The Whole Plate: Transformers and Film Studies

Discussion in 'Transformers Movie Discussion' started by BattleUpSaber, Apr 29, 2017.

  1. ZeroiaSD

    ZeroiaSD Autobot

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    Anything can be analyzed for the statements it makes through different social lenses, that's what artistic analysis is. Yes, even entertaining aimed just at entertaining, because people don't have to hold up a sign saying 'this is politics' to put stuff into their work, it's part of telling a story.

    And there's nothing wrong with looking at that, despite all your eye-rolling, it's how we learn more about how good stories are put together and put that into future work. How we figure out what works and what doesn't and why something that's panned by many can keep drawing in lots of people and all that.
     
  2. zerowolf

    zerowolf Well-Known Member

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    Aaahh. It's seems TLK broke her too.
    Nice to hear that she actually rewatched TF Prime to remind herself why she loved the franchise.

    I didn't think she read Idw comic and also seem to realize what transformers could be.
     
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  3. Archaea

    Archaea Autobot Archeaologist

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    Brilliant series of videos including the latest about female Transformers.
    Bay is 100% Bro dude.
     
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  4. Starscream Gaga

    Starscream Gaga Protoformed This Way

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    Its hilarious that in five videos she hasn't even begun to discuss racism or sexism in the Transformer movies but people are still putting buckets over there head and going "Nopenopenopenope" just because someone who studied film is discussing them and everybody knows exactly what conclusion people with brains comes to when it comes to these films. Its telling, isn't it?
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2017
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  5. Mako Crab

    Mako Crab Well-Known Member

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    Narrative & flow are cool. But if you entirely dismiss semiotics & iconography, then you lose out on so much. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it does sound like you're making the argument that delving into the meaning of images is a worthless pursuit.

    It doesn't have to be a negative experience. I often find that interpreting what we see in film can be fun. One of my favorite is this viagra commercial from a few years back.



    The first time I saw it, I was like, what does this have to do with their product? And then I was like, oh, the truck is his dick & the horses are viagra. And his horses are helping his truck get up out of the mud. It's funny & kinda genius without being even a little racey or vulgar.

    Also, if you haven't already watched it, Lindsay's video titled "What's Happening" is all about the mechanics of film. You should check it out as it's right up your alley.
     
  6. bellpeppers

    bellpeppers A Meat Popsicle

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    No.
    I can't delve into my resistance to some of these due to politics, which is a no-no at TFW.

    I will have to partake in that; and she's got one regarding 'genre' and I am curious about what she has to say about that.

    Just not some of the others.
     
  7. Mako Crab

    Mako Crab Well-Known Member

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    Episode 6 is here:

     
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  8. 96megatron

    96megatron Well-Known Member

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    Michael Bay hates people, Meanwhile Water Wet.
     
  9. Starscream Gaga

    Starscream Gaga Protoformed This Way

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    Yes! Lindsay's recent videos on GOTG2 and Pocahontas have been good, but I've been eagerly awaiting a new Whole Plate.

    She certainly took it in an interesting direction. "Michael Bay treats female characters as nothing more than sex objects" is such a blatant thing and so easy to discuss that it's cool that she went for the higher-hanging fruit and examined the movies' portrayal of male characters. I wonder if there'll be another video on this same subject? Certainly there's a lot that can also be discussed in the regards to the movies' worship of the military characters (which she only very briedly mentioned) and the "paragon of masculinity" version of Optimus Prime represented in the films.

    EDIT: Yeah, looks like the next video will also be in regards to Gender Studies.
     
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  10. BattleUpSaber

    BattleUpSaber Result.

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    Not gonna lie, I'm never noticed the gender in equality subplot in the first movie before (and I've seen that movie more times than I've seen daylight).
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2017
  11. Prime17

    Prime17 Seeker

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    Damn, I had no idea that John Turturro based his performance on how Bay acts as a director but it makes so much sense that I can't believe I didn't see it before.
     
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  12. Mako Crab

    Mako Crab Well-Known Member

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    Yay! Damn, I started going back through these, since I missed out early on, but haven't fully typed up my thoughts. Gonna do that now.

    The Whole Plate- episode 1

    - It was funny rewatching this, because this time I noticed that Lindsay was using the camera technique she talks about in episode three of The Whole Plate; changing locations on-screen & forcing the eyes to refocus. Though I think the way she used that technique here was more in-line with Hitchcock than Bay. As she points out in ep 3, Hitchcock (and others) would change the location of focus, when the director wanted a visual cue to silently tell the audience, "HEY! This part is important! Pay attention!" So it was cool to notice that technique already in use.

