Geeks like to think of their society as being off limits to just anyone, seemingly unaware that a club doesn’t count as exclusive unless other people actually want to join it. Nevertheless, geeks are constantly coming up with ways in which other geeks need to “prove” their devotion to the scene. This is partly because, as we shall explore later, geeks are of the opinion that there is a Great Chain of Geek Being and as long as there’s someone on a lover level than themselves, they’re doing okay. But mostly this is due to the fact that geeks are in a constant pissing contest with each other over who is a better fan.
Some geeks prove their commitment through the amount of money they’ve spent, amount of trivia they know, number of lines they can recite, number of items in their “collection”, and so forth, but for the average fan, well beneath this level of investment, these are losing propositions. His goal is not to prove that he can run with the big dogs, but that there are at least some smaller dogs than himself.Thus, the geek will construct a list of requirements and declare them essential for even the most basic fan. Why, unless you’ve read the books, seen the movies, watched the episodes, own the action figures, or played the games on his list, you really can scarcely consider yourself a fan at all.
Such a list is almost always constructed the same way. First there will be the “no brainer” entries that anyone would come up with. This is to establish the solid foundation of the list. Then there are a few items that might be a little more difficult for a mere dilettante to achieve, but which should prove no problem to anyone expending some energy. There should be a couple of newer and more controversial entries on the list to provide some discussion and weed out those who are only coasting on past achievements. And then, finally, you get to the guillotine, the item on the list solely included to make sure that the geek makes the cut and some other geek doesn’t. Ideally it should be something terribly obscure so that he can’t get called out on its inappropriateness.
In addition to the fact that the geek will paint the line just high enough so that he’s tall enough to ride but that guy isn’t, he also gets the benefit of having painted the line in the first place. Obviously this automatically makes him something of an authority on the matter, cementing his upper-level spot in the hierarchy even further.
Other areas of non-geek fandom do this to some extent, of course. The sports fan who tailgates at the games and holds season tickets is seen as more devoted than the guy who just catches the game on TV. The woodworker who has a lathe and drill press in his garage is seen as more “hardcore” than the guy just building the occasional birdhouse. But nevertheless, if those two sports fans met in a bar, they could happily discuss their favorite team, and the two woodworkers would also recognize each other as two of a similar kind. It’s highly doubtful that sports fan number one would ridicule sports fan number two and call him “not a true fan” because he hadn’t watched one particular game twelve years ago. The second woodworker wouldn’t roll his eyes and snicker if the first one admitted never having built anything with pine. Yet one geek will instantly dismiss another geek as a poser based on a single item the superior one feels his inferior lacks.
Once a geek has thrown a list of prerequisites at you and you’ve hit the guillotine item, your only chance to save face is to hope that his list is “hopelessly flawed” and you can find the obvious missing item or, even better, an unobvious missing item that will seem obvious once pointed out. If you can somehow get the entire list declared null and void, you won’t have to admit that you’ve never seen Buckaroo Banzai and listen to the mocking laughter of others.
Geeks never stand taller or prouder than when they’re standing on the head of an inferior geek, and that’s why geeks LOVE prerequisites.