30 Years of Garbage: The Garbage Pail Kids Story

I was probably too young for Garbage Pail Kids. I was possibly too young for Cabbage Patch Kids too, for that matter, but had one anyway, given to me when I was 2 years old and my dumb Mom replaced me with a brand new baby. My Cabbage Patch Kid was named Maud (they came pre-named, with a birth certificate) and she had red yarn hair. My babyGPK_8a_adambomb sister also got one, a brunette named Valerie, which I felt was unfair because she’d done nothing to deserve it besides poop and scream and steal my parents’ love.

Cabbage Patch Dolls were a huge phenomenon in the 1980s, and so too, eventually, were the little trading cards that parodied them. Topps bubblegum did Bazooka and other candy store staples. They’d paired baseball cards with bubblegum for years, and were expanding to “non-sport” cards as well. Failing to secure rights to do a legit Cabbage Patch line, they decided instead to do a “fuck you” line that would skewer these saccharine-sweet dolls.

30 Years of Garbage introduces us to the brilliant, twisted minds behind this idea that was obsessively collected by kids and doggedly censored by parents and principals. Jacques Cousteau, for some reason, cautioned parents that their Garbage Pail loving kids would inevitably end up on cocaine! I may have been too young to appreciate os4_132athis stuff at the time, but I have certainly been aware of them in retrospect. These bubblegum comic artists tapped into a vein of childhood rebellion and ended up making lasting work.

I was shocked to learn that a Garbage Pail co-creator was none other than Art Spiegelman, who wrote Maus, a deeply moving graphic novel about the Holocaust (he uses cats and mice effectively – if you haven’t read it, you simply must). I shouldn’t be surprised that I’d never known the connection – his publishers worked hard to keep it that way!

30 Years of Garbage provides equal doses nostalgia and insight. You don’t need to love
the product to find this documentary compelling: who got screwed, who got sued, who won the war between the First Amendment, and Product Disparagement?

But it’s also interesting because I see this fad repeating itself. My little nephew Brady is into something called Shopkins, which as far as I can tell, is a really stupid “toy”. It’s a tiny rubber thing, shaped like some grocery store item, about the size of a pencil eraser. cards21n-2-webHe’s got a bag of rice, and a bag of flour that looks almost identical to the bag of rice. How these are fun toys I have no idea. We usually pile them on Lightning McQueen and race. But Brady’s own counter culture is already budding at 5 years old: Shopkins are parodied by the Grossery Gang, the same basic shitty toy, but disgusting (ie, mouldy cheese). I don’t get it, but adults aren’t meant to. It’s kind of cool that he’s got his own little act of rebellion, but if you’re in the mood for some throwback rebellion, here’s a hint: the Garbage Pail Kids are back.

 

 

30 Years of Garbage is playing at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival this Sunday, May 7th, 5:30pm at Innis Town Hall.

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20 thoughts on “30 Years of Garbage: The Garbage Pail Kids Story

  1. Sarah Ferguson and Choppy

    I loved the Garbage Pail Kids!

    And the Shopkins…my nieces are all into them these days. We thought it might be a really quick phase, but our oldest niece has been into them for about two years, so apparently it has some staying power.

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  2. Brittani

    I had a Cabbage Patch doll too. Her name was Gabrielle with blonde yarn hair. I weirdly still have her “birth certificate” but not the doll itself. My older sister collected those Garbage Pail Kids cards, she was more the target age as I wasn’t born until the late 80’s. I’d totally watch this documentary for the nostalgia factor though. I played with a lot of her old toys like those and the California Raisins and Strawberry Shortcake even though I never recall much about them.

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  3. Christopher

    I loved the Garbage Pail kids–they seemed like the perfect counter to the Cabbage Patch Kids and that cheap ripoff for boys known as “My Buddy”. Now I have to see this because this is actually the second time I’ve gotten a Garbage Pail flashback. Last month it was when artist Jay Lynch, another Garbage Pail artist, passed away.
    Lynch also drew “Wacky Packages”, fake ads parodying real products, with things like “Hostage Cupcakes” and “Minute Lice”. I think they fostered my dark sense of humor.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yes, those are briefly covered in this doc as well – the artists doing those things were actually all working together in the Brooklyn warehouse that was actually making the gum!

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  4. Sarca

    Ok, now I’m ageing myself. I had two Cabbage Patch Kids – Jacqulin and Blair (Girl and boy). I also loved the Garbage Pail Kids, but they weren’t as accessible in Sudbury as they should have been. I’d have to sneak out to a convenience store that sold them, and there wasn’t one in my neighborhood, so I would have to quickly go to one near my school after class or cross traffic to get to one. I would never tell my mom I was going because she would have freaked. But, yeah. I wonder if I still have my pile of ‘Kids…I’ll have look…

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  5. D. Wallace Peach

    My daughter was right on time for Cabbage Patch Dolls. That was an insane craze. Fortunately, she was too old for the Garbage Pail Kids because I would never have bought one for her. Ugh. Ha ha. I’m really shocked that anyone actually liked them.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Did you have to brave the stores to get her one? I’ve seen crazy footage of people going bananas trying to get their hands on them. That was probably peak craze, but my goodness, they’re just dolls!

      And I don’t care for gross out things either, it would never have been for me.

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  6. BroadBlogs

    I can relate to the dumb mom bringing some new kid into the house to steal your love away 😦

    I’m curious. I have a boy cousin who got a cabbage patch doll for Christmas, And not because he was into girly stuff. All the kids wanted them. Was that true where you lived too?

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  7. J.

    I mind those things! Had a fair few cards and even went as far as to rent the movie (via the parental unit, of course). I’ve been very intrigued by them over the years – remembering them every now and then. I’ll definitely be checking this out!

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  8. The Vern

    I used to have a big collection of Garbage Pail Kids cards when I was a kid, but I sold them all for cocaine because it was the 80’s and how else was I going to help my folks after Alf got canceled. I never read Maus. I should get on that

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