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Web Video / A VHS Christmas Carol

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'Cause it's the story of
The meanest man there ever was
The rudest dude you ever knew
The crabbiest
The grouchiest
The frowniest
The angriest hater
The crankiest neighbor
The greediest geezer
The cruelest creature
No one meaner than Ebenezer Scrooge!

A VHS Christmas Carol is a short (45-minute) Web Video project created by Team Starkid for the 2020 holiday season during the COVID-19 Pandemic, as an experiment to see if they could do a fully produced musical project via Green Screen.

It's a Surreal Music Video adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens novella A Christmas Carol as a Concept Album from The '80s, with the actors (almost none of whom are physically in the same space) superimposed on various digital backgrounds in order to tell the story.

It's also a bit of a Reunion Show for Team Starkid, bringing back a bunch of actors from Starkid's "first generation" who appeared in A Very Potter Musical (along with a few others), who hadn't appeared in a Starkid show since the beginning of the Hatchetfield series when Starkid moved to LA in 2018.


A VHS Christmas Carol was broadcast for four livestreamed performances on the weekend of Dec. 11-13, 2020. The recorded digital ticket remained available here until Jan. 1, 2021, and the soundtrack album will be available for purchase indefinitely. Note that there are currently no plans to make this show available on YouTube for free.

The cast list is as follows:


This work provides examples of:

  • The '80s: The whole thing is a tribute to '80s Synth-Pop, '80s Hair and '80s fashion, especially to the cheesy '80s fad of Green Screen Music Videos against blatantly fake backgrounds.
  • '80s Hair: A lot of glorious examples throughout, most notably Belle's huge mane of Jheri curls, and Christmas Present and Fred both rocking classic hi-top fades, along with Joey Richter actually growing out his signature shoulder-length locks and Porn Stache for this show.
  • Adapted Out: Tons of things, obviously, since this is only a 45-minute show, but notably this is one of the adaptations that just deletes Ignorance and Want from the Christmas Present sequence.
    • The original novella gave the Cratchit family six children; as is common with adaptations, this version removes the two unnamed younger kids and makes Tiny Tim the youngest.
    • Belle's husband and children aren't shown in this version and her future is unknown; the real Scrooge instead has his Heel Realization in the middle of the scene, turning "That Scrooge" into a double-Counterpoint Duet between himself and Christmas Past along with Young Scrooge and Belle.
    • Fred's wife (who's usually named Clara in the play adaptations) is mentioned when Fred extends his invitation to Scrooge in "Bah Humbug", but doesn't actually appear at the party in the Christmas Present sequence (presumably the party guest played by Jamie Burns isn't her, since she's paired up with the one played by Brian Holden).
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Potentially all the characters, considering how attractive Starkid's loyal fandom finds their members, but most notable is Scrooge himself (with Dylan Saunders much younger than Scrooge's canonical age), Jacob Marley (who goes from an old man to a young androgynous rock star played by Meredith Stepien, with his "chains" becoming silver jewelry draped around his neck), and the Ghost of Christmas Future (the most dramatic change, going from a formless sinister figure in a black hood to a beautiful woman in an Ethereal White Dress). The fact that Christmas Past is also changed into a beautiful woman is less notable, since this is a traditional change many adaptations have made before.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: A few of the characters get hit with this Played for Laughs, like Tiny Tim's brother Peter openly making fun of him for his disease, or Mrs. Cratchit going ahead and giving voice to her wish that Scrooge would die (which she clearly thinks but keeps to herself in the original).
    • Even Scrooge himself has his rudeness and cruelty slightly played up in "Bah Humbug", for the sake of the song — the original Scrooge didn't go so far as to threaten to kill himself as preferable to having dinner with Fred and his wife (this adapts the moment where Dickens implies that Scrooge says he'll see Fred in hell first, a line few adaptations ever have him actually say), and however grudgingly he did so, he gave Bob Cratchit the day off for Christmas without actually having to be asked.
    • As is common in adaptations, this version of the Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come, rather than seeming to relent at the end of the sequence, actively drags Scrooge into his open grave before The Reveal where he wakes up alive on Christmas morning.
