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Bluey’s “Space” And Healing From Trauma

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Conn chapter.

Unfortunately, recovering from trauma can be an uphill battle. The event that traumatized you may be long over, but the mental scars remain. They continue to affect how you process day-to-day life. You can be triggered by innocuous events that have nothing to do with your trauma, but remind you of it in some small way. You might wish it didn’t have to be this way, but you can’t control how your body reacts. It’s stuck in the past and you can’t figure out how to get it out. This is all explored in the Bluey episode, Space.

In the episode, Mackenzie, Rusty, and Jack are playing astronauts. Mackenzie gets assigned the job of “Chief scientist,” whose job it is to “figure out everything,” and “fix stuff,” They debate on going to Mars, or a black hole. They decide on going to Mars, because it has aliens, but Mackenzie is curious about what a black hole is. Jack explains that it’s a sun that got small and made a hole. Mackenzie asks what happens if you go in one, and Jack explains that no one knows. 

Within the first few minutes of the mission, the ship gets damaged, and Mackenzie must fix the damage, but pretends that his tether comes untied, and his friends find him hiding behind a tree. After the three of them repair the damage and attempt to take off, Mackenzie goes missing again! When Rusty and Jack find him, Mackenzie asks “Why did you leave me behind?” When Rusty replies that they didn’t, Mackenzie says “Yes you did! You left me behind on purpose!” When Rusty asks why they would do that, Mackenzie says he doesn’t know. Jack asks if Mackenzie’s tether broke or if Mackenzie unhooked it. Mackenzie admits that he did, and then says “I want to pretend that you leave me behind, and I’m all alone.” When Rusty asks why, Mackenzie doesn’t know.

This interaction between Mackenzie and his friends reminds me of how sometimes, people who are coping with trauma can end up projecting their trauma onto situations that have nothing to do with it. As we see later in this episode, Mackenzie has suffered an abandonment trauma, and it is clear that he still worries about the people closest to him abandoning him. When it seems like the people in his life might leave him behind, Mackenzie freaks out, even if the fear makes no sense and isn’t based in reality. When Rusty asks Mackenzie why they would abandon him, Mackenzie is unable to explain why to him. This fear of abandonment doesn’t logically make sense, not even to Mackenzie. Feelings seldom do. Mackenzie doesn’t know why he is afraid of being abandoned by his friends, he just knows that he is. To Rusty and Jack, this definitely doesn’t make sense. Why would they abandon one of their best friends? It is also quite possible that Mackenzie doesn’t remember this trauma and doesn’t know why he’s scared of being abandoned. I think when he learned of the black hole, it triggered those feelings in him, and he wants to figure out why. That’s why he wants Rusty and Jack to pretend they left him behind, so he can figure out where those uncomfortable feelings regarding being alone are coming from.

After that incident, “Chief Scientist” Mackenzie puts his crew into hypersleep. But moments later, he changes course to the black hole that he’s been fixating so much on. This interrupts the rest of his crew’s hypersleep, who discover Mackenzie about to go into the black hole. They attempt to stop Mackenzie, but Mackenzie says he has to. Rusty asks why, and Mackenzie says, “Because I’m the Chief Scientist, it’s my job to figure everything out.” To that, Rusty responds “Well, we’re coming with you,” but Mackenzie refuses, on account of it being too dangerous. He says he’ll go in alone, and they should go to Mars without him. After asking if he’s sure, Rusty and Jack leave Mackenzie to his mission. Jack asks Rusty if he’s just going to let Mackenzie go. Rusty replies “It’s what he wants to play.”

Mackenzie then takes his first steps into the unknown. He ventures toward the light at the end of the tunnel, determined to see what awaits. When he finally gets there, he finds himself in an old memory of his. One where he was really little, and had just come down the slide in the mall, but couldn’t find his mom, which must have been scary for poor Mackenzie! However, his teacher, Calypso, comes up to Mackenzie and asks if he’s ok. He says that his mom left him behind. Calypso explains that she didn’t, Mackenzie just got mixed up in the slide. His mom is just behind him! Then she says something that resonated with me deeply: “Mackenzie, you know what’s here now. You don’t need to keep coming back to this place.” Then, she tells him to run as Bluey and her friends, who are dressed up as fairies, ambush Mackenzie, but Rusty pulls him back to the other side. Mackenzie and Rusty excitedly recount what the black hole was like to Jack as they head back to the ship. As the three of them board their ship to Mars, Mackenzie gazes at the black hole in the distance for a second but ultimately joins his friends.

There is a lot to unpack here. First is Mackenzie saying that he has to go into the black hole because as Chief Scientist, it’s his job to figure out everything. When Mackenzie got assigned this role, he was told that the Chief Scientist’s job is to “figure out everything” and “fix stuff.” I guess that also applies to Mackenzie’s feelings, as Mackenzie figured it was his job to figure out why he was feeling the way he was and fix it. No one else could do it for him. Also, even though his friends are supportive and concerned for him, they respect his wish to explore the black hole alone. As supportive as our friends are, no one can come with us to help us confront our demons. That is something we must do alone. But, like in the episode, our friends can help give us strength before the process and help pull us out after we are done.

While Mackenzie’s trauma may not seem like a big deal to adults, it is a big deal to Mackenzie. After all, he is so young, and small things can have a big impact on little kids. Young kids are like sponges, they absorb everything in their environment because they are impressionable and are learning about how the world works, and what they absorb at this young of an age sticks with them for the rest of their lives, even if they, or their parents, don’t realize it. Not being able to find his mom affected Mackenzie, even if it was only for a few seconds because his mom was probably his “safe person,” and in those few seconds, Mackenzie thought the person he considered the most “safe” left him behind, which is a scary thought for little kids. Getting left behind may not seem a big deal to adults, but it was for little Mackenzie.

Now we get to my favorite part of the episode, when Calypso tells Mackenzie “Mackenzie, you know what’s here now, you don’t need to keep coming back to this place.” What I think she means by this is that Mackenzie doesn’t have to let his past trauma rule him anymore, that he doesn’t have to let it dictate how he lives his life. He has realized what *actually* happened, that his mom didn’t leave him behind.  He’s safe in the present, he has supportive friends, who care about him and wouldn’t abandon him. He needs to give himself permission to move on. At the very end of the episode, Mackenzie looks back at the light in the tunnel for a second before ultimately joining his friends. This shows that Mackenzie is always going to be affected by this incident to some degree, he hasn’t completely moved on from it. That takes time, after all! But he has started to not let it control him and is able to enjoy being with his friends.

In all, Space is a good depiction of what it is to heal from trauma. It can be difficult to not let your trauma cloud how you process events now, but as Calypso says “You know what’s here now, you don’t have to keep coming back to this place.” You don’t have to let a time that hurt you dictate how you process the world. With support from the people around you, you can begin to move on, confront your demons, and get to a healthier place.

Nicole is a senior at the University of Connecticut studying communication and gerontology. Her hobbies include crocheting, writing, playing the flute, and biking. Her favorite TV shows are Bob's Burgers, Bluey, and The Simpsons.