Primarily in comedy: With groups that are based on the Boy Scouts and what have you, you can name virtually anything, and odds are, there'll be a merit badge for it.
Hopping On One Foot While Singing Led Zeppelin Tunes And Drinking Chocolate Milk Badge? Yep. Bruce Campbell Lookalike Badge? Check. Catching Arrows Blindfolded Badge? You know it! And many, many more.
Sometimes this concept is used as a throw away line to explain some (suddenly essential) esoteric knowledge held by one of the heroes (particularly if they have not been set up as having those skills as part of their character):
- "Oh you know, I got my Amateur Radio Building Merit Badge when I was a Boy Scout — never had any use for it until now."
Might even be an Aesop of some kind about how Boy Scouts might be geeky or nerdy, but they do have some skills that come in handy at times, and maybe they are masculine after all.
Probably inspired by the Real Life Merit badges of:
- Basketry— Weaving baskets (presumably not underwater).
- Wood Carving
- Mammal Study
- Fingerprinting— Usually finished off in about half an hour at the craft hut during scout camp. Or five minutes if the instructor is bored enough.
- Metalwork— A great excuse to produce one's very own ninja stars. Alternately, remember: It's not a sword, it's a really long, really sharp letter opener.
Those six merit badges were the favorites of Boy Scouts at Scout Camp who needed an extra merit badge but didn't want to work too hard.
Then there were also the weird ones like Masonry which involved building your very own outdoors fireplace/brick barbecue.
Sadly most of the really odd ball ones were eliminated in the 90's (rabbit breeding, anyone?).
It's worth noting that many sources use "getting a merit badge" like winning an award, when the actual process involves meeting with an approved merit badge counselor, showing achievement of a specific set of criteria, and producing a formal writeup of the process for approval by said counselor and the relevant troop leaders — it's more like a short hands-on class (occasionally with homework) than it is a trophy.
- Disney's Junior Wood Chucks are like this, sometimes using buckets to collect their badges and medals.
- In The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye, Rodimus invented Rodimus Stars as a little morale-booster, and hands them out for almost any reason. Even Whirl has one, showing how meaningless they are.
- Lumberjanes have shown unusual merit badges including "Everything Under the Sum" for mathematics, "Friendship to the Craft" for making friendship bracelets, "Up All Night" for staying up late and "Pungeon Master" for telling bad puns.
- Boy Scouts ½, an Elsewhere Fic of Ranma ½ that follows a group of Jusenkyo cursed Boy Scouts living in Western Massachusetts, mostly avoids this trope. Several actual merit badges are mentioned, such as Archery, Citizenship In the Community, Collections, Communications, Farm Mechanics, Pioneering, and Theater. However, on one occasion a character (who happens to be a super genius) mentions working on the Advanced Theoretical Quantum Astrophysics merit badge. This immediately lampshaded by one of the other characters, suspicious of such a badge actually existing.
- Troop Beverly Hills has some fun with this one. Phyllis and her troop find no value in most of the traditionally woodsy official Wilderness Girl patches, but then Phyllis discovers a loophole: she can custom-design her own patches! Soon the entire troop is decked out in merit patches for things like jewelry appraisal and "gardening with glamour." Naturally, the evil council leader declares all of these patches invalid when she finds out about it.
Rosa: Patches! We don't need no stinking patches!
- The Red Green Book: Wit and Wisdom of Possum Lodge has a set of badges which parody the Boy Scouts one. The more advanced ones, starting with Bowling and Fishing, require developing an obsession about the content, including dreaming about it. After a few other examples, it terminates with "Anything men enjoy", which can be used for practically anything.
- The "Scoutrageous!" episode of The Goodies features the World Domination badge (up to that point only ever awarded to Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and David Frost. But Frost stole his.).
- It also features a montage of two of the characters earning badges they are blatantly making up as they go, including the Wig Spotters Badge, the Stealing A Pair Of Margaret Thatcher's Bloomers Badge, and the Cheering Up Lonely Housewives Whose Husbands Are Away At Work badge.
- When Debbie Harry, of the musical group "Blondie," appeared on The Muppet Show, she was helping a Frog Scout troop get their "Punk Badges."
