It’s beautiful, mesmerizing, almost haunting how the cloth billows in the wind. Window curtains, dresses, and ribbons commonly move this way. Flags do as well. In Andy Schocken’s short documentary “Old Glory,” it’s the American flag that gracefully waves in the wind like a dancer. You almost hear the national anthem in your head at the sight of the flag. There is no ‘Star Spangled Banner’ (yet), but there are words. There’s a voice that remarks, “I didn’t follow the flag into the battle at Iwo Jima. I didn’t burn the flag to protest Vietnam or have it tattooed on my a*s after September 11. I’ve never really paid a whole lot of attention to the flag. But these days I can’t turn around without seeing it on a t-shirt or a bumper sticker. Some people say the flag represents our character as a nation. I think I’m finally starting to believe them.”
You get the sense of pride, but at the same time, there’s a level of exploitation. As the documentary points out, United States Code Section 176 dictates that “the flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or a halyard from which the flag is flown. The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs.” Images of the flag as advertising and fashion are paired with the narrator’s words. Section 176 of the United States Code, however, refers to the flag itself and not its likeness. In other words, one should not take an actual American flag and make a skirt or handbag out of it. But, one can incorporate the image of the flag into a variety of merchandise.
“Old Glory” ponders if we are getting accustomed to seeing the American flag on clothes, cars, shoes, key chains, and napkins. Is the flag losing its meaning or do we see more in it now? That question you must ask yourself.