    The rest is just set-up for the series & what we can expect to see. Though I do find it important that she rightly called out the general disdain for these movies in academic circles. While the realm of academia & even casual movie goers & even die-hard Transformers fans & fans of Bay's specific brand of Transformers (so pretty much the entire world) all scoff at any close analysis of these movies, she points out that these movies have become a wildly successful & important touchstone of film in general. Lots of other movies imitate techniques & camera work popularized by Michael Bay in these movies. Like, he's been using a lot of the same tricks in his movies for years from the low sweeping cameras to shooting helicopters flying in the sunset. But his specific quirks never got picked up & copied so much until after the success of Transformers.

    That, and Bay's Transformers are insanely successful coming in just behind mega-franchises like Star Wars, James Bond, Lord of the Rings, & the entire Marvel cinematic universe. And TFs has come in just behind those franchises despite having less entries in its series (only 4 movies at the time her first episode went up). So basically yeah- she spends a lot of time explaining why this series deserves to be looked at, because the entire world has said that these are mindless popcorn movies that don't merit discussion. I personally have seen die-hard fans of Bay's Transformers get upset when anyone attempts to look at these films critically. It's baffling. I almost want to say it goes back to the idea of politique that Ellis brings up later, where these flicks are just simple childish entertainment & fans want to keep it that way. Except no- Bay injected a lot of politique into these films, where the cartoons err on the side of innocent entertainment.

    One final thing- she states in this first ep that film interpretation will vary from person to person. It goes back to that idea of the director communicating ideas to the audience & how well those ideas get across. If the director sucks at communicating his ideas, then his films could carry many unintended meanings. My favorite stand-by in this regard is Jack Sholder's "gay" Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge. For years he apologized for accidentally making Elm Street 2 a bizarre coming out story for the horror genre's first gay hero despite being in a hetero relationship (though played by a gay actor!). It wasn't until gay acceptance became widespread that he finally accepted the honor & stopped apologizing for his strangely queer movie. The fact remains that what he tried to communicate through film was interpreted by the audience much differently than what he had intended. It's that 2-way street of film meaning.

    And with that, I'll be back with my thoughts on episode 2.

    Fun fact- this scene is barely edited!
     
  13. Mako Crab

    Mako Crab Well-Known Member

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    The Whole Plate Episode 2: Auteur Theory vs Michael Bay

    So I love the irony that under Film Academia's own guidelines, that Michael Bay can be considered an auteur. For a director whose body of work seems to be more reviled the more successful he becomes (not unlike the hate for Steven Spielberg in his early career), it must be a bitter pill to swallow to count him among the greatest auteur directors of all time. I say that not knowing who's even counted. And also, I don't much care about auteur theory anyway. As Ellis stated at the outset, film is a collaborative effort by its very nature, so to recognize only the director seems dickish to everyone else involved in the process.
    But that leads into the big about death of the author- the idea that it doesn't matter who the director is. The film has to stand on its own merits, detached from the director. And since Bay doesn't line up perfectly with all the bullet points of auteor theory, Ellis argues that he can be seen as a good example of death of the author also. He doesn't state his intentions or World-view, so we have only his movies to guess from.

    Anyway, aside from sticking it to film academia, which scoffs at these movies, the most interesting part of Ellis' video was the big on politique: the idea that Bay took something innocent that he has no reverence or nostalgia for (TFs) & then added in a bunch of real-world stuff that actually matters. Like his movies say, "why would you want to play with plastic toys, when you could be playing with titties?" DOTM's battle of Chicago is constantly conjuring up flashbacks of 9/11 with its falling skyscrapers & destruction of a civilian city. The scene at Chernobyl & really all the moon conspiracy is all calling back to Cold War stuff & the space race.

    But for all that, there were a handful of instances where politique was present in the old Sunbow cartoon. The Golden Lagoon takes up the anti war sentiment still gripping the country after the end of the Vietnam War. The God Gambit takes on the touchy subject of religion, cults, and false idols. WebWorld gets into mental disorders & sees Galvatron checked into a psyche ward. Politique is there- not all in your face like the movies and not very often, but G1 did dabble in the waters on occasion.

    And with that- on to episode 3!
     
  14. bellpeppers

    bellpeppers A Meat Popsicle

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    Ummm... as if Bay wrote any of these movies...

    But Bay hated his leads and and portrays his leads the way he does because he's portraying them the way the audience is?

    And so Bay hates his audiences.

    So I guess he thinks the audience is Sam for 3 films , but then the audience became Cade for the other 2? What did we do to make him hate us less?

    I can't imagine viewing the world the way she does.

