Hey Arnold! was an American animated television series that was created by animator and comic book artist Craig Bartlett, and based on his comics starring Arnold, which he created in 1986. The original Arnold was visualized as a vividly imaginative kid, whose distinct oblong-shaped head resembled an American football along with spikey, unruly blonde hair. He always wore a prep-school uniform, though he attended public school, and a cap. Using the Will Vinton facilities Walkabout Program, a student production lab, Bartlett created a clay-animated short film called Arnold Escapes from Church (1988), which later generated two more short films, The Arnold Waltz (1990) and Arnold Rides His Chair (1991). The latter eventually televised on Sesame Street in the 1990s and continued to air there, even after the Nickelodeon version debuted. In 1991, the Arnold comic stories, which were written and drawn by Bartlett, were published in Simpsons Illustrated magazine. (Bartlett is the brother-in-law of Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons.) The familiar cel-animated Arnold came about in the mid-1990s, when it was picked up as a new series by the television network Nickelodeon. The major change in Nick's version of Arnold is that he wears a blue sweater over a large, plaid untucked shirt, making it resemble a kilt, and blue pants. Only Arnold's cap remains from his original clay-animation wardrobe.
For a brief period, a spin-off series called The Patakis was planned. The premise of it was to focus on Helga Pataki, the main female character of Hey Arnold!, in her teenage years, along with her family and classmates. Most of the kids from Hey Arnold! would appear in The Patakis except Arnold, who has moved away, thus making Helga the star of the series. This series was rejected by Nickelodeon because they thought it was "too dark" for a Nicktoon. It was also offered to MTV, but they declined it as they thought it was too similar to their program Daria, which didn't do so well with ratings. Some information about The Patakis has been leaked through Bartlett's online chats and interviews.
Hey Arnold! was pitched to Nickelodeon in the fall of 1993, and the first episode was created in 1994, debuting as an animated short for the Nickelodeon film Harriet the Spy on July 10, 1996, but it never aired on TV. (This short was later remade into the first season episode "24 Hours to Live.") The series was greenlit in January 1995 and premiered as a new Nicktoon on October 7, 1996, and ended on June 8, 2004. Hey Arnold! was in production continuously from 1995 to 2001 and consisted of five production seasons (the first four seasons each lasted for one year, but fifth season episodes aired between 2001 and 2004), with a total of 100 episodes and one theatrically-released movie, titled Hey Arnold!: The Movie, although a second film was planned but never produced. Almost every episode consisted of two eleven minute shorts, although there were occasional twenty-two minute special episodes, which were often holiday-based.
In 1998, Rugrats became the first Nicktoon to have its own theatrical film, titled The Rugrats Movie, and following the success of that film, Nickelodeon came to an agreement with Bartlett on making a Hey Arnold! theatrical film as well as a TV film. The theatrical film was originally centered on Arnold searching for his parents, while the TV film, originally titled "Arnold Saves the Neighborhood," was centered on Arnold saving his neighborhood from being torn down. Problems with the script kept the theatrical film on hold for a number of years, and Nickelodeon wanted a Hey Arnold! movie to be made before the show lost its popularity, so they had "Arnold Saves the Neighborhood" converted into Hey Arnold!: The Movie which was released on June 28, 2002. Unfortunately, the film had a poor showing at the box office and negative critical reception, and Bartlett later went to work on Party Wagon for Cartoon Network after refusing to sign a contract to work exclusively for Nickelodeon. These events, in turn, lead to the cancellation of the planned second film.
Even though Hey Arnold! ended in 2004, the final episode that was ever produced was in 2002; this was the forty-five minute special "The Journal." It was made to link the series to the second film, known as The Jungle Movie, and revealed a great deal of information about Arnold's parents. (While it was not the last episode to air, many fans regard it as the true series finale, as it was only one of two episodes to take place after the movie.) Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures, which was the film studio behind the release of Hey Arnold!: The Movie, currently own the rights to the film and story, but they are not interested in Hey Arnold! anymore. "The Journal" was also not intended to be the final produced episode as a proposed sixth season was in the works along with The Jungle Movie. Most fans believe that the show ended prematurely because this season and film were scrapped by executives from Viacom, the company that owned Nickelodeon and other television studios. As a result, many storylines that were started were ultimately abandoned, leaving fans somewhat deserted.
To this day, many fans of the series still write to Nickelodeon and have created websites and other forms of protest that demand to have The Jungle Movie made or created as a TV film, a comic series, a book, or a graphic novel. Last year, a Facebook page called Hey Arnold!: Save The Jungle Movie was created along with a website called The Hey Arnold! 6th Season Project, in which fans are in the process of creating episodes in comic form. We are hoping that projects like these will show Nickelodeon and Viacom that there are still fans out there who want to see the loose ends tied up.
Hey Arnold! takes place in the fictional American city of Hillwood, which is largely based on Seattle, Washington (Bartlett's old hometown), Portland, Oregon (where he went to art school), and New York City (from which many landmarks were borrowed). Clues provided throughout the show have suggested it is likely set in Washington State. Bartlett, having grown up in Seattle, based many of the show's events on his own experiences growing up in the city. The Pig War mentioned in the episode with the same title took place on the boundary between what is now the State of Washington and British Columbia. At the end of "Road Trip," a sign is seen that says "Welcome to Washington State…The Evergreen State." The opening of "Dino Checks Out" shows a beach shoreline, which is most likely Puget Sound. In "Wheezing Ed," another character mentions Ivar's Restaurant, which is a very famous Seattle establishment. The overpass above Arnold's house is possibly the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which is located in Seattle. In many first season episodes, the Brooklyn Bridge is seen as a prominent landmark in the city. Other episodes show an overview of Arnold's neighborhood with the New York City skyline in the horizon, complete with the Empire State Building, Central Park, and World Trade Center. Hillwood also has a major river that is based on the Willamette River located in Portland.
My own personal connection with this show dates back ten years ago, when I was twelve years old. One of the major themes of Hey Arnold! was unrequited love, and it was that theme that intrigued me the most. I grew to enjoy the show was because I was intrigued that the main girl, Helga Pataki, exhibited feelings of unrequited love towards Arnold. I thought it was interesting that Helga was a two-sided character, only showing her soft and gentle side when she would go into her monologues regarding her love for Arnold, despite the fact that she was seen as a hostile and nasty bully to her classmates and anyone else who got into her way. It really got me curious as to why Helga would act mean to Arnold while she claimed that she loved him. While I knew that sometimes girls would pick on boys they liked to hide their true feelings, I thought there was more to it in Helga's case. While I thought she was interesting, I didn't like Helga at first because of how mean and aggressive she could be to Arnold. But the fourth season episode "Helga on the Couch" made me see her in a whole new light. There were moments that showed just how crappy her life at home really is, and that made me feel sorry for her, and I'm sure viewers felt and still feel the same way. The first time I saw this episode, I cried when I watched the scene where a three-year-old Helga walks to preschool alone with a series of misfortunes and I'm not afraid to admit that it still brings tears to my eyes whenever I watch it. A favorite among fans, including myself, the episode goes into Helga's psyche, telling viewers exactly why she acts the way she does and how and why she came to love Arnold in the first place. While I had a better understanding of Helga after watching that episode, I still didn't quite understand the concept of her relationship with Arnold, rather I just accepted it. Overtime, I gradually had fantasies about Arnold and Helga as a couple and wondered what it would be like if he had feelings for her.
Now I am twenty-two and I have rediscovered Hey Arnold! in the last several months, watching episodes on YouTube that I never saw before it went off the air, reading FanFiction, and looking at pictures on deviantART. (By the way, my account on FF and dA are HAFanForever, in reference to the fact that I will be a Hey Arnold! fan forever!) I have managed to catch up with it and learn about the show, inside and outside of the episode plots. Sadly, I never got the chance to see the movie, and based on the circumstances regarding the cancelled second film and the abrupt end of the series, I am not interested in seeing it now, although I have watched the scene with Helga's confession, and that kiss is like none I have ever seen! XD
Last year, I took a psychology introduction course, and with that under my belt, I now have a greater understanding of the psychological setup of the show, more so than I did when I was a kid, especially when it comes to Arnold and Helga's relationship. Helga is probably the most complex character on the show and one of the most complex characters in television. The fact that she is a three-dimensional character, with her aggressive, hostile, and ferocious front, and her kind, caring, and sensitive interior, is why I think she is so awesome. She is my #1 favorite character on the show, apart from Arnold, of course. I am now infatuated with Arnold and Helga as a couple, and since I understand their relationship better now than I used to, I believe that they are perfect for each other, and I'm not just saying that simply because I think that Helga has feelings of love for Arnold that need to be reciprocated by him. I also know that Bartlett said that Arnold and Helga are meant for each other and I couldn't agree more! (Personally, I don't even see anything wrong with Helga having a crush on Arnold, as I used to have a crush on him myself! I thought he was a major cutie! :D)
Here is the ranking of my top five fave episodes in the series:
#1. "Helga on the Couch" (no surprise, I'm sure it's #1 with many other fans)
#2. "Married" (another great episode since it deals with Arnold's affections for Helga)
#3. "The Journal" (because it gives a lot more information regarding the past of Arnold's missing parents, Miles and Stella)
#4. "Summer Love"
#5. "Arnold's Christmas"
Some of my other favorite episodes include "Sid the Vampire Slayer," "Buses, Bikes, and Subways," "Beaned," and "Arnold Visits Arnie," which is also a really important episode regarding Arnold's feelings towards Helga.
I decided to begin this essay by giving the history of the series and my personal connection to it because I've found a lot of facts about it and wanted to write down and share it with others, but its overall content includes information about Arnold and Helga as well as the relationship between them. I have read five other essays with the same kind of material and they have inspired me to write one of my own. So, to the writers of those essays, please forgive me if some of the words I use sound the same as yours because I had been planning on using those kinds of words and sentences when I was thinking about what to say in this essay. I would like to give a personal thanks to those authors because their essays were superb and I couldn't have asked for better sources: poisonivory, HeyArnoldfan, and NintendoGal55, who wrote three of those essays. Here are the links to those five essays:
http: / / community . livejournal . com / ship _ manifesto / 221103 . html
http: / / uchihaprincess16 . deviantart . com / art / Arnelga - over - Lilold - Manifesto - 148871512
http: / / uchihaprincess16 . deviantart . com / art / ArnoldxHelga - Essay - 161002876
http: / / www . fanfiction. net / s / 3599166 / 1 / An _ Arnold _ Visits _ Arnie _ essay
http: / / www . fanfiction. net / s / 5704887 / 1 / Another _ Arnold _ Visits _ Arnie _ Essay
So now, I will move away from my introduction and background sections and press on to the beginning of my essay.
