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06 Feb 2013 - 11:4496968
The resergance of the Race and Cosplay debate
This article has started doing the rounds on FB and Twitter.
http://www.xojane.com/issues/mad-back-cosplayer-chaka-cumberbatch

It's a very interesting read. There are alot of good points made here about the internet generally being [insert expletive here] about black cosplayers doing anything that isn't a black character (or a robot suit).

I do have to say what has race actually got to do with the quality of a costume?


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06 Feb 2013 - 12:2196971
I have no problem with people cosplaying as a character of a different ethnicity (as long as they don't do blackface or something stupid like that).

Non-Japanese and non-caucasians are poorly represented in anime and manga (and Western media in general), so when people start dictating which characters you can dress up as, they start sounding like that "Proud Asian" twonk who spams cosplay sites.

I sort of understand grumbles about white cosplayers dressing as black characters, as we have enough characters to choose from already. But that really stems from the first mindset taking root in society.


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06 Feb 2013 - 12:3896977
such a sad story.

of course, someone with black skin playing a white character is less likely to look 'as accurate' as a white person. but that should be no reason to deter anybody let alone fucking criticize them.

nor should it make them feel they should have to cosplay a character from a very limited list of black people.

as long as the quality of the costume, hair make-up etc is of a good standard...there should be no place for any criticism!


06 Feb 2013 - 13:1196978
It's such a shame she's getting all this negatively when her costumes are amazing. I don't see why a black cosplayer cosplaying a white character is a big deal when some many white cosplayers cosplay asian characters. Quality of the costume and love of the character is far more important than race. However the most important thing is having fun.


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06 Feb 2013 - 19:0796992
She is a gorgeous cosplayer. I love her fem!Cap photo there.

And my opinion echoes pretty much what has already been said here. You can cosplay whatever character you want. Skin tone/body type/gender/etc should not be a restriction. Put the best job you possibly can into the costume and bringing your chosen character to life - that's where the fun is. There are some lovely examples out there. I see she's linked Cosplaying While Black in her article, and there's also a Cross-Race Cosplay Tumblr blog here: http://cross-race-cosplay.tumblr.com/

It's a horrible shame that some douches on the internet made her friend feel that they had to restrict themselves in character choices.


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07 Feb 2013 - 02:0197014
Quote springinstep:
there's also a Cross-Race Cosplay Tumblr blog here: http://cross-race-cosplay.tumblr.com/


The Han Solo currently on the front page looks awesome. He's got the right smirk

And the young muslim woman wearing a teal headscarf to cosplay as Hatsune Miku is inspired.


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07 Feb 2013 - 13:2897024
That crossrace tumblr blog is really interesting...

Until the post where it was like - don't go out and get a tan to be more like a dark skinned character... Wait people can't change their skin naturally... to their natural sun baked skin tone... Honestly that's just taking the mickey.

Positive discrimination, also unfortunate.

The black cosplayer mentioned in the OP is fantastic though, I've seen her pictures doing the rounds for a couple of years.

Also - agreed, the headscarfed Miku is such an original idea.


08 Feb 2013 - 21:5497096
I was aware of racisim in the Cosplay community but after reading some of the posts on that tumblr page and reading that girls blog, it has really opened my eyes to how malicious people can be, and the fact that I was almost completely oblivious to the fact that it is happeneing alot more than I expected.

But I really do support the saying, 'If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all'
One of the posts on the Tumblr page was about a mixed-race girl who cosplayed as Kairi, and had put alot of effort into her first ever cosplay, she went to a convention and a girl wanted to take a picture of her Kairi Cosplay but then the girl over heard this other girls friend saying “Eww no, Kairi is not brown, that tan is gross. And since when was kairi fat anyway?” - That is heartbreaking to hear! I really feel for that girl, and if I were in her shoes, I know for a fact my confidence would have been well and truly crushed! (In my opinion her Cosplay was lovely, and luckily that one nasty comment didn't deter her from continuing to cosplay)
Its not fair, They can do just as good a job at cosplaying as any other person if not better! (As already said in a comment above, the Female Captain America cosplay in the Blog is really great, better than many I have seen before!)

