In China, identifying with the term ‘loser’ has become a badge of honour. In Mandarin, ‘Loser’ is pronounced as Diaosi (屌丝), which literally means pubic hair. So, how did such a derogatory term became a common verbal expression, frequently used in the media?
Apparently, the term ‘ loser’ was first used by a group of computer geeks, who used the word to insult another group. However, instead of taking offense, the ‘losers’ embraced the term, and started to refer to themselves as such. Gradually, the term became more commonly used, ultimately gaining cultural traction and becoming the popular term it is today.
This phenomenon demonstrates a shift in the cultural formation of identity. It shows an emergent ability to criticize the enforced Chinese character ideals, which centre on beauty, wealth and status. This term celebrates the ordinary. No longer is the ‘Gaofushui’, who is ‘Tall, rich and handsome’, the only character ideal. Now, the proud ‘loser’ can also be culturally embraced.
We are seeing this shift already translating into the media. TV shows like ‘Diors Man’ focuses on this ‘loser’ lifestyles, and movies like ‘Say Yes’ or ‘Lost in Thailand’ tell a compelling story of a ‘loser’ who wins a beautiful woman’s heart.
The popularity of this self-irony shows Chinese youth becoming more confident, and increasingly able to interpret their lives in new, less predetermined ways.