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Not So Above It All

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You gotta get your kicks somehow.

Flash: So yeah, I did go behind your back! I'd do it again! What do you say to that, big guy?
Martian Manhunter: [smiles] I was only going to ask if you wanted to play Brawlin' Bots.
Flash: Dibs on the green one! [dashes off]
Martian Manhunter: [mumbles] I wanted the green one...

The Straight Man takes a fall. His usual position is far above the prevailing attitude of his crew, wackiness, pettiness or just general slacker-itis.

In a story where the wackiness level is really high, the straight man is still goofier and wackier than anyone you know, but he has his standards to maintain. Under no circumstances will he allow himself to be pulled down into the general chaos of those around him.

Until he does. You can only fight the tide for so long. As the age-old adage goes: "a chain is only as strong as its weakest link." If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Compare with Not So Stoic, which can also be Played for Laughs, but has potential for seriousness. May be implemented with an ...Or So I Heard. If he somehow brings it on himself, it might overlap with Break the Haughty, but not necessarily so. See Actually Pretty Funny, where someone says/does something so funny that the Straight Man just can't keep a straight face. See also Hypocritical Humor, where often the Straight Man in question had just told someone off for doing something goofy and is now doing it themselves.

See also Only Sane by Comparison, where the character is more openly "wacky", yet still manages to be the one who holds everything together.

Sometimes related to an Idiot Ball moment. Contrast Smart Ball, when their dimmer co-star may have a moment of clarity or tact.

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Other examples:

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  • Claude the Cat sometimes makes a joke despite being quite a serious beast usually.
  • In this 2009 advertisement for Friendly's, a bunch of sisters on a soccer team are singing the iconic "I Wanna Go To Friendly's" jingle, but as they're nearing the end, their mother finishes off the song, stopping them dead in their tracks out of confusion as she's singing her lungs out. At the end of the commercial, this gets lampshaded by an African-American couple in the car opposite, who look at the mother in disbelief.
  • Inverted in one Smokey Bear commercial where the bear is seen performing rap to get his usual message of "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires" across. Partway through, he stops, annoyed by it all, drops the rap clothes, puts on his ranger hat and "gives it to them straight".

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: Careful S., being The Stoic, usually prefers to not get involved in his more carefree “siblings”’ antics. But, there are certain moments where he lets himself be a bit goofy. Just look at the “Rubix Cube Tournament” episode…

