Different Expectations for Different Universes: Why I’m Comfortable Skipping Solo

Let me start off by saying this is not a persuasive essay; it’s an explanatory one.  I’m not trying to convince anyone to skip Solo: A Star Wars Story nor do I think they should if they want to see it.  I hope everyone who wants to see it, does.  And I hope they enjoy themselves!  I’ve talked to a few close friends who saw it and thought it was great.  I’m happy for them.  I don’t want the movie to do poorly or for people to be disappointed.  I just can’t see myself seeing it (at least not yet).  I wasn’t even going to write about this because I didn’t want to seem like I was being contrary just for the sake of it nor that I was trying to trash the film.  But people keep asking me if/when I’m seeing Solo.  I’ve discussed it in Facebook posts, messages and texts, emails, and more than a few times in person with family, friends, and students.  So I just decided to write about it.

Here it is – I’m not going to see Solo: A Star Wars Story and I’m okay with that.

Skipping Solo 9

Photo Credit – Lucasfilm

I will admit, it’s a very weird feeling to know a new Star Wars movie is out there and I’m not experiencing it.  Kalie and I went to see Deadpool 2 (again) the night Solo came out.  I was pleased with our choice…but it was still a foreign feeling to see lines – lines for a Star Wars movie I might add – and not be in them.  I’ve never missed the opening night for a Star Wars movie since the Special Edition re-releases and opening nights in general are something I love to be a part of.  Not being there is still something I’m trying to sort out.  This piece may be as much an attempt to fully explore my own thoughts and feelings on the matter as to explain them to others.  But I want to underscore I am not trying to trash this movie.  I know there’s a lot of that going on online.  I don’t want to contribute to it nor do I believe it’s warranted.  Just because a Star Wars movie doesn’t interest me doesn’t mean it’s not a good film.

So then…why doesn’t Solo interest me?

Well, I was never excited at the idea of a Han Solo prequel to begin with.  I think he’s perfect in the Original Trilogy.  I’ve never felt he needed “more.”  Despite my deep love of the Expanded Universe, it took me decades to finally read the six novels we have about him set before A New Hope in the EU.  Even as a kid, I felt Han’s story was solid.  I didn’t need to know what happened “before” (unlike Obi-Wan and Anakin whose expansion in the Prequels felt essential).  I was given those novels as gifts and I was legitimately uncomfortable at the thought of reading them.  Take a second to soak in this image of overthinking – little thirteen-year-old me, all angsty about reading novels I got as a present because it felt narratively superfluous.  But they for real stressed me out!  I couldn’t read them!

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You caused me SO MUCH ANGST. / Photo Credit – Bantam Spectra

Now, I’m not saying I’ll never watch it.  The fact that I eventually read and really enjoyed those novels suggests I may eventually watch and really like this film too.  It’s just – if I’m being honest – Disney’s given me serious Star Wars fatigue. It’s all coming so fast and I’ve yet to truly love anything the Disney Canon’s done (with the exception of the Rogue One film/Catalyst novel combo).  I’ve written of how it took me over a year to come to the point where I can enjoy The Force Awakens.  And when I saw The Last Jedi I had to frame it as a folktale instead of myth in my mind in order to appreciate it.  I realized I keep having to find ways to enjoy what I’m seeing.  The instant love and awe I always felt with George Lucas’s work rarely hits me in the new canon.  I’m tired from trying to figure out how to love these movies.  Is it another issue of overthinking?  Perhaps.  But it’s who I am with regard to Star Wars.

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If only I could be as chill as Han Solo himself… / Photo Credit – A New Hope

Part of it, I think, is the speed with which I’m getting all these new films.  Solo: A Star Wars Story marks the fourth Star Wars movie Disney’s released.  They released four movies from December 2015 to May of 2018.  It took George Lucas from May of 1977 until May of 1999 to do the same.  I guess I like more time and more thought put into my Star Wars movies with more space in between them to soak it all in.  I grant, in order to not appear hypocritical, this is not something I expect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  But, as the title of this piece suggests, I’ve different expectations for different universes.  The MCU has dozens of corners to their universe and hundreds of characters to explore.  I grant this can be the case with Star Wars…but it’s never been how I approach Star Wars nor, I’m learning, how I want to approach Star Wars (although I will say the pace of Marvel’s releases is problematic as well – I hadn’t even begun to soak in all Black Panther was before Infinity War hit; I’d like more time to appreciate what I have there too).  Again, I acknowledge this is a me issue.  I’m not saying Disney is wrong in how they are producing Star Wars content, nor that people shouldn’t engage with all of it if they want to.  It’s just that I’m struggling with it personally.