Arnold – The Football Head
Arnold is the central character and the main boy of the series. His most distinct physical feature is his head, which is shaped like an American football, thus earning him the infamous nickname/insult "football head." His blonde hair is spikey and unruly, and it sticks up in all directions. (His physical appearance is the same as it was in the original clay-animated shorts.) He is nine years old and is in Mr. Simmons's (originally Ms. Slovak's) fourth grade class at P.S. 118, where he has many friends whom he has known since preschool, including his best friend Gerald Johanssen. He lives in the Sunset Arms Boarding House with his eccentric paternal grandparents (the owners), Phil and Gertrude (or Gertie), the equally eccentric boarders Mr. Hyunh, Oskar and Suzie Kokoshka, and Ernie Potts, and assorted pets, including his pig Abner. He also has a great-aunt Mitzi, who is Phil's twin sister and was seen only in "Grandpa's Sister," and a cousin named Arnie, who lives in the countryside and was introduced in "Weird Cousin" and was seen again in "Arnold Visits Arnie." Arnold is well known for being a peacemaker and helper in his neighborhood, and often acts as the stable center and voice of reason to those around him, especially with his friends and "family." He often goes out of his way to help others when he sees them in trouble, even if it is not always the sensible thing to do, and give them advice, although sometimes his friends think he is a busybody since he butts into their business too much. If they try to have fun at the expense of others, he will tell them it's not a good idea, only for them to call him a "wet blanket" or a "spoilsport," as seen in "Deconstructing Arnold."
While he acts relatively normal despite his upbringing and general home life, Arnold is sometimes seen as a fairly eccentric kid, and not just for his head! He is an avid dreamer, often fantasizing and daydreaming about various things. Many first season episodes showed some of his heavy daydreams in which he does assorted activities, including hunting on safari, surfing on the ocean, or flying through space. He has a love for jazz music, much more than most kids his age, and owns an advanced sound system. He taught himself to play the harmonica and can be seen playing it several times during the first couple of seasons. While his home is relatively plain-looking, Arnold's room stands out because it is high-tech and equipped with a remote that controls pretty much everything there, including the sound system, a collapsible couch that flips in and out of the wall, and the lights of the skylights that make up much of his ceiling.
Arnold is a very confident and positive person, always looking on the bright side, regardless of what the situation may be, and trying to see the best in everyone. At the same time, he is also a realist because he is aware of the bad things that can and do happen in the world and has no illusions that all is perfect and full of happiness. But he's very determined and never gives up in overcoming the obstacles, even when he is on the verge of failing. He knows that running away from or ignoring problems don't help, and that it's better to face them and try to solve them in order to be happy. He is also very practical in the sense that he is not a believer when it comes to superstitions or curses (e.g., "Friday the 13th," "Married"). Arnold seems to have a reputation as a Saint-like do-gooder, and many people, including adults, often come to him for advice. At heart, he is just a very sweet, compassionate boy who is a good listener and only helps people and gives good advice because he enjoys doing so. What makes Arnold very unique is that he has accomplished many remarkable and miraculous things for a kid his age, such as finding Mr. Hyunh's long-lost daughter in "Arnold's Christmas," saving the oldest tree in his neighborhood from being cut down in "Save the Tree," and especially, saving his neighborhood from an evil developer who wants to tear it down in the movie. He is very mature, reasonable, and has high levels of patience and understanding, not to mention he is charming, handsome, and romantic. But Arnold is not perfect nor does he make himself out to be perfect. He does make mistakes and has his own sets of problems and flaws that he is not exactly proud of. At times, he makes selfish and wrong decisions that he later regrets (e.g., trying to ditch his school play in "Downtown as Fruits," skipping school in "Hookey"), but he does learn from them and works to make them right. For the most part, he always tries to do the right thing, sometimes going to extreme and ridiculous measures to do what he believes is right.
The one thing about Arnold that very few people know is that his parents are missing. While people who know him know that he doesn't have parents, it is not revealed why until the episodes "Parents Day" and "The Journal." In "Arnold's Hat," it is revealed that his parents are absent from his life and that they gave him his tiny blue hat when he was a baby. Since it is a memento of them, it has become a sentimental item to Arnold. Arnold's anthropologist father Miles (voiced by Bartlett) and botanist/physician mother Stella were adventurous people who met while on separate journeys in the fictional Central American country of San Lorenzo. Miles and Stella encountered many dangers there together and were saved numerous times by the original inhabitants of the country, the elusive Green-Eyed people. They married there and were given Abner as a wedding gift from the Green-Eyes. Arnold was also born there, and inherited his mother's oblong head and his father's spikey blonde hair. (The physical appearance of Arnold's head is also shared with Arnie, which means they are probably cousins through Stella's side of the family. It has also been hinted that Arnold is Phil and Gertie's only grandchild.) But they eventually left San Lorenzo and moved back to Hillwood after his parents realized that the primitive community surrounded by a jungle in which they lived was not a safe place to raise a baby. Later, Miles and Stella were asked by their friend Eduardo, an anthropologist who lived in San Lorenzo, to come help the Green-Eyes after they were struck by a sleeping sickness, which had happened once before. Following this, they left and never returned. The revelation of what happened to them was supposed to be revealed in The Jungle Movie, and it's likely that Arnold would have found them had the film been made. Still to this day, Bartlett has never revealed how or why Miles and Stella disappeared or how/if Arnold even finds them. (On a side note, Arnold was meant to be the only character that didn't appear in The Patakis because he moved away. This has lead fans to believe that he moved to live in San Lorenzo with his parents, which would also give them the hope that he found them, but Bartlett has never confirmed this, nor did he definitely decide that Arnold would stay with his parents if he found them in San Lorenzo.)
Arnold was born in San Lorenzo in a temple of the Green-Eyes. When Miles and Eduardo were carrying a pregnant Stella in a makeshift cart to the nearest town, they got cut off in the jungle when a nearby volcano started erupting. Stella went into labor at this time and the three of them took shelter in the temple (they knew it belonged to the Green-Eyes when they green smoke coming from it), where a bed was ready and waiting. After a painful delivery, Stella finally gave birth, and when this happened, the volcano stopped erupting and everything in the area went quiet, except for the crying of the newborn baby. Eduardo said that "he has silenced all of nature," and Miles and Stella called him a "miracle baby" in regards to this. Then they named him Arnold, and, interestingly enough, Miles's first words to him were "Hey Arnold." (This event may explain how he is such a peacemaker and has accomplished many great things, especially for someone his age.) It was shown that a Green-Eye was a witness to Arnold's birth and heard Miles say Arnold's name. Bartlett said in one of his online chats that in The Jungle Movie, the Green-Eyes think that Arnold is divine and worship him because he silenced nature when he was born, and they admire the shape of his head because their symbol, often shown in their architecture, is shaped like a football. While the Green-Eyes have kept themselves hidden from the outside world for many years, it was revealed that Arnold would meet them, and since they see him as a Messiah, it would make sense that they would appear to him. (It is also been mentioned in other sources that Arnold himself has green eyes, so maybe that's also part of it!)
The episode "Married" confirms that Arnold's birthday is the 7th of some month, leading fans to believe that he was born on October 7th, which was the day the show first aired. Bartlett said that Arnold is a Libra, who has a birthday between September 23rd and October 22nd, and shows the characteristics of one. Additionally, he said that Arnold would turn ten and be in fifth grade in The Jungle Movie. Since the film was set to take place after "The Journal," which is set on October 5th, the day that his parents left him, it is then likely that Arnold's birthday is October 7th. This apparently creates a flaw in the show because his parents were with him on his first birthday before they left, but it is also possible that they left him two days before his second birthday. (Of course, why they would leave right before his second birthday, I don't know or understand, but they did think that their trip back to San Lorenzo would be a quick one…) Bartlett once said that writers ignore details such as trivial dates, but I think it's okay for fans to still think that Arnold's birthday is October 7th and that his parents left before he was two.
Arnold's last name was never revealed on the show. With the exception of a few secondary characters, the only other major characters whose surnames were never mentioned were his grandparents. They presumably have the same last name as Arnold because it is revealed in "Parents Day" and "The Journal" that they are Miles's parents. ("Parents Day" hints that fact while "The Journal" confirms it, namely through physical characteristics: Miles has Phil's stick-out chin and Gertie's original blonde hair.) The mystery surrounding Arnold's full name became a running gag on the show by the last name almost being revealed, then someone or something interrupting or otherwise preventing it from being heard. Some notable times when the name is almost revealed include:
• In a commercial for the show that aired in the early part of the show's run, Arnold talks to the viewer to straighten out some facts about himself. He ends with, "And yes, I do have a last name. It's…" at which point the screen turns into static and the sound cuts off, because the camera's batteries runs out.
• In "Fighting Families," Arnold wins the school's raffle drawing for the chance to be on the game show Fighting Families. The lady doing the drawing announces, "The winner is Arnold…hmm, there seems to be a smudge over the last name." Here it is revealed that Arnold is the only person in his school with this name, making his surname somewhat unnecessary.
• A similar instance to the one above occurs in "Eugene, Eugene!", where the town stage director, Mr. Leichliter, is casting Arnold and his friends for an upcoming musical to be performed at their school, and when he's casting Arnold as the villain, he says, "the part of Lawrence goes to Arnold…hmm, I can't even read my own handwriting."
• In "Crush on Teacher," Helga does one of her many passionate monologues about her love for Arnold and says that she would one day like to become "Mrs. Arnold…wait, what is his last name?", revealing that she is just as clueless as the audience.
• In "The Journal," Phil is reading the part of Miles's journal that recounts his and Stella's wedding. He gets to the part when they are pronounced "Mr. and Mrs…" at which point Gertie interrupts with a loud belch.
In another chat, Bartlett said that he purposely didn't give Arnold a last name because he thought calling him "Hey Arnold!" was more powerful since he's the main character. But he had been planning to finally reveal his last name in The Jungle Movie: in the opening scene, a man comes to the door of the boarding house with a package for Arnold, then Arnold signs his name. Bartlett later said that Arnold's surname has been mentioned many times on the show by his grandfather. Phil's nickname for Arnold is "short man," leading fans to believe that Arnold's last name is Shortman. He also hinted that his second name is probably Philip, meaning that Arnold's full name would be Arnold Philip Shortman. It was revealed in "The Journal" that Stella named Arnold after her father, meaning that if Philip is Arnold's middle name, he would be named after both of his grandfathers.
Hey Arnold! was the first Nicktoon to have the kid characters voiced by real kids (a rarity in animation), and Arnold himself was voiced by four different boys during the course of the show. His major voices were Toran Caudell (in seasons 1 and 2), Phillip Van Dyke (in seasons 2 and 3), Spencer Klein (in seasons 4 and 5 and the film), and Alex Linz (in the season 5 episodes "April Fool's Day" and "The Journal," and he would have voiced Arnold in The Jungle Movie). For extras, he was voiced by J.D. Daniels in the original pilot and the toddler/preschool version of Arnold was voiced by Rusty Flood in "Parents Day" and "Helga on the Couch."
Helga Pataki – The Hell Girl
The only other character besides Arnold to appear in the most episodes is the main girl of the series, Helga Pataki, or Helga G. Pataki, as she often prefers to address herself. Helga is regarded as a bully by her peers. She is very hostile, rude, aggressive, sarcastic, and bossy, taking it out on many of her classmates, including Arnold, with an iron fist, subjecting them with rude remarks and threats of physical violence, which she never hesitates to do, in order to get her way. She has even given names to her fists: Old Betsy and the Five Avengers (even though Helga, like all other characters on the show, has only four fingers on each hand). Despite her pink dress and omnipresent pink bow, Helga is barely considered a girl by the other kids. She loves wrestling and sports, has complete disregard and dislike for typical female behavior, and lacks basic femininity, especially because she constantly scowls, growls, and spits, the very things that many of the other girls of the show rarely or never do.
