Though it has become one of the most popular offerings for children on cable television and streaming, Disney’s Bluey can be problematic, and parents are being cautioned about the decision to allow their children to watch episodes of the show.
Bluey tells the story of family life for the Heelers–Bluey, a blue heeler, her sister Bingo, a red heeler puppy, and their parents, Chilli and Bandit. It has become one of the most successful shows for preschoolers and young children in the history of children’s programming. Many parents of children who watch Bluey say that they love the show as much as their children do, but others say that parents should use caution when allowing their children to watch the show, as it’s extremely unconventional in how it goes about telling stories in each episode.
It’s so unconventional, in fact, that some parents have called for a boycott of the beloved children’s offering on Disney Junior and streaming on the Disney+ platform.
“Bluey” Steers Away From the Usual Way of Teaching Children
Disney’s Bluey is an innovative new approach to children’s programming. Fans of the show will notice the absence of counting and numbers, the absence of shapes, the absence of reading and texts, and the missing alphabet, among other things usually found in programs designed and written for preschoolers–especially in American children’s programming.
Daley Pearson, one of the show’s executive producers, explained the show’s thoughts about the parents and the puppies in the Heeler family in Bluey.
“We are really trying to keep the integrity of ‘this is what your parents are like’ and ‘this is what you are really like,'” Pearson said. “This is a family of blue heelers, but we are trying to keep this as true to life as possible.”
“Bluey” Has a Lot Going on Behind the Scenes
Pearson says that in each episode of Bluey, there are two things happening from a storytelling aspect.
“One is making the kids laugh,” Pearson said. “We also want each episode to be about something and about real life and what parenting is like. We have found that only 11% of the episodes are watched solo. It’s a family experience and a family show. If you put Bluey on at home, the first thing that happens is the kids jump up and start dancing to the theme tune. And then they start laughing at what is going on. The parents then start laughing because there are jokes in there for parents too. Suddenly you are in the middle of this family situation where everyone is having a good time.”
The two executive producers of Bluey have said that the main goal of the children’s show is to help the little ones who enjoy watching the show. But the show also regularly offers encouragement and guidance to parents who might find themselves in a season of life in which they are working through certain topics with their own children–sometimes difficult topics.
One Topic Was Too Hard for “Bluey” Producers to Broach
For the production team responsible for each episode of the fan-favorite Bluey show, the biggest challenge is knowing how to embrace a realistic look at everyday family life–all while working under the guidelines and boundaries that come when creating children’s programming. Interestingly, the executive producers admit they know that using the bathroom is a big part of life for preschoolers, but the subject matter was something they found very difficult to address.
Other topics, however, were eventually broached, as seen in several episodes of the show, which is the most popular mainstay in children’s programming in its native Australia’s history.
In July 2023, The Guardian touted Bluey as “still arguably the best television series in the world” and pointed out that “every seven-minute episode is its own self-contained short story, most of them nudging at the boundaries of what a children’s show can be.”
“Bluey” is Unafraid When It Comes to the Difficult Discussions
If by “nudging at the boundaries of what a children’s show can be,” The Guardian means the boldness with which Bluey episodes deal with difficult topics, then the publication would be spot-on. The writers for the preschool show that features the Heeler family don’t shy away from those difficult topics.
The beloved children’s show even seems unafraid of such topics, but any episode of Bluey in which a so-called “difficult” topic is discussed is written and produced with the same gentleness, kindness, and love found in every single episode of the show–even those that are not anchored by sensitive subject matter.
Over the course of its three seasons thus far, Bluey episodes have dealt with topics ranging from the death of a loved one and premature birth to the challenges of infertility to divorce and the fear of abandonment. Other topics touched on by the wildly popular children’s series include separation anxiety, neurodiversity, deafness, dealing with others who are mean, the fear of growing up, and the end of relationships. And that’s just the beginning.
“Bluey” Normalizes Death
An episode of Bluey titled “Copycat” touches on the topic of death–and even endeavors to show the normalcy of death and dying. In the episode, Bluey and Bandit discover an injured budgie, so they take it to be seen by a veterinarian. But the budgie dies instead of getting better. Bandit apologizes to Bluey, saying that death is the final stage of life–but that sometimes, that stage comes early.