The other part of it, certainly, is the Disney Canon hasn’t given me anything with the intentional theology and mythology Lucas always delivered.  I’m really struggling to get around this.  I tried, in my post on The Last Jedi, to approach it as folktale instead of mythology.  But I’m still having trouble.  Star Wars that isn’t intentionally theological and mythic is a larger problem for me than I would like it to be.  I don’t know if I can change this part of myself…but I’m not sure I would want to anyway.

Hannah, my Star Wars & Contemporary Myth co-teacher, captured my feelings perfectly:

As I discussed in my piece on The Last Jedi, George Lucas read over fifty books on world religions as well as delving into Joseph Campbell’s work on comparative mythology[1] before he wrote Star Wars to make his story authentically function as a modern myth.[2]  Even though it was always aimed at children, he wanted to tell an ancient story in a new way.[3]  Lucas introduced the Force to get kids thinking about what the Divine could be[4] and he intentionally modelled Star Wars on what prominent theologian Marcus Borg calls, “one of humankind’s most widespread archetypal stories: the ancient cosmic combat myth.”[5]  Borg continues, “The cosmic combat myth appears in many cultures, ancient and modern, and it takes many forms.  The archetypal plot is a story of cosmic conflict between good and evil.  In the ancient world, the conflict was between a god (or gods) of light, order and life against an evil power of darkness, disorder, and death.”[6]  Borg makes the connection to Lucas’s work directly himself, writing:

In our own time, this ancient myth is the central plot element of the Star Wars movies; the battle between good and evil symbolized in the conflict between Jedi knights wielding light-sabers against an empire of darkness whose most vivid representative is Lord Darth Vader, commander of the ‘Death Star.’  The popularity of the Star Wars saga is due not simply to the stunning special effects, but also to the re-presentation of this ancient story.  The series taps into something deep within human memory and consciousness: the awareness of conflict between good and evil and the yearning that good will triumph.[7]

Skipping Solo 12

Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca, and Han Solo – three of the ones responsible for helping good triumph in Lucas’s version of the cosmic combat myth. / Photo Credit – Return Of The Jedi

All this is to say, the mythology/theology has always been a part Lucas’s Star Wars and without it…I just can’t have the same relationship. Again, so as not to seem hypocritical, the absence of this is something I accept within the MCU.  But Lucas set out very intentionally to create modern mythology.  Stan Lee and Jack Kirby didn’t.  Comics and comic book characters quickly took on mythic roles in our culture.  They embraced social issues sooner rather than later and progressive messages have always been a part of them.  But an intentional theological/mythological message wasn’t integral to their inception.  So if an MCU movie’s “just fun,” that’s fine and I enjoy it.  If it goes deeper and has something more to say, I adore it all the more.  But if Star Wars is “just fun,” for me it’s forsaken what it was always intended to be.  As such, it doesn’t mean the same to me.  While the Disney Canon movies have all been fun and exciting, they haven’t delivered the intentional mythology/theology I look for in Star Wars.

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I am sure you are a ton of fun…but I don’t feel like you’re the right movie for me.  / Photo Credit – Solo: A Star Wars Story

If I’ve yet to find something that’s essential for me in my Star Wars stories in the Disney Canon films, I can’t imagine how going to see a movie I wasn’t especially excited about to begin with (one which I doubt will have this intentional theology and mythology in it) will help me.  I think it will just frustrate me.  Why would I do that to myself?  Instead of going and feeling angsty again, I’m sitting this one out (at least for now).

