Some of the most iconic photos from the Apollo 11 lunar landing in July 1969 are of the astronauts standing next to an American flag.
However, an upcoming biographical drama film about the Apollo 11 mission, titled “First Man,” is set to scrub that important imagery from the film altogether.
The movie — set to be released in October — premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Thursday, and the American flag was noticeably absent from it, as the (London) Telegraph and others have pointed out.
The film’s star, Ryan Gosling, who plays Neil Armstrong — the first man to walk on the moon — explained to reporters why that is, saying that his character’s accomplishments “transcended countries and borders.”
“I think this was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement [and] that’s how we chose to view it,” the actor said, according to the Telegraph. “I also think Neil was extremely humble, as were many of these astronauts, and time and time again he deferred the focus from himself to the 400,000 people who made the mission possible.”
While Gosling and others have the right to tweak true stories as much as they want when converting them to the big screen, it’s quite clear that leaving out the American flag from the story of the moon landing takes away from the significance of what was happening on planet Earth at that time.
In 1969, the United States was in the middle of a Cold War with the Soviet Union. On one side, the U.S. wanted to stop the spread of communism, and the USSR wanted it to spread worldwide.
However, the two countries wanted to outdo each other in other areas as well — hence why they were both so aggressive in space exploration. The “space race” came to represent a whole lot more than just putting a man on the moon. It came to represent a bitter battle between starkly different philosophies and governments.
If this were just a mission about landing on the moon to collect some rocks and conduct a few tests, that stunning event might not have captured the same level of interest. The country was riveted to the moon landing in the summer of 1969.
Perhaps the filmmakers think that keeping the American flag out of their film will help their wallets at the global box office. Whether or not it works remains to be seen.
However, rewriting American history to make a story less patriotic probably isn’t the best decision to make stateside. There are millions of people in the United States who remember the Apollo 11 mission when it actually occurred — so being intellectually dishonest with a big chunk of the populace will most likely have its consequences.
Check out a trailer for “First Man” below:
Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, and other outlets.