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Edna Mode

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Edna Mode
Edna Mode promotional image.jpg
First appearance The Incredibles (2004)
Last appearance Incredibles 2 (2018)
Created by Brad Bird
Voiced by Brad Bird
Information
Full name Edna Marie Mode
Nickname(s) E
Species Human
Gender Female
Occupation Fashion designer
Costume designer
Scientist
Auteur
Nationality German[1]

Edna Marie "E" Mode[2][3][4] is a fictional character who appears in Pixar’s animated superhero film The Incredibles (2004). She is an eccentric fashion designer renowned for designing and creating the costumes of several famous superheroes before they are all forced to retire, having worked particularly closely with the superheroes Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl (Bob and Helen Parr), both of whom she has maintained a close friendship with. When the couple resumes their superheroic careers after several years of inactivity, Edna is summoned out of retirement to assist both characters, first by equipping Mr. Incredible with a new super suit and then by restoring Elastigirl's confidence in herself as a superheroine.

Edna was created for the film by screenwriter and director Brad Bird to explain how superheroes obtain their costumes, a topic he believes is rarely explored in superhero films. Bird also decided to voice the character himself after several actresses considered for the role had difficulty replicating Edna’s unique accent. The director understood that, in addition to demonstrating fashion expertise, the character would also need to be proficient in the fields of science, engineering and technology in order to create costumes capable of withstanding the strains of superhero activity. Inspired by Q from the James Bond franchise, Edna is believed to have been based primarily on costume designer Edith Head, although there has been constant speculation as to whether or not other real-life celebrities had inspired Edna, particularly Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and actress Linda Hunt.

Despite her supporting role in the film, Edna has since established herself as The Incredibles' breakout character due to her popularity. While film critics agree that Edna is a scene-stealer, Bird has also received considerable praise for his voice acting, earning an Annie Award for Voice Acting in a Feature Production for his performance. Edna has been called one of Pixar's greatest characters by several media publications, and is expected to appear in the film's upcoming sequel, Incredibles 2 (2018).

Development[edit]

Creation and voice[edit]

In addition to creating the character, writer and director Brad Bird also provides the voice of Edna, using a unique accent that has been described as a hybrid between German and Japanese.

Edna was created for The Incredibles by writer and director Brad Bird.[5] Having watched several superhero-themed films and television shows prior to developing The Incredibles, Bird had often found himself wondering who is responsible for making the superheroes' "flamboyant" costumes.[6] Bird conceived Edna upon discovering that, despite featuring characters dressed in fancy, extravagant costumes, traditional superhero films rarely offer any explanation as to how superheroes came to obtain these outfits, or who provides them in the first place.[7] The director wanted to counter the trope of a muscular superhero sewing his own costume, finding it hard to believe that superheroes would suddenly develop a strong enough interest in fashion to design their own outfits.[7] Therefore, Bird decided that if the world were to be populated with superheroes, there would naturally also be people responsible for designing their costumes who must also have a background in science and engineering,[8] thereby envisioning Edna as a scientist and technical genius in addition to being a fashion designer.[7] The director elaborated, "The way I saw it, the costumes had to be created by somebody with a scientific and engineering background", thus conceiving Edna as "a half-German, half-Japanese, tiny powerhouse of a character".[8] The Incredibles was the first Pixar film to earn a PG rating; Edna is considered to be one of the studio's earliest attempts at approaching "darker, edgier comedy," which is particularly demonstrated by the scene in which the character cites several graphic examples of capes directly resulting in the deaths of several superheroes, one of whom is shown being consumed and killed by a jet turbine.[9] According to Bird, the creation of Edna took the notion of superheroes wearing designed costumes "to a further extreme".[2]