As counter-intuitive as it feels to skip an opening night and a new Star Wars movie, I felt a wave of very real relief wash over me when I decided I wasn’t going to see Solo, so I knew it was the right call (I know, first world problems).  It’s just not the right movie for me, at least not now.  Maybe, like those Han Solo novels in the EU, I’ll see it eventually and be able to appreciate it for the fun it is and not what I need it to be.  But I’m not there yet.

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If I went, I see myself getting ornery and wanting to argue about it the whole time.  No one wants that. / Photo Credit – The Empire Strikes Back

I want to reiterate once more what I said at the beginning of this post.  It’s not my goal to convince anyone else not to see Solo.  If you want to see it, I hope you do and I hope you love it!  I don’t think my perspective on this film is in any way the “right” one.  But it is very personal and what’s right for me.  I also want to be clear that I realize I’m a dying breed here.  I’m okay with this too.  With new content coming all the time and new fans coming into this saga every year, my Lucas-centric, intentional mythology approach to Star Wars will increasingly become a thing of the past (outside of the students who take the Star Wars class with Hannah and I 🙂 ).  When the Prequels came out, a lot of “adult fans” were frustrated by them.  Now I’ve hit that age, wrestling with the Star Wars movies that are coming out not feeling “right” to me.  But just as I grew up at a time where the Expanded Universe novels and the Prequels were always an essential part of my Star Wars experience (The Phantom Menace coming out when I was in tenth grade), so too are fans entering this saga with The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi forming the foundation of their love of Star Wars.  There’s the potential some new fans are meeting Han, Chewie, and Lando for the first time in Solo this weekend.  And, depending on how it does, there’s the chance Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotamo and Donald Glover will play Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian in more films than Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew, and Billy Dee Williams have.

This FREAKS ME OUT.  But it’s the future.  Skipping Solo: A Star Wars Story may be the right move for me, but it isn’t for many existing fans of the Star Wars Saga and it certainly won’t be for new ones.  I’ve made my peace with this, even if I can’t quite figure out how to make my peace with Solo and this new age of Star Wars.

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Look out…a new era is dawning. / Photo Credit – Solo: A Star Wars Story

In the mood for more Han Solo?  Well, who isn’t?

For more on why Han Solo is so perfect in the Original Trilogy, check out Jeff’s post “The Audacity of Solo” here.

For a look at the EU Han Solo novels I mentioned above, as well as a bit of speculation as to how they may shape the new film, check out Mei-Mei’s post “Hints of Han’s EU Past in Solo: A Star Wars Story?” here.

 

________________________________________________________________

[1] Laurent Bouzereau, Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, (New York: Ballantine, 1997), 35.

[2] Bill Moyers and George Lucas, “Of Myth and Men: A conversation between Bill Moyers and George Lucas on the meaning of the Force and the true theology of Star Wars,” Time, April 26, 1999, 90.

[3] Ibid., 93.

[4] Ibid., 92.

[5] Marcus Borg, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but Not Literally.  (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), 281.

[6] Ibid., 282.

[7] Ibid., 282-3.

14 thoughts on “Different Expectations for Different Universes: Why I’m Comfortable Skipping Solo

  1. I really liked it. For the most part. It definitely didn’t have any deeper stuff to it, but it reminded me of one of the short stories of Star Wars in the EU. I loved those. Like, bite sized Star Wars. Weird to say because it’s a full-length movie, but that’s how I felt.

    There were great planets and characters that I felt for (unlike RO, which I felt moved too fast and tried to be more than it should have been). It could also be because I was very anti-Solo for a very, very long time. And then I saw the first trailer and thought, “hmmm…that looks fun”. I let go of expectations, went in, and had a very fun time.

    What has worked for me is separating the Trilogy/Saga/Skywalker movies from the Story movies. I think that’s why I wrestle with TLJ so much, because I don’t think it fits in with the Trilogy movies. But the Story movies are in a different section in my head now – the short stories collection. They aren’t the meat, they’re the appetizers. I didn’t like RO, but I know people who loved it. Eh. it’s like stuffed mushrooms for me. I really liked Solo, I know some people who didn’t. That’s coconut shrimp for me.

