By now the scenario is familiar to almost any guy: The average Joe has a crush on the girl next door. For months he fixes her computer problems, drives her anywhere she wants, comforts her over the phone when she's down. Finally average Joe manages to summon up the courage to ask her out. The reply? "You're a nice guy, but ... ."
Once those first ominous words about being a "nice guy" are out, you know you're doomed. What to do?
Join the club -- the nice guy or "goodman" (好人) club that is.
It started out as a popular joke among twenty-something males in the late 1990s, but this "goodman" scenario has recently become a full-blown Taiwanese cultural phenomenon.
It has spawned numerous phrases, like "getting the goodman card" (
There are also now many blogs, comics and even songs dedicated to the "goodman" theme. Even Wikipedia has a Chinese-language entry on this aspect of Taiwanese subculture.
Out of this subculture evolved a product that became hugely popular among university students islandwide: a deck of playing cards with humorous graffiti-like designs showing 54 rejection scenarios.
The cards were designed and marketed by a handful of college students who wanted to cash in on the phenomena. The packs went on sale at the beginning of last month, and the whole stock of 3,000 packs (NT$150 each) was sold out within a week.
The packs were taken off the "Goodman Card Association" blog site as the makers wanted to spare men from receiving such cards. Soon after, the price of a single pack hit NT$6,000 on some auction Web sites.
The conventional image of the Taiwanese "goodman" is a person who wears a thread-bare Hang-Ten T-shirt, blue and white flip-flops, and sports long hair and stubble. After years holed up in the classroom studying and taking exams, they have no idea how to interact with the fairer sex, and so are doomed to spend their adult years watching smooth-talking rivals getting the partner of their dreams. One Internet group associated with the phenomenon has even called itself the "Valentine's Day Die Die Group" (
All of this is done in the spirit of good humor, but with a number of recent studies showing a growing percentage of highly educated women remaining single for longer than members of previous generations, and increasing numbers of men arranging marriages with foreign brides, it seems to echo social trends.
"This is something that almost any guy could relate to," said Tim Chang (張庭瑋), 21, a student at National Taiwan University. He and his two roommates queued for many hours to buy the cards. "Who hasn't been a `goodman' in their lives? It probably symbolizes the dilemma that young men in our generation face, probably for the first time in Taiwan. A conservative education system has taught boys to be nice, respectful, not talk too much and to study hard. Entering college we realize that's exactly what makes us `goodmen.' Pop culture has produced the contrary image for `real men' -- namely smartly dressed, who are not nice, at least not all of the time. Now that women are more dominant in choosing a partner, this seems really unfair on nice guys."