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.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 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.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As of now, The Topps Company, Billboard, and Big Hit Entertainment are yet to comment on the controversy.