The Sympathizer: Is Yellow Flag Spirits Based on a Real Liquor Store?

Image Credit: Hopper Stone/HBO

HBO’s ‘The Sympathizer’ follows the journey of a spy who finds himself caught up between two sides. Even after his side wins, he is forced to flee the country he calls home and continues to work as a spy in America. Being in a new territory comes with new challenges, and everyone, including the spy, has to adapt to it. His mark, the General, decides to open a liquor store to pay for his bills and names the place Yellow Flag Spirits. Considering that the show borrows a lot from real people and real events concerning the Vietnam War, one wonders if someone would actually open a store with that name. SPOILERS AHEAD

The Fictional Yellow Flag Spirits Connects to Vietnam’s History

While ‘The Sympathizer’ relies on real events and people to craft its story, most of the things in it remain fictional, including the General’s liquor store. At the opening of the store, Sonny, an acquaintance of the Captain from his college days, remarks that the use of the word “yellow” in an Asian-owned business in America might not be received well by some and might even incite more racial attacks towards the business. His point comes from the use of the word as a racial slur for people of Asian descent, but the General chooses the name for a completely different reason.

Image Credits: Hopper Stone/HBO

In the Vietnam War, the General fought for South Vietnam, which chose a yellow flag with three horizontal red stripes as its official flag, which remained so from 1948 until the fall of Saigon, which forced a lot of people, especially in the upper rungs of the South Vietnamese side to flee the country and find refuge somewhere else. The flag was used by the refugees in their new countries of residence as a remembrance of the home they’d left behind and was later used as the representation of the Vietnamese Heritage and Freedom Flag.

For the General, too, the flag holds an important meaning. He uses that name to show his allegiance to South Vietnam, even though they lost the war. Even though he fled his country and has to make a living in another country now, he doesn’t want it to look like he has given up, which, for all intents and purposes, he hasn’t. It is out of the necessity to provide for his family that he has to have a job, and owning a business is the best way to go about it. But he doesn’t want his people, as well as his enemies, to believe that he has completely given up and does not think about his country anymore.

In fact, the General makes it clear that he has no intention of giving up. He keeps up his collaboration with the CIA via Claude, who helps him settle down, though he takes his time. The General still thinks about turning the tide in favor of his side even though he is oceans away from his home, and his liquor store becomes the HQ from where he operates. With all this in mind, it makes sense why he calls his liquor store Yellow Flag Spirits.

Read More: The Sympathizer: Where is the Show Filmed?