  • All-Knowing Singing Narrator: Played by Clark Baxtresser, who's also sitting at a keyboard playing the accompaniment to the show.
    • The whole ensemble, as is traditional, becomes this in the ending of the show in the final bars of "Christmas Day" (including Dylan Saunders himself breaking character and directly addressing the audience about Scrooge's story in the third person). One of the Heartwarming Moments of this play is this section starting with Meredith Stepien singing as Jacob Marley, as though Marley is watching Scrooge's redemption from the afterlife having found his own redemption by helping him.
  • Ambiguous Gender: This version of Jacob Marley is, of course, still consistently referred to as a man, but is played by a non-binary actor and seems designed to evoke an androgynous '80s pop star like Annie Lennox.
    • The Narrator, following the description in the original book, describes the Ghost of Christmas Past as a strangely inhuman genderless being, only for it to actually appear as the extremely feminine Jaime Lyn Beatty dressed as an '80s fitness instructor.
    • This is also played with with the Ghost of Christmas Future, which looks like an elegant woman in a white dress but which Scrooge addresses as "Sir" (although he then apologizes profusely for saying so, although it's not clear if he's apologizing for calling it male or calling it human).
  • Anachronism Stew: The aesthetic of the show is a Broad Strokes mish-mash of The '80s in America (blurring into the late '70s and early '90s at times), while also throwing in random elements that still evoke the 1840s London setting of the original book (especially Ali Gordon's inexplicably Cockney characters). Notably, Scrooge still locks up the office using an old-fashioned copper key, and — in a surprising bit of effort at authenticity — the cash he gives the Turkey Boy in the ending is UK currency and not American. (Presumably Dylan Saunders had some at hand in his house.)
  • Ascended Extra: Bob Cratchit's wife Emily is considerably more important in this show than she typically is, thanks to the decision to make the Christmas Present sequence at the Cratchit house a love duet between the two of them.
  • Ascended Meme: After the visual album was released in 2020, Lauren Lopez expressed her dismay on her instagram that the character she had filmed for Christmas Electricity, the Goth Party Girl, didn't make the final cut. When the show was adapted for a live performance in 2021, the now beloved Goth Party Girl made her first official appearance as a narrator.
  • Aspect Ratio: This show remains true to the '80s theme even in this respect, with the whole thing filmed in an old-fashioned 4:3 ratio that would fit on an old square-shaped CRT.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Priceless" was intentionally designed to be one of these.
  • Black Comedy: In-universe; one of Tiny Tim's Bratty Half-Pint siblings declares he's thankful not to have Tiny Tim's disease, earning a sharp reprimand from his mom. (Truth in Television for young children, and the same kid isn't laughing at all when we come back in the future to find out Tiny Tim has passed.)
  • Bookends: The ending song, "Christmas Day", is a Triumphant Reprise of the opening "The Villain Sucks" Song "Bah Humbug".
  • Call-Back: Along with the full reprises of "Christmas Electricity" and "Priceless", we also get a brief Call-Back to "Bah Humbug" and "That Scrooge" in "Christmas Electricity" itself, with a much more lighthearted context (Fred does an impression of his uncle with "Bah humbug!", causing the party guests to all respond "That's Scrooge!")
  • Catchphrase: As is traditional for an adaptation, Scrooge's "Bah, humbug!" is flanderized into being the chorus of a whole song.
  • Christmas Special: A tribute to the cheesy Christmas specials broadcast on TV back in the 1980s — a local production of A Christmas Carol, of course, being one of the most popular ways to do this by far. Is the first time Team Starkid has done one of these more-or-less Played Straight (as opposed to satires of the concept like A Very Potter Christmas or, in a very dark example, the plot of Black Friday).
    • Various Team Starkid members have made comments implying that Starkid plans to make this show an annual tradition, much like many community theaters having a new production of a stage adaptation of A Christmas Carol every holiday season, probably cycling in new cast members to play the various characters each year.
  • Coconut Superpowers: It's pretty amusing when the video has Christmas Present and Scrooge "flying over the city" by just having them standing upright and turning them sideways. It's similar to how "Christmas Day" has Scrooge be "lying in bed" by just standing in front of the Green Screen with a blanket around him and the background changing to a bed and pillow.
