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03rd Mar 2023

Paw Patrol ‘propaganda’ and no black characters in Bluey: Do cartoons need to get woke?

Laura Cunningham

“Forgive me for wanting more for my son. And, oh my god, for me”

Peppa Pig is the subject of more conversations in my adult life than I ever anticipated she would be. I don’t mean talking to my son about her; my grown-up friends and I have a lot to say on the matter.

We hate her.

We don’t hate her in the way that we hate Cocomelon, and boy do we hate Cocomelon. We don’t even hate her because she’s annoying — which she is.

We hate her because she and her family are awful, awful people. Well, pigs.

The episodes are laced with misogynist undertones and out-and-out fatphobia, but the whole family is also horrible to Daddy Pig. That poor lad is always getting it in the neck and he actually seems like a perfectly nice man.

Sorry, pig.

But kids love it, of course. And when you need ten minutes peace, or you have to get dinner sorted without someone dragging out of your legs, you’ll do anything for an easy life.

Circling back to Cocomelon for a moment, let’s have a little look at that.  It’s all ‘mommy in the kitchen, daddy coming from work and yes, yes, I want to make my bed.’


The incessant singing should be the worst thing about this show, but it’s drowned out by the overwhelming, gender normative whiteness of it all.

Forgive me for wanting more for my son. And, oh my god, for me.

These are the obvious examples of kids shows that need a kick up the arse to bring them into the 21st century, but what about the more subtle examples of cartoons setting bad examples for our kids?

In a recent article, The Guardian calls the new Paw Patrol movie “a fascinating case study for the cultural politics of a generation” and asks if perhaps its police-positive perspective makes it “authoritarian-propaganda-in-disguise”.

A bit much? Probably.

Popular Aussie cartoon Bluey has also come under fire for it’s lack of diversity, including the absence of “dogs of colour”. Having never seen an episode in my life, at first glance the characters all appear to be… blue?!

Facetiousness aside though, the commentary is obviously a critique of the cultural representation in the show, or lack thereof. The journalist in questions asks: “Where are the disabled, queer, poor, gender diverse, dogs of colour and single-parent dog families in Bluey’s Brisbane? If they’re in the background, let them come forward.”

It may seem over the top, and I can almost hear some of your eyes rolling as you read this, but we must ask ourselves, why aren’t these shows more diverse?

There are no casting challenges — just draw more characters. You’re not retelling true events — the narratives are wide open.

I’ll do my best to point my son in the direction of more diverse offerings but we all know, when you’re a toddler, the heart wants what it wants.

So, producers and directors, throw us a bone here. Give us our disabled Disney princess. Let’s have more characters that just happen to be autistic without it necessarily being the entire subject of the show.

I want transgender puppets, gay Lego characters, single mam muppets and *gasp* cartoons that are NOT set in America.

Am I asking for too much?