Edna was named after EMode, a software Pixar used at the time the film was made.[10][11][12] Bird identified Edna as the "most fun character" he had written for the film, recalling, "Any day that I was writing her, I was one happy camper."[7] Edna follows the tradition of having a director voice one of the film's secondary characters in animated films., which was based around Bird's "slave-driver voice" that he used during production.[13] Bird's voice for the character originated during the story boarding process, during which various Pixar employees typically provide characters' voices temporarily while the filmmakers and animators organize the film's pacing and staging in order to "get a sense of the film."[14] Although these voices are usually eventually replaced by professional actors and voice actors, there are some situations in which "those voices stick", as was the case with the voice Bird had created for Edna.[7] Bird had also provided the temporary voices of other characters during this time, including Bob Parr and Syndrome.[15] Several actresses had been considered for the role; one actress, whom Bird is particularly fond of, constantly asked Bird to repeatedly demonstrate his interpretation of one of Edna's lines until telling him that he should simply voice the character himself since he "kind of got a beat on it".[7] The role was also offered to actress and comedian Lily Tomlin, who declined upon hearing Bird's interpretation, feeling she could not voice the character as funnily as he did.[16] Bird's colleagues had to heavily convince him to voice the character himself.[17] Finally succumbing to "popular demand" from his fellow Pixar employees, Bird joked that he was ultimately cast as Edna simply because he was both affordable and available at the time.[18] A similar tactic was used for several other supporting characters in the film: animator Bret Parker voices Kari, the Parr family's babysitter, writer Bud Luckey voices government agent Rick Dicker,[19] and production designer Lou Romano voices Bernie Kropp, Dash's teacher.[15]

Bird described Edna's voice as a combination of a Japanese and German accent, deciding to draw influence from these to countries because "they're two small countries that have amazing design and amazing technology", citing cameras and cars of examples of technology in which they specialize.[7] Urban Cinefile's Louise Keller described the character's voice as "mid European ... complicated by an Asian touch".[20] Although Bird's performance is considerably broad, he avoids allowing Edna to become too much of a caricature in order to maintain the illusion that she is one of the film's smartest characters.[21] In the Italian and French-language versions of the film, Bird's comic accent is replaced by that of French-Italian entertainer Amanda Lear, who offers a more seductive, "biting" interpretation.[22] Lear said that dubbing Edna's voice was not an easy process, but accepted the job after being offered the role upon seeing the film at the Cannes Film Festival in order to fulfill her dream of having always wanted to voice a Disney character.[23] Edna was the first character Lear was hired to dub in Italian.[23]

Personality and design[edit]

Bird believes that he shares some of Edna's personality traits, specifically the way in which he prefers to be involved in virtually every creative aspect of his projects, including story boarding, writing and cinematography,[14] admitting that he and his character demonstrate both a high level of self-confidence and lack of self-doubt when it comes to their own work.[8] Bird identified Edna as one of the film's most difficult characters to design.[2] The character went through several different changes in appearance during the development process, ranging from taller and overweight to older, younger and thinner.[19] Inspired by the large impact that countries such as Japan and Germany have on the world despite being comparatively small in size, Bird decided that Edna would demonstrate this theme by being "a tiny character that dominates the room when she gets into it."[7] Her home, which uses high-end technology similar to what she incorporates into the outfits she creates,[4] was deliberately designed to be significantly larger than she is to further emphasize this theme of dominance.[7] Edna's small stature was also inspired by singer Bette Midler, of whom Bird has always been a fan. The director recalled being surprised by Midler's height when he first met her "Because ... she absolutely dominates the screen. And it just struck me how much personality was in this small body."[7] In terms of animation, Bird wanted all of the film's characters to move differently from each other, providing Edna with a very confident walk to represent the fact that she has "never experienced doubt in her life."[15] The animators found the fact that Bird provided the character's voice himself to be very helpful as he would often act out the way in which the character acts and behaves himself, which helped in further defining the animator's vision of the Edna.[2] According to Bird, Edna, despite her petite stature, is the only non-superhero in The Incredibles capable of making superheroes feel uncomfortable.[24]

Famed costume designer Edith Head is believed to have been a primary source of inspiration for the character's appearance.

