- 'Bluey' is an important diversion from the typical way parents are depicted in kids’ TV shows, which is usually some combination of stupid, naïve, and clueless. Tweet This
- 'Bluey' certainly elicits a lot of laughs, but not at the expense of mom and dad. Tweet This
- 'Bluey' idealizes the traditional nuclear family in a way that is both relatable and inspirational. Tweet This
One could be forgiven for not believing anyone who claims to have discovered pro-family entertainment offerings for young children these days. And by pro-family, I don’t just mean completely clean. I also mean presenting a positive portrayal of the nuclear family, most especially the parents. But lo and behold, I am here to tell you that I have.
My kids first started watching the Australian cartoon Bluey during the lockdown days of the pandemic, when the generally accepted guidelines surrounding screentime flew out the window for most parents. Accordingly, they plowed through seasons one and two in what seemed like a matter of days. But then they did something they don’t usually do and watched them over and over again. Eventually, the giggles drew me into the room, where I found myself laughing right along with them. With the third season now streaming, it’s all the giggles, all over again.
What makes Bluey noticeably different from other children’s programming I’ve tolerated over the years is first and foremost the positive way the parents are portrayed. Their marriage is playful and loving. They are caring and empathetic with each other and with their children. They are involved, and they are in charge. It’s the platonic ideal of a modern marriage, just the blue dogs with Australian accents version. As such, it’s an important diversion from the typical way parents are depicted in kids’ television shows, which is usually some combination of stupid, duped, naïve, and clueless.
Fathers seem to be portrayed in a particularly poor light on children’s programming. Brigham Young University (BYU) even did a small study on the phenomenon, which found that “40 percent of fatherly behavior on popular tween television shows like the Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie could be considered ridiculous or buffoonery.”
“Every 3.24 minutes,” they concluded, “a dad acts like a buffoon.” The researchers actually observed the behavior of children watching these shows and found that they reacted in a measurably negative way when dads were portrayed badly by doing things like rolling their eyes.
As Naomi Shaeffer Riley wrote in a piece entitled “How Disney Teaches Contempt for Dads” for the New York Post, portraying parents as the brunt of jokes is not something to be taken lightly. “This behavior,” she wrote, “especially on Disney shows, has become the norm to such a degree that parents regularly tell me they don’t allow their children to watch the channel. There’s no sex or violence—but there’s only so many times they want their children to watch their counterparts on screen ignore, insult, or pretend to humor their parents for laughs.”
Bluey certainly elicits a lot of laughs, but not at the expense of mom and dad. The parents, especially the dad, can be silly, but usually only when they are actively playing with their children.
Probably because it is not an American show, Bluey is also refreshingly devoid of even a hint of wokeism. This can no longer be said of even what many once considered the most innocent of children’s shows like “Peppa Pig” and programming on PBS kids, including shows targeting the youngest of audiences.
Rather, Bluey idealizes the nuclear family in a way that is both relatable and inspirational. Nearly every episode depicts an entirely realistic scene from daily family life, without denigrating it in the slightest. To the contrary, the show manages to depict even the frustrating and mundane parts of family life while making the viewer, young and old, nostalgic. Even NPR, hardly a bastion of pro-family commentary, praised the shows lessons for all ages. On a recent culture podcast, Stephen Thompson said:
Bluey is a hit with young children, but it’s also found a devoted following among their parents, who have embraced the show’s emotional depth, as well as its messages about creativity, collaboration, and learning through emotional play…[Bluey] balances gentle humor with some kind of lesson. But those lessons aren’t about letters or numbers. Instead they are about emotional intelligence thinking about others, sharing, collaborating, making time for the people, or in this case dogs, that you love. It’s also notably not just imparting lessons to kids. Bluey has just as much to say to the parents watching at home.
The other day, I found myself trying to emulate the mother’s patience in one episode with the youngest of the children who wanted to help make breakfast for dad. Every mom has been there: your child wants to help in a meaningful way, and that means a mess, be it spilled flour or wasted eggs, and a whole lot of patience.
But the episode portrayed a deeper truth, which is that children can only learn if they are taught, and the desire to learn to do something, especially when the motivation is to do something kind for another, is worth cultivating. Never once does the mom make Bingo feel bad for a series of spills and mishaps, and by the end, she can make a rudimentary omelet, which she proudly presents to her father.
And there you have it—I’ve just admitted to looking up to a blue animated Australian dog mom as a role model. But in an entertainment culture that’s awash in a combination of filth and woke politics, it’s something to write home about.
Ashley E. McGuire is a Contributing Editor at the Institute for Family Studies and the author of Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female (Regnery, 2017).
Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or views of the Institute for Family Studies.
*Photo credit: Ludo Studio