Like other characters on the show, Helga's wardrobe rarely changes: she almost always wears her pink dress (or jumper), which has a red stripe around the middle, over a white shirt along with her big pink bow in her hair. Her hair is bright blonde and she wears it in pigtails, which are square-ended and have no visible hair ties. It is revealed in a few episodes, such as "Married," that Helga has blue eyes. Even though she does not really care about her looks, many people consider Helga ugly due to her facial features, which don't make her look very feminine: a black, thick unibrow, a pouty mouth that has a large, stick-out upper lip, large, stick-out ears, and a nose that is shaped like a G. (Most of these traits come from her father.)
With her bullying exterior, Helga makes people believe she is what she appears to be, and almost everyone in her class is terrified of her. No one would ever expect her to have a softer side, which becomes apparent whenever she is alone and in her school work. Through this side, she hides her deepest, darkest secret: she is madly, deeply, head-over-heels in love with Arnold. She is truly able to show feelings of love and care towards another person, even though she wouldn't be caught dead doing it in public. Though to keep her feelings secret, she verbally abuses Arnold, almost always with her favorite insult of "football head" and the occasional "hair boy," so that he or anyone else will never come to that conclusion. There have been several episodes in which Helga goes to the extreme to prevent Arnold or anyone else from discovering her secret:
• In "The Little Pink Book," Helga discovers Arnold has her pink book filled with poems about him, with the last page including her signed name. She breaks into his house, but is unsuccessful in getting it back. The next morning, Arnold is reading it in front of his classmates and she tears the page out of the book, making it into a spitball and throws it at him.
• In "Helga Blabs It All," Helga is under the influence of nitrous oxide while getting a cavity filled and leaves a love message on Arnold's phone. After the effect wears off and she realizes what she has done, she steals the clothes of a Campfire Lass (similar to the U.S.A. Girl Scouts) to gain access to the boarding house, eventually stealing the tape before Arnold can hear it.
• In "Helga's Parrot," Helga's father's new parrot hears her reciting a new love poem about Arnold, which ends with her name. The parrot continually recites the poem, so Helga tries to kill it, but it escapes to Arnold's house. Helga is unsuccessful in stealing back the parrot, but before it finishes reciting the poem during Show-and-Tell at school, the parrot gets killed by Helga's new monitor lizard.
• In "Helga Sleepwalks," Helga eats pork rinds, which maker her sleepwalk whenever she eats them. She sleepwalks to Arnold's house and enters it a few times, all while confessing her secret. Luckily, with help from her friend Phoebe, she manages to discover why she was sleepwalking and stops before she inadvertently reveals her secret.
• In "Helga's Locket," Helga has a message to Arnold, with her signed name, inscribed in her locket with Arnold's picture, which ends up being stolen by Abner, forcing Helga to infiltrate the boarding house once again to steal it back from Arnold and Phil, who has taken a humorous and ridiculous fancy to it. While the clasp on the locket won't open, Helga steals it back before Arnold and Phil can see the hidden message.
Helga has a very dysfunctional family that seldom notices her existence. Her father Bob, sometimes called "Big Bob," is a successful pager and cell phone salesman, running an emporium called Big Bob's Beepers in which he is the "Beeper King." He is extremely self-centered and competitive, often taking it too far and serving as an antagonist to Arnold and his family on several occasions. He is the one Pataki who rarely notices Helga, and favors her neurotic, over-achieving, college-aged sister Olga. Bob expects perfect performance from his daughters at all times, yet only Olga seems to be able to fulfill this wish. As a result, Bob has almost no regard for Helga and absent-mindedly calls her Olga rather than her real name, and prefers to watch TV over listening to Helga. Sometimes he addresses Helga by her name without her reminding him, but when he doesn't call her Olga, which is usually when Olga visits, he calls her "little lady" or, which seems to be in more disregard, "the girl." Bob also frequently forgets Helga's age, often assuming she is two to three years younger than her real age. He does pay more attention to Helga when city contests occur, but only to serve his own competitiveness or to encourage Helga to become a copy of Olga. Bob is very boorish and oafish in personality, has a short temper, and can sometimes be very thick-headed. He is also very much of a loud bully and blowhard, suggesting that Helga gets some of her bullying ways from him. Bob's common catchphrases are "hey-hey-hey-hey-hey" and "criminy," both of which have been picked up by Helga.
Helga's mother Miriam is a housewife who is indirectly portrayed as an alcoholic: she constantly mopes around the house, struggles to stay conscious (and can often be often found sleeping on the couch or other unlikely places in the house), and frequently drinks smoothies and coffee. ("The Beeper Queen" shows her trying to find her Tabasco sauce, hinting she may be addicted to cocktails.) She seems to be emotionally attached to her blender and the aforementioned episode reveals that Miriam had her driver's license revoked, possibly for DUI. In "Helga and the Nanny," she also has to do a "community service job" at an animal shelter, indicating she has committed some sort of offense. Though apathetic at home, it is suggested that Miriam is capable, but stunted by her marriage to her overbearing blowhard husband. As a result, Miriam is deeply depressed, bored, and has lost the will to assert herself, spending most of her time in her own world, unable and/or unwilling to care for Helga. She is also very forgetful and constantly forgets to make Helga's lunch or even give her the right items to eat. It is hinted that she gave up her life to marry Bob, whom she thought was a terrific guy, but was later proven wrong in the long run. This is referred to in "Olga Gets Engaged," where she advises Olga not to make the same marital mistake she made. Miriam's abilities are shown in "The Beeper Queen," where she fills in for Bob at the Beeper Emporium after he injures his back. (This episode also shows that, on some level, she does care about Bob as she kisses him goodbye twice on the forehead.) Miriam packs Helga nutritious lunches, drives her to school, shares stories and listens to Helga, and helps Helga with her homework – all implying that Miriam is held back by her unemployment and her marriage.
Bob and Miriam shower much love and attention on Olga, their older daughter and first child. Even though Olga is usually off at college, she visits occasionally and is a powerful presence in the Pataki household, even when she's not at home. It has been implied that Helga was an unplanned, and possibly unwanted, pregnancy due to the twelve-year difference between her and Olga, as well as the ignorance she receives from her and their parents, even though Olga sometimes notices Helga more than their parents do when she's home and calls her "baby sister." Olga is the apple of Bob and Miriam's eye because she is a basic perfectionist and prodigy: she is dainty, pretty, and popular – everything Helga isn't – as well as a brilliant student and talented musician, specifically in playing the piano. According to "Olga Comes Home," she always gets straight A's and hasn't received an A- since third grade. She has won countless trophies and other awards to the point that their living room is filled with the evidence of her accomplishments. With her many achievements, Olga lives up to Bob's expectations and is able to bring joy to Miriam, making her forget about her troubles. Helga is extremely jealous of Olga due to her image of perfection and the excessive attention she receives from Bob and Miriam, who ignore Helga completely and turn all attention to Olga when she comes home. Helga also strongly resents Olga since she knows she can never measure up. Olga doesn't seem to resent Helga at all and is kind to her, but Helga does not return her kindness because she feels it is insincere, as Olga does not listen to Helga's more serious concerns about their family and relationship. This also may explain why they do not relate well to each other at all: Helga realizes and knows that there are problems in their family, but Olga just ignores them and pretends they don't exist, and doesn't discuss them with Helga. While Olga doesn't usually neglect Helga, she has no idea how to interact with her since they have very different personalities and barely ever talk to each other.
Because she is hardly ever noticed by them, Helga frequently calls Bob and Miriam by their first names, indicating that she does not really see them as her parents and has poor relationships with both of them. It is slightly implied that deep down, she blames herself for her unhappiness at home, as in "Magic Show," she dreams that she disappears and that her parents are subsequently functional and happy that she is gone. At times, children who have a particular situation going on in their household, like Helga's, will twist it around to make it sound as if it's their fault. But such a thing is not the fault of the child, and the ones who should be blamed (if someone is to blame) are the parents. In Helga's case, if anyone is to blame, it's Bob and Miriam. On some occasions, they have managed to come through for her (though sadly, they return to their normal routine of ignoring Helga in subsequent episodes). In "The Beeper Queen," Miriam realizes how wrapped up she has been at the Beeper Emporium and quits to come back home and be with Helga. In "Big Bob's Crisis," Bob completely changes his image and is brainwashed after he has a gas attack, but Helga tells him that she misses the way he used to be and loves him for who he is: a jerk and overbearing blowhard. He goes back to his old ways for her, though he maintains some of his changes. In "Arnold's Thanksgiving," Bob, Miriam, and Olga become concerned after Helga leaves the house without telling them. Miriam calls the police, Bob announces he's going out to look for her and stay out until he finds her, and Olga makes some missing posters (though, ironically, they still show Olga as the attraction and address Helga as "Olga's sister"). This occurs just as Helga comes back, and when they see her, they are happy she is home and say that they are thankful to have her in their lives. These are all examples that show that, on some level, Helga does love her family and, in their own way, they love her, too. But for the most part, Helga's family hardly notices her, so she feels that they don't love her very much, and in turn, she resents them more than she loves them.
Overall, because of her terrible home life, and the fact that her peers teased her when they saw she had a crush on Arnold (which happened in preschool, as seen in "Helga on the Couch"), Helga became a very lonely, shy, and nervous girl who decided to protect herself by putting up an aggressive and hostile front. While her bullying is more of an act, she plays out the expression "Get them before they get me," because she feels she can't trust anyone after what she experienced in the past. She's mean and rough to anyone and everyone who crosses her path. She roughly pushes people to the side, yells at them, and even plays pranks. Arnold is the one person who receives most of the abuse, which can tell outsiders that she likes him since she gives him more attention than any of her other classmates, even though it is negative attention and everyone else assumes that she picks on him just because she hates him. While Helga has threatened to punch someone or beat them up, she is never seen going any further than shoving someone aside, and has only been seen punching another student named Brainy between the eyes. Despite her rough, tough, hot-headed exterior, Helga is really a very caring, kind girl and has a huge heart, more so than she is willing to admit. She is often overlooked, misunderstood, and usually judged by others based on her outward behavior and appearance. But when you take the time to get to know her, you can understand just why she acts the way she does.
On a side note, Helga is incredibly bright and mature for her age, even though she seems to have little concern for her school work. It seems that she wants to be smart for herself and not come off Olga and be exactly like her. As such, her grades often vary from low to high on a daily basis. In "Quantity Time," she mentions that she failed another math test, but in "A Day in the Life of a Classroom," Mr. Simmons encourages her to help Harold because she received an A on her last few math tests. In "The Aptitude Test," the class takes a standardized exam, and it is later revealed that Helga achieved a perfect score on it and received the most outstanding result since Olga took the test. Her results reveal that she can take her pick of strong careers that include international business affairs, political science, and Elizabethan poetry. She has a high knowledge of historical and geographical facts, more so than her peers, ties with Arnold as the best speller in their school (and throws the citywide one so he can win), can identify and critique the work of Edward Hopper at a glimpse, make reference to George Orwell's 1984, and recite the famous parting line of Casablanca. Helga appears to excel academically in literature and has a remarkable gift for poetry, which has won some contests. Almost all of her poetry is love poems about Arnold, who is the main inspiration for her creativity, and according to "Helga's Love Potion," she has written over fourteen volumes of poems about him. She frequently expresses situations, especially her feelings for Arnold, through dramatic soliloquies with a generous use of vocabulary. Mr. Simmons constantly praises her for her poetry and often reads them aloud to the class, but because she is incredibly embarrassed by it, he never reveals that she wrote it, saying it was by "Anonymous," as that was how Helga signed the poems when she handed them in.