Describing Edna's appearance as "severe", Bird had envisioned the character as having glasses and a pageboy haircut, but also wanted her to appear modern and elegant at the same time.[2] According to Thomas S. Hischak, author of 100 Greatest American and British Animated Films, Edna is just as concerned with the appearance of the costumes she designs as she is about their use and practicality,[25] proving capable of designing outfits that can stretch, change their shape and resist oncoming attacks such as missiles and fires.[22] Bird described Edna as a character who is "not remotely intimidated by superheroes or anyone at all", refusing to accept the word "no" when it is used in opposition to her opinions or beliefs.[8] Edna's ethnicity has been identified as half-German and half-Japanese.[8][26][27][28] Both Edna's physical appearance and voice are based on those of costume designer Edith Head,[16] with whom she shares her signature round glasses and black bob cut.[22] According to Head's entry in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the character is inspired by both the costume designer's signature glasses and "forthright personality".[29] Bird described Edna as a combination of both Head and Q,[30] a character featured in the James Bond franchise.[31][3] The director has generally declined to confirm any direct influences on the character, insisting that Edna is "not based on a specific person."[32] However, animator Teddy Newton, who co-designed Edna with Bird, revealed that he and Pixar were inspired by the film Unzipped (1995), a documentary depicting the petulance of fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi and stylist Polly Allen Mellen.[31]

Bird stated he has constantly been told by various fans and viewers that the character reminds them of at least 15 different celebrities since the character debuted in The Incredibles.[31] Contributing to Fashion, Erin Dunlop described the character as "a supercharged hybrid of every fashion industry legend we can think of".[33] In an article discussing who Edna is based on, Entertainment Weekly's Steve Daly cited Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, designer Coco Chanel and actress Lotte Lenya as possible influences, while drawing similarities between the character's use of large-framed glasses to architect Philip Johnson, producer Robert Evans, talent agent Swifty Lazar, studio executive Lew Wasserman, and fashion editor Carrie Donovan.[31] Some critics have suspected that the character is also based on Mary Quant and Una Jones.[34] Acknowledging that there are several female fashion designers who wear glasses upon whom Edna could have been based, Bird admitted that the character was inspired by author Patricia Highsmith and actress Linda Hunt, elaborating: "When you're designing a character, you're just saying - who is that? ... We tried a lot of stuff and we kept saying no, no, more like this, but I like the nose on this one, and maybe the pageboy cut, maybe glasses should be bigger ... and you end up with something that reminds you of Edith Head and you of Linda Hunt."[19][35]

Characterization[edit]

Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, one of the celebrities to whom Edna's appearance and personality have constantly been compared and often believed to have been based on.

According to Matthew Brunson of Creative Loafing, Edna provides the majority of the film's comic relief.[36] Hischak believes that Edna offers "a whole new viewpoint to the world of superheroes", in addition to demonstrating the film's "oddball silliness".[25] Vogue Italia published a biography of Edna, in which author Valentina Fabbri described her as a character who "knows she’s the best and she doesn’t hide it, and her lack of modesty is equalled only by her intuition", with whom it is virtually possible to have a conversation because "she tends to dominate."[22] Due to her combination of genius-level intellect and "craziness," Fabbri identified Edna as "a fun, bubbly caricature of the magicians of fashion" by "embod[ying] their talent and charisma, their vices and virtues."[22] Screen Rant's Victoria Robertson observed that the character "has a lot of personality packed into a small exterior, taking stereotypical traits often attributed to designers and making them her own", firstly remaining proud of her own work at all times.[37] Oliver Lyttelton of IndieWire identified Edna as quite possibly the film's most intelligent character.[21] Edna's criticisms of fashion can come off as unpleasant at times, but are exaggerated to the point of which audiences find them to be comical.[23] Edna prefers to always think about the future, finding dwelling on the past to be distracting from the present, as demonstrated by her line "never think about the past, dahling, it distracts from the now",[38] and thus has proven capable of determining the needs of her superhero clientele before they have the opportunity to finalize their ideas themselves.[22] Her personality has been described by GamesRadar+'s Joshua Winning as "brassy" and "no-nonsense".[27] Q13 Fox described Edna as "a gifted designer, an assertive life coach and a witty talker."[3] BuddyTV believes that the character's "bold and eccentric attitude" is rivaled only by her considerable talent.[4] According to Kevin Carr of Film School Rejects, Edna "doesn’t take crap from anyone" yet "she does so with poise and pride."[13]


