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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Healing Powers of Dude is a comedy series about a tween who manages his social anxiety disorder with the help of a support dog whose thoughts are audible to the audience. The story has obvious messages about extending kindness, respecting different abilities (both emotional and physical), and finding common ground with others. Noah's experiences also demonstrate both perseverance and courage, always excellent takeaways for kids. Several scenes attempt to show what his anxiety attacks feel like to him using images like zombies, and floors that suck him downward, which could be unsettling for sensitive viewers. With some guidance, this series can encourage greater awareness about and empathy for mental health issues like anxiety disorders and related conditions.
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What's the story?
THE HEALING POWERS OF DUDE opens as 11-year-old Noah (Jace Chapman) faces the daunting task of starting public middle school after years of homeschooling to accommodate the challenges of his social anxiety disorder. After a series of mishaps, his caring parents secure for him an emotional support dog named Dude, to whose thoughts viewers are privy through internal monologues. Dude's presence helps Noah gather the confidence to navigate the ups and downs of middle school, tackling intimidating class projects, navigating crowded hallways, and even making two new friends in Amara (Sophie Kim) and Simon (Mauricio Lara).
Is it any good?
This hopeful series encourages awareness and understanding about what may be an unfamiliar condition in Noah's anxiety disorder. Because The Healing Powers of Dude tries to split time between the reality of Noah's struggles and the comical, often sarcastic opinions of his mutt companion, the overall presentation feels somewhat inconsistent. It's no Wonder, but there's slapstick, a goofy sidekick, a hapless principal, and many manners of tween foibles, as well as some exceedingly sympathetic moments in which Noah's anxiety threatens to swallow him up (literally, thanks to the show's visual effects that simulate his panic sensations). Both aspects of the story are worthwhile, but the constant shift from one to the other distracts rather than enhances the whole.
That said, the show clearly has merit, and it's always refreshing to see a show that makes an effort to promote diversity on the screen. Noah's condition is discussed at length, of course, but his friend Amara's physical disability (though visible) is not, nor is she hindered by it. Ultimately this speaks to the show's messages about choosing kindness, respecting diversity, and being confident in yourself regardless of what makes you different. And while the somewhat corny ruminating-dog shtick might be off-putting for adults who watch, it likely will help keep kids' interest in the show.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Noah manages his condition at school and in public. What accommodations are made for him in The Healing Powers of Dude? How do his friends and family help? Does his ability to persevere inspire you?
Who surrounds Noah in his support system? What role do strangers play in that support system? How might you help people you meet even without knowing their particular needs and challenges? How does seeing diversity on the screen help us better recognize and respect it in our lives?
Is Dude effective as a support companion? How does his mere presence help Noah? Could the same be said for people, that just being with someone caring can have a positive impact?
- Premiere date: January 13, 2020
- Cast: Jace Chapman, Sophie Kim, Mauricio Lara
- Network: Netflix
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, Middle School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Empathy, Perseverance
- TV rating: TV-G
- Available on: Streaming
- Last updated: January 2, 2021
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