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Bluey’s Aussie values prove a hit at home and away

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Andrew and Daphne Paris and Timothy O’Malley supplied

Mother of five Daphne Paris was “bawling” towards the end of a special season finale of Bluey, touched by a scene in which dad Bandit Heeler asks his wife if he is making a mistake in prompting the family to sell up and move for his new job.

Bluey’s mum Chilli, who has held reservations, responds, “Probably, but let’s make it together.”

“It just captures the reality of the human experience of family,” Daphne said.

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Bluey delights millennial parents as much as preschoolers for its refreshingly hilarious vignettes of Aussie suburban family life from a kid’s point of view, while appreciating parents’ competing responsibilities.

Since its 2018 launch the seven-minute cartoon series about a Brisbane family of blue and red cattle dogs is catching up in terms of global influence with top Aussie entertainment exports The Wiggles, Neighbours and Home and Away.

Play-filled episodes centre on young children’s innocence and instinct for creativity, at times touching on transcendent themes of loss, grief and hope.

Paris and many other Catholic parents have lauded the show as an unexpected gift.

They say it models values like forgiveness, forbearance, respect and gratitude in highly relatable scenes, and prompts them to make the most of the precious early years of their child’s life.

The much-discussed extended finale “The Sign” even includes a time-honoured soapie staple, a wedding.

Bluey, Bingo, Chilli and Bandit Heeler. Image: Disney media

It also shows seven-year-old Bluey and little sister Bingo struggling with big emotions about the sale of their home and impending move to another city.

But the show is not without controversy, for example a now-deleted scene that many parents complained modelled “fat shaming” and a possible brief reference to a same-sex relationship in the latest episode.

Nevertheless, Paris, a mother of five from Claremont Meadows near Penrith, couldn’t be happier with Bluey.

She puts far more weight on its lessons about good communication, respectful parenting, role-modelling of a strong, warm and committed marriage, and unusually for TV-land, an affectionate, engaged and wise dad.

“What more could you ask for in a secular show?” she asked.

“When fathers have been in many ways emasculated or at least undervalued, here is a dad on prime-time TV who is deeply involved and sacrifices for his family, who loves his children by loving his wife.

“I don’t assume Bluey will be great forever but our approach is that if something is largely very good and compatible with a Christian worldview, why would we not enjoy it and use it for good discussion points?”

Cherrybrook mother of eight, Stephanie Jaucian, also happily allows her children to watch the show.

“The last episode also includes a character who has struggled with infertility throughout the series and she is suddenly pregnant but there’s no mention of a husband or father,” she explained.

“I know some people worry about little moments like that in Bluey sometimes, but on the whole it’s a return to family values.

“And I think it’s so popular because it’s meeting a need for simplicity, which people are craving today.”

May 12, 2023; Timothy P. O’Malley (Photo by Leah Ingle/University of Notre Dame)

Bluey creator Joe Blumm, an alumnus of Marist Catholic College Ashgrove in Brisbane, says it comes from his experience as a father and research into the importance of play for children’s social development.

Timothy O’Malley is a theologian based at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and told The Catholic Weekly that Bluey helps him enter an imaginative space where he is able to see the world as his children do.

His own family has just moved house and the season finale was an opportunity for them to discuss their feelings about it.

“In that sense, I see Bluey as a masterpiece because it’s actually a piece of art that allows us as a family to deal with the essentially human things,” he said.

“For me, it’s not only that family values are at the centre, but it’s the rare show that invites the child and the adult together into an act of common inquiry, of thinking together.”

Stephanie says her children all love Bluey although the older ones, now pre-and early teens, pretend not to.

“They’re a bit disappointed if the younger ones have watched it without them,” she laughed.

“Every episode involves a game, and it makes me feel bad sometimes, it reminds me that I need to stop and play with them more often because that’s never a waste of time.

“It’s also quintessentially Australian and I love the fact that kids in America are getting up in the morning and asking for ‘brekkie’ because they watch Bluey.”

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