Normally a flag flies proudly on the breeze as a declaration of the power and authority of its nation. To be fit for display, a flag should be intact and untarnished, and if it is not it is generally ceremonially destroyed. Sometimes, however, a flag will be displayed that is dirty, full of holes, or reduced to ribbons. When this occurs, it generally means that the nation it represents has fallen on hard times. Why else would they allow their standard to be shown this way?
Other times they can be used as a sign of defiance or hope. The country, though battered and torn, is still standing and will survive.
They are also commonly found in After the End
settings or amidst the ruins of a fallen civilization.
Occasionally, flags like these can be kept and preserved if they are significant in some way, one that was present for a landmark event, for example.
Compare Burning the Flag
, for when a flag is being deliberately destroyed.
- In The Dark Knight Rises as the police force gathers for the fight with Bane's people, ruined American flags are shown flying from nearby buildings.
- The end of In The Valley Of Elah shows a tattered American flag being hung upside down, mirroring the beginning of the film.
- In The Two Towers, the royal banners outside of Rohan's Golden Hall are so beat up, one of them gets torn off by the wind.
- Can be seen in Logan's Run where the Old Man lives in what used to be the U.S. Senate chamber.
- The 1964 version of The First Men in the Moon has lunar astronauts discovering, to their astonishment, an old, worn out Union Jack left by Victorian age explorers.
- The Star Trek episode "The Omega Glory" shows an After the End version of Earth following a nuclear war, with one faction being descendants of their version of Americans, complete with a ruined Old Glory.
- Savage Skies, a mid-'90s PBS documentary miniseries about severe weather, at one point showed a shredded but still flying Puerto Rican flag in the aftermath of Hurricane Luis.
- The Johnny Cash song "Ragged Old Flag" "I take that back, I'm mighty proud of that ragged old flag!"
- Patti Smith's Broken Flag is also an exploration of this idea (the song is about the American Civil War)
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim a skeleton can be found in Winterhold clutching a tattered flag, apparently from the last stand of the Knights of the Nine.
- The title screen of Spec Ops: The Line shows, among other things, an upside-down American flag that is seen in worse and worse condition as you progress through the game, amid an ever bleaker setting.
- The Heroes of Might and Magic III intro has one found and displayed in the ruins.
- Left 4 Dead 2, The Sacrifice DLC campaign begins with the survivors trekking through a zombie infested dockyard that had been occupied by the military and FEMA expy CEDA with the camera prominently showcasing a tattered US flag flapping in the wind. Doubly significant because of the canon death of Bill, a Vietnam War veteran at the end of the campaign.
- The second case occurs in the Warcraft series. Orc(and the Horde in general) flags are generally in tatters but are still proudly flown to symbolize how much of a beating they is willing to take in order to achieve victory.
- Several American flags, damaged to various degrees, that were recovered from the wreckage of the World Trade Center have been put on display, one of them even being shown at the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
- Another real life example would be the flag from Fort McHenry, which inspired Francis Key Scott to write The Star Spangled Banner after seeing its tattered flag still flying after a 23 hour bombardment.The flag◊ is huge, by the way. Currently, it's 30x34 feet, but was originally 42 feet long (though that is still 18 feet short of how long it should be, based on its height).