As a result of her bullying attitude, Helga has very few friends to speak of and rarely gets along with the other girls in her grade. Her only and best friend is Phoebe Heyerdahl, who is pretty much the only person, other than Arnold, who often sees Helga's softer side (though it still then doesn't come out easily), and accepts Helga for who she is. Helga frequently takes advantage of Phoebe, making her do things for her (Helga) without doing something for Phoebe in return. She often takes notes for Helga, appearing more as her assistant rather than her friend. But it is clear that the two of them care for each other, especially in "Phoebe Breaks a Leg," when Phoebe breaks her leg after running errands for Helga, who blames herself for the ordeal. Phoebe knows about Helga's secret love for Arnold and they often refer to him as "ice cream," including in "Helga's Love Potion." (Even though you never see Helga tell Phoebe her secret, it is evident from a scene in "Helga Sleepwalks" that Helga has told her at some point.) She is also understanding of Helga's rocky relationship with her family. Phoebe is one of the brightest kids in their school, and Helga knows she can trust her because of that, especially with her secret.
A few more facts about Helga: her name is of Eastern European descent for "holy," which may represent her passionate and romantic side, and according to Bartlett, her name comes from "hell girl" to represent her hellish attitude. (To me, this is interesting to have two definitions of her name to represent the two sides of her.) Helga is apparently named after Olga: the names Olga and Helga are variants, respectively, Russian and German, of the same name. Saint Olga, a princess of Kievan Rus, was called "Olga" by her Slavic subjects and "Helga" by Varangian ones. Helga's surname, Pataki, is of Hungarian origin. Although it was never mentioned on the show, the "G" in her name stands for Geraldine, after former Nickelodeon executive Geraldine Laybourne. Helga is afraid of rats and allergic to strawberries ("Quantity Time"), and it is revealed in "April Fool's Day" that her birthday is during the last week in March, making her a very typical Aries. Throughout the entire series, she was voiced by Francesca Marie Smith (whose birthday is March 26th, which is the possible reason as to how Helga's birthday was chosen) along with Bartlett's daughter Katie, who voiced the preschool version of Helga in "Helga on the Couch."
Arnold's Love Life
Arnold has had multiple crushes throughout the course of the show, all of which turned out badly in the end. Out of these crushes, there were two that had very fundamental parts in the show. In the beginning of the series, his first major crush was Ruth McDougal, a sixth grader who shared many of Arnold's physical characteristics and a similar wardrobe. His most obvious reason for his crush on her was that he thought she was really pretty, but also because he once saw her give up her bus seat for an old woman carrying a watermelon. Other than that, he knew absolutely nothing about her. He spends the majority of the first season with a crush on her, which comes to an end in "Arnold's Valentine." He sends Ruth a valentine and makes a date with her, all while Helga, disguised as his French pen pal Cecile, also makes a date with him. Arnold doesn't tell Ruth that she is supposed to meet him, but spends the evening with her, making her think he is a busboy. He soon discovers that Ruth is a snob who is spoiled and not very bright, with her only real interest being her hair. She treats him with attitude the whole time they converse, making him realize she's not who he thought she was and he quickly loses interest. The second season episode "What's Opera, Arnold?" shows that he may still have a crush on her, but not as intensely. (However, this may have been a continuity error because this episode is likely to have taken place before the valentine one, even though it aired afterwards.)
Arnold's longest and most intense crush in the series was Lila Sawyer, a character who was introduced in the second season episode "Ms. Perfect," even though he initially just liked her and they were nothing more than acquaintances. His crush on her began in the third season episode "Arnold & Lila," which was, ironically, initiated by Helga. In the episode, she wrote Arnold loves Helga on a wall, but changed it to Arnold loves Lila when she heard people approaching. Lila is the first to see the message along with Rhonda and Nadine. The gossip about the message quickly spreads through school and everyone thinks Arnold wrote it, including Lila. So she spends a lot of time with him, doing things with him and getting to know him, all while believing he has a crush on her. Even though he didn't write the message and didn't have a crush on Lila, Arnold goes along with it because he can't bring himself to tell her the truth. But he eventually confesses to her, which hurts her feelings. Later on, however, Arnold thinks back on everything they did together and realizes that he does have a crush on her. When he tells her, she rejects and dumps him, saying she realized that she only liked him as a friend and thought she liked him liked him because she thought he liked her in that way, too. After that, while they remain friends, Arnold makes many attempts to get Lila to like him like him again, but he never succeeds. Arnold's crush on Lila finally came to an end in the fifth season episode "Timberly Loves Arnold." In the episode, Gerald's little sister Timberly develops a crush on Arnold after he acts nice to her. She goes on about Arnold being her boyfriend, which catches the attention of Lila, who thinks it's sweet that Arnold is hanging out with Timberly. Arnold decides to use Timberly as a way of making Lila like him like him and starts spending a lot of time with both of them. Eventually, Arnold can't take it anymore and confesses to Timberly that he was hanging out with her and playing along with the belief that he was her boyfriend because he was trying to get Lila to like him. While Timberly doesn't seem at all bothered by Arnold's confession, Lila comes up to Arnold and admits that she overheard everything he said. While she admits she is impressed with Arnold for telling Timberly the truth, she also expresses her disappointment in him for letting it happen in the first place, and then she leaves. At this moment, the Helga fans are cheering when Arnold tells Gerald and Sid that his "love life" with Lila is over, as well as the silly act with Timberly. (It's interesting to note that Arnold's crush on her finally ends here because before then, he never gave up trying to make her change her mind about him, even after she constantly she told him that she didn't like him like him. Here it is just like the other times, yet he never explains why he stopped crushing on her. Maybe he just finally gave up on her?)
Like many of the other boys in his class, Arnold liked Lila for "easy" reasons: she's nice, sweet, smart, popular, outgoing, pretty, sophisticated, feminine, and, above all, easy to be around, which is a nice contrast for him after being picked on by a hostile Helga for so many years! He was also attracted to Lila for the fact that they do have a lot in common. They're both bright and good students, are very confident and optimistic, are kind and generous toward others, feel the same way about a lot of things, come from the same economic level, have lost parents, and are, overall, great kids. But there is a major flaw in their relationship. Arnold is optimistic, but he is also very complex and displays a wide range of emotions. He accepts the challenges that occur in life and knows bad things happen in the world, having no impressions that everything is perfect. Whenever problems head in his direction, he faces them and tries to solve them or work them out in order to be happy. While he may not always know the right solution and may not always succeed, he never gives up. On the other hand, when it comes to Lila, what you see is what you get. She makes herself out to be the perfect girl and is pretty much that way to most boys because she has so many good qualities and seems very flawless. When it comes to emotions and feelings, she always strikes the same note. We never see Lila display the range of emotions that Helga shows. She sees the world through rose-colored glasses and ignores all of the bad things in the world, viewing everything around her as "ever so perfect." She does this to hide from the problems in her life, to protect herself from getting hurt. Like Helga, Lila puts up mental walls for her protection, but uses niceness and sweetness whereas Helga uses hostility and aggression. (In a sense, Lila is pretty much the anti-Helga.) Because Helga faces harsh realities everyday in a way that Lila doesn't, this forces her to be self-reflective, making her a very complex person, like Arnold. While Lila's defense may work, it makes her a very bland, one-dimensional character. However, it could also backfire because she is nice to everyone, even to those who don't deserve it, and that could lead to people taking her for granted. Helga uses her defense so that people won't walk all over her, which may be a little harsh, but it could work better than Lila's defense. Arnold and Lila are a mismatch and are just not compatible. While they are compatible in the sense that they are very similar in personality and have a lot in common, they are too alike and too different at the same time. Because of this, they would soon get very bored with each other if they ever got into a relationship, so as a romantic couple, they just wouldn't work. As I said before, Arnold is a complex person, and he needs a girl who shares many facets of his personality, but can also compliment his differences with her own. (Sound like someone we know?)
Arnold's other crushes, all of which ended after one episode or never developed into anything really major, were minor ones that fell into the "older women" category. These crushes were his substitute teacher Ms. Felter ("Crush on Teacher"), sixth grader Maria ("6th Grade Girls"), Summer ("Summer Love"), and he even arguably liked Helga's sister Olga ("Student Teacher") and her nanny Inge ("Helga and the Nanny").
While Timberly had a silly crush on Arnold, and Lila only liked him because she thought he liked her, Helga is the only girl who has ever really held the torch for Arnold. It appears that his bad luck with girls often happens because he thinks they're pretty and doesn't take the time to think about deeper things. While Ruth looked good on the outside, he knew nothing about her real inner nature, which was very shallow. Summer was almost the same because, even though he spent time with her and talked to her, he primarily fell for her looks and was deceived by her. Lila was somewhat different because he liked aspects of her personality, but the unrequited crush was what stopped him from having her, not to mention that the reasons he liked her were shallow in terms of liking her romantically. All of Arnold's crushes were very superficial and he needs to understand that true love is based on much more than just external appearances.
Helga's Love Life
Unlike Arnold and his multiple crushes, Helga only had eyes for Arnold and no other boy throughout the course of the show, having loved him since episode one. She is apparently too stubborn to change her mind and is determined to love him and only him. While she doesn't care for Stinky, she pretended to be dating him in order to make Arnold jealous in "Helga's Boyfriend," but it didn't work and only (humorously) led to Stinky falling for her, despite it being short-lived and he was over it by the end of the episode.
A recurring minor character named Brainy is clearly in love with Helga and is often seen after she recites one of her "I love Arnold" monologues, appearing behind her from out of nowhere, breathing and wheezing heavily before she punches him between the eyes, often breaking his glasses and knocking him out cold (this has become another running gag on the show). He seems to be her stalker and even once gave her a plastic ring in a ridiculous, childish proposal. She barely acknowledges him; aside from punching him, she once said hi to him in "Helga's Love Potion" and she kissed him out of happiness in the same episode. (In this episode, Helga believes she has lost contact with all of her emotions, and after Brainy appears behind her, she responded casually to him and left without punching him, which made him so nervous that he ended up punching himself! XD) Towards the end of "Helga on the Couch," he appears behind her again after one of her monologues. While she is annoyed and asks him what his deal is, she walks with him and decides not to hit him, telling him so, but to look out the next day. Then she pats his cheek and walks away, making him smile and he touches his face where she patted him. Helga obviously doesn't return his feelings, but Brainy doesn't seem to care very much. While it's apparent that he knows Helga's secret love for Arnold (Bartlett has confirmed this), he wouldn't dare tell anyone (lucky for Helga, since he hardly ever talks) nor would he stand in the way between Arnold and Helga.