I don't want this turning into a rant, so I will try not to go on too much (This kind of subject really rustles my jimmies!)

Quote silver-vixi:

Until the post where it was like - don't go out and get a tan to be more like a dark skinned character... Wait people can't change their skin naturally... to their natural sun baked skin tone... Honestly that's just taking the mickey.



Its silly to stop people from changing their skintone to be more accurate to the Cosplay, yeah body paint might be a little too extreme (Unless you need to be Blue or something ) but a natural tan is perfectly fine in my opinion, I plan on getting a tan for one of my cosplays (Mainly because I am as pale as paper!) But I tan nicely in the summer which will be a great time to cosplay as this character.

But yeah, Race or anything for that matter should not be an issue in cosplay... in fact, it shoulden't be an issue in the real world full stop.


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Last edited by Karakulz (08 Feb 2013 - 22:10)
08 Feb 2013 - 22:2597098
Ha, lolwut.


09 Feb 2013 - 10:2097103
Not really sure how to see that blog, actually. Whilst they are spreading awareness, some of their posters/admins seem to be very set that racism in cosplay is only limited to PoC. At least, the people holding the panel don't seem to realise that you Whites get it too.


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Ayacon Plans

Last edited by NixieThePixie (09 Feb 2013 - 12:48)
10 Feb 2013 - 02:4897130
Quote NixieThePixie:
Not really sure how to see that blog, actually. Whilst they are spreading awareness, some of their posters/admins seem to be very set that racism in cosplay is only limited to PoC. At least, the people holding the panel don't seem to realise that you Whites get it too.


Do you mean in terms of "asian cosplayers are better than western cosplayers"? That's an idea that so far I've only witnessed in the dregs of the internet and never personally experienced, but it's awful if people have experienced that at conventions and whatnot.

The thing about altering skin colour I generally agree with. I mean, of course, if you decide to go and sun yourself darker, it's not like you're faking anything—as it's a colour you're achieving naturally, it's not like you're in blackface. I believe the post was more addressing the mentality than the practice, that white cosplayers, who already have a monopoly on "accurate" characters AND don't face as much racist jerk backlash for cosplaying characters from outside that monopoly, should perhaps think about that before they decide that skin colour matters enough to be worth altering.


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10 Feb 2013 - 14:3697136
Jesus Christ, she's beautiful!

But when it comes to cosplay, my personal critique is based on effort.

Don't care what colour you are, what weight you are, how much of a budget you could afford - if it's clear to all you did the best you could with what resources you had, you will get a thumbs up from me.

At my first con, at the Masquerade a couple cosplayed Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask, and Sailor Moon was AMAZING.
She was also black. Instead of wearing a blonde wig, she wore a black one, perfectly styled with the hair odangos, curled fringe - it was essentially, Sailor Moon if she had African heritage, Racebending in essence.

And she was AMAZING, her makeup, costume construction - She set a standard that I always try to meet when cosplaying.

But I've also seen cosplayers go to great lengths to try and emulate the race of their chosen character - I've seen a white FF7 Barret in blackface, I've been told of Asian cosplayers use theatrical eye-tape and makeup to widen their eyes, and likewise non-Asian cosplayers use eye-tape to change their eye shape.

What are your oppinions of this?
Personally I find blackface to be more than a little insensitive considering the history of blackface being offensive stereotyped caricatures.
It will never look tasteful, despite ones best intentions.

What do you think?


10 Feb 2013 - 14:3797137
I feel that a lot of the time I get people telling ME what I should find offensive.

Well.. No. No-one really knows what I personally find offensive, no-one could possibly know what it's like to be me. A brief insight included a heavy warping of values from a far eastern upbringing melded with a british one.

I never say anything anyway on the matter because it's fuckin' ridiculous.