    Films — Animation 
  • Tendai of Adventures in Zambezia is seen happily dancing at the end of the movie, despite not showing any sort of actions previously in the movie. His son, Kai, is understandably bewildered.
    Kai: What is he doing?
    Zoe: Let's call it "The Funky Chicken".
  • Kirby from The Brave Little Toaster might be a grouch through and through who sucks the fun out of everything at every opportunity with his no-nonsense workaholic loner nature, but he'll dance happily to music like the rest of them so long as none of them are around to see it.
  • Frozen: Even before her Character Development, Elsa has a playful moment where she makes Anna dance with the Duke of Wesselton, who is a terrible dancer.
  • Kung Fu Panda has at least three of those moments:
    • The Furious Five are trained to not be envious of whoever gets chosen as the Dragon Warrior. They obviously are when Po is chosen.
    • Master Shifu says that the scroll is for the Dragon Warrior only and that he (Shifu) should not read it — but curiosity gets the best of him when Po says that the dragon scroll is blank.
    • Master Oogway is so calm and relaxed and zen that there is no bad news to him — there is no good and bad, there is only news. His comment on hearing that Tai-Lung escaped: "That IS bad news."
      • Subverted when he adds "...If we did not have the Dragon Warrior."
    • In the closing credit sequence, the normally uber-serious Tigress is seen sporting an improvised mustache of noodles, impersonating Master Shifu in the same way Po had done earlier. Shifu, for the record, is laughing uproariously.
  • Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge: Raiden is a very stoic and serious character, often explaining how important it is to Earthrealm's survival that they win the Mortal Kombat tournament. Throughout the beginning of the tournament Johnny Cage is convinced it is all just a movie and everyone else is an actor like him. When Liu Kang asks Raiden if they should just tell Johnny the truth, Raiden says no since Johnny is on a journey of self-discovery... but also admits that he finds his ignorance of the situation amusing.
  • Ting Ting of Mulan II is the eldest and most mature of her sisters, and tries to keep the others in control of themselves. As seen in "Like Other Girls" however, she can be just as silly and childish as they can, and hates rules just as much as they do. She later reveals to Ling that she acts so stoic because she hates how she snorts uncontrollably when she laughs, following up by sticking chopsticks up her nose and wriggling them around in protest to his belief that she had no sense of humor.
  • The Friends on the Other Side in The Princess and the Frog apparently can't resist backing up someone else's music or making their own when doing their soul-collecting business.
  • In Turning Red, at one point Mei's mother Ming visits the school with dumplings, and Mei and her friends have to very quickly re-organize the classroom to eliminate evidence of panda-hustling. When Ming opens the classroom door and finds nothing suspicious, she puts the dumplings down as the security guard shows up to escort her away. However, the security guard eats one of the dumplings as he's leaving.
  • Kanga, usually the Team Mom and Only Sane Woman of the Hundred Acre Wood, takes part in the other animals' Too Dumb to Live antics a lot more in the 2011 Winnie the Pooh movie. Most noticeable during the Backson song, where she not only buys into Owl's story of the supposed monster as easily as everyone else but even adds her own superstitions to the number, such as the monster waking up babies and stealing her youth.
  • Zootopia:
    • Contrary to his gruff no-nonsense exterior, Chief Bogo is a closet fan of Gazelle and is seen using her popular smartphone app to make himself one of her back-up dancers. Bogo is also seen dancing with fellow Gazelle fan Clawhauser during the Dance Party Ending.
    • A major part of Judy's Character Development is her realizing that like everybody else, she has her own hidden prejudices against other species and is susceptible to the same trap of ignorance and small-mindedness. She admits this to Nick during her tearful apology.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Cabin in the Woods the entire staff are betting on what monster the teens will summon. Lin seems like the Only Sane Man as she tries to explain everyone's actions to the new guy. When Hadley comes over with the pot, Lin sheepishly drops her bet in there.
  • Captain Marvel (2019) has Nick Fury, previously a stoic and scary figure of authority... cooing over Goose, a cute cat. Well, cat-like alien.
  • In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mike spends most of the movie looking bored or surly. When the Wonka Television machine causes him to float in the air, however, he does some silly karate and dance moves, then smiles and waves at the others.
    • To a lesser extent, when Veruca approaches the squirrels — everyone else looks worried while his posture is more "ooh, this should be entertaining."
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid:
    • In Rodrick Rules, Frank is the one to record Susan's goofy dancing, and asks Greg to keep it between them that the crowd is cheering for her and not Rodrick's music.
    • Also in Rodrick Rules, Patty rats out Greg for (accidentally) passing her a note reading "How do you get your hair to smell so beautiful". When Greg gets punished, Patty does take time to sniff one of her braids, curious to see if Greg is actually right.
  • Subverted in Django Unchained: Dr. Schultz does most emphatically not approve of slavery, but initially seems to be more offended by it on an intellectual level, i.e. "How can you people be so stupid that you think basing your entire economy on slave labour is a good idea?". However, it quickly becomes apparent that he sees slaves as people, and his facade cracks at inopportune moments.
  • Doctor in the House (1954):
    • While Sir Lancelot does not approve of how Simon, Tony, Grimsdyke, and Taffy behaved after the rugby match, he still pays their fines for them so they won't be thrown out of St. Swithin's.
    • Back in his student days, the bitter old Dean got a nurse to ride naked on a large white cart horse.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves: Xenk is an extremely seriously-minded paladin, contrasting amusingly with the much more conversational main characters, but still cracks a smug little grin while Trolling Edgin in the Underdark.
  • In The Edge, Robert Green criticizes Charles Morse for lacking a sense of humour — this being while they're fighting for survival in the wilderness. When Morse finally cracks a joke, it takes Green by surprise.
    Robert Green: You know, this is a lot different from snorting coke off of models' underwear.
    [long beat]
    Charles Morse: In what way?
  • Abner from Ernest Rides Again is devoted entirely to finding Goliath, a gigantic cannon that contains the crown jewels, purely to prove his theory that such a thing exists. He takes his job immensely seriously, very much unlike the cavalier Ernest, but when Ernest suggests that he could pocket a few of the crown jewels to buy a pair of "his and her Humvees" for him and his wife?
    Abner: (Shrugs) I always wanted a Humvee...
  • In Iron Man, James "Rhodey" Rhodes is a dedicated, hard-working, highly professional soldier, who basically looks after Tony Stark for the US military. On his private plane, Tony orders drinks, despite Rhodey's objections. Rhodey insists "We're not drinking." Smash cut to Rhodey drunkenly telling Tony about how much he appreciates his fellow soldiers, while Tony is distracted by his flight attendant pole-dancers.
  • Just One of the Guys: Linda finds Buddy's advances annoying, but when he asks if it would make a difference if he was hung like a bear, she admits that it might. Buddy then admits that he isn't, and that was a desperate shot in the dark.
  • In The Martian, NASA head Teddy Sanders and several other NASA officials are summoned for a secret meeting which is code-named "Elrond" after the Council of Elrond. Sanders at one point deadpans, "If we are going to have a secret project called 'Elrond', then I want my code name to be 'Glorfindel'." Bonus points when you realize that since Glorfindel was never in the films, Teddy must have read the books and not just watched the movies.
  • In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Masters of the Mystic Arts aren't nearly as "professional" as their lofty station and behavior would have you believe. Such as even their most remote locales having WIFI (They're not savages, after all), them taking part in prize fighting and drunken parties, and their willingness to use brainwashing spells to make everyone forget the "full moon party incident" at Kamar-Taj.
  • A meta example occurs in the Marx Brothers movie Monkey Business, as it's one of the few movies where Zeppo Marx gleefully goes along with his brothers' antics and even gets in a few zingers of his own.
  • While Colonel Matthews from No Kidding takes his job on the council just as seriously as Mrs. Spicer does, he isn't against sharing a laugh with Cook during his inspection of Chartham House and finds it highly amusing when Angus calls Mrs. Spicer an "interfering old trollop".
  • Nurse Betty: Wesley chides Charlie for Loving a Shadow and being unprofessional, but he gets increasingly invested in the Show Within a Show that Betty watches and Has a minor Villainous Breakdown upon learning that the character he has a crush on is a lesbian.
  • Nick (Breckin Meyer) from Rat Race initially doesn't want to be a part of the race because he thinks it's a scam and is very calm and dignified. Then he finds out that every plane in the airport is grounded and a helicopter pilot has just offered him a ride. Suddenly he becomes just as insane and crazy to get the money like everybody else.
  • Sleepers: Young Shakes keeps to himself a nun's clacker (what they use to indicate to their students when to stand and when to sit) he found in the hallway. While in Mass, he uses it to wreak havoc. Father Bobby immediately figures out what's going on, gets in the pew behind Shakes, and quietly but firmly asks Shakes to give him the clacker, which he does. Father Bobby then uses the clacker, to Shakes' astonishment.
    Father Bobby: Nuns are such easy targets.
  • In Super Troopers, Captain John O'Hagan doesn't approve of most of his state troopers' pranks and general attempts at goofing off, but he does seem good-natured and fondly remembers his days as a patrol cop. Near the end, though, when their station is about to be shut down, he gets wasted along with his men and goes on a rampage.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), while Leonardo is a pretty serious character, he often finds himself going along with his brothers' antics. The elevator scene is a good example.