Because Helga carries the torch for Arnold, she is very jealous of any and every girl who has Arnold's affections. Whenever she sees Arnold with another girl, she goes out of her way to try and break them apart, including Ruth in "Operation Ruthless" and Summer in "Summer Love." (Ironically, Helga did not appear in "Timberly Loves Arnold.") Helga is, especially, extremely jealous of Lila and very much resents her after she becomes the object of Arnold's affections. Besides the difference in their mental protections, Lila is practically the antithesis of Helga because she displays all of the inward and outward qualities that Helga lacks, including kindness, wit, and stylishness. The two do not get along very well from Helga's perspective, and Helga's jealousy worsens when Olga "adopts" Lila in a "big sisters" program in "Big Sis," even though she initially denies to Arnold that she is jealous of Lila and Olga's relationship. Of course, she can't admit to him that the big reason why she is jealous is because Lila has what Helga desires: his affections. (This is actually an interesting episode because it shows how well Olga and Lila bond: they match up well in terms of personalities, with Lila hiding from the problems in her life and Olga ignoring the obvious problems in her family.)
Helga Loves Arnold
That statement is pretty much a given fact. Ever since the show began, we knew that Helga loved Arnold and it only intensified as the series progressed. It was the suggestion of Bartlett's wife Lisa Groening (sister to The Simpsons creator Matt Groening) to have Helga be secretly in love with Arnold, and it ended up becoming one of the show's major themes.
The fourth season episode "Helga on the Couch" is one of the show's most noteworthy episodes and a fan favorite because we get to see just how Helga works. We learn a great and deep amount of information about Helga that we were hinted at, somewhat knew, or didn't know at all. In the beginning of the episode, she is referred to the new school psychologist Dr. Bliss, who has noticed her antisocial behavior (and even saw her knock Brainy out cold!). While she is initially reluctant to open up, Helga eventually tells Dr. Bliss about her crummy home life, how her "lame mom, blowhard dad, and perfect sister" hardly notice her. A strong point of this is shown in a flashback: when Helga was three years old and all ready for her first day of preschool, her parents were fawning over Olga as she played the piano. As all three of them seemed to completely ignore Helga's existence, this forced her to go onto preschool by herself, walking out on the streets in the rain with no coat or umbrella. She gets splashed with mud and has her lunch stolen by a big, mean dog. When she finally arrives at school, she seems on the verge of tears, when suddenly, a little boy with a football-shaped head walks over to her and holds his umbrella over her, taking notice of her and showing her an act of kindness. This is when she first meets Arnold, and he even gives her a compliment:
Arnold: Hi. Nice bow.
Arnold: I like your bow 'cause it's pink like your pants.
This scene also reveals why Helga always wears her omnipresent pink bow on her head (more than just because many cartoon characters almost always wear the same clothes and/or accessories): Arnold said he liked it when they first met, which gave a sentimental value to it (just like his little blue hat), and all because of her love for him, she has worn it ever since. It is also an important moment because we learn that Helga's love for Arnold is the result of transference: her relationships with her family members were weak, so she subsequently transferred feelings of love and care to Arnold because she feels he is the only person who has ever really shown those feelings to her first.
So Helga falls in love with Arnold at first sight, and gazes lovingly at him from outside after he goes inside. Later that day, she is still staring at him from afar, and then her snack of graham crackers is stolen by Harold. Just as her lip starts trembling and her eyes fill with tears, Arnold comes up to her and asks if she wants his own crackers. She nods and takes them, watching him as he walks away and waves to her. She waves back, then sighs and swoons, which is when the trouble starts. The kids at the table start laughing at her for having a crush, and Harold even mocks her swooning face. With all of the teasing coming down on her, along with how her parents and sister treat her, Helga becomes angry, and immediately stops the teasing by violence (and introduces the names of her fists), thus beginning her reign as the bully she is today. But her love for Arnold never faded.
Towards the end of this episode, Helga breaks down and confesses to Dr. Bliss that she loves Arnold. Afterwards, we learn that the big reason why Helga keeps her crush a secret because she is afraid to tell Arnold her true feelings for the fear that he will reject her. The other important reason is because she is afraid the revelation of it will cause her humiliation and embarrassment, which she states in "Monkey Business." This fear of humiliation came from the flashback mentioned above, and after enduring that teasing, Helga created her aggressive front because she wants people to fear her, leave her alone so they won't ever dare make fun of her or walk all over her, and make them think she hates Arnold so they won't ever discover that she still holds a crush on him. Luckily, Dr. Bliss assures Helga that she can trust her and promises she won't reveal her secret.
As I said before, Helga expresses her feelings for Arnold by writing countless volumes of poems about him. She goes even further by creating shrines to him in her closet, which are many incarnations of Arnold-shaped figures that have been made out of many various materials, including one out of his own chewed gum. She has even made mini shrines of him in her textbooks. While these acts have been speculated as somewhat creepy, disgusting, and weird by fans, they were played purely for comedy and not meant to be taken seriously. Along with her poetry, these are just shown to be the ways of how Helga expresses her creativity. Dr. Bliss even said it was fine for her to express it in this way, just as long as she didn't hurt anyone. (In my opinion, Helga creates these shrines of Arnold because a likeness of him is the closest thing she can have to touch or hug when she knows she can't have the physical presence of the real Arnold at the current time.)
Helga also carries a locket that contains his picture in it, although it's actually more of a heart-shaped picture frame, and she constantly pulls it out and talks to it whenever she recites her poetic and dramatic monologues regarding her love for him. (She is always seen pulling it out from the inside of her shirt front, but it is never revealed how she is able to hide it there, maybe she has an inside pocket?) It is a recurring object on the show that she uses as a reminder to herself on how much she loves him. In "Helga's Locket," she has a message to Arnold engraved in it along with her signed name. It reads:
Arnold my soul, you are always in my heart. Love, Helga G. Pataki
While it is much shorter than and contrasts to her soliloquies about him, it still holds the same meaning and strength and is a very sweet message she can say regarding her feelings for him.
An important note is that Arnold is not only the inspiration for her creativity, but the main definition of herself. While it sounds sad, he's really the only thing that keeps her moving forward everyday (aside from a few other small things) because of her rotten life at home and her constant need to protect herself at school. "Helga's Love Potion" is one episode that shows what she would be like if she didn't love him and just how much of her unrequited love for him makes her feel. In the beginning of the episode, she is tired of her love for Arnold making her feel angry and mixed up all the time, not to mention she is fed up with seeing his image everywhere she looks and feeling pained by believing he could never love her back. She goes to see a woman named Madame Blanche, a so-called "potion maker" who runs a business called Madame Blanche's Love Potions. She gives Helga an "anti-love potion" so she will fall out of love with Arnold. As a result, she becomes depressed, uninspired, bland, and very bored. She is no longer creative with poetry and she doesn't bother to bully anyone, including Arnold. This affects everyone around her, and even Arnold expresses his concern when he notices that Helga is not acting the way she usually does. Helga realizes what this is doing to her and asks Madame Blanche to make her love Arnold again, only to learn that the "potion" she took was nothing but grape soda. This revelation restores her fire and she returns to her old self. While fans and many viewers see that it is ridiculous that Helga is dependent only on Arnold in order to be happy (I do as well, I think she needs to learn that there are other things in life that can make her feel good), it is still important because it shows how much Arnold means to Helga and what her life would be like if he wasn't a part of it.
As mentioned by one of the authors' essays that inspired me and from my own observations of the characters since I got back into the show, they are quite a few reasons that explain why Helga loves Arnold, more so than just what happened on their first day of preschool. To Helga, Arnold is different from the other boys his age because he represents many of the good things in the world. With his high level of maturity for his age, Arnold is kind, honest, generous, selfless, helpful, noble, smart, brave, bold, true, trustworthy, sincere, patient, confident, and positive: all of the very traits that Helga barely or never sees in her own family. She sees him as the best person she's ever known, and the kind of boy with whom she can have a chance. While he does get irritated, annoyed, and impatient by her, and he often does his best to ignore her without pushing the limit, he never holds grudges against her nor does her stop caring for her or helping her. She knows that he believes she really is a good person and that he's right, which is another likely reason as to why she continues to love him despite her behavior towards him.
But Helga doesn't just stalk Arnold or stand around while claiming to be in love with him. She proves it in subtle to extreme ways, sometimes without him finding out, but as the audience, we see it and can believe it. She sometimes helps him, tries to offer some advice, and even cheers him up when he feels sad. While she doesn't always succeed, she has sincere intentions and tries just for him. Here are a few of my favorite examples in which Helga is nice to Arnold:
• In "Arnold's Hat," she gave his hat back to him after she found it and used it for one of her shrines to him, which then gets thrown out and she searches for it at the dump!
• In "Biosquare," she saved him when the greenhouse flooded by pulling him onto her inflatable mattress.
• In "Arnold & Lila," she actually comforted him after Lila rejected his feelings.
• In "Summer Love," she warned him of deceitful Summer's true intentions, though he initially didn't listen to her, but later discovered she was telling him the truth. Both of them enter the sandcastle competition afterwards and win.
• In "Beaned," after she regained her memory and learned that Arnold helped her, she pretended she still had amnesia so he'd continue to help her and spend time with her. But when she saw that making sacrifices to be with her was causing him to suffer, she acted as if she got it back in order to set him free.
• One of her most selfless and generous deeds was in "Arnold's Christmas," when she gave up her pair of Nancy Spumoni snow boots, the one item she wanted most for Christmas, to help him to locate Mr. Hyunh's daughter, Mai, which is what he wanted more than anything. She succeeded in helping the government employee, who wanted the boots, find Mai, and sent her over to the boarding house on Christmas Day. At the end of the episode, she is shown to be outside of the building, having seen the reunion of Mai and her father and Arnold's amazement at this, and silently wishes Arnold a Merry Christmas.
• Her most notable time of helping him was in the movie. She went against her own father and chose to help Arnold save the neighborhood over getting rich off the FTi deal. In real life, very few girls her age would actually go that far to help a boy they liked!
These points are strong proof that Helga doesn't just obsessively like Arnold. She really does care about him, showing him in little to big ways how much she cares. While Arnold has been able to do a lot of miraculous things in the past, making him a remarkable person, Helga is also a truly remarkable person, being able to miraculously go to extreme lengths to do things for Arnold, all just because she loves him. These examples are perfect ways of showing that her love for him is much more than just a silly, childish, puppy crush.
Helga is also bold enough, especially for a nine-year-old, to express her feelings for Arnold by taking affection to a higher level that very few, if any, girls her age would want to do when they like a boy: kiss him. While she has been seen kissing the photo of Arnold in her locket several times, she gets the chance to actually kiss him in the unforgettable episode "School Play," which was the first kiss for the both of them. In it, Arnold's class puts on the play Romeo and Juliet, and Helga goes out of her way to try and get the part of Juliet so she can kiss Arnold in the final scene when she finds out that he is playing Romeo. By using their own weaknesses against them, she cons Rhonda, Sheena, and Phoebe to drop out of the play. But when she tries to do it to Lila, who won't give in as easily as the others, Lila actually asks Helga if she likes Arnold and wants to play Juliet so that she could kiss him. Helga initially denies it, but when Lila suggests the kiss, Helga breaks down and confesses to her that she likes Arnold. Lila plays it cool and subsequently lets Helga have the part. Helga threatens Lila to keep her feelings for Arnold a secret, and Lila promises that she will.