    Someone call me when she gets into the REAL guts of filmmaking: script analysis, continuity, the 3 act structure, mise en scene, etc.
     
  15. Mako Crab

    Mako Crab Well-Known Member

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    The Whole Plate Episode 3: Why Is It So Hard to Remember What Happens in Transformers?

    I commented on this episode a little already, but to follow-up, I would love if someone could conduct a survey of random people on the street & see just how much of these movies they can remember. Because I think Lindsay is right on the money about the visual mayhem taxing the brain way too much.
    I can remember pretty much everything from the first 2 movies & most of the third. Of course, I've seen those ones the most. But AOE is a different story. I've only seen that movie once when it first came out. While I can still remember many scenes & moments (it does help that I've also seen it talked about on the forums ever since it came out too), I have a harder time remembering how all the scenes connect together & flow as a cohesive story.
    Like, first they're in America. I remember the part where Stanley Tucci says they have to head to their Chinese HQ for whatever reason, but I don't remember how the Autobots also wound up there. And then I'm pretty sure Galvatron was there too, but again, I have no idea how or why. I remember the scene where Bumblebee is making fun of Stinger in the showroom, but I can't remember why he's there to begin with, how they got to that room, or why he's separated from the rest of the team, or what happens after that scene. And there's a lot of bits like that, where I vaguely remember stuff but not how it connects to anything around it.
    As a result, I think that a lot of what I consider to be the most memorable scenes in my mind are the scenes that Bay would consider filler. You know what one of my favorite moments in AOE is? The scene where Cade is telling Optimus about the trouble he's having with Tessa & Optimus says, "Oh. I had to go through that with Bumblebee too." That's the scene. There are others, of course, but that's the one whenever I think of AOE. Not some big action set piece or anything like that. Not anything that Bay crafted for months on end & is especially proud of. Just a short little bit where Cade & Optimus talk about raising their young.

    With all this in mind, it's funny to think that Ellis is making the best argument I've ever heard for the need of boring shots. Maybe boring is the wrong word, but certainly shots & editing that allows the brain to process what it's being shown & for the audience to take a breath. I'd wager the reason everyone remembers Optimus', "I am Optimus Prime," speeches at the end of every movie is part because the repetition of doing it every movie drills it into our heads, and part because the camera actually stays on him for a long continuous shot.

    The ironic part is, I can just imagine Michael Bay getting into film making, and making it a personal mission to make every shot a beautiful one. No boring shots! Beautiful, moving, dynamic shots! Never the same angle twice! It's extremely ambitious & any one scene or shot would always look amazing. And he's shooting all this using only his imagination as to where the robots will fill the screen. It's all really impressive. On paper it sounds absolutely incredible. But if the end result is, as it seems to be, that a good majority of the audience can't even remember much of what you've shown them, then all those beautiful shots were for nothing.

    HOWEVER- it could be this very Bay aesthetic that has led to the success of the movies. Right at the start of the video, Lindsay said that she herself went to see the movie a 2nd time because she had to know if her memory was faulty. What if that's what the rest of the world has been doing?! That's how they're making the money! It's diabolical! And kinda genius!

    In summary:
    Visually confusing character designs
    +
    No clear focus in the frame
    +
    Rapid fire cuts
    +
    Contrast of continuum of movement
    =
    Peoples' brains tuning out & only half remembering stuff.
     
  16. ParaChomp

    ParaChomp I am what I am

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    Jeez, the whole argument of Female Gaze still falling under Male Gaze strikes a strong cord. Continuing with the further examples she shows, I think it's logical to gaze at a character. It's how we admire and relate to fiction or, in this case, despise it.

    Otherwise, I'm enjoying this series.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2017
  17. Mako Crab

    Mako Crab Well-Known Member

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    The Whole Plate Episode 4: Genre

    A long time ago I tried to organize my movie collection by genre. When I came to Predator I ran into a serious question- the same question that plagues Lindsay in this video essay; what genre do I sort this into? Is it a horror movie? It's got a monster that goes around killing people 1 by 1 & then skinning them & keeping their skulls for trophies. Is it a sci-fi movie? It's got an alien with futuristic technology. Is it a war movie? It's got soldiers & generals & guerillas & sub-plots about Russians and Cold War intrigue. Is it an action movie? Cuz there's tons of action.

    After wracking my brain for a while, I tore apart my entire movie collection & alphabetized them on the shelf instead. And I've never looked back since. Trying to sort the TF movies into a single genre is likewise an exercise in frustration as it doesn't conform to any one particular genre neatly. And so I don't care.

