Remember Garbage Pail Kids?
In the beginning there were the Cabbage Patch Kids. Cabbage Patch Kids were dolls made to resemble human babies with fat faces and small eyes that stared straight out into the void. The dolls were immensely popular. Parents lined up for miles in an often vain attempt to secure one of these wonderful dolls for their wonderful child. I would not have been caught dead playing with them and I secretly wished for a way to explode the commercial hypocrisy that these dolls represented.
One day in elementary school a group of classmates were huddled and making noise. I did not like to be disturbed when I was coloring and went over to give them a lesson in decorum. And then I saw what they were so excited about. They were looking at cards, kind of like baseball cards but with artwork on the face instead of photographs. The cards were called “Garbage Pail Kids” and the artwork was of a character that looked very similar to a Cabbage Patch Kid, but in a compromising situation.
For example, the first card i saw was of a character that was dressed as Uncle Sam and sticking a finger in his nose. At the bottom was the character’s name: Snooty Sam. Another Garbage Pail Kid was Babbling Brooke, who appeared to be a young lady, speaking on the telephone while eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and getting most of the peanut butter and jelly on the receiver with a lot of what I presumed to be saliva. Various membranes, bodily refuse and physical violence were the prevailing themes to these cards.
Every Garbage Pail Kid had an identical twin. Snooty Sam’s identical twin was U.S. Arnie. Finding the twin to a Garbage Pail Kid was like glimpsing an alternate universe. But this was nothing compared to seeing a Garbage Pail Kid character drawing for the first time. Even now when I search on Google images, I get a trace of that magical feeling when I see those cards.
Like snap bracelets and Beavis and Butthead, the Garbage Pail Kids eventually found themselves at odds with parents and educators. I imagine it was because of the cards’ heavy emphasis on scatological humor and flippant attitude towards death. But the cards were not completely bad. You have to remember that there were hundreds of these cards, each with a clever name. To accomplish this, the creators harnessed the lyricism of the English language and in so doing introduced us to words and concepts we would not have encountered while coloring and singing Bingo Was His Name-O. These were some of the names: Glandular Angela. Marty Gras. Adam Bomb. Frigid Bridget (who was a girl encased in an ice cube – such was the cleverness of these cards aimed at pre-adolescents).
The cards were released as a series. When I came under their spell, they were up to the second or third series. I was positively rabid during the fifth, sixth, and seventh series. As soon as each new series came out I could think of little else until I had every card of the series in my possession. At last I could show the world how the Cabbage Patch Kids were nothing more than a gimmick to get children to beg their parents to spend precious dollars or pounds or yen on these fat faced dolls with adoption papers. I was so dedicated to this message that I begged my parents to buy me more Garbage Pail Kids.
But at some point after I became disillusioned and figured it was time to focus on a career.
Years later, I followed up on the Garbage Pail Kids to see what had befallen them. Evidently the Cabbage Patch Kids – or a parent or guardian on their behalf – sued the Garbage Pail Kids for trademark infringement. The deposition testimony makes for interesting reading.
Attorney for plaintiffs: So were you aware of the Cabbage Patch Kids when you began marketing your own cards?
The witness: I do not recall.
Attorney: Did you do any research as to whether there was something called the Cabbage Patch Kids?
Witness: I do not recall.
Attorney: You do not recall whether or not you researched whether there were Cabbage Patch Kids or not?
Defendants’ attorney: Objection. Asked and answered. Don’t answer that.
Plaintiffs’ attorney: You can’t direct him not to answer that.
Defendants’ attorney: I think I just did.
(The witness picks his nose.)
Plaintiffs’ attorney: The court reporter is taking down everything you do. So you may want to refrain from doing that. Now I just have a few more questions – wait, are you going to throw up – no…not the exhibits!
(Whereupon a short recess was taken.)
The parties reached an out of court settlement which was sealed to the public. I noticed, however, that the appearance of the “new” Garbage Pail Kids was markedly different from the ones I knew and loved and negligently let my mother throw away. The eyes are much bigger, and so the characters have lost the fat face look of the Cabbage Patch Kids. They are in the same compromising situations – expectoration, regurgitation, excretion, death – but when it was just ordinary kids in those situations instead of kids that bore a startling resemblance to the Cabbage Patch Kids the magic was no longer there for me. Lawyers ruin everything.