Following the 2021 Grammy Awards, popular trading card manufacturer Topps announced its “Shammy Awards” Garbage Pail Kids sticker collection. However, the company has since removed the BTS sticker from the set following swift backlash over the insensitive depiction of the K-pop stars amidst a rise in anti-Asian violence.
The Garage Pail Kids are a long-running series spoofing and satirizing Cabbage Patch dolls by drawing characters in negative, often violent or vulgar situations. The Shammy set aimed to poke fun at some of music’s biggest names on music’s biggest night, focusing in on artists’ attire or performances. There’s a drawing of Taylor “Tree-Swift” becoming a tree during her woodland performance, Harry “Boa” Styles being attacked by an angry green boa, “Bouyant” Billie Eilish singing atop a sunken car, and “Medalling” Megan Thee Stallion carrying her well-deserved golden gramophone atop a horse.
When it came to the drawing of BTS, though, nothing about the artists’ own choices were chosen as satirical targets. Instead, the “Bopping K-Pop” sticker saw the band stuck in a game of whack-a-mole being beaten bruised and scarred by a Grammy award.
Even if the goal was to mock the Recording Academy’s continued use of BTS as a promotional boon despite never giving them a music award, the fact that the only Asian artists include in Topps’ set were depicted as victims of an act of violence did not go over with fans. The outcry was immediate, decrying Topps for “capitalizing on asian ridicule and depicting violence against asians especially in a time where asian hate crimes are steadily rising,” as Twitter users @jkyoongs put it.
Worse, the insensitivity was highlighted by the fact that just hours after Topps’ announcement, eight individuals, six of whom were Asian, were shot and killed in Atlanta. The suspect has blamed a sex addiction for his actions, though it’s hard to discuss the fetishization of Asian women without understanding how race and misogyny play major factors.
Upon pulling the BTS stickers from the set and adding an “art subject to change” disclaimer to its store page, Topps issued the following statement:
— Topps (@Topps) March 17, 2021
However, many noted that the “apology” completely failed to address the community it had actually offended, let alone the band themselves. Find some of those responses, as well as the insensitive image itself, below.
A lot of artists didn't get the Grammy. Did you draw them the same way? No, but BTS is the only way to make you trend Isn't it
what a rude way to become trend pic.twitter.com/RBIfHoTtYH
— ᴮᴱ Army (@Nazikazzadin) March 17, 2021
"I'm sorry you got upset" is not an apology @Topps. Take real responsibility. Acknowledge the insensitivity & implicit racism in your portrayal of BTS. The lack of accountability & deflection of blame only invalidate the feelings of those hurt & contribute to hate against Asians.
— BTS Press⁷ 🧈 (@BTSPressData) March 17, 2021
your "apology" should be directed at bts and the entire asian community for capitalizing on asian ridicule and depicting violence against asians especially in a time where asian hate crimes are steadily rising. i beg you understand Why that was an issue in the first place. https://t.co/khlwFZJXQWAdvertisement
— ree 🧈 ⁷ (@mintynkks) March 17, 2021
Why was it upsetting? Clarify that to the public, then make a proper apology to the Asian community.
You depicted an Asian public figures as badly bruised and beaten down fully knowing the growing hate against Asian is happening in your country.
You are enabling hate. https://t.co/jzSywlOChJ
— Dita ᴮᴱ⁷ 🧈 (@almostdita) March 17, 2021