- Invoked on ads for Adam Ruins Everything. Adam wears a sash full of merit badges pertaining to topics he covered in Season 1, and topics to be covered in Season 2.
- A Scout Camp sketch references this, as the campfire is interrupted by an old former Scout who complained about how easy things are now.
Why in my day, we only had one badge: Coal Mining.
- In Psychonauts, you get new abilities by earning their merit badge, so you end up with a whole bunch of merit badges in things like Invisibility, Clairvoyance, and Levitation.
- In Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Phineas the sea lion gives you badges for things like catching bugs and fish, saving money in the bank, getting a high score from the Happy Home Association, and helping the neighbors. They all exist in Bronze, Silver and Gold versions. This doubles as an in-game Achievement System.
- In The Darkside Detective, the local scouting organization is the Bloodwolves, and it's a running gag that whenever Dooley's Bloodwolf pack are in a potentially dangerous or frightening situation (such as "lurking outside a dark, spooky cave" or "abandoned in the snow on Christmas Eve") one of them will note that there's a merit badge for that.
- The Perry Bible Fellowship does its usual humorous variety◊
- Homestuck. Leveling up in God Tiers no longer awards Boondollars (that shit is for babies). They now get ACHIEVEMENT BADGES sewn on their KIDDY CAMPER HANDYSASH, like being able to talk face to face without any gimmicks.
- This exchange from Fat, French and Fabulous:
"There are no merit badges for infanticide!""Well maybe there should be! It's a skill!"
- There's a Gotham Girls webisode that has Harley Quinn and Batgirl use this gag for extreme humor value. Somehow a knot-tying merit badge in their world allows you to restrain an opponent head to toe in seconds.
- Well, if the younger scouts would PAY ATTENTION during Pioneering merit badge, (The real life equivalent) this might be closer to Truth in Television.
- The Boy Scouts, like everything else in Welcome to Night Vale, eccentric at best and a force of pure evil at worst. Therefore, its not really a surprise that Cecil is able to keep the radio broadcast coming after nearly being shut down using his "Subversive Radio Host Badge".
- Incidentally, you can actually buy that patch on their official website.
- At one point, Cecil uses the skills he learned earning the "Advanced Siege Tactics Badge" to bust into a armored bunker.
- While no specific badges are named, the mentions we've got of the NV Girl Scouts suggests they're no different.
- The Fireside Girls of Phineas and Ferb, whose exploits can be as insanely overambitious as the title characters' schemes and so earned them all kinds of bizarre badges, often related to the boys' latest scheme. Once, Isabella casually mentions that they just earned their Mountain Moving badge, and we see the hole where it used to be, and the mountain in its new setting. Other times, they're trying to get badges in aeronautics or alligator wrestling.
- How about the "Reckless Disregard for Life and Limb" patch? (Though Isabella could have made that one up.)
- Ziggzagged in DuckTales (1987); most merit badges the Junior Woodchucks receive are ordinary ones, although they earn one for Law Enforcement by helping their uncle apprehend the Beagle Boys. One episode shows Webby - who has only one, Swimming - admiring all of Launchpad's badges, but noticing he lacks the Swimming one. (Naturally, this is a Chekhov's Gun; he can't swim, and she has to rescue him from drowning later.)
- One episode of The Fairly Oddparents had Cosmo getting various weird merit badges.
- The Urban Rangers of Ed, Edd n Eddy have, among many others, a Lard Bringing Badge and a Microwave Burrito Badge, as well as a Bringing Me My Badge Badge.
- The Mighty B!
- There's that old Looney Tunes cartoon where Porky Pig has licenses to do ridiculous things culminating in "permit to use Daffy Duck as motor". Then he doesn't have a marriage license, not being married. This isn't a merit badge, but it's gotta be related.
- In The South Park episode "Jew Scouts", there are apparently two ways to get a Chutzpah Badge: babysit the "Squirts" (Cub Scouts equivalent) or capture a bear.
- In The Emperor's New School, the Junior Chipmunks seemed to have a patch for almost everything. Naturally, Kuzco failed to achieve even one, meaning he had to obtain the highly-dangerous Condor Patch to avoid flunking out of school (It Makes Sense in Context). He fails to get even that one, but guess what? He gets to get the "I Failed To Get Every Single Patch Patch"...
