ROME—No Italian can forget last year’s Charlie Brown Christmas tree in Rome’s central square. The threadbare “spelacchio” (baldy in Italian) made headlines around the world. At the time, it seemed to epitomize Rome’s sad state of affairs and a country on the brink of another collapsing government.
So this year, the city’s mayor, Virginia Raggi, decided not to leave anything to chance. She secured a sponsorship from Netflix, with the company paying more than $400,000 for a tree that promised to be as spectacular as some of the streaming service’s cult series—no strings attached.
Unfortunately, when it was unveiled Monday night, there were also no limbs attached.
It was like the ghost of the Christmas past—another failure for a city government that desperately needed a success. Branches were broken and sap spilled everywhere; a new star was born: “spezzacchio,” which is an Italian play on words for sliced up.
It didn’t take long for Twitter to respond with the most cynical Christmas spirit.
The citizens group Take Back Rome, which organizes cleanups across the city, was quick to the draw: From #spelacchio to #spezzacchio!
They noted that the broken branches were going to be “hung up” on the tree, which prompted a number of IKEA-centric musings about how the tree came disassembled.
Netflix likely regretted producing an ironic video poking fun at how famous last year’s disastrous tree had become and how much better its would be when it is dedicated to the city on Dec. 8.
The company did not officially comment, but there was no need since Romans were quick to compare the tree to the “upside down” from the hit series Stranger Things, along with a slew of bad movie memes photoshopped in front of the tree.
And there were ample comparisons to abstract art:
But the best were those comparing this year’s debacle of a tree, which was essentially nailed back together throughout the day Tuesday, to Italy’s budget crisis and its, uh, divided government.
As for next year, the city hopes someone will finally get it right. If a tree falls in a forest, it might just end up as Rome’s next Christmas spectacle.