The episode doesn’t glorify or gloss over the topic of death. In fact, throughout the nine-minute episode, Bluey continually attempts to re-process what she’s feeling by revisiting the scenario in a game in which she makes sure her family plays out the budgie scenario exactly the same way. This appears to assist Bluey in accepting that death is a normal part of life: though it’s a sad reality, it’s not something that has to evoke fear.
Bluey goes so far as to normalize death–something that makes some viewers uncomfortable. But it should be noted that the writers of the show aren’t wrong to present death as a normal part of life. Why? Because death is a normal part of life.
The Fear of Abandonment, Addressed by a Fictional Family of Heelers
Even the fear of abandonment is addressed in one of the many episodes of the popular Australian children’s program. In an episode of Bluey titled “Space,” Bluey’s friend Mackenzie experiences the fear of abandonment for himself, and it all stems from a past memory of not being able to find his mother–even though she had not gone away from him.
Having lost sight of his mother at a young age, Mackenzie grew up with a fear of abandonment. It didn’t matter that Mackenzie’s mum was actually very close by and that he was in no real danger, the perceived threat was enough to scare him, and until he grows up further, it’s not something that he will easily forget.
The episode depicted the concept of perceived threats and how they can seem very real to the person suffering from them. Instead of disregarding such fears, Bluey showed that they are just another part of life and that, given time and a good support network, any such fear can be overcome.
The Parents Parent Their Parents in an Episode of “Bluey”
Yet another episode of Bluey touches on the topic of parents taking care of their aging parents and underscores the passing of time. In the episode called “Grandad,” Bluey’s mother, Chilli, is forced to help her own father–Bluey’s Grandad–to understand that he must rest as he is aging, but Grandad isn’t too keen on the idea of slowing down a bit.
In the episode, Chilli might even seem like she’s being bossy with her father, especially to children watching the show, but in the story, Bluey’s mother explains that she is only trying to help her father because she wants him to be around as long as he can be. She also says that she still needs her father in her life, even though she’s an adult and already a parent herself.
The conversation makes for a very heartfelt moment, after which Grandad admits that there are times he will need to allow Chilli, his daughter, to help him when he’s not making the best decision for himself.
“Bluey” Dives Deep Into Infertility, Miscarriage, and Birth
In one episode of Bluey, Chilli, Bluey’s mom, goes to visit her sister Brandy and her nieces, whom she hasn’t seen in nearly four years. From the beginning of the visit, it’s obvious that Brandy is feeling a bit uncomfortable during the visit. Bluey notices her discomfort and asks her mother about her aunt Brandy. Chilli responds to Bluey by telling her that Brandy wants one thing more than anything else in the world–but it’s the one thing she has not ever been able to have. She also tells Bluey that Brandy’s situation makes visiting more difficult for the family.
In the episode, titled “Onesies,” Chilli is, of course, alluding to her sister’s infertility–her ability to have a baby of her own. And while the subject is a very difficult one for families, the episode was written in such a way as to handle the topic very gingerly, while explaining what was happening at a level that preschoolers can understand.
In another episode titled “Baby Race,” Bluey tackles the very difficult topic of miscarriage. The episode very delicately confirms that Chilli, Bluey’s mother, once suffered a miscarriage, and the episode is even referenced in a book about miscarriage and grief. In another episode of the children’s show, titled “Early Baby,” the topic of premature birth is addressed–but with the same tact and poise that is used to touch on other difficult topics in the show.
Why Not Touch on the Difficult Topics With a Familiar Face?
While there’s no denying that Disney’s Bluey not only touches on difficult topics viewed by some children’s programming writers as taboo but also gets right into the thick of the topics at times, it does so with tact, facts, and a gentle approach. Bluey episodes centered around difficult topics are never presented with–or for–shock value. As such, parents won’t find themselves scrambling for the remote to change the channel because of the introduction of a topic in a loud, scary, or shocking way.
This writer, who’s also a mom of four, has to agree with those parents who ask this one question: Who better to introduce and discuss difficult topics with parents and their children than a familiar face–one that is trusted and beloved and brings joy to families–even if that familiar face belongs to a blue heeler or red heeler puppy–or their parents? Another question to follow that one is this: if not now, when in their children’s lives will parents have a better, more pleasant opportunity to begin conversations with their children about topics like these?
Many parents would rather open the door to these discussions early, and allowing Bluey to be a part of opening that door doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.