What I will say is that somewhere down the line you'll have white folk hating on other white folk for not being white enough to play an albino. Hell, I'm still waiting on hate for not being the correct colour of brown for some cosplays, to which I'd kindly ask the person taking offense to carefully insert a cactus into their coccyx.

Unwarranted self importance, as if taking offense gives someone special privileges. Unless the cosplayer is actively mocking race you don't have a leg to stand on. If they are simply crap at portraying race you would very carefully ask them to re-assess their outfit.


10 Feb 2013 - 15:4197140
Quote Candystriped:

What are your oppinions of this?
Personally I find blackface to be more than a little insensitive considering the history of blackface being offensive stereotyped caricatures.
It will never look tasteful, despite ones best intentions.

What do you think?


My mum doesn't understand why it's so offensive. You're not doing it to insult someone, but instead replicate another race.

And it wasn't for stereotyped caricatures either - blackface was because Black people weren't allowed to play lead roles in films, it had to be played by Whites. Women weren't blackfaced because women didn't have lead roles either.

I think people will find something offensive as long as it's suppose to be offensive. Not that long ago, "gay" was an offensive term, after all.

You get people who lighten their skin; is that racist? They get left alone. Ganguro - are they racist? They're essentially what a Japanese girl sees a Western girl as. Isn't that not a caricature?

Hey, lets take it further. I plan to cosplay a stereotypical Frenchman. Isn't that racist of me? If we're gonna limit people on skin tone, might as well do it on gender, sexuality and nationality. Hell, no-one should cosplay, cause it's imitation of another person or nation.

At the end of the day, that's essentially the same amount of intended offence as someone who's "blackfacing" or "whitefacing" for a cosplay. If that's offensive, then it all is.

There is a new film coming out based on a book (I can't remember the name unfortunately), about people being reborn into the next life, etc. In the film, they've shown this by having the same actors for that "character" throughout the changes. Which means a White actor will play a Black character and a Black character will play as a White character at certain points. Surely, that film should be banned as it's got blackfacing in it, which is racist by all intensive purposes, purely because, in the past, it was used to caricature Black people.


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Ayacon Plans
10 Feb 2013 - 16:2097141
Quote NixieThePixie:
Quote Candystriped:

What are your oppinions of this?
Personally I find blackface to be more than a little insensitive considering the history of blackface being offensive stereotyped caricatures.
It will never look tasteful, despite ones best intentions.

What do you think?


My mum doesn't understand why it's so offensive. You're not doing it to insult someone, but instead replicate another race.

And it wasn't for stereotyped caricatures either - blackface was because Black people weren't allowed to play lead roles in films, it had to be played by Whites. Women weren't blackfaced because women didn't have lead roles either.

I think people will find something offensive as long as it's suppose to be offensive. Not that long ago, "gay" was an offensive term, after all.

You get people who lighten their skin; is that racist? They get left alone. Ganguro - are they racist? They're essentially what a Japanese girl sees a Western girl as. Isn't that not a caricature?

Hey, lets take it further. I plan to cosplay a stereotypical Frenchman. Isn't that racist of me? If we're gonna limit people on skin tone, might as well do it on gender, sexuality and nationality. Hell, no-one should cosplay, cause it's imitation of another person or nation.

At the end of the day, that's essentially the same amount of intended offence as someone who's "blackfacing" or "whitefacing" for a cosplay. If that's offensive, then it all is.

There is a new film coming out based on a book (I can't remember the name unfortunately), about people being reborn into the next life, etc. In the film, they've shown this by having the same actors for that "character" throughout the changes. Which means a White actor will play a Black character and a Black character will play as a White character at certain points. Surely, that film should be banned as it's got blackfacing in it, which is racist by all intensive purposes, purely because, in the past, it was used to caricature Black people.


Black face for cosplay bothers me a lot because of the connotations it has. Even it it wasn't intended to offend, those characters were caricatures and it is reminiscant of a time when black people were treated as an underclass. This doesn't mean I think white people shouldn't cosplay characters who aren't white. I don't mind say tanning to alter your skintone either because it isn't something that is reminiscant of what happened historically. I think where the playing a stereotypical frenchman differs is we're talking about an ethnic group that was historically oppressed.

