Garbage Pail Kids, the booger-faced, puke-mouthed, pimple-skinned, blood-drenched parodies of Cabbage Patch Kids, make me smile and always have since their beginning.
We really had no idea what hit us in 1985 — except for the kids who were already hip to Wacky Packs, Cracked, and MAD. But GPK was different. Gross. Wrong. Topical. Relevant. And really gross. Did I mention gross?!
That’s what got us excited! The kids who discovered Garbage Pail Kids in elementary school were in a club of freaks who wanted to laugh at the world and the stupidity of things — and looking back, we didn’t really know at the time that the world was already insane, and would continue to be. But, we knew enough that the adults had to be wrong some of the time, at the very least.
So, we innocently and joyously brought the cards to school and had tons of fun and tons of trouble. Teachers and principals were crazy angry with us! It was like they couldn’t believe how society had deteriorated to the point that innocent children were buying these barf cards and caring about them. Little did our school leaders know that we were just laughing even more at their actions, which then tempted us into being “bad” even more intensely.
This same attitude from school officials happened to us also in junior high. And so we just kept on buying cards, chewing nasty gum, trading with each other to complete sets, and drawing our own boogers and barfs on everything. Nothing stops the power of children!
It’s strange to look back and see how little we knew that we were in a cultural revolution at the time — maybe we are always in a cultural revolution and your age just determines how much you understand and how much you participate. Maybe. But there was something happening in those 1980s days that never quite happened again, and yet still persists. A lot of new media and use of new media came to life: ideas and formats and genres that still look new today. And for whatever is wrong by today’s standards, the 80s kids who are now around 50 years old have some special knowledge of the most recent postmodern era that is endlessly fascinating.
In other words, you may not know it, but you’re living in The Fax Age, too. Or, still.
But when I was in elementary school, Garbage Pail Kids and Jolly Rancher candies were banned. One kid, a sixth grader, went all out and stole a couple volumes of his parents’ encyclopedia set, dug out the pages to make hidden compartments, stuffed them with the contraband, and then climbed up a little fence near the back side of the cafeteria to tuck the books on top of the cantilevered roof. During recess, lunch, and after school, he would climb up, grab the books, and sell his wares. Then he somehow filled them back up each day. Genius.
You ought to know this Mark Twain saying by now: Never let your schooling get in the way of your education.
What a time to be alive!