Monster’s Ball : Leticia in the eyes of the Male Gaze

Present your own theory about Leticia, the character Halle Berry played in Monster’s Ball. What role did the filmmaker/writer play in creating this image as outlined in the previous reading? What type of stereotype does she fall into, if any? How does Leticia compare to Claudine as a single black mother?  Is she a love object, sex object or both? Also, how does Hank’s perspective of Leticia, change the audience’s view of her. And as always incorporate the readings but also find outside sources/critiques about the film and link them in your post.p28827_p_v7_aa

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18 thoughts on “Monster’s Ball : Leticia in the eyes of the Male Gaze

  1. Film makers usually tend to know little about the struggles and the issues that relate to a black women , especially if is a black or a white man film maker, who dont have any type of sympathy towards these class of women . These film makers whom typically are always stereotyping their skin color and sexuality. Norman Manatu states these comments on his article of African women and sexuality in the Cinmea. Leticia VS Claudine they are both characters who are searching for love , they both black typical stereotype women from lower income that are on wellfare. They are quite diffrent characters with somewhat similar characteristics. Leticia is more of a sexual women , whom cant be indendent without someone by her side it seems that she depends on someone to be there for her mentally and physically. Claudine is also the same but she is not a sexual deviant like Leticia character. I feel Claudine she has more of the characteristic to be an independent female because she was already being independent taking care of her children and was also working to maintain the house hold.Claudine is not viewed a sex object the man obviously has good intentions with her because these women does have alot children , he is willing to be with her regardless of that. Leticia is more seen as sex object whom is weak at the moment and the white man takes advantage of her weakness, she throws her body to him because she feels this is the only way her pain can be washed away.

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    • I agree with you that many filmmakers despite their race, tend to not know much, much less care about, the lives of Black women they portray in their films. You also made some good points about the similiarities and differences between Claudine and Leticia from Monster’s Ball. You mentioned Manatu in relation to the reading but didn’t incorporate a direct quote which is important in terms of creating a critical analysis of the two characters and the film. Please keep that in mind for future posts.

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  2. In the movie Monsters Ball, Laticia plays the role of a helpless, down and out, dependent widow. I believe that the film maker wants the viewer to feel sympathy towards her, like a damsel in distress. I don’t feel like Laticia falls into any particular stereotype because she does has similarities of some stereotypes but does not fully portray a particular one. For example, she can be viewed as a superwoman because she tries her best to take care of her son and provide for herself, but at the same time she is not successful at her job and her house gets repossessed. She could be seen as a jezebel because of her hasty decision to have sex with a man that she doesn’t know, but she’s isn’t promiscuous throughout the film, and doesn’t sleep with multiple men. Cluadine and Laticia are very similar in many ways. Both women are on the lower end of the social ladder, both working low paying jobs. They also have kids without the presence of their biological father in their life. Along with that, they both need a man in their lives to help take care of them, and in Claudine’s case, her children as well. They do all they can to take care of their children, but its just not enough. I believe that at first, Hank saw Laticia as a sex object. In the beginning of the movie, we see that he only looks at women as sex objects because of his encounters with prostitutes, so the quickness of her wanting sex with him made her a sex object. He seemed reluctant at first which is discussed by “Keen’s (1991) claim that “women imagine sex indirectly, while men imagine sex directly.” One conclusion to be drawn is that like men who seek out sexual adventures, black women are nonwomen who dally in sexual adventures, rendering them sexual predators.” He eventually gives in and engages in sex with her. As he gets to know hr and spends time with her she becomes more of a love object. Hank even goes as far as kicking his elderly father out into a retirement home for Laticia. Hank begins to make the audience feel sorry for her. In the beginning of the movie, I just thought she was a struggling mother-nothing out of the ordinary. But Hank helping her out makes me look at her as if she can’t fend for herself. Overall, to me she just seems like the helpless black women that needs attention.

