This is a story about gatekeeping. Although it isn't phrased as such, this story is an example of someone with apparent authority mocking and belittling someone they don't think belong in their group. The fact that the villain in the story is William Shatner and the target is a sixteen-year-old Wil Wheaton isn't what is really important here. What is important is that gatekeeping, in all of its pernicious and obnoxious glory, has been around for far longer than most people seem to realize.
The sad thing here is that Shatner could have both avoided having this story told for decades and made a sixteen year old fan's day by simply not being an ass. It would have literally cost Shatner nothing to be nice to a kid who was star-struck to see him. And to be perfectly honest, an ass is what gatekeepers sound like when they try to play their self-selected role. We can only hope that all would-be gatekeepers would be the butt of a story told about their public jerkiness for a couple of decades.
And what is also important here is that the target of the gatekeeping was, in all likelihood, a bigger geek who was probably more knowledgeable about Star Trek than the gatekeeper himself. The only targets of geek gatekeepers seem to be nerds who are young, who are women, or who are minorities. It is almost as if the knowledge about, or love of things genre-related is completely beside the point, and the (almost always) white, male, and established gatekeeper is simply looking to punch down at someone who they can identify as potentially vulnerable because of their difference.
But the larger issue stems from a question I would pose to would-be gatekeepers of the genre world: Who cares? Does it really matter if someone isn't as knowledgeable about the intricacies of Batman lore as you are? Or if they can't recite every plot detail of Star Trek: The Next Generation, or aren't able to recite from memory all of the mottoes of the Houses of Westeros? If they love the genre, why does their level of obsession over details matter one way or the other? Does the fact that they don't know that the name of the character Elric in the Babylon 5 episode The Geometry of Shadows was probably a reference to the Michael Moorcock character of the same name make them less of a fan than you are? Fandom is defined by your love for something, not your ability to recall enormous amounts of trivia.
When you meet a fan who is not like you, this is not an opportunity to quiz them on how devout they are in their adherence to the faith of the church of geek trivia. This is an opportunity to celebrate the breadth of people who share common interests with you, no matter their age, gender, appearance, or even knowledge of the genre. This is an opportunity to welcome those who might be new to all things nerdy into the community. This is not an opportunity to check on someone's nerd credentials or to try to impress them with your comprehensive command of vast amounts of useless trivia.
The final, and I think, most important part of this story is how all of the other members of the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast and Gene Roddenberry himself provided support to their disconsolate compatriot. And not only that, Roddenberry called Shatner out when he acted like an ass. He wasn't able to do it on the spot, because he wasn't there, but when he found out about it, he clearly made sure that Shatner knew that he had behaved in a manner that was entirely out of bounds. And this, I think, is the only reasonable response to would-be gatekeepers.
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