Skin lightening creams do make me uncomfortable too. I've seen people remark that a lot of places that they are used in are former bristish colonies and the reason paler skin is so prized links back to some pretty unpleasant history. Skin bleaching can be also pretty dangerous. I don't think its racist, at least not against white people, but it is something that is controversial.


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12 Feb 2013 - 01:4797209
Quote NixieThePixie:
Quote Candystriped:

What are your oppinions of this?
Personally I find blackface to be more than a little insensitive considering the history of blackface being offensive stereotyped caricatures.
It will never look tasteful, despite ones best intentions.

What do you think?


My mum doesn't understand why it's so offensive. You're not doing it to insult someone, but instead replicate another race.

And it wasn't for stereotyped caricatures either - blackface was because Black people weren't allowed to play lead roles in films, it had to be played by Whites. Women weren't blackfaced because women didn't have lead roles either.

I think people will find something offensive as long as it's suppose to be offensive. Not that long ago, "gay" was an offensive term, after all.

You get people who lighten their skin; is that racist? They get left alone. Ganguro - are they racist? They're essentially what a Japanese girl sees a Western girl as. Isn't that not a caricature?

Hey, lets take it further. I plan to cosplay a stereotypical Frenchman. Isn't that racist of me? If we're gonna limit people on skin tone, might as well do it on gender, sexuality and nationality. Hell, no-one should cosplay, cause it's imitation of another person or nation.

At the end of the day, that's essentially the same amount of intended offence as someone who's "blackfacing" or "whitefacing" for a cosplay. If that's offensive, then it all is.

There is a new film coming out based on a book (I can't remember the name unfortunately), about people being reborn into the next life, etc. In the film, they've shown this by having the same actors for that "character" throughout the changes. Which means a White actor will play a Black character and a Black character will play as a White character at certain points. Surely, that film should be banned as it's got blackfacing in it, which is racist by all intensive purposes, purely because, in the past, it was used to caricature Black people.


There's a good quote in this short article which came out around Halloween last year, regarding that year's selection of individuals who decided to go as "rappers" to costume parties. (http://jezebel.com/5957278/if-youre-confused-about-whether-or-not-to-wear-blackface-just-err-on-the-side-of-not)

"I get that you might not understand why blackface is offensive. But can’t you just trust black people as a whole when they tell you that it is?"

Essentially, there's a great deal of history and context detailing why blackface is offensive. 'Imitation is the highest form of flattery' does not apply here.

Skin lightening on the other hand, while having some quite sad motivations as to why it takes place, is not the same. It's an attempt to lighten one's skin 'naturally' (take that adjective with the biggest pinch of salt ever as some of those chemicals are supposedly pretty dangerous and not-at-all natural). It's in the same camp as cosmetic surgery, like getting a nose job to make you look different to how you're genetically supposed to, albeit with more worrying social motives.

Dressing up as a stereotypical Frenchman is potentially offensive I guess, I'm not quite sure how that stereotype is viewed in France. It might be genuinely offensive, or it might be like how we'd react if someone dressed up as an "Englishman" by wearing Victorian dress and wielding a teacup and scones. While ridiculous, the idea is just not that offensive, and that's because we're not a minority, and it hasn't been used to seriously persecute us. This is why the movie 'White Chicks' was ok (and also terrible but that's not the point). A minority poking fun at the majority is fairly acceptable. A majority poking fun at a minority they have historically persecuted is much more likely to be construed as offensive. Because minorities HAVE been persecuted, and the stereotypes surrounding them have been used as tools for that, be it through blackface, or by declaring that you're dressing up as a 'lesbian' and doing so by having short hair and wearing butch men's clothes.

