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NASCAR Legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. Has Some Thoughts on a Popular Kids' Cartoon
“Every episode, my kids watch Bluey and see the dad is like the kids’ best friend," Earnhardt opined. "Always available. Always there. ... He’s never got to go to work."
NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a slight beef with Bandit Heeler, the dad on Bluey, the animated TV show about a family of anthropomorphic dogs that's geared towards pre-schoolers.
During a conversation with The Athletic, the outlet asked Junior to “rank these in terms of annoyance: Bluey, finding rats around the house, your kids both having colds at the same time, late start times for races and the Dallas Cowboys.” Earnhardt Jr. devoted a large chunk of his answer to the popular cartoon.
"We watch Bluey, and the kids are like, ‘Come on, dad, do this. Come on, dad, pretend this,’” he detailed. “So, every episode, my kids watch Bluey and see the dad is like the kids’ best friend. Always available. Always there. Anytime they want the dad to get in on the fun or to play, he’s never too busy."
"He’s never got to go to work,” Earnhardt added (Bandit actually has a job as an archeologist.) “He’s never got this thing he’s got to do or he’s never mowing the lawn and whatever, right? It’s always, ‘Yep, you got it. I’m gonna do what the kids want me to do and pretend with them.’ So, my girls, mainly Isla (who just turned 5), they have the same expectation of me."
Bandit is no ordinary pooch papa. He’s witty, playful, creative and, most importantly, sacrifices his body and mind over and over again to fulfill the whimsical demands of his two doting pups — daughters Bluey and Bingo.
The result is creator Joe Brumm has made Bandit and his wife Chili just as appealing to adults as the duo is to children because of how relatable their struggles are to parents around the globe.
Furthermore, the mischief-prone dog dad embraces his inner child every chance he gets, fueling his desire to connect with his kids while encouraging millions of guys around the world to ditch their rigid, lofty expectations of themselves and remember one of the most crucial lessons about fatherhood: being present.
But that wholesome message may be a bit too effective, Earnhardt Jr. opined.
"I know you’re supposed to let them pretend. You’re supposed to let them create and imagine. But the dad on Bluey, he is setting these expectations for our own children that are unrealistic. Because my daughter thinks, ‘Oh, yeah, my dad should do that. My dad will do that. We’ll ask him to do it, and he’s gonna do it.’”
"I’m sure some people will have different opinions about all that. I’d be curious to hear others’ opinions. I know somebody is going to say, ‘There will come a day when nobody is going to be asking you to pretend anymore, and you’re going to be so sad.’ And I know that’s coming. I’m not wishing my life away. But Bluey makes things challenging because the expectations are high."
Junior’s father was the legendary stock car driver and team owner Dale Earnhardt Sr., so, very few people have ever entered a career of any kind with as lofty expectations as Junior had when he followed in his dad’s footsteps. But work obligations aside, Bluey is a cartoon after all, and the show's life lessons aren't intended to make parents feel shamed by a talking blue dog.