parent opinion

'I loved Bluey's "The Sign" episode right up until the ending.'

Like a significant number of Australians, on Sunday morning I tuned in to the latest, and longest, Bluey episode yet, and like many Australians, I have opinions.

(This article will have some mild spoilers for this episode, called 'The Sign', which you can watch on ABC iView, so I suggest you watch it first, but the delight of Bluey lives in the watching, not the knowing what will happen so I also think you could still enjoy the episode after reading this).

First up, let’s make it clear that in general, I am a big fan of Bluey. I love the format, the joyfulness, the realistic games the kids play and the dialogue that sounds like how kids actually talk. The overall message of encouragement to parents and empowerment to kids makes it one of the very few screen time activities my daughter undertakes (also a shout out to Wiggles dance playlists and the YouTube channels streaming footage of aquariums to calming music).

Watch: Why parents and kids alike are loving ABC Kid's Bluey. Post continues after video.

Video via ABC Kid's iView.

This episode has many of the usual elements that make Bluey magic. ‘The Sign’ features two important life events: Bluey’s uncle is getting married to Chilli’s friend, Bluey’s godmother Frisky, and the Heeler family are selling their house to relocate to a new city.


The heart of the episode is encapsulated in two moments, both near the start of the episode, the first when Bluey’s parents explain that they are moving to a new city for a new job for Bandit. This is justified by saying the new job pays a lot better and will let them have a better life. Bluey responds: "I don’t want a better life." Bluey has that rare thing, true contentment in her life and current circumstances.

Of course, part of this comes from being a seven-year-old in a secure and loving family, and a bigger part of it comes from being a made-up animated blue dog who can talk. But it’s what we all want, isn’t it? To be content in the life we have, not to be an animated blue dog. We all want ourselves and our kids to be happy in the lives we have.

The second important moment is when Calypso, Bluey’s teacher, tells her everything will work out the way it is supposed to.

Calypso tells a story about a farmer who has a horse, and a long series of events where things that look like bad luck turn out to be good luck, and vice versa. She reassures Bluey everything will work out how it is supposed to. Bluey takes this as a sign that they won’t be moving. For her, in her seven-year-old world, the happy ending is staying put, and so that is what will happen. And in this episode, it does. They don’t move (I did tell you there would be spoilers).


Controversially, I don’t like this ending. I think this episode starts off very strong, exploring the themes of loss and change. I appreciate how it acknowledges that even good change brings sadness with it. But the ending, with the sudden reverse, felt like a shying away from a hard part of life, which Bluey is typically known for not doing.

If Bluey’s family DID move house, would the show still work? In a different city, in a different setting, with just Bluey, Bingo, Chilli and Bandit as the familiar characters, would the magic still be alive? Is the magic of Bluey transferable to a new context? Or is it the magic in the settled, stable life and community that Bluey is securely set in? Bluey can confidently explore her world, always knowing she can run back to safety in the form of her parents and sister in the old Queenslander on the hill. Away from their friends, in a new neighbourhood, at a new school, separated from their extended family, would the imagination and love that binds the Heeler family together be enough?

It’s a scary question to ask. I like that the episode asked about it. But I am disappointed we didn’t get an answer.

Because for so many kids in Australia, there is no surprise twist ending. There is no change of mind by the buyer and no change of heart by the adults who are making decisions. Many kids around Australia have been faced with a move, sometimes by their parents’ choice, sometimes by the economic need to follow where the jobs are, the affordable houses are, and the study opportunities are. To have them be able to see their experience reflected in Bluey’s story, not as a bad ending to be avoided, but as the start of a new adventure, could have been really special and healing.


This episode hit close to home for me. I moved from the Northern Rivers in NSW to Brisbane (home of the Heelers) at age fourteen. I was older than Bluey but young enough that it felt like the whole world had shifted.