Scott Tobias of Rolling Stone called Edna "a reminder that the superhero suit needs to the perfect synthesis of form and function", without which "greatness as both a crimefighter and an icon is impossible."[39] She absolutely refuses to incorporate capes into her new designs due to the accessory having a history of contributing to the deaths of superheroes in the past, among them Dynaguy, Thunderhead, Stratogale, Meta-Man and Splashdown,[11] presenting them as a "montage of superhero couture faux-pas".[40] Ultimately, her knowledge of the dangers of capes results in the death of the film's villain Syndrome.[21] In terms of her own appearance, Edna is costumed in "futuristic black" attire, wearing a black dress that boasts square lines.[22] Estimating her height to be of approximately three feet, The Tyee's Dorothy Woodend wrote that Edna is dressed in Issey Miyake pleats while being of "indeterminate gender".[41] VPRO drew similarities between the character's hairstyle and personality to that of Vogue editor Anna Wintour,[11] the resemblance to whom Tech Times' Katherine Derla identified as "The first thing viewers are likely to remember upon seeing" the character.[42] According to STATUS magazine, Edna is often mistaken for the magazine editor largely due to her "snappy sass and iconic bob".[43] /Film's Angie Han joked that Edna's "no-nonsense demeanor" would leave Wintour "quaking in her Chanel boots."[44] When asked about the alleged similarities between her and the character, Wintour revealed that she has yet to see the film.[35] Derla also wrote that Edna is capable of "run[ing] the world" but opts to operate from behind the scenes instead.[42] The term "diminutive" is often used to describe the character's height.[27]

Considering herself to be "too talented" to design clothes for normal humans,[22] Edna resents having been forced to resort to designing clothes for supermodels during the 15-year-long absence of superheroes,[32] dismissing them as "Spoiled, stupid little stick figures with poofy lips who think only about themselves",[3] an opinion she formed after being forced to work with such individuals in Milan and Paris.[4][45] Edna believes that designing clothes for superheroes is similar to designing for gods, and thus considers herself to be far superior to other fashion designers.[4] Despite her considerable success as one of the world's top fashion designers internationally,[2] Edna longs to return to working with superheroes so that she can challenge her designs by "fus[ing] the latest technology with her impeccable fashion sense" to the public's amusement, who continue to adore both her and her creations,[45] insisting that there is nothing "super" about supermodels.[2] In addition to being a talented fashion designer, Edna has also demonstrated proficiency in psychology. In addition to designing their clothes, she offers advice to her clients whenever she feels that they require it,[22] demonstrating a "zero-tolerance policy for emotional weakness" which, according to The Dissolve's Charles Bramesco, represents Bird's "lament[ing] regular folks’ tendency to impede awesome people from being awesome."[46] Edna is known for her tendency to refer to her cohorts as "dahling",[10][28] while her colleagues affectionately refer to her as "E".[2] In addition to citing her resemblance to Wintour, journalist Hadley Freeman of The Guardian believes that Edna's use of fashion in the film represents "The highest pinnacle of human achievement. Without them the world would come to an end."[47]

Appearances[edit]

Edna first appears in The Incredibles as a fashion designer to superheroes and close friend of the titular characters.[22] During the “golden age of superheroes",[12] Edna is one of a few elite guests who attends the private wedding ceremony of Bob and Helen Parr, then better-known to the public as the superheroes Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl. After all superheroes have been outlawed and forced to retire following a series of lawsuits,[27] forcing Edna to retire from superhero work due to government restrictions,[12] Edna does not appear again until approximately midway through film when she is unexpectedly visited by Bob who has resumed superhero work undercover, a secret he keeps from his family. Bob initially asks Edna to simply repair his original super suit, but she ultimately convinces him to allow her to design an entirely new outfit on the condition that capes not be incorporated whatsoever due to safety concerns, ultimately ending her 15 years-long retirement from superhero work.[48] Helen soon discovers that Bob's original super suit had received a patch job, determining that the only person capable of repairing a super suit would be Edna and growing more suspicious of Bob's actions.[24] Later in the film, Helen visits Edna in the hopes of finding out more information about Bob's whereabouts, discovering that she had taken the liberty of designing a complete matching set of super suits for his family. Although their reunion is brief, Edna provides an initially distraught Helen with the encouragement she needs to resume her identity as Elastigirl in order to save her husband (and their marriage), in addition to introducing the character to the homing device she had implanted in her husband's suit which allows her to track his exact location. Edna also appears in Disney on Ice's adaptation of the film: The Incredibles in a Magic Kingdom Adventure.[49]

Critical reception[edit]

