Op/Ed

Faith Gong: Why you should watch ‘Bluey’

One of the effects of our children getting older is the fragmenting of our family. 

That sounds dramatic, but although it sometimes makes me (and the youngest siblings) a bit wistful, I’ve come to see that It’s natural and inevitable. During their early years our children ran in a pack: they played together, read the same books, watched the same shows, attended the same activities, listened to the same music, and shared the same friends. But now that we have children ranging in age from 4 to 16, spread across four different schools and countless activities, their pack days are gone. They still love each other and enjoy spending time together when they can, but they are five individuals. 

Nowhere is this more obvious than in our regular weekend game of: Let’s watch something together tonight! What shall we watch? 

Nobody’s interested in watching what the four-year-old wants to watch, because they’ve seen it all before: educational PBS Kids fare like Wild Kratts and Curious George. Our ten-year-old prefers wholesome American Girl films. Our middle schoolers tend towards fantasy/adventure (Studio Ghibli films are favorites.) And our teenage daughter prefers a good romance. Meanwhile, my husband Erick and I just want to skip the negotiating so that we can get to bed before 11 pm.

During a family visit this summer we were bemoaning the difficulty of agreeing upon crowd-pleasing viewing fare, and my sister-in-law asked, “Have you seen Bluey?”

We’d never even heard of Bluey. She went on to explain that it’s an animated Australian show about a dog family. “It’s really funny, and it’s got a lot of true things to say about having kids,” she said. 

I nodded politely, while thinking inwardly, There’s NO WAY most of our kids will go for an animated show about dogs. I’m not even sure our four-year-old will watch it!

But at some point over the last year, probably out of desperation, Erick decided to try watching Bluey with our four-year-old son. 

“It’s pretty good,” he told me later, in his understated way. “You should check it out. Start with ‘Bike.’”

It took me months to get around to it, but when I finally watched “Bike,” I found myself smiling through tears. “Bike,” the 11th episode in the first season of Bluey, could be described as, “The triumph of the human (or canine) spirit in nine minutes.”

Our older kids should see this! I decided then and there. EVERYONE should see this!

Our other children agreed to watch “Bike” at the conclusion of dinner one night, largely because they were a captive audience. Although they started off skeptical, by the end of those nine minutes they, too, were won over. 

As my husband and I continued to watch episodes of Bluey with our preschooler, we occasionally recommended certain episodes to our older children. Then, our older children started requesting that we watch Bluey together. 

The other night, all seven of us cuddled up together on the couch after dinner for a couple of Bluey episodes. I looked around and saw that everyone — from age four to forty-nine — was laughing together. “Awww, this show always makes me tear up,” said our sixteen-year-old as the final episode concluded. And in that moment, I realized that this animated Australian show about a family of dogs has become one of the very few things that our family of seven agrees on right now. For nine precious minutes, it unites our growing, fracturing family  — and that’s no small feat.

What’s so special about Bluey?

The show, which first aired in Australia in October 2018 and is now taking a break after wrapping its third season, is about a family of Australian Cattle Dogs living in Brisbane: Bandit (Dad) and Chilli (Mum) Heeler and their two young daughters, Bluey and Bingo. As previously mentioned, each episode is approximately nine minutes long — perfect for a quick, after-dinner watch. 

Executive Producer Daley Pearson said that Bluey was difficult to pitch because it’s “just a show about family and games.” That’s exactly what makes it so special: In every episode, Bluey and Bingo — and often their parents — engage in some sort of creative pretend play. The father, Bandit, is often central, and his patience and willingness to drop everything and goof around with his daughters have been an inspiration to my husband. The animation is sweet and the music is lovely — the Australian accents don’t hurt, either — but it’s really the themes that make the show: the love of a connected family, the joy of imaginative play for both children and adults, and the importance of persevering through life’s inevitable challenges and disappointments. 

You can start with “Bike,” but here are our family’s top five episodes to get you started, all from season one:

  • “Take Away” is one of my husband’s favorites. (I think he relates to the father who just wants his spring rolls.) 
  • “Calypso” depicts how a preschool should be: a microcosm of the world in which everyone works together towards mutual thriving.
  • “The Claw:” The Heeler family’s response to a rip-off claw game had some of our children rolling on the floor in laughter.
  • “Grannies” is a hilarious and sweet look at aging and grandparent relationships.
  • “Bumpy and the Wise Old Wolfhound:” a brilliant take on illness that manages to be both hysterical and moving. 

I would venture to suggest that everyone should watch Bluey. Watch it with your children, of course. Even if you don’t have children at home, watch it yourself: Look at it as a daily meditation on all that is best and truest and most beautiful about life. 

Faith Gong has worked as an elementary school teacher, a freelance photographer, and a nonprofit director. She lives in Middlebury with her husband, five children, assorted chickens and ducks, one feisty cat, and two quirky dogs. In her “free time,” she writes for her blog, The Pickle Patch.

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