And I have recently moved cities again — my family has relocated from Brisbane to Sydney, while my husband completes a PhD over the next three years. The decision to move, especially in taking my ten-month-old daughter away from grandparents and family, was a hard one, but ultimately the right choice. Which is perhaps why I feel for the many parents who have had to make the hard decision to move their family, who now see their kid’s fantasy played out in this episode of Bluey — a last-minute reprieve.

As a young teenager, this was exactly my fantasy — a change of plans, a reversal of decisions, well past when the paperwork is signed, and the deal is done. Fifteen years later I can look back with clarity and see both how scared I was, and why my parents made that decision to move. As someone who has just made the decision again to move cities, I can once again see both sides. The benefits of staying close to family, the economic advantages in having at least one of us working full time, and the difficulty in building a new support system. But also, the wonderful new adventure we are embarking on, the learning my husband is getting to undertake, the advantage of doing this now, before our daughter has started school and the benefits of us both having flexible schedules to juggle and balance childcare, work, and study. I don’t think either decision would have been wrong or right, in each situation. We simply do the best with what we know, and things work out how they are going to work out.


This episode comes down strongly on the side of anti-moving though: not only do the Heelers reverse their decision to move at the last minute, but there is also a running storyline of Frisky not being sure about going through with the wedding because Radley wants her to move out west with him after they are married. Of course, the real issue here is that Rad didn’t talk to Frisky about it, but their decision to also stay put reinforces the message: moving is too hard and scary. Don’t do it.

Again, the animated talking dogs have a choice here, in getting to casually say "I’ll get a new job," in response to the practical question of how this will work. I think this episode could have worked a lot better (and the Heelers staying put would have felt slightly more well-earned) if Rad and Frisky had made the difficult choice to move away after the wedding.

We could have seen them honestly assess the situation and make a hard, brave decision. Bluey could have seen two adults she loves deeply go through the process of saying goodbye and starting out on a new adventure. This could have helped her process her own feelings about moving away, and finally come to believe what Calypso said: everything is going to work out the way it is meant to. Even if it looks different to what we wanted.


Listen to the latest episode of Mamamia's parenting podcast, This Glorious Mess. Post continues after audio.

The fantasy of Bluey, it turns out, is economic freedom in making choices. Bandit wants a better life for his family. But with a house, a good school, good friends and close family, parents who hold down jobs but also have time to play with their kids, I’d argue the Heelers are living the Australian dream. A dream unfortunately out of reach for most people today.

The Heelers don’t move at the end of the episode because it would disrupt the show as we know it and saying goodbye to all the wonderful side characters would be heartbreaking. But they also don’t move at the end of the episode because they don’t really need to: life is already pretty good for the Heeler family. Moving is an option, not an imperative.

Most of us aren’t in an economic position to offer our kids the life Bluey has. The stable community, the homeownership, secure jobs, the choice in staying located close to family – there are many in Australia faced with moving their families in hopes of just one of these things. Yes, it’s an animated show with pretend dogs talking and working and driving and partying at weddings, but as it has tackled so many other real-life issues so well, I was hoping this ending might have reflected what so many kids really do face – setting off for a new life in a new place, with all the bravery they can muster.


The ending of this Bluey episode comes down to the amount of choice Bluey’s parents have. They made the choice to move away, and so they have the agency to unmake it. But for so many people, the choice isn’t really a choice. Move or lose your job. The lease is over and not up for renewal. The suburb you have always lived in is no longer affordable for your family. The job opportunities require further study. Things that are choices often don’t feel like choices when the options are limited, and all come with a cost.

In Bluey’s world, she has no agency as a kid, which reflects real life for many Australian kids. But in real life, adults are also often faced with the same lack of agency. The real magic of Bluey is that the adults not only listen and respond to their kids’ needs and wants, but they have the emotional capacity and economic freedom to do so. ‘The Sign’ offers a happy ending like Calypso’s stories, but I would have preferred the more open-ended option of waiting to see what happens next.

Feature image: ABC iView.

This article was originally published on Rebecca's Substack and has been republished with permission. 

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