In 1947, Edmund Gwenn starred as Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street, the story of a Macy’s Santa Claus who claimed to be the real thing. This week, an individual who has yet to be identified but who has been compared by many to the character of Yukon Cornelius is starring in what we will call Boondoggle on Pine Street.
Since the Tuesday lunch hour in Seattle, the bearded man, perhaps homeless, has been perched inside, atop and occasionally hanging upside down from the branches of an 80-foot Sequoia tree planted in 1973 in front of the downtown Macy’s. (Every year, the tree, located at the intersection of Pine Street and 3rd Avenue, is decorated for the holidays.)
As the saga dragged on last night, social media conversation hot topics included bad puns (#ManInTree is the new Macy’s branch manager), debate about whether this incident puts Seattle back ahead of Portland in the weird department and excitement over the brief arrival of local self-appointed street-superhero Phoenix Jones. Folks were also hoping the incident shines a light on the issues of mental illness and homelessness in a positive way that goes beyond the Twitter and hashtag heat. And for many, as midnight passed or, in some cases, early morning on the east coast approached, the tweets were about being unable to pull themselves away from the epic live-feed by ABC-TV affiliate KOMO, for “fear of missing out.”
There was another odd element underpinning people’s fascination with #ManInTree. In the wake of the Brussels terrorist attacks, people burned out on a day of horrific and all-too-familiar sound bytes were looking for a bedtime diversion.
Update (2:45 p.m.):
#ManInTree is finally down from his perch, where he was loaded into an ambulance stretcher and attended to by medics. No doubt there will be a new wave of coverage once his identity and motives are revealed.
Also on Adweek:
Seattle Stations Find Video Gold in a Sequoia Tree