    I was more interested with the segment, where she talks about the inherent need for genres to change or go extinct. By definition, genres have to have a set of tropes that fulfill expectations. Watch one submarine movie. Good. Now you've seen every submarine movie ever made. Literally. They all have all the exact same scenes.

    - scene where everyone gets quiet & looks at the ceiling.
    - depth charges! Shit!
    - bolts exploding & richocheting all over the place followed by lots of water.
    - the capt takes the sub down further than it should be able to go. Lots of creaking metal sounds.
    - a depth charge sends the sub down EVEN FURTHER! Oh shit!! Somehow doesn't get crushed under the pressure.
    - someone uses the periscope.

    They're all the same. The interesting part comes when movies in a genre start playing against expectations. She gave some examples like Blazing Saddles & Logan. Frozen is also a good example of trying to turn the fairy tale love story on its head. If the audience keeps getting the same thing over & over, they will eventually get bored & go looking somewhere else for their entertainment. So yeah. Cool. Um... ok, I got nothing else. I mean, I pretty much agree with what she said. But it's still not an aspect of film study I find engaging. Onto episode 5!
     
  18. Mako Crab

    Mako Crab Well-Known Member

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    The Whole Plate Episode 5: Feminist Theory

    During my time in college, I had to take a class that focused on postmodern literature. Ever since then, I've had an instant negative knee-jerk reaction whenever someone describes something as being post-modern. Maybe it was the particular works we had to read, maybe it's postmodern writing itself, but whatever it was, it grew a contempt for that particular genre of writing within me. Also postmodern art movements like DADA. Man, I hate me some DADA.

    Lindsay explained postmodernism more quickly & easily than a whole course-load of classes ever did. Basically, postmodernism thinking takes a look at commonly accepted universal truths (the status quo) & asks,

    "BUT WHY?"

    It's just that easy. And under that definition, I can actually enjoy postmodernism. I've probably written postmodern works & not realized it. So Lindsay's big question:

    "Why do all the robots gotta be dudes?"

    I already typed up my thoughts on this episode a few pages back, but in short: to deny that 99% of all the robots are coded as male is disingenuous & asinine, when we all know Hasbro ordered a show that would cater to boys & explicitly stated that there were to be no girls at the outset; an order they would later change, but regardless, they made it clear that all the TFs were to be male.

    Simon Furman cemented the idea that the TFs have no gender, and maintained that stance long after Hasbro had already begun introducing female characters into the show. His disdain for the idea of female TFs came to a head with Spotlight: Arcee, which is like the only spotlight anyone still talks about because of how problematic it was, and Hasbro began seeking a way to finally fix the comics so as to include female TFs and (hopefully) broaden the brand's appeal. Of course, Ellis is talking about an even broader question: why does our culture see the idea of a female *LOOKING* robot an aberation in need of an explanation, but the dude bots with their deep manly voices, robo beards, robo pecs, chomping robo cigars, etc are accepted as normal?

    I like Furman's idea of the TFs being a non-gendered species, but he never fully explored the idea. He never had robots that coded as female & never had a moment where the humans or other organic aliens could ask, "hey, why is that one a girl?" He never flipped the switch and had an alien species mistake Optimus & the dudes for females. Basically, he put out a statement & then never did anything with it.

    The Geth from Mass Effect are a non-gendered machine species & avoid the topic by having them look inhuman & thus hard to relate to. But they also establish that the Geth can transfer their digital minds into any type of body, so they sidestep gender identity altogether. One moment they're a hulking quadruped & the next they're an agile biped. *IF* they have any concept of gender identity, it's gender fluid.

    Back to TFs- I do think it's funny that the reason Roberto Orci gave for not including Arcee in part 1 was because there simply wasn't enough time in the movie to explain female TFs. But when she does show up in part 2, there's no explanation either. Like, they just had her there & it wasn't a problem. I don't think anyone in the audience questioned or cared that Arcee was female. Or Alice.

    Anyway, to finish up, I'm just going to quote Lindsay here, because it's a great explanation of why we even look at & examine films closely.

    Critical studies is not here to shame you for what you like, much as it apparently feels that way to some people, but rather to help give us the tools to question the media we consume & what it says about the culture that created it.
     
  19. Mako Crab

    Mako Crab Well-Known Member

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    The Whole Plate Episode 6: Male Gaze

    The premise of this ep suggests that Michael Bay actually hates his lead male characters of Sam & Cade. I had this whole thing written up questioning that idea until I remembered that Shia LaBeouf himself hates all but part 1 & that the TF movies were just a stepping stone gig for him, so he could go on to better things. I did find one interview where he claimed that Bay himself was no fan of the Transformers either and that neither of them believe in the material they're filming. Anyway, I think it may be a leap to say Bay actively hates his mains, especially since it seems like he enjoys working with the LaBeouf & Wahlberg, but I think it is safe to say that Shia is no fan of the material or the character he plays.

