Hey Arnold: Analysis of Arnold’s perspective to Helga, and afterwards her confession in FTI
written by Nikki Pond
(This is honestly the third time I am writing this, because my computer shuts down and I lose whatever I typewritten earlier. I’m not going into details of Helga’s personality through Arnold’s eyes because I’m sure someone can explain. I’m analyzing mostly Arnold’s reaction to her.
I know that I will never let this go, the temptation to analyze Arnold’s perspective of Helga and after her confession in FTI, how did he react and what goes through his mind. I want to do this for many reasons, mainly because I can see a lot of myself in Arnold (laid-back a bit, rational thinking, fairness and maturity) and I have personal experience being teased and constantly annoyed by a bully since Pre-K (and I’m in my senior year and it honestly just occurred this year that there is something hidden there. Whoah, what a shock for me. I can’t help it. I honestly NEVER thought of my bully that way, and it only took 11 FREAKIN years for me to have that realization that there might be something with the way he’s acting). I may have shared Arnold’s dense, and trust me, I am very oblivious and dense when it comes to boys (no wonder the attention and teasing I get my whole 4 years of highschool and they are still doing it!!!). Anyway, so for me I can relate to Arnold, and put myself in his shoes.
Before we go to Arnold’s reaction afterward FTI confession, I like to analyse what he thought of Helga before that. This is truly my interpretation and what I truly believe in the canon.
We all know how those two meet since Pre-K. Arnold was 3 years old and showed kindness to Helga and complimenting her bow. I can imagine that he wanted to be friends with her, and subconsciously, he had been drawn to her and perhaps maybe a bit of a crush in just those moments before Helga had become a bully. No surprises if he had truly wanted to befriend Helga during those moments and show kindness (I honestly could see myself befriending someone who I could was practically drawn, though not necessarily attraction, and I still currently felt that to a new student who’s shy and I want to make him feel welcome and wouldn’t mind becoming friends. It’s more like you sense you could relate to them, like there is someone who might understand you). I think Arnold had been excited to go to Pre-K, and was little nervous about making friends. And he was also relieve to find someone who’s sort of the same boat as him, and he can’t help but help that person, and he knows instantly that he wants to be friends with her. That you sense she’s cool and someone you can enjoy hanging out.
Anyway, Arnold had been so confused when Helga became a bully, lost the shy little girl he first met. And it felt like that the whole time you thought of that person was wrong.That you don’t know that person anymore.
But somewhere between Pre-K and Fourth Grade, something made Arnold wholeheartedly believe that Helga had a good and caring side. I wouldn’t be surprised that there is a certain backstory that made Arnold determine now that he had evidence, even if that might be small and just brief moment that Helga is not truly mean, and she’s just hiding it behind the mask to hide her insecurities. It’s not just that his optimistic nature and that he believes that there is good in everyone. And it is in his being to show kindness and would help Helga, even if she constantly bullies him. It had might have occurred to Arnold that Helga’s bullying ways is little compare to the cruelty. He senses that she’s mean, but not evil and cruel.
But I do not doubt that that Arnold has never ever thought of Helga THAT way. I don’t think he’s ever in denial of feelings for her. He honestly didn’t feel for Helga at that point, but he is drawn and curious of her when Helga showed her moments and this complexity and issue, and if he had taken time to really think of Helga as a person. But he’s still annoyed at her, that he honestly just forgets of Helga’s good deeds. He doesn’t go around thinking of her all the time and questioning. Only when he encounters Helga, and sit down afterwards to think deeply. He had slowly figured out that Helga was wearing a mask and that she’s hiding her insecurities. But still, he’s frustrated when she’s being mean to him. Hahaha.
Fourth Grade held a lot of moments that showed Helga’s kind and caring side. He had hugged her when she found his hat, that held special meaning to him. Helga had tried to comfort him when Lila told him she didn’t like-like him that way. When she warned Arnold about Summer. He might have given half-lidded gazes with a knowing look, almost satisfied that he is right on his beliefs and the warmth feeling that Helga’s kind side is showing, and that she did it in front of him. And that maybe, he’s a close step to knowing Helga and solve her. That he’s amused that he knows her a little better and that she’s all flustered and trying to hide that side of hers again. Hahaha.