Upon her debut, the public immediately became fascinated with Edna, becoming enamored with the character's combination of irreverence and sulkiness.[22] The National Post described Edna as "exactly the kind of person you want at your dinner party".[38] Edna has frequently been called a scene-stealing character;[14][31][32][50] Fashion magazine's Erin Dunlop crowned Edna "the undisputed scene-stealer of Pixar’s criminally underrated animated movie."[33] Dubbing her "One of the great scene-stealing characters in The Incredibles", HowStuffWorks contributor Vicki Arkoff described Edna as "deliciously deadpan".[8] Ken Hanke, contributing to the Mountain Xpress, considered Edna to be among the film's gags and characters who "are delightful and very funny", calling her "worth the price of admission", particularly her anti-cape rant.[51] Film critic Peter Bradshaw, contributing to The Irish Times, described Edna as "a joy with her wonderful and appropriate maxim: 'I never look back, darling. It distracts from the now.'"[52] Dorothy Woodend, writing for The Tyee, described Edna as "a more interesting creature than all the Incredibles put together." Describing her as "a personage I'd like to see more of", Woodend continued that the character "literally steals the show, and does fabulous things with it, darling."[41] Referred to as one of the film's "high point[s]", Kevin Lally of Film Journal International described the character's anti-cape montage as "pricelessly funny",[53] a sentiment with which Matt Brunson of Creative Loafing agreed.[36] Notable Biographies identified Edna as "one of the audience's favorite characters".[54]

Bird has also garnered critical acclaim for his performance. Nell Minow of Common Sense Media wrote that Bird "plays the funniest character in the film",[55] while AllMovie's Perry Seibert described his performance as "screamingly funny".[56] Pete Vonder Haar of Film Threat wrote that Bird contributes "the best work" to the film as Edna in terms of dialogue and vocal performance, calling her rant about the "idiocy" of capes "priceless."[57] Scott Chitwood, writing for ComingSoon.net, agreed that Bird is " absolutely hilarious as Edna".[58] Empire's Colin Kennedy dubbed Bird's voice work "an unmistakable highlight".[59] BBC's Stella Papamichael agreed that the director "steals the show" as Edna.[60] In 2005, Bird won an Annie Award for Voice Acting in a Feature Production at the 32nd Annie Awards for his performance as Edna,[61] in addition to being rewarded for writing and directing the film.[62] Bird was rewarded over actor Samuel L. Jackson, who had been nominated in the same category for his role as Frozone.[63] Bird revealed that fans tend to be more impressed by the fact that he provides Edna's voice than his success as a director and writer, explaining, "If I say a line in Edna’s voice, that’s far more delightful than the fact that I spent four years wrestling something into being."[64]

Impact and legacy[edit]

Edna's popularity among fans and audience members has helped establish her as the film's breakout character.[65][66][67][68][69] Screen Rant's Alex Welch attributes this reputation to both her comedic rapport with the titular characters and passion for superhero costumes.[69] Vogue Italia contributor Valentina Fabbri wrote that Edna's debut ended "superheroes [dressed] in homemade outfits" in film.[22] Film School Rejects' Kevin Carr dubbed Edna "possibly the most unique character in The Incredibles".[13] According to Fabbri, Edna is one of Pixar’s most beloved characters.[22] Uproxx contributor Donna Dickens wrote that the character "went down in pop culture history" from the moment she uttered "No capes!”[70] Edna has constantly been ranked among Pixar's greatest characters by several media publications.[10][71][72][13] In their article "Top 10 Pixar Movie Characters", Tech Times ranked Edna seventh.[42] IGN ranked Edna eighth in their countdown of the "Top 10 Pixar Characters", calling her "a pint-sized fashionista ... who has a flair that only a superhero could truly appreciate."[73] Rolling Stone placed the character ninth on the website's list of the "25 Best Pixar Movie Characters", ranking her ahead of Mr. Incredible (24th), Violet Parr (20th) and Elastigirl (14th).[39] Contributor Scott Tobias wrote that the character "stops the action cold just to have a sequence about appropriate action-wear for the specially abled, culminating in a brilliant screed on the impracticality of capes."[39] Unranked, Q13 Fox called Edna one of Pixar's "Pixar’s 15 best characters".[3] Including Edna among the studio's 20 best characters, Victoria Robertson of Screen Rant cited her as "proof of how important even the most minor characters in a film can be."[37] GamesRadar+ included Edna among Pixar's "50 Greatest Pixar Characters Of All Time", with author George Wales crowning her "One of Pixar's finest comic creations".[74] Additionally, GamesRadar+ considers Edna to be among Pixar's 12 greatest supporting characters.[27] D23.com recognized Edna as one of Pixar's "23 Favorite ... Supporting Characters", deeming her "An icon in her own right".[48] /Film ranked Edna Pixar's sixth best female character, crowning her "the wisest character in the entire Incredibles universe" due to her anti-cape stance, which she has described as the film's "most valuable piece of advice".[44] The Odyssey Online published an article discussing "Why Edna Mode Is The Disney Heroine We Never Knew We Needed", in which author Erin Farmer dubber her "the real heroine of the Disney Franchise", additionally comparing her motivational speeches to those of Mahatma Gandhi.[75] GamesRadar+ ranked Edna's introductory scene the 12th best moment in a Pixar film, deeming her "the perfect embodiment of the film's tongue-in-cheek approach to realism".[76] Entertainment Weekly ranked Edna's anti-capes speech the 12th best Pixar moment.[9] In 2015, E! ranked Edna 10th on their list of "11 Forgotten Disney Characters Who Should Totally Be Your Favorites".[77]

