Originally designed in 1985 as a parody of the virtuous Cabbage Patch Kids, Garbage Pail Kids is a trading sticker card series that features characters suffering various unpleasant fates. This year, maker The Topps Company is releasing a new GRAMMY-themed Garbage Pail Kids series titled the “Shammy Awards” collection—but their portray of BTS is garnering serious criticism for racism and insensitivity.
Most of the cards featured in the new 12-sticker collection are relatively tame in design. Harry Styles’s card, for example, shows him being spooked by his now-sentient feather boa.
Billie Eilish’s card has dark undertones as she stands atop a sinking car, but there’s no graphic violence depicted.
BTS’s sticker card, on the other hand, tells a far different story. Titled “BTS Bruisers”, the card features all seven members of the group being attacked with a GRAMMYs trophy in a mallet-hitting game similar to Whac-a-Mole. The violent image shows the members with bruises, bandages, and even broken teeth and stitches alongside tears and looks of fear on their faces.
Unsurprisingly, ARMYs and non-fans alike were alarmed to see how graphically violent BTS’s Garbage Pail Kids card is. Judging by previews from The Topps Company, none of the other cards in the collection feature any visible injuries.
.@Topps Can you explain why you chose to illustrate BTS in this way? The other artists you’ve included have no depiction of violence in their illustrations. Why did this get green-lit? https://t.co/BAVYlvOpKO pic.twitter.com/I4tukzTofg
— José/JK Mixtape⁷ (@TheJose8A) March 17, 2021
On top of that, the release of the cards comes in the midst of the rising “Stop Asian Hate” movement. From March 2020 to February 2021, the Stop AAPI Hate organization reports that a staggering 3,795 racially-motivated attacks have been recorded against the Asian community in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic is believed to be behind the severe increase in xenophobia, Sinophobia, and other forms of anti-Asian racism across the country.
In light of recent heartbreaking events of hate crimes towards Asians, @Topps released a drawing of 875 bruised & battered. Not only is this insensitive but further fueling hate & violence towards the Asian community. This cannot be tolerated. Email template⬇️#RacismIsNotComedy pic.twitter.com/AiYI9u6BAY
— ㄱ노미팬달콤뀨(slow) (@lovemazejikook) March 17, 2021
Over the past few days, numerous Asian American celebrities (including 2NE1‘s CL) have vowed to raise awareness of the situation and help gather funds to help protect the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
— CL (@chaelinCL) March 17, 2021
Given how the current situation of racism and violence is only worsening, The Topps Company’s portrayal of BTS is all the more shocking and inconsiderate. Across social media, fans are speaking up and demanding that the company holds itself accountable and apologizes. The hashtag #RacismIsNotComedy has also been trending on Twitter.
using violence against asian people as a punchline when anti-aapi hate crimes are increasing at an alarming rate – when you can visit any news outlet today and read about asian people being killed just for existing – is despicable, @Topps.
racism is not comedy.
— ellie⁷ 🍊 (@eleanorbate) March 17, 2021
While the Garbage Pail Kids series has always been satirical, it speaks volumes that BTS was the only artist in the “Shammy Awards” series that received such a violent and upsetting portrayal.
I understand that the garbage pail kids are satire but this is taking it to far. All the other artist are depicted without violence but why did you depict BTS with bruises and being beaten up. There has been a rise in violence against Asians and this card supports
— ᴮᴱ Kristina ⁷ 💜 (@LivLaughBTS) March 17, 2021
.@Topps Your depiction of Asian artists as bruised & scarred, as opposed to other illustrations, plays directly into anti-Asian sentiments that are already on the rise. Your illustration is not satirical or funny. It is hateful, disrespectful, racist, and absolutely unacceptable.
— ᴮᴱ BTS Press⁷ (@BTSPressData) March 17, 2021
The “BTS Bruiser” card’s artist has been identified as Chris Meeks, a long-term Garbage Pail Kids illustrator for The Topps Company. Chris Meeks has since deleted his tweet taking credit for the artwork but has not commented on the controversy or issued any apology. As of yet, it is unclear whether the artist or the company was the entity responsible for the image concept.
Fans have rallied together to get in touch with The Topps Company, organizing email campaigns and directly contacting the PR office to find out why and how the insensitive design was approved. Serious apologies—both to BTS and to the Asian community—are also expected from the company.
Just sent a lengthy email to Topps PR office. For a design to be published, it has to go through several people for an approval. Which means there are dozen of people on that company that think that it's okay, knowing their country is in the midst of a growing hate against Asian.
— Dita ᴮᴱ⁷ (@almostdita) March 17, 2021
Billboard was also slammed promoting the product via an affiliate link. Billboard has since deleted references to BTS in its article but has not taken the post itself down or removed links to the product.
You can now own your own Grammy-themed Garbage Pail Kids of Taylor Swift, Harry Styles and more https://t.co/gPG6AiuBnQ
— billboard (@billboard) March 16, 2021
As of now, The Topps Company, Billboard, and Big Hit Entertainment are yet to comment on the controversy.