  • Colorblind Casting: Scrooge is played by Dylan Saunders and Brian Rosenthal, who are both white, as is Ali Gordon, who plays his sister Fan, while his nephew Fred is played by Corey Dorris, who is black. (Doesn't present as much of a challenge to suspension of disbelief as other examples, of course, since we never see Fred's father.)
  • Cool Shades: The Ghost of Christmas Present has some that glow a neon electric blue.
  • Credits Gag: Ali Gordon is credited as "Turkey Boy"; she also plays Scrooge's sister Fan, but the Turkey Boy is a funnier role to list as her primary one.
  • Creepy High-Pitched Voice: Jaime Lyn Beatty's breathy, childlike voice as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Also arguably Jamie Burns as Christmas Future, though that's a more standard One-Woman Wail.
  • Cross-Cast Role: It isn't actually cross-cast, since they're non-binary, but Meredith Stepien normally presents on the femme side onstage and for the first time plays a male role as Jacob Marley. (This is their first Starkid role since they came out.)
    • Ali Gordon as the "Turkey Boy" is a Played Straight example. She also wears a conspicuous fake beard to play the second Charity Collector.
  • Dark Reprise: "Priceless" gets a brief one in the middle of "The Final Ghost", when the Ghost takes Scrooge back to the Cratchit house to reveal Tiny Tim has passed.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The "Past" and "Present" sequences of the story pick out two specific scenes from those parts of the book to turn into separate songs highlighting specific characters — "That Scrooge", the scene where Belle breaks up with Young Scrooge, and "Priceless", the Cratchit family dinner as a duet between Bob and Emily. (As a result of this, there's a minor Adaptation Deviation where Christmas Present shows Scrooge his nephew Fred's Christmas party before the Cratchit family dinner and not afterwards.)
  • Deliberate VHS Quality: Naturally.
  • Disco Dan: Fezziwig is a stereotypical disco dancer in a garish leisure suit, with The '70s representing "The Past" and The '80s "The Present". Of course, Scrooge working at Fezziwig is supposed to be multiple decades in the past, but the whole show runs on Ambiguous Time Period.
  • Distant Duet: "That Scrooge" starts out as a call-and-response duet between Belle and Young Scrooge, only for present-day Scrooge to start singing Belle's part with Christmas Past taking up the response lines when he has his Heel Realization, and ending with Belle and Old Scrooge singing directly opposite each other — Belle and Old Scrooge's desire to save the relationship have finally aligned, but they are, tragically, separated by decades of time.
  • Dull Surprise: Brian Rosenthal's vocals as Young Scrooge in "That Scrooge", in keeping with Belle's accusation that he doesn't actually care about holding onto her enough to put up a fight when she leaves, he's just too in denial about having fallen out of love with her to make the first move to leave himself.
    • The present-day Scrooge does a fair amount of this too, clearly very shocked and upset by what the Ghosts are showing him but not wanting to admit it.
  • Electric Black Guy: Christmas Present is one (and, by extension, Fred, who's the main person he charges up with "Christmas Electricity" in his song), although it's the metaphorical/spiritual kind of electricity.
  • Expy: The characters are more Expies of '80s archetypes than specific celebrities, though there's a few you can nail down — Jacob Marley feels like an homage to Annie Lennox, Christmas Past is Jane Fonda in her aerobics-instructor phase (as well as a reference to Olivia Newton-John in the video for "Physical", which was itself a reference to Fonda), and Christmas Future seems like an homage to Princess Di. Scrooge himself is wearing an outfit inspired by Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street.
  • Ethereal White Dress: This version of the Ghost of Christmas Future.
  • Fantastic Drug: In true '80s style, Christmas Present refers to "Christmas Electricity" as though it were one of these ("what I'm dealin'").
  • Fantastic Racism: Marley tells Scrooge that ghosts find being compared to "indigestion" very offensive.
  • Framing Device: The video shows us the show as an old VHS tape being inserted into a VCR connected to an old TV. In a bit of Artistic License, the screen continues to show the "A VHS Christmas Carol" logo before and after the tape is actually played.
  • Fun T-Shirt: This version of the Ghost of Christmas Present wears a T-shirt saying "XMAS NOW".
