A family of anthropomorphic dogs are sitting by the window in a café when the mother asks, “Can we get the bill, please?” Her eldest child, scribbling on a piece of paper with a green crayon, parrots the request in song: “OoOoh! Can we get the biii-ll?” The child’s father tells her to use her “inside voice.” He asks whether the youngest child is going to eat her last chip. The mother says no. The father eats it. The baby of the family asks: “Hey! Where’s my chip?”
This 14-second video has 14.9 million TikTok views. Although it has been clipped from an episode of Bluey, an animated show aimed at preschoolers, the comment section shows that it has enamored fans well outside its target audience. “My favorite kids show. I’m 29,” reads a comment with almost 7,000 likes. Another commenter, impassioned into all-caps: “I WILL LITERALLY GO TO MY LITTLE COUSINS HOUSE JUST TO HAVE AN EXCUSE TO WATCH BLUEY.”
Bluey premiered in Australia in October 2018 and first became available internationally on Disney+ in 2020. At first glance, it’s like many other kids’ shows: It’s about a family of blue heelers and the adventures of their eldest daughter, 6-year-old Bluey. But the program has won an Emmy and been praised by critics for its unique portrayal of family life. Bluey’s father, Bandit, is involved, imaginative, and unafraid to play with his children. (As an apology for eating his daughter’s last chip, Bandit lets her put him in “dance mode” in public.)
No wonder, then, that it’s not 3-year-olds who are the most vocal fans of the show. Parents have sung its praises across the internet, and Bluey’s creator has been interviewed by The New York Times. As a result, childless adults have cottoned on and built a burgeoning online fandom. The official Bluey TikTok has 1.6 million followers. Every week, new accounts on the app pop up and pirate entire episodes of the show. The Bluey subreddit has 77,000 subscribers, while a Facebook group for “adult Bluey fans” has 174,000 followers.
“I found out about Bluey through TikTok clips,” says Darby Rose, a childless 19-year-old from England whose For You Page was inundated with clips from the show last year. Rose was drawn to the show because of its positive portrayal of family life. “Like a lot of Bluey fans, I didn’t have a good childhood growing up. I experienced an intense amount of bullying,” Rose says, “I think what drew me the most to Bluey was the emotional connection with the characters, seeing how a family should love and respect each other.”
Rose enjoys visiting the Bluey subreddit and seeing people’s fan art, particularly cakes they’ve baked. She supports other fans via Reddit because, “I like to make sure people know it’s OK to enjoy a show aimed at children.”
Because this is the internet, some people don’t think this is OK. On TikTok, users joke about adult Bluey fans fighting children to get their hands on plushies, while others fear the fandom will be corrupted by adult fans who create content about the show that would be inappropriate for children (much as “Bronies,” adult male fans of My Little Pony, have done in the past). Julia Sotto, a 26-year-old interpreter, broadcaster, and Bluey fan from Argentina, says, “Fandoms have a tendency to take things to the limit.”