A trading card featuring Korean-pop group BTS was removed from circulation Wednesday following complaints on social media that it promoted hate amid a recent spike in violence against those of Asian descent.
As first reported by Buzzfeed, the card was part of the Garbage Pail Kids’ 2021 “Shammy Awards,” an annual collection of satirical cartoons of Grammy nominees such as Billie Eilish, Megan Thee Stallion, Taylor Swift and others.
The BTS card depicted the wildly popular boy band as whack-a-mole characters, their faces covered in bruises, black eyes and stitches after being clobbered with a Grammy.
The card was released Tuesday, the same day that a 21-year-old man killed eight people — including six women of Asian descent — at a string of Atlanta-area spas. Thousands of Twitter users felt the card was tone-deaf, prompting a swift backlash from the band’s followers. Some noted that the card featuring BTS was the only one in which the artists were subjected to violence.
The card’s release comes amid an increase in violence against Asian and Asian American people. A Cal State San Bernardino survey of police departments in 16 major cities recently found a total of 122 anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020 — a 149 per cent increase from 49 in 2019.
Topps, the company that sells the Garbage Pail Kids cards, Major League Baseball cards and other collectible items, responded to the criticism Wednesday by pulling the BTS card from the set. It also issued an apology indicating that the card had not been printed and will not be available.
“We hear and understand our consumers who are upset about the portrayal of BTS in our GPK Shammy Awards product,” the statement read.
But many BTS fans felt that wasn’t enough. Using the hashtag #RacismIsNotComedy, critics called for the company to acknowledge that the cartoon’s conceit itself is problematic, so as to prevent similar images from being created in the future.