Critic Calls on Kids Cartoon About Canines to Include Disabled Characters and 'Dogs of Color'

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

It’s a new era.

Some want politics and social issues addressed, it seems, in all areas of life.

Gone are the days of having no idea what the maker of your candy bar thinks of legislation.

Wanna watch CNN? Just turn on any channel — in one way or another, they’re all covering the same stuff.

At least, that’s the way it appears to me, in comparison to just a couple decades ago.

And as we adjust to our updated level of consciousness, news comes about cartoon dogs.

In case you’re unfamiliar, kids show Bluey is about an Australian family of canines dwelling down under.

ABC Everyday describes the Disney+ program:

[B]luey is the award-winning, mega-hit animated series about the Heelers, a family of dog-shaped humans — parents Bandit and Chilli, four-year-old Bingo, and six-year-old Bluey — who live in a gorgeous Queenslander with city views, perched on a lush hilltop in sunny Brisbane.

The dogs, of course, possess very human traits.

One of them: parents empowering pups.

As noted by The Daily Wire, “The show has been hailed as an excellent resource for parents who are encouraged to follow the dog parents’ lead and allow their children to express themselves with frankness.”

Still, one critic has a bone to pick.

ABC Everyday’s Beverley Wang poses, “I’ve learnt a lot from Bluey, but can the show be more representative?”

Don’t misunderstand — she’s a fan.

In fact, at least twice, the toon’s made Beverley bawl:

Which episodes of Bluey make you cry? I’ve got two.

In one case, little sister Bingo learns to sleep in her own bed.

While slumbering with her parents, she has a shooting-star-riding dream…

Cut to the home front — Chilli and Bingo are spooning in bed.

Back to the dream, Bingo musters her courage, stands and says, “I have to go. I’m a big girl now.”

Chilli’s voice emanates from the sun: “Remember I’ll always be here, even if you can’t see me, because I love you.”

This sequence lasts less than a minute. And every time I watch it, my eyes go wet.

Tearjerker #2 involves a sentimental scene between Chilli and her dad, known as Grandad.

Yet, Beverley has a “struggle” — the show isn’t taking care of robust business:

As a parent of color, I am always conscious of the presence — or absence — of diverse representation in kids’ pop culture, what it means for children and the conversations we have around that. I sincerely believe you don’t have to be ‘Other’ to think about this too.

Kids’ entertainment is rife with whiteness:

We live in a world where the majority of main characters on children’s television are white; where there are more animals than people of colour protagonists populating the pages of children’s books.

Beverley wants to know where the gay dogs are. And the poor ones. And the non-cisgender ones. And the non-white ones:

Where are the disabled, queer, poor, gender diverse, dogs of colour and single-parent dog families in Bluey’s Brisbane? If they’re in the background, let them come forward. ([Irish Wolfhound Maynard], voiced by Sean Choolburra, I’m looking at you.)

As for the article, social media response — like many dogs — has been mixed:

Cartoons are indeed delving into issues outside the traditional scope.

Cartoon Network recently made moves in schooling young tykes on the importance of alternate pronouns and the rightness of always seeing color:

If CN can dig deep, why can’t Bluey?

Beverley does offer a bit of concession:

I understand that for the most part Bluey’s creators don’t view their show through a political lens.

However:

I wonder about the limits of modelling imaginative play for parents and children who don’t see themselves in the “true Blue(y)” comfortably middle class, Australian nuclear family embodied by the Heelers. Who’s missing out?

As an analogy, she uses the idea of parents letting children lead:

So, like a parent stepping back so their child can take the lead, I want to see what Bluey can do next.

Well, if the last five years are any indication of what’s coming, I’d say just give it time.

-ALEX

 

See more pieces from me:

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Find all my RedState work here.

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