On some occasions, it seems that Helga questions her feelings for Arnold and asks herself if what she feels for him is really love. In real life, girls often mature faster than boys, and while Helga is mature for her age, she still has a lot more growing up to do and have a true understanding on just what it really means to love someone. The last two examples in which she helps him involve times when she gives up her own material gain in order to make him happy, which is seems initially hard for her to do. People may also argue that if Helga really loved Arnold, she would tell him. Through "Helga on the Couch," we can see how much she loves him and because of her insecurities and problems at home, she can't bring herself to tell him with her fear that he will be repulsed and she will lose him forever, because he is the one thing she really loves and wants more than anything. Even though he was the first person to show her any kindness and she appreciated it, she still pushes him away because she is not used to people being kind to her; plus, she has a reputation to uphold. With the problems she faces in her own world, she also feels that doesn't deserve Arnold, and she pushes him away because she doesn't want her problems to become his problems. Personally, I think that if she is always nasty to him, such as a few times in "Summer Love," she will push him away for good and the possibility that he could never love her back could just happen. The best thing that they could do is go to a place where they can be alone together and won't be interrupted, away from their classmates and anyone else who would tease them about being together. Although Helga doesn't like to come out of her shell, especially with Arnold, he can help her do it because it seems that, based on the kind of person he is, she shouldn't have to worry about being her true self around him.
I think that as the series progresses, and based on all the times that Helga has helped Arnold or tried to help him, she teaches herself on what it means to love someone: to care more about their life than your own life and put their feelings and needs first. Helga does all of this because she really does care more about Arnold than herself and he makes her life worth living.
Arnold Loves Helga?
People who dislike Helga or like Lila more would probably answer the above statement with a quick and flat-out "No way, he doesn't." But how can you be absolutely sure of that?
The truth is that throughout the series, it is hinted that Arnold does have strong feelings for Helga, but they are likely repressed and are hard for him to come terms with because he has endured teasing and pranks from her since preschool, along with the fact that he has little understanding of what love really is. Her repetitive nasty behavior makes it hard for him to ignore her completely, but he does see her in a way that no one else does. I said earlier that Arnold is the kind of person who looks for the best in everyone and Helga is no exception. While he is constantly picked on by Helga more than anyone else is, he refuses to believe she is just a cold and heartless person and nothing more. She drives him crazy and makes him angry with her antics, but he does not hate her and never has. He believes that deep down, she really is a good and decent person who is just as capable of loving and caring for someone as he is. And he's right. If Arnold admits to Helga that he knows that she really isn't bad as she makes herself out to be, he's dead-on correct, even though Helga will just immediately deny it to him. (I think the fact that she picks on him so much puts him in denial of accepting the fact that she does like him, and that he wouldn't really believe she hates him if he believes that she isn't a bad person. This may be because he is denial of his feelings, but I'll mention that later.) He knows that she puts up an aggressive exterior to protect herself from her insecurities and is very aware, more so than he or fans may realize, of just how tough her life really is. He knows that Bob is a loud, short-tempered blowhard, that Miriam had her license revoked, and that Olga is very gifted and an apparent perfectionist in so many things.
Arnold may not be interested in Helga in terms of a relationship, but he is aware of her in a way that no one else is. As I mentioned earlier, he was the first person who ever really noticed her when the adults around her paid little to no attention to her. When Helga and Harold get left behind on a school field trip in "Buses, Bikes, and Subways," Arnold's the one who realizes they're gone. I mentioned before that he was concerned about her in "Helga's Love Potion," when he noticed that she didn't pick on him all day after she had taken her "un-love" potion. Another running gag occurs in some episodes, such as "Downtown as Fruits," "Arnold's Halloween," and "Helga Blabs It All," where Helga screams, and Arnold, who is, at that point, halfway across town, stops and asks Gerald, "Did you hear something?" (Gerald, ironically, never does.) Other than Phoebe, Arnold also often notices when Helga's in a good or bad mood. When she's having trouble at home, he habitually pops up to check in on her and offer advice.
He also has a tendency to protect her and stick up for her. In "Helga vs. Big Patty," Arnold convinces the sixth grade bully Patty not to beat up Helga after she has said some mean things about her behind her back. He tells Patty that Helga is just a very insecure person who doesn't actually mean what she says and that she is not as bad as she appears to be. Patty takes Helga into the school gym, away from the students, and makes it look like she hurt Helga. She tells Helga that she had decided not to pound her, and that her mind was changed by Arnold. Helga is clearly happy when Patty says that Arnold said she was "okay." Helga comes out of the gym and acts injured and when Arnold expresses concern, Patty winks at him, giving him the assurance that she took his advice on Helga, which makes him smile.
"Helga on the Couch" revealed that Helga and Arnold briefly had a good relationship after everything he did for her. But after she became a bully, he was endlessly picked on by her. He usually just copes with it by tolerating her, more or less, or just ignoring it. While Arnold is generally very patient with everyone, including Helga, her actions can test his patience, sometimes to the breaking point, and push him too far. There were a few times that he fought back, such as when he blackmailed her in "The Big Scoop" and when he threw paint on her after she did it to him first in "Girl Trouble." In "April Fool's Day," she pulls pranks on him all day long, so he decides to get back at her by giving her a "gift" that temporarily blinds her, though he didn't initially know that would happen. After she recovers, she pretends to be blind for a longer amount of time to pull him into the greatest "April Fool's prank in history." At the April Fool's school dance, Gerald discovers that Helga is faking, and tells Arnold that he should give Helga a taste of her own medicine. Arnold concurs at long last, so Gerald opens the pool under the dance floor, and Arnold dances the tango with Helga to distract her so he can throw her into it, to which he succeeds.
There also have been hints that he may be in denial about his feelings because of her mean behavior. Besides the times that he has fought back, Arnold has even stood up to Helga. In "Egg Story," they get paired up taking care of an egg like a baby. She decides to use it an opportunity to be nice to him, but he assumes that she is going to immediately start picking on him. So he tells her that he doesn't want her to do any of that, but before she has a chance to be nice, he brings up the fact that she's not one his favorite people, and that he would rather work with Lila. This sets her off and she starts lashing out at him, which occurs throughout much of the episode. In the beginning of "Summer Love," Helga bangs into Arnold as they leave school, insults him, and says that she'll enjoy their school vacation "because I'll be far, far away from you." They discover that they're staying in the same beach house for the week and when she sees him, she hurls insults and rude remarks at him again, telling him to stay out of her way, which he is only happy to do. When he later discovers that she was playing pranks on him and Summer, which she did out of jealousy because of Summer trying to hook up with Arnold, he confronts her and says that he overheard her talking to herself about what she did, then he angrily tells her that "if you're through being mean to me and Summer for no reason at all, I'd really appreciate it if you'd take your own advice and just stay out of my way for good!"
Despite all of that, it has been shown that he does care about her and is often concerned about her when something bad happens to her. In "The Flood," she falls out of the school window and into the water, after which Arnold is horrified and yells "NO!" In "Grudge Match," Bob accidentally hits Helga with his golf ball, and Arnold, who is right there when it happens, asks her if she's okay. In "Beaned," he accidentally ends up giving her amnesia when a baseball he hit knocks her on the head. He subsequently he takes care of her until she's better and even walks her home at the end of the episode when she's "all better," and even after she tells him that doesn't have to, he says that he wants to, to make sure she's all right. Other multiple times on the show includes them crashing into each other at a corner, after which he apologizes and lends her his hand to help her up, even though afterwards, she rudely tells him to watch where he's going. Arnold has even actually hugged Helga a few times when she does something he likes and he is never seen hugging any of the other girls, not even Lila. The irony is that Helga is the girl who acts the worst to him!
On a conscious level, Arnold has no idea that Helga loves him since she hides it so well. But it is revealed in "Arnold Visits Arnie" and "Married," two important – and among my favorite – episodes that take the audience into his subconscious, that on some level deep down, he is aware that she loves him and, at the same time, he may also feel the same way.
While it runs eleven minutes, the fifth season episode "Arnold Visits Arnie" has a long-enough plot to show viewers Arnold's affections for Helga. (When I first saw this episode, I didn't get the importance of the plot, but since having read two essays that discuss its importance, not only do I understand it, but I think it was very creative for an episode!) The overall idea of this episode is that Arnold dreams, which is unknown to us until the end, about visiting Arnie in the country. Arnie's friends are the exact antitheses of Arnold's friends back in the city, but the most important people are Lulu and Hilda. Even though she is Arnie's girlfriend, Lulu falls for the disinterested Arnold just as quickly as Lila fell for the disinterested Arnie when he visited Arnold in the city. While Lulu looks and sounds like Lila, she isn't Lila at all. Lulu is easy, crude, vulgar, and is very much of a slut for a nine-year-old girl. She constantly harasses Arnold in ways that makes him uncomfortable and puts him at an instant repulsion. His subconscious created her as the kind of girl Arnold would never go for. His dislike of her behavior shows that his values are straight and rock-solid, and that he would choose true love from a decent girl over a casual fling from a trampy girl any day. It has been suggested that Lulu may show that Arnold resents Lila for not liking him in return, but also his desire for Lila and what the consequences would be, and that is to show him that if they were to get together, they wouldn't work out, like I said before. So the basic point of Lulu was to show the audience that Lila is not the girl for Arnold, by creating someone who is her exact antithesis: Lulu is not very nice, but like likes Arnold, while in real life, Lila is very nice, but does not like like Arnold.
Later in the dream, Arnold meets Hilda, who is the meant to be the antithesis of Helga, but in reality, Hilda is actually Helga without her bullying persona: she is kind, poetic, sweet, polite, creative, and, overall, a nice girl. Arnold first meets her by tripping over her at the movie theater, and when he takes one look at her, he is immediately smitten, which means that he literally and figuratively "falls for her." He asks her "Do…I know you?", which represents that he knows somewhere in his subconscious that this is Helga's true self; plus, Hilda looks, sounds, and dresses (though somewhat differently) like Helga. This implies that he does see Helga as someone worthy of love and affection, namely, love and affection from him! Hilda is a proper lady compared to Lulu and represents true love, which is just what Arnold is looking for. He knows that true love is not easy, but he will work to win the affections of Hilda. Because we see that Hilda is everything Helga is without her aggressive nature, it goes to show that Arnold would very likely fall for Helga if she wasn't a bully. When he confesses to Hilda that he likes her, she admits that she loves Arnie. So while Hilda acts like she likes Arnold, she does not love him. In real life, Helga acts like she hates Arnold, but she really loves him. Also, Hilda's rejection of Arnold plays back to when Lila rejected his feelings at the end of "Arnold & Lila."
The whole situation with the two girls creates a mirror image of Arnold's life; while he likes Lila, Lila loves Arnie. Arnie loves Helga, but Helga loves Arnold. In Arnie's world, it's the exact opposite: Lulu likes Arnold, but Arnold loves Hilda. Hilda loves Arnie, but Arnie (supposedly) loves Lulu. (Not much can be said about Arnie's part, since he just accepts both girls by his side and doesn't make any real effort to choose one or the other.) The cycle of Arnold's dream is important because it shows that on some level in his subconscious, not only could Arnold fall in love with Helga, but that he is aware that she loves him. When he wakes up from his dream and finds his friends at Gerald Field, he goes to Helga and gives her a hug. It has been suggested by the authors of the other essays that he does this on his instinct, and that his subconscious gave him a push toward Helga to make him realize that she is the perfect girl for him. He also asks Lila about her feelings for him, and she assures him that she still just likes him and nothing more. This also shows that he knows that Lila is not the girl for him, and that they're better off as friends. So in all, Arnold's dream in this episode tells us Lila is not the girl for Arnold, but that Helga is the right girl for him. And while Arnold knows this subconsciously, he just needs to find it in there, figure it out and come to terms with it on a conscious level, and, finally, accept it and take action.
