a doctor, construction, ect. yeah therre is woman doing those jobs but it's a vast minority.

    that's why woman get paid less overall, it's not sexism, it's the fact woman just can't do as good of a job on the meaningful jobs. woman can only do the meaningless jobs, for the most part. woman are given the same opportunities and even our employers would prefer to hire female truckers, but they just don't come and last, the ones that do are a vast minority.

  28. Films got an impact on people. Movies they can relate to. That's why I don't like RomComs, they are unrealistic in a bad way. That might be because the Loveinterest is always perfect. As long you are uncapable to replicate riply you are doomed.

  29. Films are a free market. No one forces you to watch films, or pay for them. If you really care about this issue, then your issue is with human nature and not film directors and sexism.

  30. She wants quotas in movies. Take it from Indians and we say this with experience, when you have roles/jobs/opportunities reserved for a certain section of society in the hope of being more inclusive you do the exact opposite in reality.

  31. So what she´s saying basically is that creativity should be eliminated for the sake of diverse casting because there arent enough woman in movies?..

    Make your own movies, write your movies, script them, and choose your cast instead of telling Hollywood how sexist it is..
    Creativity beholds in the mind of the directors vision and the writer.

    This is simply complaining about something you could do yourself.

  32. So i want make a family movie. And mainly about young family. I have nice and neat dialog. But according to demands of this woman i need to have a black woman, asian woman, disabled woman, and LGBT female… yuck.

    Remember, i need to have only two actors. Male and Female, because we are doing a movie about relationships. So the only way is to make this woman to be a mixture of asian and black races, that got disabled in a middle of a film, because she was enough stupid to become an LGBT conservative in the past.

    So what i should do with my guy then? The woman like this will need more time to describe her, so we can forget about scenario that was written, and throw away the stuff that can help to dive into ourselves because of tolerance, equal rights in everything and social impatience. And there is no movie now, and now i understand why there is no good scenarios from Hollywood. Only books, where we can have neat scenario, with some sexism in the line.

    If you want sexism to be over, WORK IN EDUCATION and BRING PROPER ETICS to the world, crazy woman!

  33. this is not a stable solution, it's a balancing act. nor is it proper equality. i mean the requirement that the minor characters reflect the actually demographics of where it is set to take place is kinda stable. but adding 5 women every year, or purposely searching for movies with female directors or interviewing underrepresented groups, these are not auto-correcting solutions, these are solutions which might overcorrect or worse cause racism and sexism in their own right. you're suggesting people watch worse films just because the director was female, that's the definition of sexism. you're asking for someone to be given extra consideration just because of their race, that's the definition of racism. and sure maybe these are just to correct for racism and sexism already there, and that they'll cancel out. but im not sure, im not sure that white person passed up for that less qualified minority doesnt feel racism. im not sure that man passed up for a less qualified female director doesnt feel sexism. on the macro scale this may fix inequalities, but in individual's experiences it will create discrimination.

  34. what about a bugs life. or Finding Nemo Frozen Inside Out Ratatioullie Ariyeti  princess &the frog Brave

  35. This IS so important–the portrayal of women and girls in films/TV. Films/TV don't just "reflect" the culture–it generates it. Really destructive. People–particularly girls and boys (and adults) get influenced by movies, tv, video games, etc. The same applies for non-caucasians,, older people, etc.

  36. Why does it matter what gender/race/etc should be in a certain role? If an actor/actress is perfect for that role, why should the producer settle for a 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th option just to please this 'sexism'?

  37. Does anyone know if the numbers have changed the past two years? I feel like it has but that may be because I just looked into it more..

  38. There is definitely sexism in Hollywood, but her data seems to be promoting, not equality for the possibility of job acceptance, but tokenism.

  39. This video is spectacular and extremely important.
    I'm baffled at the comments and like ratio. This is not a controversial subject. It's not even presented in a controversial way. Like YES let's get more representation in the industry. Even if you don't care about the issue the result is more and better movies.

  40. My word!!!. How could this be happening?!? You bunch of disgusting pigs?!? Who in the world do you think you are. Stop it now! It will because you have ALL been exposed!!! Any of you that have been accused and don’t admit are

  41. Dame Judy Dench (M in Bond), Wonder Woman, Queen of Katwe (directed by Mira Nair about life of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan girl candidate victories at World Chess Olympiads), Dora (the explorer)…which other female roles in media can you think of that offer a positive female image? YES, let's see more!

  42. This person should see if a more balanced representation of women has increased in independent films in the past 50 years.

  43. So all these years she watched 100 films per year and came to this bs conclusion. Well she must love watching movies. 😁

  44. I'm very pleased you left this open again for discussion. Thank you. I didn't know what the "inclusion rider" was. And this is important!

  45. How can a movie in time, or set in a different country actually work? Harry Potter gets burned because the lack of diversity but Great Britten is 80% White, and it was made by an American film studio. Who's diversity should be followed England or America? Red Sparrow is set in Russia which in that part of Russia is 95% white…it would be disingenuous to force different races on screen when in actuality there shouldn't be any. Movie about military conflict too would be hard to be inclusive since it also isn't exactly the most gender diverse place.

  46. 4.2K dislikes to 1.2K says it all.

    This woman should be put in a mental institution. I really hope this infectious madness that has affected such a large section of the female population is cured soon. I really don't think I can bear to live in a world that tolerates this stupidity.

    Mathematically, socially, and morally, this is just so wrong, I can't believe that she was even allowed on the stage.

  47. There's no proof of sexist barriers that prevent women from entering the film industry, they just don't happen to be as prevalent as men. No-one's asking why there isn't more women in mining and infrastructure work, or why there isn't more men in teaching and childcare jobs. "There isn't enough of [x group] in [y workforce]" can be applied to any industry, and to chalk it up to sexism is downright ignorant and shallow-minded

  48. it's more of a genre issue than a gender issue.
    if you had focussed on female characters based on the movie genre I could take this almost seriously.

  49. Statistics – the primary weapon of choice for gender-studies, man-haters. She says we need to post our feelings on social media about this issue….um, doesn't the like/dislike ratio and the comments below speak volumes to her.

  50. Most of the discrimination is not by race or color, but by class.
    Most filmmakers, writer and actors belongs to the upper middle-class.
    They don’t represent us, the audience, whatever gender or skin color they have.

    Stacy L. Smith is a professor, so she is blind to the class discrimination of the movie industry that consist of people like her. Projecting their values on to us. To her own over-representation she is blind. As blind as only an ”intellectual” can be.

  51. She's dedicated her life to highlighting something that doesn't need fixing – rather her than me. Just totally killed any credibility through a lifetime of stupidity.

  52. Are you saying that we should rate the top 100 movies on “equality” rather than the quality of the movie? Cause that makes sense

  53. These "TED Talks" are just getting dumber and dumber. I can't take them serious anymore. Over those 100 movies, what were the genres? That's an important bit of information. The type of movie has alot to do with who is cast in the role..

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