    • The Looter played by A.J. Holmes in the Christmas Future sequence is wearing a "Detonator" T-shirt, implying he's an '80s or '90s metalhead.
  • Giving Someone the Pointer Finger: Scrooge does this a lot when saying his Catchphrase in the namesake song, "Bah Humbug".
  • The Glasses Come Off: The Ghost of Christmas Present takes off his Cool Shades when he brings Scrooge to Bob Cratchit's house, in order to look him in the eye and tell him he doesn't know how long Tiny Tim has to live.
  • Goth: The Ghost of Jacob Marley is a gothed-up version of Annie Lennox, with extremely dramatic dark eyeliner and lipstick.
  • Green Screen: The whole show is done this way, thanks to the COVID-19 Pandemic; the only two actors who were physically in the same place when filming their scenes were Joey Richter and Lauren Lopez, for their duet "Priceless" (and, for a brief appearance in "The Final Ghost", Brian Holden and Meredith Stepien as the Debtors).
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Both Jaime Lyn Beatty and Jamie Burns wear blonde wigs to play the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Future, respectively, invoking the idea of them being angelic messengers (and also to look more like Jane Fonda and Princess Diana).
  • Homemade Sweater from Hell: Clark Baxtresser as the Narrator wears a classically garish "Christmas sweater".
  • An Ice Person: Played with — Scrooge doesn't literally have ice powers, but when he's yelling at Bob in their freezing cold office, we see a blast of misty freezing cold wind coming from his mouth blowing on Bob's trembling body — which suddenly vanishes when the redeemed Scrooge is revealed in the ending.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipe: The scene transitions with the Narrator intrude on the picture with telltale white screen artifacts indicating a VHS tape being badly edited.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: This show interprets Tiny Tim's disability as involving one of these, including having him ominously cough as the final sound we hear on "Priceless". (Note that canon only tells us that Tim is underdeveloped and weak, walking with leg braces and a crutch, but not that he has any respiratory problems — but Fanon has frequently given him tuberculosis in adaptations, since it's the traditional Victorian Novel Disease.)
    • Giving Tim a cough also puts some obvious present-day Reality Subtext into the scene, since after all the whole reason this show was made was the COVID-19 Pandemic.
  • Iris Out: The show ends with one on Dylan Saunders winking to the audience.
  • Karaoke Bonding Scene: "Priceless" is played as one, with karaoke being a huge '80s fad that they just had to riff on. Bob and Emily, unlike everyone else, are singing using old-school wired handheld mics rather than wearing stage mics as headpieces or on their clothes, and their song is a classic karaoke Power Ballad (against a clichéd karaoke background of random scenes from around the city in black and white). Apparently renting a karaoke machine is one of the few indulgences Bob and Emily are able to afford.
  • Lemony Narrator: The Narrator of this show, paying homage to Charles Dickens' narrative voice being much the same in the original book. He says things like the Ghost of Christmas Past is "nothing like what you're imagining" as a minor acknowledgement of the traditional Adaptation Deviation of making Past an attractive woman that this show also indulges in, and in the opening to "That Scrooge" he has to remind himself to shut up because "it's Belle's turn" to talk.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Tiny Tim is, of course, the original Trope Codifier, and this version of Tim rubs it in really hard — the soundtrack version of "Priceless" ends with his Incurable Cough of Death echoing ominously, and the video ends with him plaintively telling the camera "I'm okay!" Apparently this version of him is so weak he can't even hand a spoonful of pudding to his father without dropping the spoon with an audible thud.
  • Lost in Imitation: This show borrows a lot of the "canon" from the stage adaptations of A Christmas Carol, like having Christmas Past be a woman, giving Mrs. Cratchit the first name "Emily", implying Tiny Tim has tuberculosis (on top of and exacerbated by whatever his original disability was), and including the detail that Fezziwig's Christmas party is where Scrooge and Belle met.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Mrs. Cratchit didn't have a first name in the original novella; this show uses the first name "Emily" from the various stage adaptations.
  • Nerd Glasses: A big part of Scrooge's characterization is as an '80s nerd, with his big plastic-rimmed glasses cementing his image (and being the main way you can tell Young Scrooge and Old Scrooge are supposed to be the same person).
