Scotland's National Catholic magazine

Review: Bluey

A children’s show about an Australian dog is a source of Catholic inspiration for Emile Krenn-Grosvenor.

This past weekend our family climbed up to the loft to retrieve the Christmas decorations.

After decorating the tree, our five-year-old asked to watch TV. Kids are mimics, so if he watches Star Wars, our house will be filled with the sound of lightsaber duels and the like.

As glad as it makes me to see his imagination at work, peace-making is at the heart of the vocation of a Catholic parent.

And violent shows inspire violent play. So, I told our 5-year-old to put on something that his baby brother could also enjoy. He picked Bluey! And I could not have been more pleased.

Bluey! Features a six-year-old dog (Bluey), her four-year-old sister (Bingo), a mum (Chili), and dad (Bandit), and depicts family life as a web of relation- ships within a community.

One of the first things I appreciated about it was how it showed that children learn to navigate relationships through play. In most episodes, the children are learning through imaginative games and the parents are playing along too so that everyday errands and chores are transformed into a realm of playful enchantment.

Bandit and Chili take their children’s imaginations seriously, resulting in comedy that both kids and adults find relatable. For example, in the episode ‘Featherwand’, Bingo’s magical feather makes each item it touches too heavy for her parents and sister to lift.

It is not so much that Bandit and Chili stop what they are doing to play with their children, but that they incorporate whatever the game is into the task at hand.

And unlike most kid’s TV, one aspect of Bluey! that I really appreciate is it doesn’t just model family life for children, it teaches my husband and I too.

After watching the show I began to ask myself: ‘What would it look like if I stepped into the realm of playful enchantment?’ Christ tells us in the Gospels that only those with hearts like children will enter the Kingdom of God. Bluey! invites us to consider how we might be caretakers with pure and open hearts.

Though most Bluey episodes are centred around games, it nonetheless sincerely confronts the uncertainties and questions children have. For example, Bluey’s friend Indy has a baby sister who is born prematurely.

Indy responds to the situation by pretending to work in a hospital with an ‘early baby.’ In another episode Bluey is playing at copycat, imitating every- thing her father says and does.

During the game, they discover an injured bird and drive it to the vet’s office.

While the bird does not survive, the episode leads to an exploration of questions regarding service, death and ritual that reminds parents, as well as the children watching, that respect for life, even in the midst of hopeless situations, is in itself an act of hope that affirms all life as worthwhile.

Most surprising in Bluey! is the tremendous care taken in cultivating a sense of awe and enchantment at the natural world, as well as beauty in the mundane.

While only 7 minutes long, episodes often include frames of insects landing on a flower or leaves falling from trees.

In the episode, ‘Sleepytime,’ Bingo has a dream where she hatches from an egg-like planet Earth, soaring through the solar system in what is surely one of the most enchanting scenes in children’s television.

Bluey and Bingo are not apart from the natural world as they play out the course of life in the back garden, they are a sign of it; or as Pope Francis affirms in his encyclical, Laudato Si, children are integral to the Earth.

It is the first time I have watched a cartoon with my children that is not simply teaching them about science but cultivating in them a Franciscan heart; a love for creation.

What I most appreciate, however, of Bluey!’s depiction of family, is the relationship between Chili and Bandit. They tease each other, are outwardly affectionate, argue, and flirt.

Despite being two cartoon dogs, their marriage feels real. It was not until I saw the end of the episode ‘Pool,’ where Bluey spies her parents stealing a kiss, that I realised this is a vital component left out of most kids’ shows.

When parents model a loving relationship, this adds to the children’s sense of love and safety.

In sum, Bluey! is a smart show where each member of the family takes turns providing wisdom, making mistakes, and making us laugh.

Creator Joe Brumm explains: “My intention for Bluey wasn’t to show real life, but to create a seven-minute refuge from it, where you’re reminded of the joy of being a kid and hopefully of raising them.”

So, while Bluey! remains an idyllic version of family life, it does so by depicting relatable everyday moments that somehow turn a family of cartoon Australian blue-heelers into three-dimensional characters who remind us of the joy and privilege it is to be family.

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