Bluey’s Crisis of Faith

Joe George

Bluey’s day was going from bad to worse.

A Blue Heeler pup living with her family in Queensland, Australia, Bluey started out her day sadly surveying the “For Sale” sign outside her suburban house. Then, her mother’s friend Frisky got into an argument with her beloved Uncle Rad, right before the two had planned to wed in a ceremony in which Bluey and her sister Bingo would be flower girls.

The bad-and-worse day suddenly turns into the best day ever, however, when Bluey’s mom, Chilli, decides to hop in the car and look for Frisky, who had left in a huff. With Bingo and cousins Muffin and Socks all stuffed in the back seat, Bluey—for the first time ever—gets to ride in the front seat, a stroke of incredible good fortune for a kid.

While children can relate to Bluey’s innocent antics on Bluey, the Australian animated series that has become a worldwide phenomenon, grown-up viewers—especially parents—direct their attention to Chilli and her husband Bandit (Melanie Zanetti and David McCormack; the producers do not release the identities of the children voicing the younger characters). Thanks to its loving depiction of the joys and struggles of childhood, Bluey has earned a reputation as one of the all-time best shows about parenthood.

Most episodes of Bluey clock in at about seven minutes, but with its high stakes of marriage, moving, and front-seat riding, the recently released “The Sign” takes a full 28 minutes. Written by series creator Joe Brumm, “The Sign” features more than a few wonderful, kid-friendly gags. At the start of the episode, Bluey leads a clandestine mission to pull the yard sign from the ground, something she cannot accomplish, not even with the help of her sister and cousins. When the group finally sees Frisky’s car and starts following it on the highway, they have to pull over because Socks needs to use the bathroom and absolutely cannot hold it.

From a parent’s perspective, these cute diversions make sense, as do the terrifying stakes of Bluey’s family’s potential move. We understand how frightening it is to change houses and the bravery required to demand a potty break and risk ridicule from one’s peers. We smile as we watch, remembering our own experiences at that age and cherishing such moments with our kids.

And when Bluey’s preschool teacher Calypso (Megan Washington) reads a story to calm her students, we parents might even smile in condescension, dismissing her tale as good for kids but inapplicable to us grownups. The story tells of a series of apparently fortunate and unfortunate events that happen to a farmer. Each time the farmer’s friends call these events lucky or unlucky, the farmer simply responds, “We’ll see.” The story comes to no clear conclusion, which the children cannot accept. And so Calypso spells out the moral to her students: “Everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.”

For Bluey, that lesson means that her house won’t be sold, that Uncle Rad and Frisky (Patrick Brammall and Claudia O’Doherty) will get married, and that she’ll ride in the front seat. When all of those things do indeed happen, Bluey sees them as events coming to their inevitable end. But “The Sign” also shows the chaos in the background that leads to that end, which ranges from happenstance occurrences (Chilli gets a coin stuck in a pay-telescope slot, which later allows the couple who planned to buy their house to see another home that they like better) to the making of tough decisions, as when Rad admits his mistake and Frisky forgives him.

Most episodes of Bluey clock in at about seven minutes, but with its high stakes of marriage, moving, and front-seat riding, the recently released “The Sign” takes a full 28 minutes.

Loathe as we might be to admit it, we grown-ups approach our own lives with an attitude not unlike that of Bluey. We take passages such as Romans 8:28—“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”—at face value. We interpret them to mean that our lives will work out just the way that we prefer, conflating faith with expectation—fuel for a waiting game that will only end when we get what we want. But that’s not faith at all. That’s the type of belief that Jesus decried in John 4:48, when he said, “Unless you people see signs and wonders . . . you will never believe.”

In other words, expecting only the best is a child’s perspective—selfish and short-sighted, far from the faithful perspective that God requires of us. The theologian Walter Brueggemann talks about that larger perspective in his sermon on “our father in faith,” Abraham. Reading the story of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 17, Brueggemann identifies “a dialogue . . . set up in our faith,” in which one voice asks, “Can you imagine!” and the other answers, tentatively, “Yes, but . . .” The “Yes, but . . .” has power, Brueggemann admits. It “makes us sane, sober, prudent, competent. But it can also drive us to despair, fatigue, cynicism, and even brutality.”

Few viewers of “The Sign” would equate Bluey’s front-seat journey with the sobriety and prudence that Brueggemann describes. Yet, Bluey’s thinking mirrors the type of faith that can lead to the despair, cynicism, and brutality that Brueggemann warns against. When her sister and cousins react with wide-eyed jealousy at her spot up front, Bluey sees it as the inevitable outcome of good fortune. Likewise, when we grown-ups have our short-sighted faith confirmed, we attribute it to God’s hand. But whenever God asks more of us, pushing us to take the next steps toward the unfamiliar, we hesitate in the face of God’s question: “Can you imagine?” At best, we respond, “Yes, but . . .”

So when Bluey faces the very real possibility that she’ll have to move, her faith proves to be flimsy. That’s because it reflects her limited understanding of the world, one that confuses everything working out “for the good” with everything working out the way she wants it to. At their best, the adults practice something like real faith, as when Bandit and Chili forgo the possibility of a better life in a new city and keep their old house—or when Rad gives up his stable job to stay in Queensland with Frisky.

No, neither of those decisions promise the simple pleasures of riding in the front seat. But they reveal a wider view, promising sights that can only be enjoyed through the eyes of faith.

Topics: TV