  • John Entwistle was generally seen as the Straight Man of The Who, due to his status as The Quiet One and his tendency to stand perfectly still on stage while his bandmates ran around smashing things. But he was also known for participating in many of the crazy stunts Keith Moon came up with, admitting years after Moon's death that he'd helped him blow up a hell of a lot of hotel toilets by standing behind and holding the matches. (This may be more of a case of how Entwistle was perceived by the audience than anything else; those who knew him well generally considered him to have a pretty out-there personality.) His death was even more rock and roll than Moon's; Entwistle died of a cocaine-induced heart attack after spending the night with a groupie.
  • This trope in and of itself seems to be a main theme of "Down in It" by Nine Inch Nails, if the refrain ("I was up above it/Now I'm down in it") is any indication.
  • In /v/ The Musical's Bing Bing, the narrator is watching his neighbor play Super Mario Odyssey on the Nintendo Switch while on an airplane and getting increasingly frustrated while holding the neighbor and game in contempt, to the point where he wanted to throttle the guy. Then the neighbor offers the narrator a chance to play, and the narrator immediately starts enjoying himself.
  • Charlie Watts is considered The Straight Man of The Rolling Stones, not being involved with drugs and hedonistic behavior anywhere near as much as the others and having been married to the same woman for over 50 years. However, one anecdote stands out. One night, a drunk Mick Jagger woke Watts with a phone call to his hotel room, screaming "Where's my drummer?! Where's my drummer?!" Watts got up, showered, shaved, put on some clothes, went down to Jagger's hotel room, punched him in the face and yelled "Don't you EVER call me your drummer! You're my fucking singer!"

