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Why ‘Bluey’ is the new Gen-Z sensation

By February 11, 2023February 15th, 2023No Comments8 min read

Bluey has taken the world by storm. Since its 2018 release, the Australian show about the life of a family of anthropomorphic blue heeler dogs has captivated audiences of parents and children alike. Now, after an International Emmy, a BAFTA, a theater adaptation in Madison Square Garden, and a balloon in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Bluey has found a new and unexpected audience: Gen-Z, who, because of the power of social media, has developed a love for the show. Why have they done this? It’s a bit of an interesting story! 

Bluey has consistently dominated the ratings for children’s television in the Australian market for a while now. As the show started to become available in the United States, its popularity steadily increased. For those who are not aware, the show follows the life of Bluey, an Australian blue heeler dog, who lives in Brisbane, Australia, with her family. However, instead of loud, fast-paced, fantastical adventures, the show depicts “slice of life stories” that are very common in the human audiences watching it. Episodes include the family trying to keep the house organized, traveling to a local farmer’s market, or Bluey and Bingo waiting for take-out food at a restaurant.

It’s easy to see why the show could be an audience favorite. In fact, even before the current boom, the show was well-known by parents, children, and those working with kids. Hannah Curry, a New York-based children’s dance instructor and Gen-Z member told InBetweenDrafts that she had been familiar with the show for a while. “I’ve known of Bluey’s existence for a year or so, given that I work with pre-K children,” she said. “I try to keep up with all the kids’ shows so I know what they’re talking about and can relate to them.” 

Part of the popularity of the show was due to the fact that it was heavily recommended in parenting social media networks. This was the case with Michael Vaughn, a parent and content creator. “Our oldest child was starting to take more of an interest in screen time,” he said. “It was important to me if they watched a show, that it be something that had value, and didn’t drive us crazy.”

The search for a show that fulfilled these requirements turned out more difficult than expected so Vaughn turned to the internet. “I eventually had to google ‘kids shows that aren’t annoying’ and found some random person on a parenting subreddit had said, ‘You have to try Bluey.’”

Now, other people have followed that advice. Bluey’s popularity is at an all-time high. According to Parrot Analytics, currently, the U.S. audience demand for the series is 32.5% higher than the average TV show. Now, Vaughn is the person recommending Bluey to others on social media. His TikTok account @world.shaker, which constantly features content about Bluey and her family, has over 450,000 followers. He is not alone. In fact, he is part of a larger trend on social media of content made around Bluey, especially on TikTok, that has taken the moniker of #Blueytok.

This corner seems to be the main driver of the show’s growing popularity among Gen Z, as the platform’s algorithm continues recommending them to content around the show. This happened to Curry. “A couple of months ago Bluey TikToks started popping up on my “For You” page,” she said. “Then, I realized this wasn’t just popular among children. People in their 20s were watching this show, so I was curious and checked it out. Now I’m hooked.”

Into #Blueytok

The algorithm also started showing Bluey-related content on my own For You page. It started with clips of the show, and suddenly they became more frequent and then, I landed on #BlueyTok. It’s a fascinating corner of the internet. As you swipe, you start seeing people in their late teens and early 20s commenting on the show in the same way they would talk about a show like Stranger Things or Euphoria. They recommend episodes, make fan edits, create outfits based on characters and even participate in fan theories. What’s even more interesting is that this corner of Tiktok is growing in size. Currently, videos with the #Blueytok have over 600.3 million views and continue to grow. 

These new Gen-Z audiences fall in love with the show for the same reasons parents do—its approach to complex topics and its portrayal of positive family life. Grace Shonk, a zoology student at Oregon State University and a regular visitor of #BlueyTok said: “I like the show because of the different character designs and how it tackles important topics like infertility, growing up, death, letting go of expectations, and others.” Vaughn commented that the show “tackles pretty serious adult subjects in a way that very young children can understand without feeling overwhelmed, and it’s somehow genuinely funny to children and adults.”

