Bluey’s blockbuster episode hit a nerve for my family by casting moving house as difficult and scary | Chloe Booker

Bluey’s blockbuster 28-minute episode has thrilled children around the world, but I’m sorry to say it was a missed opportunity.

The ABC’s Logie and Emmy-winning cartoon could have taught children that change – specifically moving house – can be difficult and scary, but over time they will adapt and even flourish. Instead, the message was that preventing change is what makes a “happy ending” – a phrase repeated throughout the episode.

It particularly hit a nerve for me as our family has to move from our rental soon – a situation many families are facing during these difficult time. We have spent a lot of time talking about it with our five-year-old – a Bluey superfan. We have explained that while he may feel sad, change often comes with opportunities and he will hopefully grow to like his new home even more.

As I watched him dissolve into tears as the Heeler family got in their car to drive away from their empty house – then later jump for joy when they decided to stay – that seemed to all go out the window. Later, online, I read comments from other parents who also felt let down by the messaging.

For those who haven’t watched the episode (or have only half tuned in while it blared in the background), Bluey’s dad, Bandit, decides to move the family of four to another city and she really doesn’t want to go. She tells her teacher, Calypso, the news, adding forlornly that she’ll never see any of her classmates again. The class of anthropomorphic puppies jump to surround her in a group hug, howling in solidarity.

Calypso then reads a story, of which the gist is that sometimes things that may seem hard to begin with turn out to be a blessing. She tells Bluey that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.

At this point, I was thrilled with the episode. What a great message for kids, I thought, and especially for my son, who already had to move only a year ago to a larger home to accommodate his new baby sister. He found all that change particularly hard, but we helped him through. Now, through circumstances beyond our control, we have to do it all over again.

The story moves on to car chase in search of a runaway bride, who is meant to be marrying Bluey’s uncle. The bride has absconded as she’s also upset about having to move house. When they find her, Bluey’s mum, Chilli, reveals she also doesn’t want to move, telling Bluey: “You took your first steps in that house.”

This will be a tear jerker for many parents, who famously are often reduced to tears watching the cartoon with their kids (the episode Sleepytime always gets me). I thought this was meant as a relatable scene for parents who have had to move house. I felt pangs remembering our own move from the house my son took his first steps in, along with knowing we will soon leave the one I bought my daughter back to last June. I thought it was leading to some kind of lesson about the inevitability of change when Chilli is honest with Bluey, telling her she doesn’t know how the move will turn out, but “I guess we’ll see.”

The wedding is back on, where the bride and groom announce they aren’t moving after all. It’s described as a happy ending. Alarm bells ring for me.

After a wild wedding party that looked like a genuine hoot, there are scenes overlaid with a musical lament designed to tear at the heartstrings, that includes many tears from Bluey and her sister, Bingo, and solemn downward stares from their parents, they all get in the car ready to drive away. My son was hugging me tight by this point.

Cut to Bandit heroically ripping out the sold sign (the episode’s namesake) from the ground. Hooray, they get to stay! Hugs, more tears and they run back into their house. The end.

I later asked my son what his favourite part was and he replied with the scene above. Why? Because it had a happy ending, he said.

I remembered the class scene, when Bluey asks Calypso: “Why do stories always have happy endings?” She replies: “Well, I guess ‘cause life will give us enough sad ones.” Perhaps this is the writers telling us that they want Bluey to bring children joy. This is their prerogative and the show is not written just for me and my family. But why does moving or any change always have to be sad? Why is that the message?

Children go through all sorts of changes, along with moving. They may need to swap schools or kindergartens, new siblings may arrive, grandparents may die and parents can separate. Change is a part of life.

As some mothers agreed online: it was a missed opportunity to help children navigate change. Why bother having that storyline this season if they weren’t going to go through with it, one said. Others – including those who were also moving, some interstate – said they wouldn’t let their kids watch the episode again. One mother’s daughter was so upset she penned a letter to the ABC.

I usually love Bluey, and my son has already watched the episode again with his nana (needing hugs at the end). I’m glad many people are finding joy in it. But for those of us who don’t have as much control over our living circumstances as Bluey’s family does, it’s going to take some thoughtful conversations to undo the messaging that change can’t be a happy ending too.


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