  • In The Hidden Almanac, Reverend Mord is usually the stoic to Pastor Drom's ebullient ditz. In one episode, Mord is insistent that he didn't feed the baby chicks Drom kept in his office more than once. Or twice. A day.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • At TLC 2013 Vickie Guerrero and Brad Maddox scolded a few of the wrestlers for playing with WWE action figures backstage. Vickie then noticed that the Brodus Clay figure was "kind of cute" — and she and Maddox decided to join in.
  • Any wrestler in the WWE who tries to convince themselves that they are the Only Sane Man is ultimately this in the end. The insanity of the company is contagious to the point that wacky hijinks is often times the norm for a standard broadcast.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Boober from Fraggle Rock is this. He does not like fun and games and would rather spend most of his time doing laundry. He may, however, sometimes participate in his friends' fun activities.
  • Between the Lions: While Barnaby B. Busterfield III is generally annoyed by the library's antics, one episode reveals that even he loves Fuzzy Wuzzy, and later meets him at the end.
  • Harvey P. Dull in The Furchester Hotel just wants to avoid whatever nonsense the monsters are up to and read his book. Except in "Monster Monster Day" (where he dresses up as Monster Monster), "Mooga Monster Tale" (where he's a huge fan of visiting author Ms Taylor Penworth) and "Cheer Up, Cheerleaders" (where he reveals that he's a former cheerleader himself).