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    • Jenai,
      I agree with a lot of your points but I wouldn’t necessary view Leticia as a Superwoman. Leticia fails at being a Superwoman because of her inability to get it together on all points except for her sexual relationship with Hank. Author Michelle Wallace writes, “the myth of the Black Superwoman: A woman who has “inordinate strength” and is “stronger emotionally than most men.” That is more Coffy than Leticia. Your argument that Leticia is a sympathetic damsel in distress is closer to what and who she is. Also, excellent use of a quote from the reading. Good job!

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  3. Initially, I believe Leticia is viewed as a sex object; however, I see a shift that changes her from a sex object to a love object. Starting off with the sex object viewpoint, I believe she was initially seen as a sex object by Hank. In the film, after the death of her son, Leticia repeatedly screamed to Hank “Make me feel good” and he did just that. There wasn’t a clear relationship formed between them yet, despite the fact that he tried to save her son. She invited him in, which would be normal for a woman in her position but after the tears and talking, she had sex with him. She was feeling sad and hurt and to forget about the pain she turned to sex. Once again, there was no romantic relationship established at this point; they weren’t complete strangers but I felt that at this moment in time they were both lost (due to the death of their sons) and they bonded over that. She in a sense actually used him for sex (so in my opinion they both should be viewed as sex objects). In the film we saw that he didn’t have a problem with using women for sex and Leticia was clearly hurt and wanted to forget about the pain. So they both took advantage of each others company and had sex, which I guess would make her a sex object.

    Another instance she is seen as a sex object is by Hank’s dad. In the scene where Leticia entered Hank’s house only to meet his dad, she had a conversation with him hinting at her relationship with Hank. He then responded in a few words that Hank was just like his old man. He stated, “You aren’t truly a man until you split some dark oak.” So just at that moment we see this man’s viewpoint of Leticia being nothing more than a sex object. After this encounter, Leticia drives off upset and Hank sadden. According to the readings, Love and Romance by Manutu, it states, “their marginalized and oppressive positions within U.S. social structure would appear to determine—and this point is especially important—not who black women themselves become; rather, who they become in the eyes of the culture at large.” So in this case, regardless of how Hank currently viewed Leticia at that time, his father viewed her as something different. So Leticia as a Black woman wasn’t viewed, as someone Hank could love, only as someone that Hank could sleep with until he gets tired of and throws away. So we see this objectification of Leticia as a sex object not by Hank at this moment in time; it’s more of the people viewing their relationship and judging and labeling it as they see appropriate (in Hank’s father case, not appropriate). So here we get a little of that outsider opinion just like what happened in our previous film, Zebrahead. Outsider depiction of Nikki either labeled her as a sex object or love object, so we see a little of that with Leticia and Hank’s father.

    I feel that the transition of her being a sex object to a love object happened when he put his father in an elderly home. I don’t think any guy would have done that for a woman he wasn’t serious about or didn’t respect. According to Manutu, it states, Cinematic heroine like romance heroine represents female respectability.” So to be a love object, the man in pursuit of you must have respect for you. I believe the reason why Hank moved his father to a nursing home is because of the way he made Leticia feel. Hanks father disrespected Leticia. So he made a choice between the two. I feel that this event represents a symbol in which Leticia will be viewed. If Hank kept his father in the house with him, that would have represented him viewing Leticia as a sex object. If he kicked him out, that would represent his commitment to the relationship as a romantic pursuit. Hank in fact, kicked out his dad because he seriously wanted to pursue a romantic relationship with Leticia.
    I feel the best stereotypes that relate to Leticia’s character is the Superwoman. Throughout the film, we saw Leticia as a single mother juggling multiple jobs trying to make a living for her family. We saw her be strong (to the best of her ability) as her husband was being executed. Even after he son died, she still continued on working and tried to move on. I feel that these are aspects of the superwoman (even if in its minimalist form). She even held it together a bit after she found out that the man she was sleeping with was essentially responsible for the death of her husband. I would also say she would represent a Tragic Mulatto, due to her trying to have a relationship with Hank but his father is not having it because she is Black. I am not sure if she is mixed in this movie, if not I disregard this stereotype.