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: Bob Cratchit's Wild Hair and Porn Stache would, in the actual '80s, mark him as an old-fashioned holdover from the The '70s; the implication in this show is that Bob is a former Deadhead type who settled down and had a bunch of kids, and unfortunately his misspent youth meant the job with Scrooge was the best he could get.
  • Porn Stache: Joey Richter and Brian Holden both rock one of these as Bob Cratchit and the male Debtor, respectively, although obviously Brian had to shave his to play his other role of Tiny Tim.
  • Precision F-Strike: There's relatively little cursing in this show, except for Fred calling Scrooge's mood "shitty" and a pretty funny moment of the Turkey Boy calling the turkey Scrooge wants "fuckin' huge"...oh, and Scrooge constantly being referred to as a dick.
  • Race Lift: Scrooge's nephew Fred and his ex Belle are both black, as is the Ghost of Christmas Present.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: One big reason for the '80s theme seems to be making a virtue of necessity that this show had to be done with all the actors filming from home studios and the setting created by Green Screen thanks to the COVID-19 Pandemic, which is a very Retraux-feeling way to make a Music Video.
  • Reprise Medley: "Christmas Day" is a Triumphant Reprise of "Bah Humbug" that includes brief reprises of "Christmas Electricity" (when he visits Fred) and "Priceless" (when he sees Bob the next day).
  • Reunion Show: The majority of the cast of this show are members of the "first generation" of Team Starkid who appeared in the era between A Very Potter Musical and A Very Potter Senior Year (from 2009-2012), several of whom haven't been seen in Starkid shows for a long time:
    • This is the first new Starkid show A.J. Holmes, Britney Coleman and Brian Rosenthal have appeared in since AVPSY in 2012, although Britney sang the Rewritten Pop Version of "A Thousand and One Nights" as the Ending Theme of Twisted (and all three appeared at the Starkid Homecoming concert, which A.J. Holmes was the arranger and conductor for).
    • This is the first show Brian Holden and Meredith Stepien, both of whom were once "core" Starkid members, have appeared in since Firebringer in 2016 (before Starkid left Chicago for LA). Especially notable since Brian was one of Starkid's founding members with Little White Lie in 2007.
    • Clark Baxtresser, who was Starkid's musical director and bandleader from 2009 (Me and My Dick) to 2016 (Firebringer) but hasn't been seen since the Hatchetfield series (which switched to having music by Jeff Blim and Matt Dahan), now returns as the composer, accompanist and All-Knowing Singing Narrator of this show.
    • A couple of one-off Starkid actors came back for this show — this is Ali Gordon's first appearance since playing Vanessa in Me and My Dick in 2009, and Jamie Burns' since playing Chorn in Firebringer in 2016.
    • Notably, as a result of the Reunion Show aspect of this performance some recent fan-favorites were benched. None of the actors added to the Starkid roster for the Hatchetfield series — Jon Matteson, Robert Manion, Mariah Rose Faith, Angela Giarratana, Curt Mega and Kim Whalen — are on the cast of this show, and neither is Hatchetfield songwriter Jeff Blim.
    • Likewise, the Lang Brothers, other than giving their blessing to produce this show under the Team Starkid brand name and providing the initial inspiration for the concept with the success of Nightmare Time, had no direct involvement in this show's creation (which was written by Clark Baxtresser and directed by Corey Lubowich), being busy with preparation for Nightmare Time Season Two while it was being made.
  • Rock Opera: A Sung-Through Musical in a rock/pop style that received a simultaneous release as a Concept Album.
  • Setting Update: The whole thing takes place somewhere in the United States in the 1980s. One notable Technology Marches On update to the setting is that Christmas Present's torch is replaced with his glowing blue Cool Shades, and rather than sprinkling incense from it on people's food, he instead charges people up with "Christmas Electricity" (with an inspired little detail that people charged with "Christmas Electricity" are "magnetized" to draw closer together.) Note that the Narrator openly contradicts this by saying at the beginning the story takes place in "1800-something" in London, as part of the intentional Lyrical Dissonance.