    Web Animation 
  • Camp Camp:
    • Max is a very cynical boy who often disregards others for caring and acts like he hates everything. But when Gwen finds his lost Teddy Bear, Mr. Honey Nuts, he immediately gets excited and refuses to leave her alone, until she gives it back to him.
    • David is usually the living embodiment of friendliness and optimism, and does his best to be a good role model to the campers, despite their Troubling Unchild Like Behavior and Max often antagonizing him for trying, but even he has a couple moments of weakness: even he can't stand trying to be nice to Jeremy and eventually lets an insult slip and in another episode, beats up his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend, after just giving big speech about moving on, which said boyfriend commended him for no less.
    • While exploring a supposedly haunted island house, Nikki initially excited at the prospect of running into potentially dangerous horrors on the island, in spite of Neil's and Jasper's protests...until they find what appears to be a torture chamber, at which point she's reduced to a scared little girl, that can only say she doesn't want to be there on repeat.
    • From the same episode, Max, the leader of the main trio, insists that he isn't scared of anything and for the most part backs this up, proving to be even braver than Nikki. But in the end, he finally finds something that even he screams in terror at: walking in on an orgy, involving the camp's creepy elderly quartermaster and some other old people.
  • DSBT InsaniT: As often as Snake tries to control Bear, Duck, and Balloon, he usually finds himself getting into mischief with them anyway.
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device:
    • Kitten, though he doesn't want to admit it, secretly wants to engage in the same male Stripperific tendencies as his brother Custodes.
    • The Emperor, for all his "being of logic and reason" attitude, sees people who don't engage in melee combat as disgraceful.
    • While Magnus maintains an air of studied indifference and sanity around him, he high-fives the Emperor when the latter turns the Astronomicon into a giant middle finger for a moment.
  • Red vs. Blue: Sanity Slippage is common in Blood Gulch, and in everyone who associates with it.
    • Doc was originally introduced to lampshade how absolutely bizarre the Reds and Blues were. Then his Granola Guy tendencies got the better of him.
    • Agent Washington has a ... tumultuous relationship with this trope. He begins as a Straight Man to the Blood Gulch Crew, but the insanity of hanging out with them eventually pushes him too far. But when we see him in his Freelancer days, and he's the Butt-Monkey of his team, being constantly attacked by vehicles, somewhat gullible, and best known for the time when Carolina had to grapple his codpiece to save him. Eventually, he mostly settles into his role as the Only Sane Man, with several slip-ups that show that he really does fit into the team. For example, he contributed to the crash that left the Reds and Blues stranded in Chorus by pulling an Are These Wires Important?
    • Agent Carolina herself does this too. She begins as a cold, revenge-driven Anti-Hero who outright admits that she thinks of the Reds and Blues as cannon fodder. Then Season 15 rolls around, and she's relaxed enough to join a band just to troll the others with her terrible singing voice, taking lessons from Grif in being lazy, and emphasizes Washington growing a beard as the most important thing happening during the 10-month Time Skip (which also included dinosaurs fighting robots and Donut burning down a water park).
    • The Chorus Trilogy introduces Felix, a mercenary for the New Republic and one of its more skilled and pragmatic members, at least compared to the lieutenants (and Palomo). Then Tucker decides to have his team 'capture' Felix to prove they're ready for a rescue mission.
      Felix: Fine.
      Tucker: Good!
      Felix: Great!
      Tucker: Sooo, are you just gonna stand there, or what?
      Felix: No, I was sticking my tongue out at you! But — I-I guess I'm wearing a helmet, so — shut up.
  • RWBY: Weiss begins the series as a Spoiled Brat Alpha Bitch who's used to getting what she wants and disdains anyone she considers beneath her. However, after Professor Port lectures her about her terrible attitude and says she needs to be a better team player, she changes into a Defrosting Ice Queen and starts getting these moments. The first comes in that very same episode: earlier the other members of Team RWBY decided to set up bunk beds in their dorm; the night after getting lectured, Weiss apologizes to Ruby for her earlier rudeness and shyly admits that she always wanted a bunk bed when she was little. The descent continues from there, with moments like her high-fiving Ruby while defending their uniforms having "combat skirts", delivering a Large Ham Evil Overlord speech while playing a tabletop game, balancing on chairs for extra drama when trying to cheer up teammates, and suffering a massive case of Cuteness Proximity when she meets Zwei, Yang and Ruby's pet corgi.
    Weiss: Are you telling me that this mangy, drooling mutt is going to wiv with us for-weva!? Oh, yes, he is! Yes, he is! Ooohhh, he's adorable!
  • Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation has a minor Running Gag against anime, mocking a lot of the more mainstream shounen-skewing stuff as insipid and exclusively full of banal arguments over which female character is the best "waifu". His Extra Punctuation on "Why I Like Persona in Spite of it Being A JRPG" explains how the likes of Persona 4 and 5 successfully managed to win him over (a combination of compelling writing and excellent balance/interplay of gameplay and story), but he still takes an aside at the end to address the tired question he's expected to receive on "Who is your favorite Persona waifu?"
    Yahtzee: Oh for fuck's sake. See, this sort of shit is a debasement of cultural discourse. Here I am trying to be academic about this, trying to pull a game's threads apart to to get to the bottom of its appeal on a thematic and conceptual level, but all anyone wants to talk about is which character we think our character would most like to snog. It's Chie.