The film you mentioned sounds like an interesting case though. Obviously in the case of the book it's not an issue as there aren't actual actors involved, but for the film... hmm. It sounds like it'll be hard to avoid being tacky and/or insensitive. If it does use blackface, then yes, there's a chance it'll be banned, or face a lot of resistance.

Back in a cosplay sense: let's face it. Using body paint to replicate a realistic, real skin colour (as averse to say, painting yourself red or blue, which is not intended to replicate a real skin colour) is never going to look that convincing. And like CandyStriped said, it's never going to be tasteful. Ever. Instead, the cosplay community should focus on acceptance, and removing the relevance of race to a costume, so that any cosplayer can make any costume they wish, without wanting to resort to tacky and offensive makeup techniques in the name of accuracy.

TL;DR It's just not worth it.


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Last edited by HystericalDame (12 Feb 2013 - 01:52)
12 Feb 2013 - 10:1897210
To be fair there might be other problems with the movie "white chicks", which might make it not the best example (if I'm right in thinking what the premise is), but that's something of an aside to this conversation.


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12 Feb 2013 - 10:2797211
The movie mentioned is Cloud Atlas. Which has white people reborn as Korean, white people reborn black, black reborn white, asians reborn white etc...

I haven't seen it yet, but from what I've heard, it is fantastic and really shows that race doesn't matter.

On the other hand, there were people who were upset at it. Mostly people who had no idea what they were talking about as they hadn't seen the film, only seen actors playing different races.


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12 Feb 2013 - 10:5497212
IDK about fake tanning - it's essentially the same as black-facing. You're changing your skin colour to that of another race.

And sorry, either black-facing is okay or white-facing isn't - you can't have yes for something and no for something else which is the same thing. It may not have the historical context, but it's the same thing.

And about historical context - should women get upset at men dressed as women? We were mistreated for centuries, after all, so, y'know, that must be a bad thing to do.

SJbonner has found the film name, I couldn't recall it at all.

Here's Hugo Weaving

Tropic Thunder had black facing in it - Robert Downey Jr was playing an Australian playing a Black man (it's so confusing). The Dictator also has black-facing. It's acceptable in satire, but not serious films? Why? Surely, it's better to not be stereotypical when black-facing?

"Back in a cosplay sense: let's face it. Using body paint to replicate a realistic, real skin colour (as averse to say, painting yourself red or blue, which is not intended to replicate a real skin colour) is never going to look that convincing."
Hugo Weaving looks pretty convincing, so if you use proper make-up techniques and prosthetics, then you can do a pretty decent "race swap".

Now, I imagine I sound like a horrible person who's just sounding off, or whatever (let it be known that I have no plans on black-facing at at), but it's something that only offensive because of something that happened years ago. If you continuously get caught up with the past then how can you move forward?

If you're differentiating people on what they can do because of skin tone, then it's exactly the same as it was before, but flipped.


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Last edited by NixieThePixie (12 Feb 2013 - 10:55) Reason: Picture was MAHOUSIVE
12 Feb 2013 - 14:2197215
Quote NixieThePixie:
And sorry, either black-facing is okay or white-facing isn't - you can't have yes for something and no for something else which is the same thing. It may not have the historical context, but it's the same thing.


White-facing isn't OK, but it gets less attention because of the context. In the same way that comedians making fun of middle-class white Western men don't get called out because while it is technically racist, there's not the history of discrimination.

Quote NixieThePixie:
Tropic Thunder had black facing in it - Robert Downey Jr was playing an Australian playing a Black man (it's so confusing). The Dictator also has black-facing. It's acceptable in satire, but not serious films? Why? Surely, it's better to not be stereotypical when black-facing?


Satire gets a pass because it's supposed to be highlighting these issues. I would also expect to see black-face in a historical documentary about the Minstrel Show or Al Jolson.


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12 Feb 2013 - 14:3097216
And also for note. Cloud Atlas is not banned or being attacked as much as people expected. It's being critically acclaimed. Why? Because the races are never highlighted as an issue.

Black or White facing is not acceptable. Fake tanning would be IMO.

