One small step for man, one giant sh*tstorm for the internet. A new Canadian-directed Neil Armstrong biopic drew fierce criticism after it left out the iconic planting of the star-spangled banner on the moon.
‘First Man’ opened to rave reviews from audiences at the Venice Film Festival on Wednesday for Canadian actor Ryan Gosling’s portrayal of astronaut Neil Armstrong. Faithfully depicting the 1969 moon landing, the movie did leave out one important detail: Armstrong’s planting of the American flag, which still stands motionless on the moon today.
American flags could be seen in the background in several shots, but the omission still rankled American viewers. How could Hollywood write such a towering American achievement out of history?
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) led the charge. “This is total lunacy,” he tweeted. “The American people paid for that mission,on rockets built by Americans,with American technology & carrying American astronauts. It wasn’t a UN mission.
Lead actor Ryan Gosling threw more gasoline on the dumpster fire when he defended director Damien Chazelle’s decision to leave out the flag. The landing, he said, was a “human achievement,” not an American one, and a victory “transcending countries and borders.”
“So I don’t think that Neil viewed himself as an American hero,” Gosling continued. "From my interviews with his family and people that knew him, it was quite the opposite. And we wanted the film to reflect Neil.”
“That’s not the Neil Armstrong I know,” tweeted World War II fighter ace Chuck Yeager, the man who broke the sound barrier. As derision continued to pour in on Twitter, reminding Chazelle and Gosling they were in La-La-Land no longer, Yeager called the new movie “more Hollywood make-believe.
While planning the Apollo 11 moon mission, NASA actually did debate planting a United Nations flag on the moon instead of an American one. In the end they settled on the star-spangled banner as a symbol of the perceived US ‘victory’ over the Soviet Union in the space race.
‘First Man’ is not the first depiction of America’s space program to cause controversy. 2016’s ‘Hidden Figures’ caused some ire for supposedly expanding the role three black female mathematicians played in the success of the early US space program.