- An early episode of The Simpsons had Bart join a Boy Scouts facsimile of some sort and earn various patches to sew onto his uniform. There's a bit with him attaching various patches for dubiously fantastic feats, the final punchline being a shot of his "patch forgery" patch.
- While the only badge actually mentioned in Pixar's Up, "Assisting the Elderly," is pretty normal, the credits include several strange-looking one, featuring such things as a radiation hazard symbol and a mushroom cloud.
- Those possibly reference David Hahn, "The Radioactive Boy Scout". Having received a Eagle Scout merit badge in Atomic Energy (presumably a "displaying understanding" project) he went on try building himself a breeder reactor. This never achieved critical mass, but did produce a dangerous amount of radiation.
- The movie did also mention "Extreme Mountaineering Lore" and "Wild Animal Defensive Arts".
- The Little Amazons from The Oblongs had a hygiene badge (which Helga could not, in good conscience, accept).
- Head Den Mother: "You are not certified to drink your own urine!"
- In Taz-Mania, the Bandicoot scouts seemed to have badges for everything. For example, Taz's brother had a merit badge in swinging from vines to save people from falling off waterfalls.
- In The Problem Solverz episode "K-999 and Da Little Explorerz", the trio encounters a young scout who needs to earn a badge for semaphore, which the characters define as "a system of flag communication famous for people not knowing what it is." Alfe then dresses as a scout and obtains every Little Explorer badge in order to get the badge for her.
- In one episode of Camp Lazlo, Scoutmaster Lumpus bemoans the failure of any of the Bean Scouts to achieve a single merit badge. Edward thens reveals that he has full set (having dishonestly bought them). We never find out a full list but it does include 'Motorcycle Maintenance'. Another episode mentions the 'Taxidermy' badge.
- Done in one episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show where the duo join up a Barrette Baret Girls camp (despite being boys), where their treated to a series of Amusing Injurys to gain badges for the most insane merits, such as (1) catching a snipe (which happens to be real, and extremely vicious), (2) flying (by falling over a gorge), falling on jacked rocks (while falling from said gorge), (3) drowning, (4) mutilation, (5) collecting badger eggs, and (5) bravery in the face of certain doom (done by Ren popping out of an ice-box of food yelling "ta-da!" while surrounded by a group of angry Elk Bear club members, who were actually bears)
- In "Franklin's Badge" on Franklin, Franklin wants to earn a badge for the local scout group, the Woodland Trailblazers, but his efforts keep getting interrupted by his little sister, who wants to join the group that he's in, but isn't old enough. He decides to create his own group called "Turtle Trackers" and eventually earns the "Caring Brother" badge for doing this for his sister.
- Handing out merit badges at the drop of hat (which would probably earn you your 'Hat Dropping' merit badge) seems to be Gazpacho's leadership style in the Chowder episode "The Apprentice Scouts".
- This is pretty much the basis of the Nick Jr. preschooler series Hey Dugee, in which the Idiosyncratic Episode Naming is always based on these. "The Super Squirrel Badge" and "The Drawing Badge" are just a couple of examples of installments of the show.
- The Cub Scouts Of America now offers pins and loops in Video Games. The response of the Gamespy website's Mike Starkey also fits this trope:
Back in my day, we had to walk nine miles to get to school every morning, and nine miles to get back home — uphill both ways. And we didn't have these fancy Videogame Belt Loops or Pins in the Cub Scouts. If we were lucky, we'd get sent into bear country alone for a week with no food or water. And if we made it out in one piece, the troop leader would ask us why we weren't man enough to earn the Eaten Alive badge.
- The Boy Scouts now have a Geocaching Merit Badge.
- Honorable mentions go to Truck Transportation, Farm Mechanics, Pulp and Paper, and the politically questionable Indian Lore.
- UK Girl Guides have the option to work towards their chocolate badge.
- The Boy Scouts still offers a badge on Nuclear Science, although they stopped advertising the fact after one Scout got arrested for building a nuclear reactor in his garage.
- American Boy and Girl Scouts can earn religious emblems as they move through each section.
- Alex Day's Life Scouts is a program getting people inspired to do actual Real Life exploring things. Like learning how to juggle and giving blood. And stuff.