  • Shout-Out: Scrooge's shaving scene during "Christmas Day" ends with him slapping both hands to his face at the sting from his aftershave, in a direct reference to Home Alone.
  • The Speechless: The original Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was The Voiceless. This being a musical, this version of Christmas Future communicates only in One-Woman Wail wordless vocalizations... until the Wham Line when she reveals the name on the tombstone of the lonely grave is "Ebenezer Scrooge". (Which she has to, since they can't physically show it.)
  • Split Screen: Obviously this technique is used throughout to put the actors into the same scene, but it's also used in the stylistic form of an '80s Surreal Music Video to show two mirrored images of the same actor for effect.
  • Street Punk: The looters at Scrooge's house after his death in the Future sequence are reimagined this way.
  • Stylistic Suck: Dylan Saunders' deliberately awkward attempts to sing and dance at Fred's Christmas party during "Christmas Electricity".
  • Surreal Music Video: It can't help but be this, since it doesn't try to hide at all that it's actors in different places interacting virtually against a Green Screen backdrop, which much of the time is just an abstract surreal image rather than a photo of an actual place.
  • Synth-Pop: The style of most of the music, although it veers into other genres at certain points, like The Ghost of Christmas Present starting "Christmas Electricity" with a verse of old-school hip-hop.
  • Take Our Word for It: A lot of this happens thanks to the limited cast, like the Narrator's descriptions of Fezziwig's and Fred's huge, crowded Christmas parties (which only actually have a few people onscreen). Possibly most notable with the Ghost of Christmas Past, where it's basically Played for Laughs that he describes her as a bizarre Eldritch Abomination and she appears as a sexy aerobics instructor. His description of the other ghosts is similar — Jacob Marley is described as a man covered with chains he drags behind him rather than an androgynous figure wearing stylish silver jewelry around his neck, Christmas Present is an "eight-foot-tall giant" but isn't any taller than Scrooge when he appears onscreen, and the Ghost of Christmas Future is never actually physically described other than saying it fills Scrooge with terror, despite that what we see is a beautiful woman in an Ethereal White Dress.
    • There's also stuff like Scrooge "waking up in bed" only to throw off the blanket and still be fully dressed as he just was in the past scene, and Scrooge spending a scene "shaving" only, obviously, to still have his beard when he's done.
  • That Man Is Dead: "That Scrooge" elaborates on Belle and Ebenezer's conversation in the original book, with Belle making it clear she sees Scrooge's personality change as he got wealthier as this.
  • The Stinger: The show makes us wait all the way through the end credits before finally giving us Tiny Tim's Catchphrase "God bless us, every one!"
  • Time-Shifted Actor: Brian Rosenthal as Young Scrooge.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: The only direct Breaking the Fourth Wall joke in this show comes in the middle of "Priceless":
    Bob and Emily Cratchit: We may be poor as dirt
    But this soil is rich
    Just listen to this
    Key change out of the bridge
  • Truer to the Text: The story the Narrator tells follows the original Dickens novel very closely and is almost completely Played Straight, with the "'80s-ness" of the show entirely in the musical style and the visuals of the characters.
  • Unexplained Accent: In a show where almost everyone has an American accent and the show is supposed to be a Setting Update of A Christmas Carol to America in the 1980s, Ali Gordon decides to play up for laughs her Charity Collector character in the beginning and the "Turkey Boy" character in the ending having the exact same Cockney accents they would in the normal setting of the play.
  • Workout Fanservice: This version of Christmas Past is Jaime Lyn Beatty wearing only a leotard and a headband, who spends her introduction song "I'm the Ghost" doing various exercise routines.
  • Your Size May Vary: People onscreen grow or shrink in size a lot, since they're being pasted in using Green Screen from different shots. This is done intentionally during "Bah Humbug" to make Scrooge grow to gigantic size and tower over Bob Cratchit while he's telling him off. It's notable that this isn't done to make Christmas Present look any bigger even though we were just told he was "eight feet tall".
  • Yuppie: The implicit theme of this show, with 1980s greed replacing the 1840s kind Dickens was writing about (in the tradition of Scrooged with Bill Murray), although unlike Scrooged this show implies Scrooge is far too old to actually be a yuppie (since it's mostly Truer to the Text).