Inside a 'Bluey' dads' Facebook group: How Bandit is helping human parents be better

Dads are sharing the highs and lows of parenthood and finding community in a private "Bluey" Facebook group.

Bandit and Bingo. (Disney+/Courtesy of Everett Collection)

Move over, Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin and Hank Hill: There’s a new kind of cartoon dad in charge. When he’s not doing the laundry, cleaning the house or cooking a meal for the family, he’s busy throwing himself into the imaginative worlds his little girls dream up.

His name is Bandit Heeler. While his daughter Bluey might be the show’s titular character, for dads around the world, it’s gray-flecked Bandit who’s the true spirit animal of the show.

Bandit’s all-in parenting style has made such an impact on dads watching that they’ve formed their own private Facebook group around him — “Bandits: The Bluey Group for Dads” — one that’s nearly 100,000 members strong.

Despite being a talking bipedal dog living in the suburbs of Brisbane, Australia, in a show marketed to children, Bandit has become a role model for human dads everywhere. And much like Bandit has provided a TV role model that didn’t exist before, the group provides a space that can be hard to find too, one where dads can be vulnerable, make friends and open up about the highs and lows of parenting.

Bandit, Bluey and Bingo Heeler sit at a dining table in the animated show Bluey.
Bandit, Bluey and Bingo Heeler in Bluey. (Disney+/Courtesy of Everett Collection)

Lucas Siegel, a father living in Pittsburgh with his wife and toddler Oliver, has been a member of the “Bandits” Facebook group for over a year. For Siegel, it’s Bandit’s desire for self-improvement that he appreciates most.

“Bandit is a great dad, but he’s not perfect,” Siegel told Yahoo Entertainment. “He is, however, always trying. Trying to get better for himself and as a father and a partner, trying to keep his kids entertained and comfortable in the knowledge that he loves them.”

It’s also Bandit’s love of play that Siegel tries to replicate in his own life.

“He buys into his kids’ imaginations and adventures wholeheartedly, which is something to aspire to,” said Siegel. “There’s not enough talk [in parenting books] about remembering to look at the world through your kids’ eyes. ... That resonates quite strongly, and is something I really try to keep in mind when interacting with my own 2-year-old son.”

However, those closest to Bandit feel that the blue-furred father might set the bar unreasonably high.

“I wish I was more like Bandit Heeler,” David McCormack, the actor who voices Bandit, told Sky News in 2022. “But you know what advantage Bandit has? He’s only being Bandit for seven minutes at a time — we’ve got to do parenting 24/7, 365.”

Bluey creator and writer Joe Brumm also weighed in on what makes Bandit so special.

“He’s like every sort of caring dad these days. They’re across everything — the housework, kids, work, the lot,” Brumm told The Father Hood. “Compared to my dad’s day, we’ve just had a slow, generation-by-generation change to the point we’re at now, where being a dad just seems like an all-in.”

One of the moderators for the “Bandits” Facebook group, Timothy Roy, says dads shouldn’t be intimidated by Bandit.

Bandit, Bluey and three friends sit on a couch outdoors.
Bandit, center, with daughter Bluey and friends. (Disney+/Courtesy of Everett Collection)

“When many of our members watch the show, they say that Bandit sets an unrealistic bar. That they can’t just drop everything and play with their kids. However, the show is mostly seven-minute episodes. It isn’t hard to be present with your kids for seven minutes at a time,” Roy told Yahoo Entertainment. “The silly game they want you to participate in, the tough things they are dealing with. ... Start with those couple of minutes.”

Roy, who became a fan of Bluey after his 3-year-old started watching, joined the Facebook group’s admin team in 2021 as a way to help grow and shape the culture of the online community.

The group, created in May 2021 by dad Matthew Bellis, who lives in Wales, describes itself as a “wholesome, friendly and supportive group just for dads who love Bluey.”

