The importance of Australian kids show “Bluey”

By Riley Dauber

Incoming Editor-in-Chief

During the summer before my freshman year of college, I spent my mornings babysitting a three-year-old boy named Russell. We would walk around the block, paint, or play with his toys while his parents worked upstairs. Then, like clockwork, his mom would come downstairs and make lunch for us both while we watched “Bluey.”

On my first day, his mom, Emily, asked me, “Do you know what ‘Bluey’ is?” while pointing to Russell’s playset. I shook my head — maybe I had heard of the show or seen clips on TikTok, but the blue and orange dog figurines were unfamiliar to me.

Emily flicked on the television and selected a random episode. In the catchy opening title, the four family members introduce themselves: mom Chilli, dad Bandit, four-year-old Bingo, and six-year-old Bluey, who jumps into the air when her name flashes across the screen.

The first episode I watched with Russell was titled “Bumpy and the Wise Old Wolfhound” — a truly ridiculous name, but my interest was piqued. The opening scene shows Bingo in the hospital with an unmentioned illness. Chilli is by her side, and the two receive a video message from Bluey; the movie shows Bluey playing a character named Barnicus who wants a puppy, but the puppy gets sick. Barnicus searches for a cure before realizing that “everyone gets sick sometimes…being sick is just a part of life.”

Bluey and her family making movies reminded me of my friends from elementary school and how we spent entire afternoons working on our own projects with equally ridiculous names like “Zombie Dance.” The heartfelt message at the center of the episode also taught kids that sickness is nothing to feel ashamed of — and, along the way, Bluey cheers up her sister.

After watching a few episodes of the show, I became obsessed. I did not care if “Bluey” was intended for preschool and elementary-age kids. The cute cartoons and sweet messages in each episode never failed to put me in a good mood.

As the eldest daughter in my own family, I related to Bluey’s bossy attitude and her ability to rope her younger sister into her outlandish ideas. My sister and I also have a two-year age gap, so we immediately identified with Bluey and Bingo’s sibling dynamic. Bandit and Chilli share a few moments throughout the show that remind me of my parents. Whenever I feel stressed or homesick, I switch on an episode to cheer myself up.

“Bluey” started airing in 2018, and season three released onto Disney Plus during the summer of 2023, according to the Associated Press. In response to the show’s popularity, the creators tested out a 28-minute episode called “The Sign,” which came out April 14.

Most episodes of “Bluey” are around nine minutes to appeal to younger viewers, so this longer runtime allowed the show to capture a detailed storyline and plenty of heartwarming — and heartbreaking — moments.

This last sentiment is potentially why “Bluey” is popular with viewers outside of its intended age group. While some episodes may start with the family playing a game or spending time with friends, one of the characters always ends up learning an important and timely lesson.

“As a parent you aspire to be as good of parents as Chilli and Bandit are as parents. They always have a great way of talking kids through issues,” parent John Schmidt said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Some discussions are relatable for kids. In the season two episode “Ice Cream,” Bluey and Bingo learn about fairness. They want ice cream, and Bandit eventually relents, but the two sisters cannot decide how much they can share with each other to make it “fair.” They dance around the park, reaching for each other’s sweet treats, until every drop has melted.

“I didn’t want a valuable life lesson. I just wanted ice cream,” Bluey says, but she learns at the end of the episode to share her ice cream with her sister.

“Bluey” is also able to discuss mature topics, including infertility. In a season three episode titled “Onesies,” Chilli’s estranged sister Brandy stops by with gifts for the girls. She brings a cheetah onesie for Bingo and a zebra onesie for Bluey. Bluey wants the cheetah one, even though it does not fit. While she whines, Bingo turns feral thanks to her cheetah onesie’s persona, running around the house and attacking her family members.

At one point, Chilli and Bluey find themselves separated from the group. The latter asks why Aunt Brandy does not visit anymore, and the former takes the opportunity to explain the concept of infertility to her daughter by comparing it to the ill-fitted onesie.

“You know how you really want Bingo’s cheetah onesie? But it doesn’t fit you, so you can’t have it, and there’s not really anything anyone can do to make it fit,” Chilli says. “Well, there’s something Aunt Brandy wants more than anything as well, but she can’t have it, and there’s not really anything anyone can do…it’s not meant to be.”

This dialogue plays over a clip of Brandy playing with Bingo; when the latter runs off, the former holds out her hands. Motherhood is just out of reach for her, but no matter what she does, she cannot have it.

This episode — and many others in “Bluey’s” catalog — never fail to reduce me to tears.

Even when not tugging at the heartstrings, episodes appeal to viewers of all ages by highlighting joyous moments in one’s childhood. In a modern world focused on technology and “iPad Kids,” it is refreshing to see Bluey and Bingo embrace imagination, playtime, and games.

According to The Guardian, “The first episode, about an elongated game of musical statues, conveys a profound truth about children at play. They know what’s pretend…but nobody is ever allowed to speak of this. Nobody can tip the wink, acknowledge pretense, otherwise a game falls apart.”

Although “Bluey” successfully depicts real life with its discussions and familial dynamics, the show also veers into joyous fiction. Unlike most parents, Chilli and Bandit can seemingly drop their responsibilities to play silly games with their kids.

Most of the show’s humor derives from the family’s dedication to these games; in the episode “Dance Mode,” Bingo is allowed to decide when her parents get to spontaneously dance in public. I do not know about you, but my parents were not doing all that when I was growing up.

Even if these moments are not accurate to life, they do not have to be. The show is, after all, about a family of personified dogs. However, “Bluey” grounds itself by not shying away from these relatable discussions, which helps it appeal to every type of viewer.

So, even if you have never heard of “Bluey,” it is never too late to start watching. All three seasons are available to stream on Disney+, but be warned: you may want to grab a tissue or two.

Photo by Riley Dauber.

Photo Caption: Since my first introduction to “Bluey,” I have collected a pillow pet and stuffed animal resembling the lead character.

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