    Okay. Appetizer analogy went overboard there. But, you get what I mean.

    I hope you get a chance to read my review unless you very much don’t want to read spoilers. In that case, don’t read it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ok, your appetizer analogy cracked me up. 😉
      I think you are right about expectations. I think I will enjoy Solo when I see it because I have no expectations other that it being a fun two hours.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s so fun! But now you have expectations lol. I really enjoyed it and want to see it again. I think part of it, and I wrote this in my review, is that star wars has been so serious lately. It was nice to take a breath and smile.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. No, I’m excited to read your review! Since I’ve decided to pass on this movie (at least for now) I’m not too worried about spoilers. Also, you’re not the first to praise ‘Solo’ to me. In fact, everyone I’ve talked to who has actually seen the film only has good things to say about it!

      …and yet…

      I appreciate your appetizer analogy and I think it makes a lot of sense too. It’s sort of like what I wrote about in my piece on TLJ (minus all the food connections of course). I had to accept it wasn’t myth but rather a folktale and that the Disney Era just brought a different type of Star Wars. I thought I was ready for it…but minus ‘Rogue One’ and ‘Catalyst’ I haven’t found any sense of lasting joy in any of it. Even as I build different compartments for Star Wars in my mind (to use your analogy (Lucas’s work and the EU in the “real” part and the Disney Canon in the “alternate timeline part)) I’m never interested in revisiting the Disney stuff. I just can’t shake what Star Wars has always been to me. And I’m not sure if I want to try anymore…

      I had long conversations with Hannah, Jeff, and David about seeing this movie and we were all comfortable passing. Jeff (as he’s discussed on Twitter) is doing so for social justice reasons – passing until Lucasfilm begins to hire with more intentional diversity. I completely respect that and I support him in it. Hannah and I are on the exact same page. And David just laughed when I asked if he was going to see it and said, “Ha, that’s cute. Harrison Ford is Han Solo. Period.” So my closest Star Wars companions are all in a similar spot as I am, for various reasons. Since I’m just not interested, I can’t imagine seeing it (again, at least not yet).

      I know I’m overthinking it. I know it’s a new era. And I know my being unable to let go only affects my experience of Star Wars, not what’s being produced. But, for better or worse. I just CAN’T SHAKE THIS. And I’ve tried!

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      1. I’m glad you are 100% realizing you are overthinking it. We’ve never met in person, but when we do (yes, it will happen!), you’ll realize I’m the opposite of an overthinker. I make decisions very fast, I don’t have patience for waffling, and I accept something and move on my way. I found my wedding dress in 10 minutes, and didn’t try on other dresses, if that gives you an idea. My sister overthinks EVERYTHING and always calls me when she needs a decision made (she is also in the education/professor world haha!).

        So, for me, I was very anti-Solo from the get-go. I really didn’t want to see it and debated if I would. But then I saw the first trailer a few months ago and my gut said, “Wow, that looks like fun!” And I had a lot of fan friends who were still on the anti-Solo wagon and thought I was crazy, told me Alden’s acting looked horrible, etc. etc. But I almost always go with my gut (hence why I don’t overthink or waffle (lots of food in my comments lately)), so I saw it. Not opening night or weekend, but Monday evening instead.

        And it was great! It was fun! That’s all I needed. Star Wars has been so dark and heavy lately. It felt like a breath of fresh air. I keep using the word “fun” because that’s what it was for me.

        One direction that I really like in terms of the way Disney is going with the canon work, is showing us how brutal and oppressive the Empire can be. And we got a bit more of that in this movie which I appreciate, because that was, honestly, lacking in the OT. We came into the OT in the middle of a story and knew the Empire was bad, but we didn’t get to see it in average citizen’s daily lives.

        Solo also showed us how the middle ground operates, which was hinted at in TLJ with DJ and the references to war profiteering, but we got to see how people with no allegiance use that to their advantage and how they choose sides based on money and profit.

