The Writers' Room

The Writers' Room
Bringing Other Geeks Into The Fold

Elizabeth Grunewald | 24 Nov 2010 18:00
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Passion is a defining aspect of geekery. Without passion, you're just an average Joe or Josephine, expressing a mild interest in aspects of popular culture. Passion is what elevates this interest into the realm of nerds. The issue preventing us from uprising and ruling the world is there are so many nerdy things about which to be passionate, too many on which to come to a consensus. This diversity is a good thing, don't get me wrong, but the time comes when one must find someone with whom to geek out. Geeking out is one of the fringe benefits of nerddom, and it's better when you're not doing it alone. So what happens if you're seemingly the only person who liked the thing?

There are three methods of indoctrination into a geeky realm. They each have their merits, but each can fail spectacularly if not undertaken with care. I think the best approach is a combination, but let's see what you think.

1. Don't mention it. Ever.
This isn't my preferred approach, but when it works, it's like magic: Don't try to indoctrinate people. Don't offer suggestions or recommendations towards your passion of choice. If the topic ever comes up in conversation, pause and listen. Does anyone in the conversation pipe up with an "I loved that show!" or "I don't care what anyone says, that was an awesome movie?" There's your geek-out buddy, and like a double rainbow, they are a beautiful and surprising natural miracle.

The unexpected discovery of a kindred spirit is tantamount to finding true love, but this "wait-and-see" type of approach doesn't work for me. Then again, I'm a talker. Quiet types have likely been benefiting from this approach for years.

2. Introduce your beloved whatever-it-is with great excitement, but keep it brief.

This is my approach of choice. Its success rate is fair to middling, but it has the added benefit of being suitable for nearly every situation. For example, my favorite television program ever was Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The rest of the world, it seems, found it pretentious and snobbish. Poor reception and lack of exposure are why most folks haven't seen it; the show was subject to much rescheduling, and was canceled after just one season. When I want to bring people into the Studio 60 fold, I have to surmount these obstacles.

My hurdling technique is to offer up the most succinct yet tantalizing facts about the show, and hope they're enough, combined with my enthusiasm, to intrigue my listener. In my Studio 60 arsenal are "brilliant casting," "incredibly funny," "it's Aaron Sorkin, how can you not watch it," and "you know those non sequiturs I'm always busting your gut with? They're from Studio 60." I then offer to loan them my DVDs, so they can watch (or not) on their own time. I will never use all the guns at once, as I feel it would be an onslaught onto my listener's senses. They don't need the full buffet, they just want a couple passed hors d'oeurves from a silver tray. That'll whet their appetite.

3. Begin with approach #2, but don't be brief. Deluge your listener with much detail.

This approach is popular with Mr. G, to whom I may or may not be married. Mr. G will gauge the depth of his relationship with his listener, and then shower them with detail according to this familiarity assessment. Casual acquaintance? He'll outline the plot of whatever it is he thinks you should watch, read, or play. If you're a close friend, he'll back that information up with historical context and why he feels you will benefit from the material.

The Deluge is the most effective approach for the immediate hooking of a listener, but can easily backfire if one is not careful. I have seen people's eyes glaze over in boredom or horror, no matter how carefully Mr. G gauges his audience. This is also a difficult and dangerous approach on folks whose spoiler preferences you don't know. Ask me why I've never seen Memento, and you'll understand.

Whichever approach you choose will likely vary based upon your temperament and the social context in which you find yourself. Approaches #2 and #3 can be very effectively tiered; start with #2 and slowly work your way up to #3, based upon your assessment of the situation. This will take time and practice, and might make you a bit of an annoyance. It's worth it, though, I promise. If Mr. G had started with approach #2, I might have caught Firefly when it was on the air, as opposed to having to catch up on DVD.

This is obviously all personal preference, and may not seem like rocket science, but knowing how to gauge your audience may lead you to find that you're not alone. Someone else watched that show you loved, or have played that terrible game. Other people liked Daredevil, I promise.

Also, you should really watch Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Brilliant casting. I've got the whole series on DVD; I'll lend it to you.

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