BTS ARMY Calls Out Anti-Asian Messaging In Grammys-Themed Garbage Pail Kids Collection

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BTS

The BTS ARMY is not a fandom you want to mess with.

These devoted stans, whose acronym stands for Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth (the MC means master of ceremonies), are fighting back against what they say is anti-Asian imagery mocking their beloved K-Pop stars.

The fans were outraged by the illustration used to depict the popular South Korean band as Garbage Pail Kids in a special edition post-Grammys sticker collection known as "The Shammys."

For those unfamiliar with Garbage Pail Kids, the satirical sticker trading cards manufactured by Topps were first released in 1985 to parody the Cabbage Patch Kids craze taking the US by storm at the time. Several decades, multiple school bans, one movie and a trademark lawsuit later, the company now releases special series on a limited basis.

Ordinarily, satirical characters like the others included in this year's Shammys collection — including Wild Styles, Tree Swift, and Lars Mars — are generally well-received as fun and playful.

But BTS fans quickly expressed their understandable concerns about their idols being labeled "BTS Bruisers" and shown as whack-a-mole type characters crying under a Grammy-shaped mallet at a time when anti-Asian violence and discrimination is increasing at a dramatic pace.

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ARMYs were fearful of the harmful adverse effects the sticker cards could have for BTS and the wider Asian community.

In the midst of countless terrifying anti-Asian attacks, including the three shootings that claimed eight lives in Atlanta just yesterday, it would be difficult not to see the portrayal of BTS as it appeared in these trading cards as anything other than another hateful act against the Asian community.

Topps has since removed the card from the set and issued a public apology.

"We hear and understand our consumers who are upset about the portrayal of BTS in our GPK Shammy Awards product and we apologize for including it," the company wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. "We have removed the BTS sticker card from the set, we have not printed any of the sticker card and it will not be available."

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It had already been a tense week for ARMYs who watched BTS lose out on a Grammy Award but their upset over the trading card was about a lot more than something as trivial as disappointment over missing out on an award.

Anti-Asian hate crimes have been rampant in recent months, leading the Asian community to feel fearful and vulnerable amidst widespread attacks and hate-speech.

By portraying BTS in this way, Garbage Pail Kids are ridiculing a music group that has been a much-needed source of representation and positivity for the Asian community. ARMYs feared that the sticker was an attempt to incite more violence against Asian people, or at the very least, an attempt to delegitimize the concerns of this minority group.

After first seeing the cards, ARMYs took to social media in force to defend BTS.

Proving that the fandom can live up to their name, ARMYs were quick to defend their favorite band.

BTS is famous for spreading messages of positivity and joy, and many fans felt that this sticker was unfair to a band that never engages in satire or mocking themselves.

YouTuber Josh Ochoa pointed out that portrayals of other artists did not depict violence, calling on the makers of the trading cards to explain why they chose to portray BTS in this way.

“I’m all for satire but there were different ways you could’ve approached the situation with the Grammys using BTS,” he tweeted, “With the rise in anti-Asian Hate Crimes, you chose to illustrate them getting beat by a Grammy in a game of whac-a-mole.”

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Sticker cards of Grammy winners from Harry Styles to Billie Eilish were shown in ways that satirized them without containing explicitly violent or aggressive imagery.

ARMYs effectively spread the word about the unacceptable nature of the cards, urging others to reach out to the corporation about their damaging portrayal of BTS.

Their efforts prompted Topps to pull the cards from the collection immediately and issue their apology, which unfortunately did not rinclude any specific mention of why their product was found to be offensive or which community it potentially hurt.

Many fans were left unsatisfied by what they saw as a non-apology and accused the company of attempting to cover up their mistake by simply removing the sticker without addressing the particular of the harm or offense they had caused.

Others defended the company, saying the whack-a-mole image is all just harmless fun intended to satirize the Grammy loss.

Given the steady increase in anti-Asian hate crimes, most seem to be hoping the company gives the matter greater consideration, apologizes to the Asian community and commits to do better in the future.

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment.