Buzz Aldrin Has Some Thoughts About 'First Man' and the Flag

"First Man," a biopic detailing Neil Armstrong's journey to the moon, has sparked controversy by omitting a particular part of that journey — and Buzz Aldrin, who stepped foot on the moon alongside Armstrong, has voiced his opinion.

The upcoming feature film won't premiere publicly until October, but its recent debut at the Venice Film Festival has already sparked discussion.

Rumors are swirling on the internet suggesting that the American flag (which the Apollo astronauts famously placed on the moon) was omitted from the movie, but this isn't true. In fact, the flag is prominent in several scenes throughout "First Man" and is shown on the moon in the movie. However, the team behind "First Man" decided to not include a specific scene of Armstrong and Aldrin planting the flag on the moon in the film. Sen. Marco Rubio called the move "total lunacy" on Twitter, with support from others on the platform. [Building Apollo: Photos from Moonshot History]

But right-wing Twitter users aren't the only ones to have issues with the decision — Aldrin himself seems to have publicly reacted to the decision to omit the flag-planting scene. While Aldrin didn't make a public statement per se, he did tweet photos of him and Armstrong planting the flag on the moon alongside "#proudtobeanAmerican #freedom #honor #onenation #Apollo11 #July1969 #roadtoApollo50."

Aldrin published this tweet at the same time that the "First Man" controversy arose, so it has been interpreted by many to mean that Aldrin disagrees with the film's choice to leave out the flag-planting scene. But not everyone shares this opinion of the film.

Ryan Gosling, who stars in the film as Neil Armstrong, said at the Venice Film Festival that the moonwalk "was widely regarded not as an American, but as a human achievement." 

Additionally, Armstrong's sons, Rick and Mark Armstrong, along with James R. Hansen, the author of "First Man," released a statement supporting the decision to not focus on the flag-planting in the film. "This story is human and it is universal. Of course, it celebrates an America achievement. It also celebrates an achievement 'for all mankind,' as it says on the plaque Neil and Buzz left on the moon. It is a story about an ordinary man who makes profound sacrifices and suffers through intense loss in order to achieve the impossible," the group said.

To clear up any confusion about why the production decided to leave out the flag-planting scene, "First Man" director Damien Chazelle said, "To address the question of whether this was a political statement, the answer is no. My goal with this movie was to share with audiences the unseen, unknown aspects of America's mission to the moon — particularly Neil Armstrong's personal saga and what he may have been thinking and feeling during those famous few hours."

By focusing on other aspects of the moon landing, Chazelle hopes to show aspects of Armstrong and the moon mission that is less frequently seen in the media.

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Chelsea Gohd
Senior Writer

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.