        I could go on longer, but if you can not overthink it, and just go in to enjoy some tapas, you’ll have a good time.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Alright, what you’re saying about the Empire is REALLY intriguing. My favorite part of Chuck Wendig’s ‘Life Debt’ novel was how he showed the Imperial desolation of Kashyyyk – slavery, stripping of resources, etc. It painted a vivid picture of Empire’s brutality. I think you’re absolutely right too. This is something we need to see – both for the narrative of Star Wars and for the theological critique of “empire” that runs through the films. It really makes me reconsider my stance on ‘Solo.’ There may be a little theology to it after all.

        Weirdly or sadly or however you want to frame it, I think part of my problem revolves around the issue of “fun.” I always have fun with Star Wars but, in my mind, I can’t separate the fun of the movie from the theological and academic depth. That’s what I tried to do with TLJ (which clearly didn’t work for long) and it’s what I need to do to be able to keep enjoying Star Wars going forward.

        Also, I may have to start tagging you in for help when I need to make a decision :). I’d like to think I can be fairly decisive with “real life” stuff and overthink the academic side of things but that’s not entirely true. In the future you may be getting messages from me asking for help like your sister! Incidentally, it’s interesting she’s in education too. I’ve often joked with my students (before I started dating Kalie anyway) that the reason I can so thoroughly deconstruct a film or novel with them is the same reason I can’t hold any relationship together – I overthink everything!

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      3. LOL that’s hilarious. Oh my, I had an ex-boyfriend like that. I was very attracted to him for that reason, I think. It was so opposite of me. And we stayed together quite a bit (about 2.5 years), but then I began to realize how much that overthinking – it wasn’t sustainable for me. It’s nice occasionally, but I couldn’t do it long term. There’s a little strange back history on my life! TMI overload.

        Feel free to send messages whenever. The biggest decision I helped my sister with is when she really wanted to get into a certain school for their PhD program, and she got in, and then started agonizing on if she really wanted to go. Totally overthought it. I told her to go. She went.

        You don’t think ANH is a bunch of fun? I think it’s one of the most fun movies there is! I think part of the appeal of Star Wars when it came out was how there was so much to extract from it, but one of the primary reasons people went is because they enjoyed it on a superficial level. Like, “Wow, that was a super cool, fun , crazy good movie. I want to see it again!” (Not that I was alive, but from talking to older fans at cons and seeing documentaries and reading books, this is the vibe I get) And then over time, people began to dissect it, see how much went into what Lucas created, and saw there was so much more. But I think the initial viewings were FUN FUN FUN.

        Okay, but I see your point. For you, they are not fun. Or they are fun PLUS so much more. And honestly, for me, most of the time they’re not either. They speak to me on a human level that goes deep and that’s why it’s part of my heart and soul. But at the same time, it can be fun. I think I should finally write that blog post on my marriage to Star Wars haha. (Probably not what you think so don’t get your hopes up.)

        The stripping of resources, slavery and everything on Kashyyyk is basically what they did with the spice mines of Kessel scene. Keep in mind, it’s PG-13 so they couldn’t show TOO much, but it was enough.

        I feel like I’m building it up now. I said that to Mei-Mei too. People have no expectations and then I’m like, “I LOVED IT” and now you’ll have expectations and be disappointed. Oops.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Oh no, I absolutely DO think all the Star Wars movies are a bunch of fun! That’s one of the reasons I love them so much (and why they can be such effective vehicles for teaching larger lessons and pulling people into theological and mythological contemplation). And if I think back to my very first viewing, that’s really what I took away from them. But I’ve done the analytical stuff for so long it’s become inseparable from how I see Star Wars and (as an overthinker) the analysis and deconstruction are a very real part of the fun for me. My sophomore English teacher in high school showed us the entire Original Trilogy to teach us the Hero’s Journey alongside reading the Odyssey and King Arthur. Then I began to see the theological dimensions. I’ve taught the films to my Youth Group kids when I was a Youth Minister and now Hannah and I have our whole course on Star Wars. For me, Star Wars is now and forever tied to “something more.”

        So my just-fun experience is like my proto-love of Star Wars. Or, if you prefer, it was my hardcore crushing stage. I liked it. I like-liked it. I may’ve even loved it. But I fell madly and forever in love when I realized there was so much more to it. For me, it was the theology and mythology that elevate above most films and that’s why, without it, I struggle so much.

