Culture

Hollywood's Fake Moon Landing

"First Man" tells the story of the Apollo 11 moon landing — without the American flag.

Nate Jackson · Sep. 4, 2018

On Oct. 12, the nation will be treated to a movie depicting the American moon landing on July 20, 1969. “First Man” will tell the story of how Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and many other Americans at NASA fulfilled President John F. Kennedy’s vision of being the first nation on the planet to put a man on the moon. That vision wasn’t about humanity so much as it was advancing America’s interests. The entire Apollo program is an incredible story of American ingenuity, determination, and achievement, and the moon landing — with less technology than in some modern kitchen appliances — was a significant victory in the Cold War after the Soviets launched Sputnik, the first manned mission in space, a decade earlier.

That’s why it rubs many Americans the wrong way when it became known that Hollywood’s depiction eliminates the planting of the American flag on the moon. It was, after all, one of Armstrong’s first actions on the lunar surface, and one of the most iconic images of the landing is Aldrin saluting that flag.

Yet the Canadian actor playing Armstrong, Ryan Gosling, says the movie eliminated the flag because America’s feat “transcended countries and borders” and that it wasn’t so much an American accomplishment as a “human achievement.” He admitted his being Canadian may leave him with “cognitive bias,” but he insisted, “I don’t think that Neil viewed himself as an American hero. From my interviews with his family and people that knew him, it was quite the opposite. And we wanted the film to reflect Neil.”

Of course Armstrong would say he wasn’t an American hero, even though he most certainly was. As even Gosling acknowledged, Armstrong was “extremely humble” and routinely “deferred the focus from himself.” That’s what true American heroes do. And though Armstrong’s famous line was a tribute to the human race — “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind” — he was absolutely not some borderless “citizen of the world” who didn’t love his country. Upon Armstrong’s death in 2012, even Barack Obama hailed him as “among the greatest of American heroes.”

The Hollywood Reporter really gave the game away: “Most notable is the film’s refusal to engage in the expected jingoistic self-celebration that such a milestone would seem to demand. At a time when the toxic political climate has cheapened that kind of nationalistic fervor, turning it into empty rhetoric … [that] is to be savored.” In other words, Trump Derangement Syndrome, and Americans are beyond weary of such contempt from Hollywood.

We’ll give the last word to Buzz Aldrin, who simply tweeted two pictures of himself and Armstrong with the American flag and the hashtag #proudtobeanAmerican — as was, most assuredly, Neil Armstrong.

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