    I feel that she can relate to the character Claudine due to them both experiencing motherhood and wanting someone to love. However, I feel their intentions for wanting love are completely different. Claudine wanted sex at the beginning and then developed feelings for Rupert. Leticia didn’t intentionally want sex from Hank, it just happened because she was in a vulnerable state. However, they are similar because they were both sex objects that transitioned into love objects; due to Rupert marrying Claudine and Hank asking Leticia to move in with him. I feel that the men in both movies made it possible for the women to become love objects by wanting that special romantic relationship. The guys wanted a relationship with these women, not purely aimed at sex.

    I feel Hank’s perspective of Leticia could have easily motivated the audience view of her. As an audience to their relationship, it was easy to mark Leticia as a sex object. Just for starters, it is clear that Hank is a racist and/or comes from a family of racists. So just at that moment you see this line between Hank and Leticia and it’s not straight. She is an African American woman and you can tell, throughout the beginning of the film, he wasn’t kind to Black people. However, as a relationship developed between the two, Hank’s attitude also changed. He became nicer to Black people in a sense. For example, in the film he asked to know his neighbors two kids name (kids he threatened to shoot). We now see a change in his language (he doesn’t say “nigger” anymore), he says please and thank you, and he even ask them (Black neighbors) for their help at times. I’m not saying he is the kindest man in the world but he did in fact change. So changing and respecting the Black people around him, is kind of brought on due to the relationship he has with Leticia. So it’s like the relationship between him and her is now leading him to respect other people that do not have anything to do with their relationship. This much respect would make the audience feel that he is falling for her (making the audience view her now as a love object).

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    • Fatoumata
      You made some excellent points and incorporated some good quotes from the film and readings. I think you argument that Leticia changes from a sex object to love object especially as it relates to the quote you noted of how black women “become in the eyes of the culture at large.” You also referenced a great quote in regards to Leticia being a Cinematic Heroine, which we can also see in Claudine and Nikki from Zebrahead as well being both sex and love objects. Both you and Jenai, suggest that Leticia is a Superwoman stereotype but I don’t see the proof of that in either one of your arguments especially based on the readings, the film examples (Coffy) and our class discussions. Manatu states, “when presented as professionals, these women are aggressive and amazonian, real and unreal all at once.” They are women who do the impossible, who are coded far from being romantic figures such as Coffy, Olivia Pope from Scandal or even Cookie from Empire. Leticia, if anything is more modeled as the Sapphire more so than anything else. Outside of the Superwoman argument, your comparisions between Leticia and Claudine are great. Good job!!!

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  4. Monsters Ball is a great film that I watched about ten years ago before watching this film in class and I finally got a chance to understand why the sex scene was apart of the film and take in what the film actually represents. Halle Berry’s character Leticia, is a black women who lost her baby father and their son in a short period of time while also facing financial issues leaving her hopeless and in need of someone’s help to take away the pain. She meets this racist and misogynistic white guy Hank, whose life changes after the suicidal death of his son. Hank and Leticia have nothing in common besides the fact that death is a major factor in their lives. My theory about Leticia is that she used sex and alcohol to help her through her troubles because he was weak and vulnerable and Hank was there to take her pain away with sexual pleasures which later led to them falling in “love”. She decides to buy him a hat even though she is going to soon be evicted from her home and Hank buys her a truck, moves her in, and gives her the gas station which shows how much she changed his perception on black people. He also interacted more with his son’s black friends and put his father in a nursing home for disrespecting Leticia with racist slurs.

