There Are A Lot Of American Flags In ‘First Man.’ We Know Because We Counted.

“First Man,” the story about the first man on the moon, seemed like the kind of patriotic, sentimental fodder that Oscar voters’ dreams are made of. Until its premiere at the Venice Film Festival in late August, when people realized there’s no gratuitous shot of Neil Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling) planting the American flag on the moon.

Politicians, pundits and pedestrians decided to weigh in on the “controversy.” Director Damien Chazelle defended his decision to omit the moment. Marco Rubio called it “total lunacy.” Rumors inevitably spread online that there are no references to the moon landing as an American achievement in the movie at all.

Well, we’ve seen the movie. And while you might have to wait an hour to see her, Old Glory shows up so many times in the remaining minutes of the film, you’ll be dizzy seeing stars and stripes. By our count, there are at least 18 times a flag (or several!) is present. As evidence, we’ve included notes from a “First Man” screening this week, which was basically a star-spangled orgy.

Disclaimer: Some flags in “First Man” appear so quickly, it’s like a patriotic jump scare. If you thought a particular red-white-and-blue blur wasn’t actually a flag cameo, rest assured, I definitely missed enough appearances to even out the estimate.

Behold, a studied list of times the American flag appears in ‘First Man’:

  • After the death of Gemini astronaut Elliot See, it looks as though a flag appears under his photo at his house. It has been an hour of nothing, so was that a flag or a hallucination? I’m saying it’s a flag.

  • Then they start rolling in. When Armstrong is flying in Gemini 8, flag patches are on his arm and his co-pilot’s.

  • While Armstrong is on the Gemini mission, his son raises a flag outside their house.

  • Back there, in the corner of Gemini mission control. It appears briefly, but that sure as heck looks like a flag.

  • Again, the arm patch flag.

  • When Janet Armstrong is outside her house around the time of the Gemini 8 mission, a blurry red image appears behind her. Is it a flag? I’ll pledge allegiance to it. 

  • Before the tragic deaths of Ed White, Roger Chaffee and Gus Grissom in a fire during a launch rehearsal test at Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, their arms bear flag patches. 

  • Did you know the rocket to the moon features a big ol’ flag? You do now! #Merica

  • The Apollo 11 preflight conference has a giant flag backdrop, as if America’s getting its senior picture taken.

  • The patches on the astronaut suits, again: flag.

  • When Neil Armstrong finally finds himself on the moon, in the darkness, you can squint at the equipment in the background and see a flag.

  • OK, so we don’t see the astronauts plant the flag on the moon’s surface, but the moon flag (post-plant) appears so much, it’ll probably get an Oscar for best supporting actor.

And, oh, wait, please keep your caps removed. There are even more flags in this movie.

  • In video footage of people celebrating the landing: flags, flags everywhere!

  • On a structure during celebrations: flag!

  • In quarantine, Armstrong receives a gift basket full of flags! Repeat: A. Basket. Full. Of. Flags.

  • Magazines in quarantine: flags!

  • Back at the Armstrong house: flags!

  • Signs outside the Armstrong house: flags, flags, flags!!!

“First Man” is one small step for man, one giant leap … for flags.

Buzz Aldrin declined to comment for this story.

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