According to Dr. Heather Kirkorian, an Early Childhood Development professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the reason for this relatability, besides the show’s usage of physical humor and relatively accessible language, comes from the fact that the show uses what she calls a “double premise.” “The writers include humor that is likely to appeal to adults too, but not at the expense of children’s comprehension,” she said.

Audiences really resonate with this layered storytelling. This can be seen in the fact that several have listed the episode “Baby Race” as their favorite. In it, Bluey’s mom, Chilli, reminisces about the long process for Bluey to learn to walk and how it made her feel insecure as a parent. The episode approaches this common concern by reminding parents that each kid is different and they are doing a good job while including silly gags like baby Bluey crawling backward. 

In fact, Bluey’s parents, Chilli and Bandit, are particularly resonant with Gen-Z audiences. Their caring, supportive, and playful nature parallels the more mindful vision of mental health that has proven to be popular among Gen-Z. Katie Jones, an anthropology student at Linfield University, argues that this makes the show more resonant with audiences that had difficult childhoods.

“The fact that Bluey utilizes gentle parenting attracts Gen-Z audiences that perhaps didn’t experience that style of parenting in their home life,” Jones said. “A lot of media created by Gen-Z Bluey fans centers around this idea of healing their ‘inner child.'”

Parental Guidance

Chilli and Bandit’s parenting style also serves as a role model for both current parents and young adults that are still learning how to interact with children. Curry further stated that “Bandit and Chili are fantastic role models and their problem-solving with the kids are really great examples to use when working with them.”

This was also echoed by Vaughn, who sees the characters as relatable, especially in later seasons of the show, which have humanized Bandit and Chilli even more. “You see both Bandit and Chilli struggle to rally their energy (“Whale Watching,” Season 3) or have to set realistic boundaries around how long they can play (“Driving,” Season 3),” he said. “I think that’s a big reason so many parents feel like they can relate to either character.” In Bluey, even if the characters are anthropomorphic dogs, they are earnestly human and show that it is possible to be a good role model without abandoning that humanity, resonating across all audiences, no matter the generation. 

This is particularly important because shows like Bluey can have an important impact on the way kids develop emotions and prosocial behavior. Dr. Kirkorian said this is usually a hard task for a show to achieve, even more than explaining words and numbers. Many often fail or even backfire by accidentally making negative behaviors more memorable or explaining lessons through songs and speeches at the end of episodes rather than through actions. This is also where the “double premise” approach becomes effective.

“Young kids will get the most out of TV, and especially social/emotional lessons, if they view the show with an adult who helps the child understand what the show is about and how it relates to their own life,” Dr. Kirkorian said. “The fact they can be entertaining for adults and kids alike can be especially useful. Getting parents to watch with kids will provide more opportunities for kids to understand and learn from the show.”

At a time when so much content is trying to win our attention, I’m glad this family of blue heelers can have its spot in pop culture. Bluey not only serves as a reminder of the impact that good writing and well-crafted thematic elements can have on audiences, it also invites us to be kind, not only to children but to each other, and that’s something the world needs.

I hope Bluey continues captivating audiences for a long time because, as #Blueytok shows us, it’s having an impact. Recounting a story from one of her classes, Curry said “The other day, I was explaining a game to the kids and told them: ‘Remember, it’s not a competition. There are no winners and losers. We just want to have fun!’ and one of my 4-year-olds raised his hand and said ‘just like what Bandit said to Bluey and bingo’ and I just had to giggle. I love that both myself and these kids can learn something from this show.” That says it all right there.

Featured images courtesy of Ludo Studio

Pedro Luis Graterol

Based in Mexico, Pedro Graterol is the News editor for TV and Film of InBetweenDrafts. He is a Venezuelan political scientist, violist, and a nerd of all things pop culture. His legal signature includes Sonic The Hedgehog’s face.

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