    Web Original 
  • Zhang Zhao may be the dignified elder statesman of Wu in Farce of the Three Kingdoms, but the narrator has photographic evidence of him getting completely wasted at the office New Years' party.
  • Survival Tips for S.H.I.E.L.D. Recruits: While deeply concerned with curtailing dangerous hijinks, S.H.I.E.L.D. has nothing against harmless fun.
    Tip #531: Planning the most efficient shopping sprees is not the intended use for your tactical training sessions, but doing so is not actively discouraged. There may, in fact, be unofficial contests involved.
  • Most of the staff in the Whateley Universe are, as teachers, required to act in a responsible, professional manner. Lady Astarte, for example, is the respectable school administrator, unflappable...until she marches out on a stage and snaps in front of everybody, screaming at them that there will be no more shoulder angels. And Elyzia Grimes, who was the equivalent of Morticia Addams amongst the staff, finally got tired of it all and beat Caitlin Bardue sbout the head and neck.

    Web Videos 
  • TT and Momo from Cream Heroes. TT is The Stoic most of the time and punches any cat who dares enter her personal space. She also pounces on toy fish and chews toy feathers like a rambunctious kitten. Likewise Momo is a proud cat given the persona of the refined chairman of Momo Corp. He also cannot help but chase toys around the floor, fight with other cats and has even played a couple of pranks on Claire.
    • Chuchu has also shown signs of this, especially after having her nostrils widened. In one video, she sits looking quiet and innocent while Claire reveals she sometimes like to gnaw on cables.
  • Critical Role: Lucien, the Arc Villain of the final arc of campaign 2, tries to present himself as an unflappable, all-knowing leader who is always two steps ahead on everything. Challenging that image is something he's very allergic to, demonstrated most clearly when he childishly snaps at Beau for pointing out that his attempt to navigate through a snowstorm got them lost.
  • Dad: In "Dad Bod — Official Music Video", the normally serious and stoic Cheryl gets in on some of the dancing with Dad, and is shown laughing and having a good time with him.
  • Lewis Brindley and Hannah Rutherford appeared to be the only sane individuals in the Yogscast, in no small part due to the actions of Simon Lane. However, as the Yogscast has expanded, more sane members have joined and both Lewis and Hannah have started behaving weirdly. Lewis in particular has developed a shorter temper and started goofing around more.
  • Internet Historian:
    • It happens at the end of his video The Downfall of Tony The Tiger, where he talks about when furries were dogpiling [sic] onto Tony The Tiger's Twitter in order to sexually harass the character. After poking fun at it and talking about the media coverage that blew it way out of proportion, he finishes the video off by posting a sexually inappropriate comment on Tony's twitter.
    • And combined with Actually Pretty Funny, it also happens in The Walking Divided | He Will Not Divide Us when he talks about the fourth time internet trolls had set out to ruin Shia LaBeouf's titular anti-Trump campaign by messing with his flag. This time, with the flag locked inside a private residence where they couldn't easily steal or vandalize it this time, they instead just sent a bunch of pizzas to the house. Internet Historian has this to say about it:
      Historian: Alright. They did this, let me just say, they did this, and they shouldn't have, 'cause it's... c'mon, it's not funny. I mean, it's a little bit funny, but it's... it's not right. You're animals! Animals do that kind of thing! Don't do that! Thank you.
  • John Wolfe is unique among horror-focused Lets Players in that he tends to have subdued reactions to scares, favoring reacting to such things with sardonicism, sarcasm, and dry calm humor as opposed to the Large Ham overreactions that many others play up. It takes a lot to rattle him, but that said, he does occasionally get rattled with games like Five Nights at Freddy's, Resident Evil 2, and (much to his regret for how bad a game it was) Tall Poppy managing to get outbursts out of him to rival the likes of Markiplier.
  • The Nostalgia Chick:
  • When the folks at OneyPlays sit down to play Five Nights at Freddy's, they kick it off by taking a jab at other Lets Players like Markiplier who have infamously over-the-top reactions to the scares in these games. They claim they are going to "do their best to stand out from other lets players who have already done this", then scream just at the camera being opened and begin overreacting to the nth degree by howling in fear and screaming things like "WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?!" for a solid 30 seconds while nothing is happening. By the end of the video however, they are genuinely terrified and reacting to scares every bit as much as "all the other lets players".


"It. Is. On!"

Rarity and Applejack turn a pillow fight into an all-out war.

How well does it match the trope?

3.4 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / ChildishPillowFight

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