In 2015, Empire ranked the character the hundredth greatest film character of all-time.[5] Vulture.com ranked Bird's role as Edna the fourth greatest performance in an animated film, calling it "a scene- and movie-stealing performance".[17] IndieWire ranked Bird's performance as Edna the 14th "30 Best Voice Performances In Pixar Movies".[21] Kiko Martinez of the San Antonio Current found Bird's performance to be worthy of an Academy Award, ranking him among "15 Actors Who Should’ve Won an Oscar for Their Voice Work".[78] In 2013, Screen Rant crowned Edna "The world’s greatest fashion designer".[69] Fashion ranked Edna among the magazine's "10 coolest fashion industry pros".[33] In their "critical assessment of 7 fictional fashion designers", Mary Sollosi of Entertainment Weekly wrote that she is "consistently impressed by Ms. Mode’s truly groundbreaking textile work" despite feeling that she tends to limit herself to familiar silhouettes, joking, "we are perplexed by her stubborn refusal to incorporate new design features — most notably capes."[79]

Screen Rant ranked Edna the third Pixar heroine who deserves her own film, with author Wednesday Lee Friday writing, "There are so many things Pixar could do with Edna, she might be worthy of a trilogy."[12] At the 77th Academy Awards in 2005, Edna presented the Academy Award for Best Costume Design alongside actor Pierce Brosnan.[22][27] In 2013, the D23 Expo hosted its first official cosplay competition, naming it "Heroes and Villains à la Mode" in honor of Edna; contestants competed in five categories, with the winners being awarded miniature statuettes of the character.[80] To promote the film's upcoming sequel in which Edna is scheduled to appear,[81] Disney released a mockumentary-style teaser trailer that features various celebrities involved in the fashion industry paying tribute to Edna and describing ways in which the character has influenced them over the years ever since she decided to venture into haute couture.[70] Disney revealed the trailer at the D23 Expo in 2017.[70] Fashion models Heidi Klum, Kendall Jenner and Rachel Zoe are among the celebrities who speak about Edna's influence on the fashion industry.[82] Impressed by their commitment to pretending Edna is real, Halle Kiefer of Vulture.com joked that the tribute features some of the participants' "most impressive onscreen roles to date".[83] Rachel Kolb of Uproxx wrote that having Edna design new costumes for the family in Incredibles 2 would be one way to ensure that the sequel is better than the original.[84] Beginning in 2018, Edna has been used heavily in Incredibles 2's first advertising campaign.[65] In February 2018, the character's likeness was used heavily on several bus and subway posters within Manhattan, New York surrounding New York Fashion Week.[65] Disney-Pixar's announced on their Twitter account: "If you thought she’d miss #NYFW, you thought wrong, dahling".[65] The poster features a closeup image of the character, accompanied by the caption "It's been too long, dahlings."[66]


References[edit]

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