Australian children’s show Bluey has been criticised for not having “disabled, queer, poor, gender diverse, dogs of colour and single-parent dog families”.
The animated show for preschool children follows Bluey, an anthropomorphic six-year-old Blue Heeler puppy, and her family as they go about life in Brisbane and learn important life lessons.
In an opinion piece on the ABC Everyday website, journalist Beverley Wang shared her love of the hit cartoon but also questioned why the show isn’t “more representative”. Wang asked why the show – which is set in the capital of Queensland – does not reflect the wide diversity of the Australian city.
“Where are the disabled, queer, poor, gender diverse, dogs of colour and single-parent dog families in Bluey‘s Brisbane?” She said. “If they’re in the background, let them come forward.”
Wang acknowledged the creators of Bluey may not “view their show through a political lens”, but she argued it is important for children’s programming to be more representative. She said the “tender, nuanced and joyful” show has already “demonstrated depth and range” in its ability to touch on important issues.
“As a parent of colour, 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,” Wang said. “I sincerely believe you don’t have to be ‘other’ to think about this too.”
She added that the “majority of characters on children’s television are white”, and there are “more animals than people of colour protagonists populating the pages of children’s books”. Wang wrote that television – like children’s literature – could be used to mirror the lived experiences of its viewers. But the lack of diversity in such mediums meant that some people could be missing out.
She wrote: “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?”
Predictably, the opinion piece has been lambasted online for being ‘woke’ and daring to question why an animated show couldn’t be more inclusive. However, others have shared their support for Wang broaching the important topic.
Guardian Australia’s political reporter Amy Remeikis said the amount of hate being directed towards Wang was the reason “why this country can never have a serious conversation”. She wrote on Twitter: “The amount of hate being directed at a journalist for a very gentle piece pointing out Bluey is great but maybe doesn’t represent everyone and is something to think about (something for all writers’ rooms to think about) is why this country can never have a serious conversation”.
Remeikis continued: “You might not see yourself or your family represented all the time, but if you’re white, able bodied and working/middle class, you’re not short of options.
“We know representation matters. And we’re capable of handling universal themes in abstract ways – this is just another one”.
Poet Maxine Beneba Clarke also joined in on the discourse about the hit animated show. Clarke said: “With all the commentary around Bluey, it’s worth noting I started making picture books cause one day I realised my kids were about 30 [times] more likely to pick up a picture book narrated by an *anthropomorphised animal* than one with even a minor character who looked like them.”