    The filmmaker plays the role in creating the image of devaluing black women and black people as a whole. In the film, Leticia mentions how her son is fat and how he can’t be obese and African American in this society that already prejudice. In the reading, Lerner and Hooks stated that public perception of black women as sluts, hence, remains firmly rooted in false myths, invisibility fueling the devaluation process. Hank’s father in the film only perceived Leticia as a sex object to his son and mentioned the myth of black women about their sexual characteristics of having “nigger juice” and “splitting the dark oak” as if that’s all black women are good enough for is sex, and not romance. Given that cultural belief is that black women are essentially transgressors, sexual deviation becomes expected of them (Manutu,chap.3). Leticia falls into the stereotype of the sexual deviant because she was aggressively sexual to Hank begging him to make her feel “good” after the death of her son looking for lust to take her away from her problems and later starting to date each other after that sexual encounter. Berry’s sexual coding becomes a special concern given the rarity of black females as central or romantic characters in american films(Manutu,chap. 3). It’s just sad that it is not common for white male and black female relationships to be represented in film as romantic but oversexed and seemed more of deviant than influential for finding love in interracial relationships.

    When Comparing Leticia to Claudine, it quite obvious that the films portray black women as dependent, and in need of a man to take care of their financial burdens after sexual encounters. Nikki was a sex object during the beginning of their sexual relations later becoming a love object after Hank’s perspective changed on the way he viewed black people as a whole. In the beginning of their relationship the audience saw her as being sexually exploited because she was vulnerable and under the influence but later views change as we see Hanks change in the film and his need for Leticia even though she needs him more.

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    • Shaquarius,
      I like that you took the time to make a real analysis of the film and Leticia as a stereotype. You also incorporated some excellent quotes especially relating to the consisted sexual coding of black women in film/media. At first glance, as probably most of us did when the film first came out, was to assume that this was a groundbreaking role for Halle Berry and Black women. It appears to be a tragic love story of two lost souls who happen to come together. But upon further investigation, we see Leticia closely represents not only a sexual deviant/sex object as you noted, but also elements of the Sapphire, Jezebel as well as Welfare Queen to some degree. We only change our opinion of Leticia because she changes in the eyes of Hank, “male gaze.” She really doesnt change on her own or becomes a different, better person. Therefore, she is more or less the same person in beginning of the film as she is towards the end. Excellent analysis!!!

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  5. I believe Leticia, the character Halle Berry played in Monster’s Ball, was depicted as both a sex object and a love interest in the film. The film maker depicted these views of Leticia by showing Leticia throw herself at the officer and ask him for sex to “make her feel better” but then by changing the views of her when he shows her genuinely caring for the officer, and buying him a gift. This is when we see the genuine feelings between the officer and Leticia, and that it is not just all sex. I would say Leticia falls into the stereotype of a Jezebel but also a wellfare queen. I say this because she is viewed as hyper sexual throughout the film and money always seems to be an issue with her. Many question if she is only with the officer because he pays for her, let her move in, and bought her a car. On the other hand, I also believe she is an independent female because she raised her boy when her husband was locked up and she still continued to work instead of looking for handouts. Also, at one point in the film we see the officer offering her his car and she says she would like to take it but can not accept it. This showed me she wasn’t really looking for hand outs, even though in the end she accepted the car anyway. Compared to Claudine as a single black mother, I would say Leticia was viewed more as a sex object where as Claudine was viewed more as a mother just trying to take care of her kids. I think Hank, the police officer’s, view of Letticia changed the audiences for sure. When he fell for her, and started caring, my own person views of her changed as well. I think she was viewed more as a love interest.

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    • Hello Brittany,

      You said that Leticia was viewed more as a sex object but I will have to disagree with that. There is no direct implications of that in the movie. Leticia had sex with hank at some point but that does not show that she was looking just for sex. In my opinion, Leticia is a love object. She is a lonely woman looking for compassion and companion.

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    • Brittany,

      I agree that Leticia does have elements of the love and sex object. As a sex object she demonstrates aspects of the Jezebel as well as the Welfare Queen but I wouldn’t go as far as to say she is hypersexual. Despite the way in which she becomes intimate with Hank, he was the only person she was having sex with. Also, she was not using her sexuality to manipulate or trick him. I also, wouldn’t say she was an independent woman or the Superwoman either. Usually, the Superwoman aka independent woman is a professional woman who has it together in all aspects of her life except her personal life with relationships or family life. Leticia can barely keep a job, her husband is on death row and her son is obese and abused by her. In comparison, Claudine had it a little more together although not much more. For the future, incorporate the readings because it helps you to build your arguments and have a more concise analysis.