Another good clue of his feelings for Helga comes into play in the twenty-two minute episode "Married," another fifth season episode. The plot involves Rhonda having created an origami marriage predictor, or love calculator, and gets Arnold to take the test. Even though he is reluctant and doesn't believe it will really predict who he will one day marry, he takes it anyway because he hopes that he will get paired up with Lila. Much to his dismay, he ends up getting Helga, who overhears him taking the test and is overjoyed to hear the result. Arnold asks to try again, and subsequently ends up taking it 110 times and gets Helga each time! (Yikes! XD)
That night, Arnold and Helga both have dreams of what their lives would be like if they were married to each other. Helga's dream is funny and the favorite among fans of the pair: she and Arnold are happily married, and she decides to run for president, with Arnold saying he will support her for it, and then he showers her with compliments. (I have to admit, I love how hot and sexy Arnold looks in her dream, with his hair slicked down and even his voice sounds deep and sexy!) When she becomes president, she goes on a mission to rescue Arnold after he has been kidnapped by Lila, who has been following them all throughout the dream and confesses that she loves Arnold and asks for his love back, although he says loves Helga instead. Her dream ends with the two of them in a hot air balloon, sharing a sandwich, then kissing like there was no tomorrow.
But it's Arnold's dream that is the important one. It starts off as a nightmare, with Arnold having the mind of his nine-year-old self in the body of a twenty-five-year-old and not knowing that he's getting married. His bride is revealed to be none other than Helga, much to his shock and horror. Helga, who also looks like her nine-year-old self, tricks Arnold into saying "I do," which symbolizes how she treats him in real life. They then move into her house, and this shows that he is aware of the dysfunction in her household. Arnold is forced by Bob to work at Beeper Emporium at the loading dock. He and Helga are presented with three kids by "the stork" and Arnold is forced to care for them on his own, even though he also has to work. Meanwhile, Helga just stays home and doesn't work, lazes around and watches TV or reads comic books, and eats junk food. All throughout the dream, Arnold has no power over anything, but towards the end of it, he confronts Helga and tells her that he won't tolerate her behavior anymore and that things are going to change if he has to be married to her. When she just mocks him, he grabs her and demands to know why she is behaving this way. This is how the scene goes:
Arnold: Why are you doing this? Look, I know you're not this lazy and cold and uncaring! You may act like that, but deep down I know you're smart and you have feelings, and if we have to be married to each other, then I want you to start showing it!
Helga: I don't know what you're talking about.
Arnold: Yes, you do, Helga! Why can't you just admit it? You're not this mean!
Helga: Yes, I am!
Arnold: No, you're not! You're not!
Helga: Okay, okay, you're right. I can't hide it anymore. You've seen through my tough, blustery exterior and into my soft, mushy, good-hearted center. It's true I'm not this bad. I guess I was just afraid to show my real feelings. But you knew it all along, didn't you? I may be rough around the edges, but, deep down, I'm a good person and I don't hate you. In fact, I sort of like you. I mean, actually, I sort of…more than like you. I…I really like you. I really, really like you. And, well, heck…I, I like you so much that you might say that I actually lo-…that I actually love…
Unfortunately, his alarm clock goes off before she can finish and he wakes up. But this scene is important because it shows that, somewhere deep in his subconscious, Arnold is aware of her feelings for him and he could also be having a hard time coming to terms with his own. (Helga's last line in this scene is actually very similar in words she had said during a monologue at the beginning of the episode. This indicates that Arnold may have heard some of what she said, which is how it was played into his dream.) On the bus to school, he tells Gerald that his dream was a nightmare at first, but it turned out all right in the end. While he says that he still doesn't believe that the love calculator is correct, he does admit that if there is a possibility that he does end up marrying Helga, it wouldn't be so bad after all. Helga is sitting two rows behind them and is very pleased to hear what Arnold is saying. Then Rhonda gets on the bus and announces that she discovered a flaw in her marriage predictor, meaning that the results are false. She then apologizes to Arnold for scaring him about marrying Helga, who becomes depressed, believing that she'll never get the courage to tell Arnold her true feelings and marry him someday. But to make things happier, Phoebe has a sweet and very realistic vision of Arnold and Helga's future together: she pictures older versions of them watching the ocean view from the deck of a lighthouse, they smile as they look at each other, and then hold hands (complete with wedding rings on their respective ring fingers), as they watch the sunset. (I have to admit, I love that scene in this episode, and Phoebe is a very good friend to Helga to have this vision since she knows how much Arnold means to her.)
Other times before the movie, we get confirmation that Arnold does like Helga, namely when she sheds her bullying attitude and doesn't insult him. In "It Girl," Helga becomes a hit fashion model because of her snarling and grouchy attitude. When she gets fed up with everyone always dressing and acting like her and tries to get out of her contract, she acts as nasty as she can, only for people to love it even more. Then Arnold suggests she try acting nice, which works: one walk down the runway with curtsies, smiles, and compliments, and Helga's designer tears up her contract. Arnold, on the other hand, is impressed with her nice behavior and tells her that he liked how she acted. In "Dinner for Four," Helga wins a coupon to a French restaurant and invites Phoebe, Gerald, and, of course, Arnold to show him that she can be sophisticated after she hears him praise Lila for being sophisticated. Helga manages to catch Arnold's attention with her knowledge of French words and usage of the specific silverware, as well as the way she has dressed for the dinner. He admits to Helga that he has never seen act this way, but by any means, he is impressed. In "Helga's Masquerade," Helga decides that acting more like Lila is the key to making Arnold like her back. She acts exactly like Lila by telling funny stories, complimenting and acting kinder to others, and even saying Lila's catchphrases of "ever so" and "oh so." She goes even further by attending a costume party dressed as Lila and actually spends the entire evening hanging out with Arnold and they have a good time together. But after Arnold accidentally calls her Lila, Helga realizes that, while she is finally spending time with Arnold like she wants, he isn't doing it because of her, but because she reminds him of Lila. As a result, she decides everything she is and has been doing is completely ridiculous and takes off her costume. When he sees her without the costume, Arnold becomes disinterested, so he and Helga say good night to each other. Before she leaves the party, Helga overhears Arnold tell Lila about the great evening he had, and says that when Helga does acts nice, "…well, then I actually kind of like her." This makes Helga very happy and she realizes that she is halfway to getting Arnold to love her back. Another important episode in this case is the holiday special "Arnold's Valentine." Helga disguises herself (though not very well), as Arnold's French pen pal Cecile and arranges a dinner date with him at the French restaurant Chez Paris. Throughout the episode, Helga is actually being her true good self in front of Arnold for the very first time, although he has no idea it was actually her. He spends the majority of the evening with her and finds her pleasant company. When the real Cecile suddenly appears, which makes Arnold realize that this "Cecile" is an imposter, he is still enchanted. He fell in love with the fake Cecile (as he later came to know her) when, in reality, he fell in love with Helga. It was really the first episode that pretty much said, "Yes, Arnold and Helga are meant for each other."
Following the movie, Arnold knows consciously that Helga loves him. The synopsis of the film is that he goes on a quest to save his neighborhood from an evil developer named Scheck, who wants to tear it down and convert it into a giant mall through his company, Future Tech Industries (FTi). He and Gerald get anonymous tips from a shadowy figure known as Deep Voice, who tells them of the crucial evidence they need to save the neighborhood. He comes to the FTi building where he finds the needed evidence, but he also finds Deep Voice and confronts him and discovers that it's actually Helga in disguise! Because she and her family were supposed to get rich off the deal, and because of her constant claims of hating him, Arnold demands to know why she has been helping him. Helga tries to get out of it with ridiculous excuses, but Arnold doesn't buy them. So she breaks down and confesses to him that she did because she loves him, then plants a passionate and forceful kiss on him! Arnold is then very confused and freaked out after this discovery, yet he knows she means it because her entire scheme to help him was clearly planned (and that included her reason for giving up her own material gain), her outburst is a sign that she's been holding it in, then the way she kissed him, held him tenderly, and looked at him with a loving gaze and talked to him in a sweet tone of voice afterward says the truth! But he snaps out of it by remembering that they have a neighborhood to save and they race back into action. Before they do, he says that he needs to think, indicating he wants to think about his feelings for her before he gives her a straight answer, and doesn't have the immediate conclusion that he doesn't like her. At the end of the movie, after they have finally saved the neighborhood and the crowd has dispersed, they are alone together and feel very awkward, shy, and embarrassed after what happened. He asks her if her confession was a just matter of getting carried away from the excitement and that she didn't really mean it, that she was just caught up in the "heat of the moment." Helga turns away from him and grins to herself, then she turns around again, agrees with him, claims that she hates him, then scowls and stomps away. As she does, Arnold watches her with a sly smile on his face.
This scene left a lot of fans in disappointment because they think Arnold should have said that he liked Helga back. The importance of this moment, though, is that Arnold is not saying that he likes her back, but he's also not rejecting her, either. He never says anything along the lines of "I hate you" or "Go away, I don't like you." He's allowing her to reclaim her lost dignity for the time being as well as giving him the time and space he needs to think about his feelings for her. But we know that Arnold knows well enough to know that it really wasn't in the heat of the moment. In a way, what he did makes sense because Helga has picked on him for years, and after something as big as this event, it wouldn't have made sense for Arnold to just immediately return her feelings. The past scene also didn't leave them with enough time because he was trying to save the neighborhood at that moment, and it was really a more important matter to him since he and Gerald were racing against the clock. What makes Arnold unique is that he is a very patient, level-headed, rational, and understanding person for his age. Therefore, he would have been very out of character to impulsively love Helga back following her confession. He wants to do the decent thing by thinking it over and being fair and honest with her, and if he just told her right then and there that he liked her as much as she likes him, it wouldn't have been the truth. As Arnold always tries to do the right thing, he knows it would be wrong to pretend to love Helga in return. But since he didn't say no to her after all, there may eventually be a chance for him to say yes, and one day, he and Helga might actually bring it up again and talk about it, which is where The Jungle Movie would have likely come into play. (It's also important to know that Arnold does not like Lila by this point, so not only did Arnold not reject Helga, but his reason for letting her take back her confession had nothing to do with Lila. Bartlett even said that he wanted Arnold's infatuation with Lila to end in time for the films, and that his crush on her ended in "Timberly Loves Arnold" as far as he was concerned.)
Bartlett revealed in one of his chats that in The Jungle Movie, Arnold would have realized that he and Helga were meant for each other and finally reciprocated her feelings. He would have also planted a kiss (short but sweet) of his own on her at the end of the movie with Gerald interrupting them. They would give lousy excuses, to which Gerald would reply, "Whatever you say." It is unknown what would have happened with their classmates, although it is likely that they would have seen something going on between Arnold and Helga and start to tease them about it. While this fact was very pleasing to the ArnoldxHelga fans, including me, it left us all in a great deal of disappointment since the movie was never made, leaving us all with a cliffhanger ending from the first film and "The Journal." The important thing, though, is that we know that Arnold would finally come to terms with his feelings and reciprocate Helga's love for him, so it would turn out all right in the end (though I bet the fans would think it's better if we actually saw it happen). But the best part is that Bartlett himself said that they're meant for each other, and that makes the fans only happier! :D
Arnold & Helga – The Future
So while Helga loves Arnold, Arnold seems to have strong feelings for Helga that may someday blossom into love as well. But would they work as a couple?