There ARE double standards. I'd love to cosplay Barret from FFVII but feel I shouldn't. I think it would look silly to be a white Barret but at the same time, I wouldn't want to change my skin colour to that extreme.

That's not to say that white people shouldn't be allowed to cosplay black characters or vice-versa. It's just that I personally wouldn't.

I have, however, tanned myself to be Ganondorf, who comes from the dessert and is therefore much darker in skin than I am in sunless England LOL


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CosplayIsland Staff Member


12 Feb 2013 - 15:3497217
Quote sjbonnar:
I have, however, tanned myself to be Ganondorf, who comes from the dessert and is therefore much darker in skin than I am in sunless England LOL


When I first played OoT I thought he was green. I didn't realise he was suppose to have tanned/darker skin.

Quote PandoraCaitiff:
Satire gets a pass because it's supposed to be highlighting these issues. I would also expect to see black-face in a historical documentary about the Minstrel Show or Al Jolson.


I get that (I believe it's even commented on in Tropic Thunder), yet the majority of people will just go "Oh, it's funny to dress up as a stereotypical Black guy and black-face". It's the same thing as Dames in Pantos, arguably.

What I find funny is that most people who have an issue with black-facing in Tropic Thunder etc (and with Cloud Atlas) are people who haven't seen it or don't know anything about it. As soon as they do, they don't find it nearly as offensive. Surely, it's offensive period or not at all?


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Ayacon Plans
12 Feb 2013 - 15:5497219
If it's satire then often what its making fun of is racism, whilst historically blackfacing was ridiculing black people. That's where I think the issue lies. Fake tan doesn't have the same connotations to me because it doesn't bear the same resemblance to blackface as going full on with face paints would be. I think white face probably would make me uncomfortable too but maybe not for the same reasons.

With crossplay I'm not a big fan of those male to females that are done deliberately for shock value but I don't have an issue with those done tastefully. I'm not sure if thats just because of sexism though, I'd have the think through my feelings on that a bit more.


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12 Feb 2013 - 16:0297220
Quote NixieThePixie:
What I find funny is that most people who have an issue with black-facing in Tropic Thunder etc (and with Cloud Atlas) are people who haven't seen it or don't know anything about it. As soon as they do, they don't find it nearly as offensive. Surely, it's offensive period or not at all?


Context matters a lot. So does intent. BUT the problem with some cosplayers on Tumblr and Facebook, is that they don't realise that in a public place you don't have control over how a person will perceive you. You might not intend to cause offence, but there will be hundreds of people who see you, that won't be able to hear your explanation of why you are a mud golem, or drow elf and not actually a racist doing blackface to offend.

EDIT: Yes I realise this goes against my usual stand of "intent doesn't matter", but that's because I've normally not got the time (or space) to explain that intent only matters where it can be communicated effectively. Its easier to go with a clear blanket-statement half-truth, than a complicated, nuanced explanation


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Last edited by PandoraCaitiff (12 Feb 2013 - 16:05)
12 Feb 2013 - 16:0397221
This is all so hypothetical that it's making me want to hold my breathe until I feel dizzy and go for a wander.

So here's two questions for you mufflewumps!

One will actually happen, the other won't. What will and won't is irrelevant since I couldn't give three flying shits what anyone objects to what I do anyway.

POSSIBLE REAL SITUATION #1
For the past few years I have been very careful to avoid the sun and take care of my skin. As a result my skin tone is lighter than most asains however I plan to continue and go as pasty as I very well can. My natural colour isn't actually "brown". I was born very pale and the rest of the colour would come from the sun.
So without the aid of cosmetics I will gradually increase or maintain the lightness of my skin tone and play to to my strengths in cosplay. IS THIS WRONG?


POSSIBLE REAL SITUATION #2
I am not as dark as I could be, so I plan on getting into the sun and increasing my tan to use to my advantage in cosplay. I may even use the aid of cosmetics such as tanning lotion. IS THIS WRONG?


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