What to say about a children’s cartoon that packs more laughs, produces more cries, and delivers more smiles and downright goodness than anything in recent memory?
In an age where screen time for littles is an existential question for parents everywhere, seven-minute episodes of “Bluey,” (which can be viewed via YouTube and Disney+) are easy to acquiesce to. The problem? The characters are so delightful, the storylines so relatable, the writing so brilliant — that the entire family will readily accept another helping of these impossibly adorable Australian heelers.
All this about a children’s cartoon? Without reservation, yes. If policy is downwind of culture, and we sometimes struggle to see how we can get out of the morass of our current social and political climate, then we should be ever so welcoming to something so uniformly wholesome and well-meaning.
“Bluey” exudes and exemplifies the values of family and what it means to love, learn and support each other. The dad of this dog family, named Bandit, isn’t the typically aloof dunce you often see personified in popular media. He’s all-in on being the best dad and husband he can be, mistakes and all. I know more dads like this than our entertainment overlords would ever care to admit. It’s about time good fatherhood and husbandry is rewarded with proper representation.
Chili the mom is not a paint-by-numbers maternal figure either. Chili works and Chili plays. And there’s no doubt she is welded to her husband in the thing that matters most: family. One particular Chili-centric episode has stayed with me since I first watched it. On a particularly hectic day, with the kids loud, unfeeling and invasive of her space, (sound familiar?) it all seems to be boiling over. Dad walks in home from work to a round of applause from the kiddos. Chili, with a scowl, informs Bandit that dinner will be ready soon but, and I quote, “I need 20 minutes where no one comes near me.” There is no judgment for there was no offense.
This is what real parenting looks like. In the age of the perfectly curated and utterly unrealistic Instagram supermom, Chili is real and works through her role at home with grace.
Bluey and her sister Bingo are as dependent on each other for friendship and playdates as they are independent in how they perceive the world. They, like siblings writ-large, are each other’s best friend and worst enemy. A parenting truism is that each child comes from God with his or her own personality. The show’s best moments center on the reality that we as parents use our own experiences to mold and aid those whom heaven has directed to be reared under our roof, rules and reasoning. It’s the largest and most important undertaking in life. But we do it together — as one.
In one memorable scene in the episode “Dance Mode,” toddler-aged Bingo is overwhelmed by her family running roughshod — unintentionally — over her little dog desires and ignoring her say in the matter. Finally, like the great mom she is, Chili understands what has transpired. “Bingo,” she says lovingly, “sometimes does your outside voice say ‘yes’ when your inside voice really means ‘no’?” We’ve all been Bingo. But have we all heard such deep-seated and uniformly good guidance expressed so concisely?
The episodes cover a wide variety of topics — all carrying a message of warmth and good nature. The world is filled with stories of the exception. Stories of the bleak, the dark and the depraved. Those, in their rightful measure, have their place in the echelon of cultural significance. But they also seem to have reached a critical mass, as streaming service after streaming service dregs the depths for something murkier, making the misguided assumption that the darker the frame, subject and outlook, the more artsy and real it becomes.
But “Bluey” — yes, that little old cartoon about a family of dogs — is something more still. It has enshrined itself as cultural necessity in a world that has seemingly lost its way. It shows a standard for us to meet. It sings with the sanctity of the family unit as the bedrock of society. And it shows us the values that can save the world by saving one family at a time.
Zach Bloxham is an attorney and serves on the Layton City Council. You can follow him on Twitter: @zblox.