    You hear the cynicism he has for the movies & how he loathes them & how working with Spielberg was a disappointment & you have to wonder how much of what we don't like about Sam comes from the written words in the script & how much is injected by LaBeouf with his seeming constant negativity for the whole thing. Especially when you know that a lot of the scenes are shot while ad-libing & reworking dialogue.

    To be fair to the writers that put Sam on a page before he ever appeared on a screen, I think they were trying to craft a lovable loser archetype. Lindsay points out that Sam becomes involved in the events of the first & second movies through no fault of his own, but because he simply had macguffins unknowingly in his possession. And that's part of that archetype right there- Sam didn't do anything wrong. He didn't make any bad choices. He just got sucked up into this sci-fi interplanetary war through no fault of his own.

    Part 2 has him leaving home for the first time & trying to find his way in life. And again, he gets dragged back into the madness despite refusing to help Optimus earlier. Part 3 finds him down on his luck. Again, he's done everything right, he went to college & saved the world twice, but now he can't even get a job. It's a common story you see, where college educated people are taking retail jobs, & finding that all their hard work in college isn't paying off.

    I'm sure that's what they were going for with Sam ON PAPER. But then you've got an actor that hates his own movies & a director that has no interest in the stories, & neither of them care about or believe in the material & actually seem to have (mild) contempt for the movies that have skyrocketed both of them to mega stardom, & it is very, very likely that the Sam of the script got turned into something else onscreen.

    I can't say too much about Cade. It's been too long since I've seen AOE & I've yet to see TLK (it's gonna happen soon now that it's up for rental!). But again, on paper, I'm sure they were going for the hyper protective dad that's a loser in his own daughter's eyes, because he can't succeed at anything.

    ... it was worth it though, to get that scene where Cade cracks open a bud lite on a car door. :D 



    With Simmons & Mearing, I feel like there was one important detail Lindsay left out. In DOTM, Simmons constantly hits on Mearing, who, as Lindsay points out in episode 7 of TWP, despises being called "ma'am" & seems to have self loathing for being female at all. So here comes Simmons & he's just constantly reminding her of her womanhood. At the end of the movie Simmons does pick her up off her feet & kiss her, & for the first time in the whole movie she finally smiles & enjoys the moment- promptly before having him arrested & taken away. That scene is important for Mearing, who finally accepts that she can be feminine & still do her job in a male-dominated field, but also important because it punishes Simmons for his behavior.

    The Michael Bay avatar in the movies was punished for his Michael Bay-havior.

    Anyway, I don't find myself disagreeing with Lindsay's assessment of the characters so much as the motivation behind their portrayal. With Bay, I'm not so sure he hates the characters as he simply doesn't care. Shia has made his hatred publicly known, so there's no question there. And I want to think the writers were actually trying, but what they put on paper got lost in translation. Much like how the framing of Megan Fox completely handicaps her character, but that's more Episode 7 stuff.

    I do agree with her wider assessment, that media can shape public perception & oftentimes towards negative feelings. Her example of the dude wondering how come he can't get a hot chick, when loser Sam Witwicky has scored two was right on the nose. Stories of entitled dude-bros lashing out when they face any degree of rejection are commonplace.

    And on that note, onto episode 7!
     
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  20. Mako Crab

    Mako Crab Well-Known Member

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    The Whole Plate Episode 7: Framing Megan Fox

    So yeah- she's not wrong. Hey, anyone remember that Super Bowl teaser for DOTM that showed Bumblebee throwing a Fox aside? Yeah, I always took that as a not so subtle shot at Megan Fox.



    On the narrative side of things, replacing Mikaela kills everything that she & Sam did in part 2. They have this big, ultimate confession of love & then we find out that, NAH, didn't mean a thing. I do like that Mikaela dumped him. They probably thought it would make Sam more sympathetic, but the Issue is handwaved so casually, that there's no sympathy to be generated before they're onto the next thing. I always thought that was another dig too- like Bay saying that Fox chose to leave after her comments of him being a Hitler on the set.

    Anyway, as I mentioned, I think it's important to note that Mearing's whole arc had her start as resenting being female at all & then finally allowing her iron-clad exterior to soften by the end of the movie. Also important to note was that she had Simmons taken away for his advances. I know she was highlighting how the men treat the women in these movies, but it's important to show when the women hit back too.
     

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