Time to reboot. Time to let all the troubles in the world and all of the madness that passes through popular culture get along without me for a while. When I look and see the things around me seemingly falling apart, I always find solace in the promise Jesus made, in knowing, even though at times I forget, God is in charge. Like the saying goes: “If God is your co-pilot, you are sitting in the wrong seat.”
As timeless as God’s promise is though, he made no qualifying statements specifically about my yearning for popular entertainment that I can enjoy with my grandson. To find something of quality that is not also trying to indoctrinate has become a challenge.
It would be hyperbole overdrive to suggest divine intervention, yet I am thankful to God and the world he created that he blessed a production company from Australia with talent and a beautiful sense of serenity. What has this alchemy produced? Well, there’s “Mom” “Dad” “Bingo” and “Bluey,” a cartoon series of fairly recent vintage picked up by, of all outlets, the Disney channel.
My 4-year-old grandson is hooked — and so am I.
These eight-minute episodes follow a family of Blue Heeler dogs. Anyone familiar with that roll call now has the opening credit melody stuck in their heads for the remainder of their day. You’re welcome.
The show is geared toward preschoolers, but old schoolers can enjoy this eminently charming show just as much. I know I do. Like all good cartoons since the great Warner Brothers shorts of the 1940s and ’50s, there are jokes for the kids and jokes for the adults. By “adult” jokes, I do not mean anything salacious, but solid humor that may go over the children’s heads.
The key word is joyfulness. The mom and dad and their two girl “children,” Bluey and Bingo, are always nice to each other, even if Bluey is trying to manipulate things in her favor at times.
Is it a realistic depiction of typical family life, whether it be north or south of the equator?
Simply, no. Is it about an ideal, a standard, even a goal for which to aim? Simply, yes.
There are no “big” issues resolved in any one episode of “Bluey” I have seen. An episode totally dedicated to trying to find younger sister Bingo’s stuffed animal Fluffy is about as big an issue as you will find, but when you think about it, if you are the one who cannot sleep without your favorite stuffed animal, that actually is a pretty big issue. The dad and mom interact with the children as part of the essence of the show. There is a lot of playtime and imaginary play, but there is always something else going on. Bluey and Bingo may not know it, but they are learning things in their play about kindness, getting over fears, and the importance of family and friends.
Sounds like very lightweight stuff. And it is so lightweight you expect your television to float out your living room window. But that is why it is so remarkable, and such an enjoyable experience both for its “target” audience and for those of us responsible for the proper formation of said “targets.”
The dad may be a tad less organized and disciplined than the mom, but he is never a fool, and the parents have a love for each other that manifests itself in both the way they interact with their children and each other. (I cannot believe I am waxing on so much about a dog family.)
Even in something as blissfully innocent and simple as a sweet cartoon family of talking dogs, we just cannot help ourselves but find something “wrong” with it. A critic took umbrage that the dog family was not “diverse” enough. I have no idea what that means. I would suggest to the critic that not everything has to be political. But in our current state of affairs, even NOT having a political ax to grind is a political statement.
If “Bluey” the cartoon series has any formal social contract cause to champion, it is the line in the sand the creators have drawn when it comes to safeguarding childhood innocence. When so many purveyors of “children's” programming want to “push the boundaries,” a cartoon show for, of, and about innocence is a thing devoutly to be wished.