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  6. Leticia is the main character in the movie “Monster’s Ball”, directed by Marc Foster (2001). I think that Leticia falls into the superwoman stereotype. It seems to me that the filmmaker played an important role on Leticia’s character. Leticia’s character is well crafted and played out. Leticia is a superwoman because she is dealing with many things at the same time. She has to take care of her obese son, she has to deal with the child’s father who is about to be executed. Also, she is having troubles at work and to pay the bills. She is a strong but sad woman and she stills manages to go through all those issues. I think the filmmaker’s intention was to portray her pain in many ways and it did worked out well. One of the scenes that got me thinking was the ending scene when Leticia kept staring at Hank and he then said “we will be alright”. I did not like the relationship between them: too dramatic and sad. I do not think that Hank is a good man. He changed a little bit at the end but I did not see that he really changes for good. He hated his own son and after his son committed suicide, Hank seems to not care.

    Leticia can be Compare to Claudine. They are similar in many ways. Claudine is also a superwoman. Both of them have to deal with social issues, economic and relationship issues. They both have troubles paying the bills. The relationship they have with their boyfriends are complicated. They both have issues with their children. The main difference between Leticia and Claudine is reflected at the end of each film. At the end of the film Leticia seems to be sad while Claudine seems to be very happy at the end of “Claudine”.

    Leticia is not a sex object. She would be more of a love object. She is looking for compassion and companion, she is not looking for sex. She is a lonely woman. The way Hank views Leticia did not really affect my perspective of her. Since the beginning of the film I could notice how lonely but a strong woman she was. Hank’s perspective on her only reinforced my opinion about Leticia.

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    • Raifis,

      I’m interested why you and many of your classmates view Leticia as a Superwoman. If you remember for the conversation we had in class, the Superwoman tends to be a black woman who is working and tends to have her professional life in order. She is generally an overachiever and works on making right the wrongs against her or her family. Leticia has failed for the most part in her professional as well as personal life. her personal life on changes when she is viewed as a love object through the male gaze of Hank. She actually starts out as a sex object similiar to Claudine and transitions into a love object. The sex scene with Hank and how his father views her are two good examples of that. I dont think Leticia is sad at the end. I think that look on her face shows that she has accepted all the things in life bad and good and that she feels that Hank can be a good thing and possible a change for the good in her life. As always, incorporate the readings in your postings. They help clarify your arguments and flush out your theories.

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  7. I feel that Halle Berry’s character, Leticia, is the perfect example of the “Male Gaze”, because of the fact that Hank “saves” her in many ways. She finds “value” through him and thanks to the things that he gives her, whether it is sexually, or literally by providing shelter to her when she is evicted; also, the last scene of the movie represents how she sees him as her salvation, the “hope of a better future”. To me, the scene where Leticia and Hank first have sex at her house stops her from being the cinematic heroine, and makes her lean towards the oversexed Jezebel and the sex object: right before the act, he asks her What can i do for you? and her answer is “Make me feel good”… That scene and dialog sends a powerful message about how she is portrayed as a sexual other who does not need love or tenderness, and a Jezebel who rather requires raw pleasure–sex–to make her feel good, and also ties in with the male gaze by fulfilling the fantasies of male audiences, As Norma Manatu accurately states, “Viewers, in fact, must conclude that black women do not experience or value intimacy, tenderness, and gentleness in their male-female relationships, qualities widely accepted as key components in fueling romantic love. As portrayed, all that black women seem to require is raw sexual pleasure”, Manatu also says that ” ‘no romantic sensibilities are developed for most black women on screen’. Instead, viewers are met with images of ‘loose sexuality’ “, (Love & Romance, pg. 2), which is another consequence of the negative portrayals of black women, and something that occurs in this film. I’ve heard about Monster’s Ball but had never actually watched it, I find it disappointing and sad that Halle Berry gave in and even won an Oscar by accepting a role that only perpetuates and reinforces old stereotypes that are already so hard to eradicate.

