A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bella and the Bulldogs tackles gender stereotypes in a very enjoyable series about a girl who surprises everyone with her skills on the football field. Even though it's heavily sanitized sitcom fare, the show does a good job raising some of the realistic challenges for a trailblazer such as Bella, who is subjected to suggestions from people that she doesn't belong on a football team because of her gender. You'll hear mild insults such as "wimpy" and "you're not tough enough," but it's Bella's determination to prove them wrong that really stands out and makes her a likable role model. Expect to see the other side of gender dynamics in segments that show the characters dating. Friendship, self-confidence, and respecting others are common themes in this kid-friendly series.
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What's the story?
Bella Dawson (Brec Bassinger) loves being her middle school's head cheerleader because it puts her close to the action on the football field. So when Coach Russell (Dorien Wilson) offers her a try-out after seeing her throw a spiral, she's determined to show him she's up to the challenge. The football team isn't thrilled about the idea of a female teammate; least thrilled is egotistical veteran quarterback Troy (Coy Stewart), who sets out to make sure it doesn't come to pass. But Bella proves her doubters wrong when she earns a roster spot and bumps Troy from his starting position, raising eyebrows throughout the school and among opposing players. Even her best friends, Sophie (Lilimar) and Pepper (Haley Tju), aren't sure what to make of it, but they have Bella's back as she strives to make her dreams come true.
Is it any good?
Girls on the football field isn't exactly groundbreaking news these days, but BELLA AND THE BULLDOGS is a highly likable series that takes the gender-equality message a step further by making Bella an impressive role model. She's charismatic, caring, and conscientious, and, oh, by the way, she can throw a pigskin the length of the field. What makes her even more appealing is that she doesn't take her position for granted; when the going gets tough, she buckles down, puts on her game face, and works harder for herself and her team.
Of course, her challenges are pretty mild compared to what they might be in a real-world scenario, but kids who watch won't question why troubles resolve themselves so quickly in Bella's experience, and that's OK. What they will notice is a girl following her dreams, despite other people's doubts and the trends of the past, changing people's prejudices as she does so. She's surrounded by friends who support her and adults who encourage her, and she earns every bit of her success. As media messages go, kids could certainly do worse than what this show has to offer.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes Bella a good role model. Does she demonstrate good sportsmanship? How does she show that she values the people in her life? In what ways does her success on the football field change her?
Kids: Do you ever hear people say that certain activities are meant for boys or girls only? How does that make you feel? What does Bella learn from challenging that rule in football? What do her teammates and friends learn?
This show inspires discussions about prejudice in a kid-friendly way. Talk to your kids about the dangers of judging people by how they look. Do they ever witness instances of prejudice within their peer groups? If they did, would they speak out against them?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love breaking stereotypes
Themes & Topics
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