As a self-described space-nerd that uses a white noise machine that produces the ambient sounds of the starship Enterprise to drown out the melodious tones of nursery rhymes and temper tantrums taking place just outside my office door, it’s safe to say that I was excited to hear that there was a Neil Armstrong biopic in development. Ryan Gosling may not have been my top choice for the first man on the moon, as Armstrong was a notably understated character that tended to shy away from the spotlight — and Gosling is the sort of guy I can imagine my wife stumbling over her words around — but the trailer has done away with a great deal of my concern, as he seems to depict the no-nonsense but passionate Armstrong I’ve read about without leaning into his heartthrob status.

But then, there was another controversy brewing, one highlighted by a piece in the UK’s Telegraph: “First Man,” the story of America’s triumphant arrival on the moon, is reportedly bereft of much of the patriotic imagery one might expect from a biopic the covers what is, perhaps, the greatest American accomplishment to date. In today’s political atmosphere, where everyone accuses everyone of either being too American or not American enough, the omission of heavy handed flag waving now promises to be a real point of conflict among American audiences who are eager to infer deeper political meaning in anything they come across. To some, choosing not to show Armstrong planting the American flag on the moon in the film (as they reportedly chose to do), is an affront to national pride, and a sign of Hollywood’s anti-American agenda.

Now, I’ve written in the past about about the influence foreign markets, and indeed, foreign governments have on the films that are produced here in the United States, and although Gosling has pointed out in interviews that the lack of Old Glory branding in this film was meant to convey that reaching the moon was a human accomplishment so significant it warrants sharing with the world, it’s hard to deny that the decision was made, at least in part, because too many American flags would make selling this film in Chinese markets more difficult. While the artists involved may try to tell you that limiting the shots of red, white, and blue was a decision born out of international goodwill, the truth, of course, is likely that it was a financial one… but here’s the twist: I don’t care.

Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling), Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll), and Mike Collins (Lukas Haas) in First Man courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Neil Armstrong was a man that had a better understanding of celebrity than most. He knew that who he was, a regular guy with flaws and passions, could never be enough to live up to the legend that was the first man on the moon. That’s why, in large part, he tended to avoid the spotlight: content in allowing the legend of Neil Armstrong to survive in the vacuum he created with his absence. Had he instead chosen to be an outspoken public figure, his accomplishments would always be viewed through the scope of his politics and social status. Instead, he knew that his name, his accomplishments, now belonged to something greater than himself, and he honored that idea by shunning the public’s attention on more occasion than once.