        I’d love to see a post on your marriage to Star Wars! And, in that vein, maybe that’s where I am now. Maybe Star Wars and I need couple’s counseling. Like Billy Joel sang (to his first ex-wife), “Don’t go changin’…” But then Star Wars changed on me! I don’t love who you’ve become Star Wars! This isn’t the saga I fell in love with! Siiiiigh…we have lots of stuff to work out.

        I wouldn’t worry about you’re building it up too much. This whole post was about MY personal feelings/approach to ‘Solo.’ I’m not saying it’s right for everyone, but it’s right for me (at least for now). So I hope I’d approach ‘Solo’ with the clear mind that this was your view and, while I wouldn’t necessarily expect the same, I’m still intrigued because I know you really know and love this stuff and it was a wonderful surprise for you. Or I’m wrong and I’ll realize you have overhyped it and then Mei-Mei and I can co-author a post about how you forever ruined our chances of ever enjoying ‘Solo’ by giving us impossibly high expectations. It’ll be one or the other I’m sure :).

        Oh, and don’t be surprised if you do get a random message from me sometime so I can test your quelling of an overthinking mind. It could be equally fun and helpful!

        Like

  2. Thanks for the shout out 🙂 I’ll see it at some point, but it’s hard for me to see movies at the theater right now, and I still haven’t seen Deadpool lol. I will always take more Star Wars, and the trailers have made me optimistic about it, but as you said, I’ve got the Han Solo Trilogy, so I’m good 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amen! I’d totally pick seeing Deadpool before Solo too :). I mean, that’s obvious with the whole piece but I still dig/support the whole idea. Whenever you get around to seeing ‘Solo,’ let me know what you think. Maybe I’ll have caved and seen it by then OR I may still be an overthinking holdout.

      Like

    1. I’m ALREADY overthinking Episode IX :). Right now I can’t even begin to know how I’ll feel next December. Also, thanks for the reassurance that ‘Solo’ isn’t something I HAVE to see. I’ve heard a lot of good things…but nothing that’s swayed me yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The best way I would describe Solo: A Star Wars Story is it mirrors, to some extent, the now many mini-series Marvel have produced. A whole lotta fun but not essential.

    Personally, I really enjoyed seeing Han and Chewie’s relationship fleshed out. I appreciate there is a great deal of source material on the subject but, having not revisited the original trilogy in ages (Something I intend to rectify in a week or so when my exams are over), it was really fun.

    Whilst this instalment in the Star Wars Canon is a good distance away from the original trilogy I argue that its success lies in that. It explores relatively untouched theme which I find expands the universe but in such a way that it isn’t required viewing.

    I would encourage you to go and see it but I can completely understand your point of view. I struggled to wrap my head around my viewing of the Force Awakens, an instalment I need to revisit now I have regained my appreciation for the galaxy far far away.

    As ever, a great post I’ve been meaning to comment on for a while.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Congratulations on (almost) making it to summer vacation! I hope the exams are quickly in your rear view mirror and your rest and relaxation can truly begin. And nothing says “holiday” quite like watching a bunch of Star Wars movies, right?!

      I appreciate what you’ve said about ‘Solo.’ I haven’t spoken to a single person who has seen this film and didn’t have good things to say about it. I’m sure it’s a really well done film…but, again, I’m just not feeling it (at least not yet). I’ve been enjoying some of my old Expanded Universe novels this week and it’s been scratching the Star Wars itch I had perfectly :). And again, I know I’m a dying breed here! I’m okay with that too.

      I also think your description of ‘Solo’ will end up perfectly describing the era of Star Wars we’re in now, too. With Disney producing so much content, it’s impossible to keep up on all of it. So we’ll all have to pick and choose what we explore. Movies? Cartoons? Novels? Comics? Games? A combination of a little of everything? For the franchise to continue expanding at this rate every piece can’t be “essential” or it will hurt people’s ability to enjoy what they do see/read/play/etc.

      Liked by 1 person

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