The Cross-Generational Magic of ‘Bluey’

Bluey Scene
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Bluey feels like the best version of childhood. If you’ve talked to any adult or child who’s watched it, you’ll see the zeal in their eyes over this cartoon about anthropomorphic dogs, as if they are the heart-eyes emoji come to life. If you watch it yourself, no matter your age, you’ll see why—it embodies everything good about being a kid, from a kid’s perspective, something we all can relate to. But, even more remarkably, it also refuses to shortchange the adult characters.

Joe Brumm‘s animated Australian sensation, about a 7-year-old Blue Heeler puppy living with her parents and her 5-year-old sister Bingo, revels in its sense of everyday play, wonder, and adventure while also presenting every character—including, notably, mom Chilli and dad Bandit—as fully realized and fallible. Each 7-minute installment is a perfectly formed, tiny gem: The one where Bingo keeps returning to the park to play with someone else’s lost turtle toy, hoping one day Bandit will let her take it home for herself, will have you rooting desperately for her to end up with the turtle. When the Heelers accidentally book two babysitters, you’ll swoon as they fall in love while helping Bluey get over her fear of being put to bed by anyone except her parents. When Bluey frets over making the “perfect” drawing as a gift for her dad, you’ll wince when you learn it’s because she overheard her mom replacing one of her previous drawings with Bingo’s on the refrigerator.

Children love it, so much that some have adopted Australian accents in imitation of their favorite TV characters. But, even with its abbreviated length, Bluey touches on deep issues like premature birth, infertility, and death, while casually including, say, a deaf puppy among the many “kids” portrayed. One episode called “Dad Baby” (see below), which portrays Bandit pretending to be pregnant and give birth, was banned for a time in the United States by distributor Disney+. These deeper and unique takes, along with the particularly compelling portrayals of parents Bandit and Chilli, have made major fans of parents (and even a few child-free adults), as evidenced by the plethora of podcasts about the show, many of them hosted by parents, not to mention this Reddit thread about Bandit and Chilli as marriage role models.

In the end, what makes Bluey truly special is its gift for quiet, succinct poignance. The episode “Explorers,” for instance, parallels two storylines: In one, a bunch of the kids are pretending to be on a ship at sea while waiting to be picked up from school. We see each of them picked up by their parents, one after another, until only Jack is left. Meanwhile, Jack’s dad is lost, his navigation system in the car is down, and he doesn’t know how to get to the school. He grows frustrated as he makes several stops, trying to figure it out, but his young child in a car seat sees the joy in every minute, as one stranger gives them strawberries and another sends them on a treacherous shortcut through the woods that dirties the car and spatters the strawberries all over the interior. Finally Dad gets it: They’ve had a fun adventure together!

Interestingly, fans have speculated intensely about the main characters: Is Bluey autistic? Does Bingo have celiac disease? The answers here aren’t as important as what these theories indicate about the viewers, which is that everyone identifies with Bluey and her family and wants to see themselves reflected in this warm, inclusive show.

Where to Watch: Disney+

The Previously Banned Episode ‘Dad Baby’

For a period, Disney+ did not include “Dad Baby,” in which Bandit pretends to be pregnant and give birth, in its selection of Bluey episodes in America.

Bluey Scene

The Atlantic‘s David Sims writes rapturously about his feelings of personal connection to Bluey, including this example: “The magnificent ‘Sticky Gecko’ is a Buster Keaton–esque cacophony of minor slapstick, as Chilli struggles to get her kids out the door for a playdate. But it also has an offhand moment that never fails to catch me off guard, as Chilli recalls that, when Bluey was born, the mother of the children they’re about to visit made her five lasagnas. ‘It meant so much to me!’ she exclaims, expressing the profound sweetness of being unexpectedly cared for by a close friend, a feeling I’ve cherished as a new parent.”

Where to Read: The Atlantic

Why are people confused about Bluey’s gender? What are Bluey’s best parent jokes? Executive producer Daley Pearson and Dave McCormack, the voice of Bluey and Bandit, take viewers behind the scenes.

Where to Watch: BT on YouTube

Rose Byrne Presents the Peabody to ‘Bluey’

“Ask any parent of a young child, ‘What’s the last show you watched with your kid that made you laugh one minute and then bawl your eyes out the next?’ And the answer would probably be our winner, Bluey.”

Where to Watch:

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