According to the private Facebook group’s member request questionnaire, “‘dad’ includes: biological fathers, step, foster, adoptive, expecting, gay, trans, non-binary, family caregivers in parental roles.”

“We have seen a lot of change in the group over the past three years as we grew from around 2,500 members at the time I joined to the almost 92,000 we have now,” said Roy. The group today includes members from over 100 countries, all “brought together by an Australian children’s show.”

When Siegel was first introduced to the group, he liked what he saw right away.

“[My friend] described it to me as ‘a place for dads to genuinely talk about what it means to be a dad and trying to always be better,’ which is exactly how [Bandit] behaves.”

Because of the private and heavily moderated nature of the group (there are 30 volunteer moderators and over 100 approved posts a day, according to Roy), dads seem more inclined to open up with one another.

“I’ve shared some real laughs and real moments in there,” said Siegel. “I think the safety in being able to have real moments with otherwise relative strangers is definitely part of the appeal.”

Bandit, Chilli, Bingo and Bluey in their living room.
Bandit, Chilli, Bingo and Bluey. (Disney+/Courtesy of Everett Collection)

Within the group are two subgroups, named after deep-cut references to specific Bluey episodes. In Featherwand, members can discuss “heavier subjects” that aren’t necessarily related to parenting. In Tradies, members can exchange practical skills and advice.

Utilizing nicknames for their spouses and kids based on characters from the show — Chilli for their partners, Bluey for a firstborn, Bingo for a second, Muffin for a particularly rambunctious child — dads talk about an array of topics.

“We have seen dads helping dads with topics ranging from relationship struggles, career problems, depression and anxiety ... all the way down to the little things like how to get your kids to eat something other than chicken nuggets!” said Roy.

It’s that support and camaraderie among members that makes the space special for dads like Siegel, who turned to the group during a difficult time in his life.

“I went to the group [when] a doctor [told] my wife and I that our son was having some developmental issues. Knowing that we’d have to take some extra care, the fears that he’d never catch up ... just expressing that sort of sentiment,” said Siegel. “The outpouring of support and ‘been there’ types of sentiments was outrageous. ... Sometimes when you’re facing something like this, you just want to feel like you’re not alone, and the group was a massive help in that.”

According to Roy, such vulnerable topics are the heartbeat of the group.

“We have followed the stories of tiny little preemie babies and watched them make it against the odds. We have seen dads who have experienced miscarriages with their partners or lost a parent and watched a wave of support form around them,” said Roy. “We have had the pleasure of celebrating life’s wins with each other and being there for some of the worst losses a person can go through and see people come through on the other side.”

With a group as big as “Bandits,” one might assume conversations could quickly devolve into ugliness. That’s not the spirit of the group, because that’s not the example that Bandit sets.

“When a conversation gets heated, it gets shut down by a mod with a reminder that we’re all aspiring to be better than those sorts of petty squabbles,” said Siegel.

The group’s rules, which include keeping messages private and establishing mutual trust, set the tone for the online community.

For dads like Siegel, these rules make the group an online safe space.

“This group is probably the best consistent example of nontoxic masculinity I’ve seen on the internet, and that’s us following the example of Bandit,” said Siegel. “I wish there were more places like it, and I wish more dads were trying to be a little more like Bandit.”

According to Roy, men struggle to find such safe spaces offline as well.

“There is this expectation from past generations [for dads] to be breadwinners and provide for their families and leave it at that,” said Roy. “We have found that, in general, dads want to be better, more involved parents but often don’t know how or don’t have the skills to do what they feel is a good job.”

In “Bandits,” dads aren’t just connecting with other fathers or sharing their love for Bluey; they’re smashing the stigma of men reaching out for help and support.

“I think men are more likely to try to shoulder their struggles themselves and not seek help, and that is a stigma we are trying to break,” said Roy. “If you want to be a better parent and be there for your kids, the first step has to be to have people who are there for you.”

Bluey is streaming on Disney+.

Editors' note: This story was originally published on May 30, 2024.

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