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    • Deborah
      You and your classmates have made some excellent observations in regards to Monster’s Ball. Leticia does fall somewhat short of becoming a Cinematic Heroine the same way she is not totally a Jezebel. She is part love object, part sex object. In the quote you selected, Manatu states black women don’t “experience intimacy and tenderness” but Leticia does especially as their relationship grows. Of course, its at the expense of a very graphic sex scene which perpetuates the concept of the “loose sexuality” of black women. This film is exceptionally challenging because there is a lot of tenderness and love along with a great deal of stereotypes, hate and aggression. Which is much different than Claudine although, both women can be considered love and sex objects. Good points!

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  8. She could be compared with Claudine with the fact that they both are portrayed as constructing their life and happiness in relation to a men who save them. In the case of Claudine i think it was love, in the case of Leticia and Hank I doubt her relationship could be considered romantic, even though he takes her to his house and is gentle towards her, i think she was looking for an resource rather than a romantic partner, they were both looking for an outlet to their loneliness.

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  9. Although there are some typical or more general stereotypes portrayed by Halle Berry as Leticia (single black mother, husband in prison, of lower income), there aren’t any specific stereotypes to pinpoint her as. There are bits of some stereotypes; for example, she is tragic but not a mulatto as she lost her husband and son, she can be seen as the damsel in distress needed to be saved not just by any man, but a white man, and the film depicts explicit sex scenes, but she isn’t a jezebel. I think the writer of this film wanted to create a complicated character that would typically go to a white woman, which is why I think there are not set or distinct stereotypes. I remember Manatu mentioned that white women are given the complex and diverse character roles (grieving mother, lover, sex object, wife etc.) that allow audiences to connect with her but hardly any are given to black women.
    Claudine and Leticia are similar in some ways, as they are both black women of lower income, working menial jobs, single working mothers, with children whose fathers are not in their lives, and they both do find relationships and men that help them out. Their specific circumstances are different though, as Leticia loses both her husband and son and Claudine is seen more as a love object overall. Leticia is initially seen as a sex object by Hank, and by Hank’s father, but later on she becomes a love object as Hank develops more seemingly genuine feelings for her. Although she is seen as a sex object initially, I don’t necessarily think it is done in a way where it is entirely stereotypical. Leticia is dealing with a series of tragic events, and wants something to make her feel good. She isn’t looking for love or marriage, just something quick. I think it can be seen as empowering because she is taking ownership of her sexuality and doing what she wants to do. She is in charge, because I believe Hank was just following her lead.
    I do think that although they needed each other, we really only see Leticia through Hank’s eyes. We see her as a tragic woman who clearly needs help in different aspects of her life (emotionally and financially). We see Hank as living an ordinary life, with some tragedy as he also lost his son, but she is the emotional wreck of the film. Hank is the (white) man who comes to her rescue, and it can be seen as her needing him more than him needing her. He tried to help her save her son’s life, gives her a car and even lets her to move into his home with him and gets rid of his father for her. Although she does make some grand gestures to show that she too cares, such as pawning her wedding ring to buy him a cowboy hat, there aren’t equal amounts of giving and receiving. There is definitely a power imbalance in more ways than one (racially, financially, and maybe even emotionally).

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    • Kiabett,
      I agree with you that Leticia is made up of a lot of different stereotypes. She has elements of the Sapphire as well as Jezebel. Leticia is a complicated character as you mentioned in relation to the readings. A quote from the reading would have been perfect to prove your point. Leticia is a close to a romantic heroine as there is going to be for a black female character. She does move from a sex object to a love object and pretty much finds the love, affection and respectability awarded to white female characters. I also agree that there is a power imbalance btw the two love interests as there are in most films and there is certainly an added element since they are an interracial couple as well. As Manatu states, “The implied cultural metamessage is this and other such films is that without male protection, sexually free women are destined to a life of poverty.”

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