I’ve always taken a keen interest in children’s programming. As an eight-year-old, I wrote a very sternly worded letter to the ABC’s Managing Director because they’d cancelled my beloved Victor & Hugo (can’t remember what the show was about exactly, but damn I cared…).
Of course now that I’m three kids in and often finding myself intellectually under-stimulated, I’ve had hours and hours to pay attention to what our national broadcaster wants to pump into my kids’ brains through their glazed eyeballs. And sure enough I’ve found my own eyeballs rolling upwards countless times at the deeply sexist, pro-capitalist, anti-worker messages of Thomas and Friends. (Side note: I can’t believe they’ve only just now realised there was a problem…)
Most recently, in a *mostly positive* social experiment, I’ve confiscated the cord from the back of our TV. I say *mostly positive* because instead of knowing the schedule by the familiar theme tunes, I now hear a rolling rendition of Wanda and the Alien every ten minutes until I’ve got it in my head for days on end. Thanks ABC Kids app! (Related: the Becca’s Bunch theme tune also needs to ah… die).
So look, I’ll be honest: on most days I’d be happy if all children’s television was cancelled forever. Scroogey McScrooge-face, I know. But this is not just because of their annoying theme tunes, the trite parental characters and the at-times-questionable messaging. My biggest qualm with kids’ programming today is the way female characters are portrayed.
My four-year-old pretty much exclusively wants to watch stories about girls OR exclusively pays attention to the girl characters, so I’ve become very familiar with the the generic tropes of sex differentiation: marks of beauty, particular clothes. or other gender signifiers such as bows. And HOOPLA DOOPLA? Ohhhhhhhhh. Hold my purse, fourteen inch heels and extensive lipstick collection. (Kidding.)
Which brings me to Bluey. It’s wonderful. The eponymous Bluey is a female blue heeler who lives with her mum, dad and sister in Brissy. And ah… she’s blue. Look that’s all you can say about her appearance at the outset and that makes me SO EXCITED! No bullshit long eyelashes or bows or skirts. She’s a blue dog who loves to go on fun adventures!
She has boundless energy and her parents are involved in her life beyond baking her cookies or calling her in for dinner.
And that’s what I really love. Without the overladen gender signifiers, Bluey is free to be a normal kid. She’s active, adventurous, imaginative. She’s a kid who happens to be a girl. Boom. Roll on.
Also, like the best kids’ shows it’s not just kid-level. There are jokes and references that adults will laugh at, like when their dad is trying to play with them and keep an eye on the cricket score. And it fulfils the crucial social function of showing positive on-screen parenting moments, which can reflect back to parents
when if they are watching it with their kid.
The other day I read this thing saying that children’s book authors are often worried about creating female centred kids’ books because of a fear that little boys won’t like it, and this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. So it’s great that we have this locally made show about a pair of mischievous sisters. It should be celebrated and encouraged, and you and your kids should watch it. I know
I my kids will be.
Bluey is a breath of fresh air. I can’t wait to hear its theme tune ringing through the house every seven minutes. May it be a staple of children’s programming for years to come. Or I might just have to get my sternly worded letter writing on once more…
Bluey premiers on ABC Kids at 8am on October 1, 2018.