The truth is that they can make a really good team. On a few occasions, they have been paired up for school projects and while they may initially fight, they eventually come through for each other in the end. In "Biosquare," they spend 24 hours in the Sunset Arms greenhouse, with Arnold trying to conduct scientific experiences and Helga trying to ignore him while reading comic books and eating junk. They constantly bicker over the living conditions and Helga ruins some of the experiments, but when the greenhouse floods after they break the sink, she saves him by pulling him onto her inflatable mattress. Once they get out, he asks her if she's all right, she says she thinks so, and they smile at each other. In "Egg Story," they're partnered up to take care of an egg like a baby over the weekend. After he stands up to her and believes she's going to start teasing him, she starts hurling her anger and insults at him. They end up fighting throughout the entire episode and lose the egg twice in a row. But once they make up, they finally find the egg, just as it hatches into a chick. In "School Play," their performances, especially their kiss at the end, brought the entire audience to tears. In "Runaway Float," Helga gets her dad to sponsor Arnold's float for the city parade, and she also brings in needed materials and helps Arnold and his friends make it. In "Summer Love," Helga exposes Summer's true deceitful nature and intentions to Arnold, who realizes she was right all along after warning him several times. Then they enter the sandcastle competition together, make a magnificent sandcastle, and end up winning, along with the first prize of guest appearances on Babewatch.
As seen from the above examples, along with the times when Helga shows good behavior that Arnold likes, Arnold and Helga can disagree and have loud, chaotic fights or they can be calm and reasonable. The times that they were paired up in teams showed that while they may not get along at the beginning, they come through for each other in the end because they put their differences aside and learn the value of teamwork. Whenever they can make their relationship work, they can actually get along really well and even bond. They can also especially relate to each other in a way that no one else does, especially with the adults around them and their classmates. In the holiday episode "Arnold's Thanksgiving," both of them are having terrible holidays. Gertie always thinks that it's the Fourth of July and the household ends up celebrating that instead, even though Arnold admits that just once, he would like to have a traditional Thanksgiving. Helga's family is no better: Bob sits around and watches football all day, Miriam overcooks the food, and Olga treats her (Helga) like a slave by making her do so much work in preparing for dinner. So they both leave their houses and end up meeting. While Helga acts very skeptical and makes a few sarcastic remarks about the day, she doesn't act like her usual aggressive self to Arnold, and in turn, Arnold feels comfortable around her and they share with each other of why they're having such a bad day, spending most of the day together and wandering around the city and pier. They decide to visit Mr. Simmons, believing he would be having the best Thanksgiving, but unfortunately, that's not the case. Mr. Simmons admits that he has far from the perfect family and friends, but he loves them and he wants to be with them, and that he is thankful for what he has. It helps Arnold and Helga realize that their family traditions aren't so bad after all. Arnold walks Helga home and watches her and her family through the window, then quietly wishes her a Happy Thanksgiving with a smile on his face (which is very similar to the scene in "Arnold's Christmas," when Helga silently wished Arnold a Merry Christmas when she was outside his house). This episode was important, not just for showing people to be thankful for what you have even if it may not always be perfect, but because it showed that Arnold and Helga really can put their differences aside, get really along well, and spend time together.
Like I said before, Helga is the only girl we ever see Arnold hugging on the series (in "Arnold's Hat," "Runaway Float," and "Arnold Visits Arnie"); each time he does, she lets him for a moment, then pushes him away. In "Beaned," Arnold walks Helga to school arm-in-arm, and they also hold hands a few times during the episode, including when Arnold offers to walk Helga home in the end. In "Monkey Business," Arnold pats her on the hand after she tells him that she thinks he's okay and that he thinks she's okay, too. In "Wheezing Ed" and "Save the Tree," Helga jumps into Arnold's arms when she's scared and he holds her, even though he seems confused by it. When Arnold is concerned about her, he often ends up touching her; in most cases, it's to help her up after she falls down. (Even though she acts disgusted in front of him when he touches her, she sighs and swoons to herself after he does, usually by the time she's finally alone.) Helga and Arnold are also the only people to have ever kissed each other, a total of three times: in "School Play, "Summer Love," and the movie, although they also kiss in each other's dreams in "Married." (The first time we see their lips touching when they kiss is in Helga's dream in the said episode, then again in the movie.)
There is also a few times where Arnold actually flirts with Helga. Towards the end of "Dinner for Four," Helga gets the restaurant closed down to get out of paying after she discovers they are at the wrong restaurant. She reluctantly goes back and tells the truth, resulting in her, Arnold, Gerald, and Phoebe washing dishes. Arnold tells her he thinks that she was sophisticated for telling the truth, and this is how the scene is played out:
Helga: I can't believe I told the truth and wound up washing dishes.
Arnold: Come on, don't you feel better that you did the right thing?
Helga: No, not really.
Arnold: I think you do.
Helga: No, I don't, Arnold.
Arnold: No, Helga, I think what you did is pretty sophisticated.
And then he sprays her with water with the spray nozzle he has and winks at her. Like I said earlier, he was impressed by her sophisticated behavior, so they actually got along pretty well during the episode, despite everything that happened towards the end.
"April Fool's Day" is an example when they flirt in a sexual manner. Arnold dances the tango with Helga in order to distract her so that Gerald can open the pool and then throw her into it. In reality, the tango is a very intimate and sexual dance when done right. So while Arnold had cunning motives to dance with her, their dance was more flirtatious than realized since he was holding her close often and touching her in a slightly suggestive manner. This was the only other episode besides "The Journal" to be set after the movie, so while Arnold knows Helga loves him, despite they're both pretending that her confession never happened, this may explain why they dance the tango so peculiarly.
Arnold and Helga actually have a lot in common than either of them, or even their classmates, realize, enough to get each other. They both have blonde hair and other unique physical features – Helga with her pigtailed hair, unibrow, nose, ears, and mouth, and Arnold with his head and spikey hair. They both frequently wear their favorite colors, which are the same kind of colors to represent their respective sexes – Helga wears pink and Arnold wears blue. They both wear an article of clothing that contains sentimental value to them – Helga with her bow and Arnold with his hat. With interests, they both love ice cream, sports, amusement parks, and horror movies. In terms of their personalities, they're both very bright, resourceful, self-reliant, bold, brave, articulate, and mature children for theirs ages, although Helga is more clever and sharp, while Arnold is more knowledgeable and wise. They're both avid dreamers and hopeless romantics with a taste for adventure. They're both artistic and creative – Helga writes poetry and creates many shrines, while Arnold plays the harmonica and dabbles in visual arts (he sometimes paints and designed his class float for the city parade). And they both experience grief and loneliness at home in a way that children their age shouldn't have to – Helga with her unhappy home life, and Arnold with his missing parents.
But Arnold and Helga have differences that can compliment each other well and make them stronger when they are together. They each have their own sets of good qualities and even flaws that are really just what the other needs. Arnold needs a realist, someone practical who can help him keep his feet on the ground and his head out of the clouds. When her aggression, stubborn, and pushy behavior is necessary, Helga can help give Arnold the strength and stability to assert himself. And Helga needs an idealist, someone who can keep her from getting too pessimistic and miserable. Arnold can definitely calm down and soften Helga whenever she goes too far with her aggression, and still give her kindness and hope: two of the very things she doesn't get from her loud, harsh father and lazy, inattentive mother. He can learn to be patient with her, help her come to terms with who she really is, and let her know she doesn't have to be scared to be herself around him, and with this encouragement, she can work up the confidence to be herself around others, but still show them that she's not a pushover.
There is actually one episode in particular that gives a hint of foreshadowing of Arnold and Helga's relationship. "Girl Trouble" is one notable episode where Helga constantly picks on Arnold at school and calls him all sorts of names. He questions Phil why she would do it, and Phil suggests that she likes him (he was the first person to actually suggest this) based on how she picks on him in particular, although Arnold says that's crazy and immediately decides that it's just because she hates him. (His arrival of this conclusion also may be a hint of denial in regards to his feelings for her, although it may also be because it seems easier for him to believe that she hates him rather than accept the possibility that she likes him.) Then Phil tells Arnold a story about when he was a boy, he knew a girl named Gertie, and she endlessly picked on him, ruined his marble games, made fun of the way he held a stickball bat, and would get him in trouble for something she did. While Arnold never discovers this, the end of the episode reveals that Gertie is none other than his own grandmother! If Phil and Gertie, Arnold's very own grandparents, had a relationship like the one between Arnold and Helga as kids, but ended up happily married with their son Miles and grandson Arnold, why can't that mean that Arnold and Helga will someday have a happy future, too? If Arnold can see the good in Helga that few people do, why wouldn't he give her a chance and someday realize that she's the one for him? I, for one, call that story a foreshadowing with a promising future for those two, and it is one episode that shows that Arnold and Helga are truly made for each other.
According to Bartlett, Arnold and Helga would get together in the end of The Jungle Movie, date for a while, break up for unknown reasons, but remain friends, and then Arnold would move away. This is where The Patakis would have come into play. Since it never was picked up as a series, very little plot information was developed. In it, Helga would be fifteen years old (and still voiced by Smith), still love Arnold, get letters from him, and write letters back, but never send them. Because Hey Arnold! seemed to have ended on an abrupt note, and then this series and The Jungle Movie were cancelled, it worried fans of the pairing and wondered what was to become of them. But Bartlett has assured us that Arnold and Helga are meant for each other and will end up together in the long run, and that the purpose of The Patakis was just to give Helga her own time to shine and be the main attraction. This is how he put it in one of his chats:
"A lot of stuff happens before The Patakis starts between Arnold and Helga. They are meant for each other, you know, duh (I mean doi). They will get together, but I want Helga to have her own show in the meantime, ya know? Arnold is Arnold and how could it be The Patakis unless he's out of the way for a while."
Of course, Arnold and Helga are only ten (by the end of the series, at least), and they have a lot of growing up to do before they can be together as a serious couple. Helga needs to realize that there are other boys in the world and learn to be herself without Arnold, that doesn't just need him to help her define herself. And Arnold needs to mature even more and learn that there are deeper reasons to like a girl than just thinking she's nice and pretty, that passion and compatibility are also important. They also need to grow up because they are just kids and are not at the dating age yet. But, for the time being, Arnold and Helga can start their relationship together as kids, learning to patch things up from their past mistakes and come to terms with their true feelings for each other. And when they are finally grown up and have matured even more, they would definitely have a powerful and promising future, and look back on their pasts that helped them to get to where they will eventually be.
So, in all, this is everything I have wanted to say in an essay about Hey Arnold!, both on the show and on Arnold and Helga as a couple. I have basically said everything that I thought was important, with occasional repetitions, but only if they were important to repeat. This concludes this entire essay, so I hoped you enjoyed it and I bid you farewell.
Thank you for reading and have an awesome day! :D