And about the Thanksgiving episode, yeah they do bond and Arnold was relieved that he didn’t have to deal with Helga being a bully. She was much more…civil, and they bond together as they search for the meaning of Thanksgiving. Arnold is given another insight of Helga’s home life and her family, and Arnold had suspected it but not the full extent. I think in ways, after knowing Helga is tough girl, he believes wholeheartedly that her parents love her even if they are difficult. And that Helga could solve her issues with her family in time, that it would be solve, even when Arnold doesn’t know the real extent. It’s just in his eyes that he believes Helga can work it out with her family. He knows it’s complicated, and it probably serve as the huge factor and influence to the tough Helga G. Pataki she becomes. But at that point of the episode, Arnold was just looking to spend Christmas, together with Helga and learn the meaning.
And then in the episode, Save the Tree, about the treehouse, Mighty Pete. I imagine he looked at Helga eyed-wide and was glad that Helga had stood her ground and opinion, sided against her own dad to her friends. He was surprised and yet he his respect for her grew a bit at that moment.
Still, Arnold does NOT go thinking of her. He’s not in denial or even had a crush on her. He does consider her as his friend and old classmate, someone he knows since Pre-K. And that there is a curiosity in him, and still has it in him to offer Helga his help of her issues. He’s annoyed by her bullying everyday, and frustrated. I think his belief that Helga is a good person, is more of spur moments when reminded afterwards her bullying to him when he really sits down and think deeply. He would try to really ignore Helga.
But it does mean that subconsciously, Arnold may have been aware of Helga’s feelings for him and the deeper aspects of her (love of poetry), as it is proven in the episodes, Married and Arnold Visits Arnie. I don’t think I need to go deeper that somewhere deep down in Arnold’s mind, he recognizes Helga’s feelings for him and that kind of person she is that he can fall in love wholeheartedly and deeply. And consciously, he accepts in the afterwards of those two episodes that he might get along with Helga and that she’s OK. But that’s all. He accepts it and is OK with it. It doesn’t necessarily mean he has hidden feelings for her, just maybe caring for that person and you can accept that if Helga showed her true colours, it’s the kind of person that Arnold falls for (and I think this had occurred to Arnold mostly in the afterwards of Arnold visits Arnie episode. That he can work it out with her, though I don’t think he really thought that he would fall in love with her. Just acceptance if it ever happened and knows that it would be OK and he can work it out).
Hahaha. He can’t help but give her a hug, so relieve. I’m not going to analyze that deeper, and I’m sure somebody explained this. Though I don’t necessarily think he went to Helga. She is the one who first approached him, and he just went with his instincts because she’s near. That ‘nightmare’ gave him a push, something in him, his subconscious just wants to hug her. He is so relieved that it’s just the way it is and knows. The Helga he knows.
But he does not have crush on her. What he felt for her is platonic. I do believe he genuinely had crush with other girls like Ruth and Lila. Hahaha. Even after he had his first kiss, which is with Helga on the whole Romeo and Juliet, I think he was more focused of her skills and talents than as the fact of possibility Helga likes him. He learnt that Helga is a good actress, and wondered why she took long to kiss him. Hehehe. If it had been me, and my bully kissed me longer for a play, I would have wondered as well, but it hadn’t occurred there might be something. You’ll just brush it off and forget it. Nothing big, really. That’s what I and Arnold imagined going through our minds. No big deal, really.
And there are moments when Arnold had been confused when Helga acted all flustered and strange (And I’m talking about when Helga is giving herslef monologue or giving him the dreamy looks). And in his subconcious, it figured out that Helga like him-like him.
And finally, in Hey Arnold: The Movie, when Helga confessed. It had been very out of blue, and it totally shocked Arnold. You’d be staring at your bully eyed-wide, really like you don’t know what to think. So very unexpected, especially the kiss. Hahaha. And with all that’s happening in that, Arnold had to push it back on his mind and save the neighborhood. And when the time came, that it’s all over. Arnold had been awkward, very unsure and flustered at what happened earlier.
He now had minutes to really think about what she said. He still wasn’t given enough time and very left confused at how to respond that. It hadn’t really sink in. He went a little blank, and he knew without a doubt if he had answered her confession or that he replied that he needed time, it would be very awkward and their relationship between them will change. Arnold needed an escape a bit, he just wanted to get rid of the awkwardness between them and the only way is to get everything back to the way it was. He went a bit on his instincts here, but he also was curious of what’s Helga’s reaction if he gave her a leeway.
After Helga quickly took back what she said and they both agree it was the ‘heat of the moment’, like that they truly believe it. But Arnold knew better as he gave her a half-lidded knowing looks, as if once again, he knows better and is satisfied that he solves Helga’s complexity but also amused of Helga’s act as a bully. He’s a little relieve to see the familiarity and normality, like he just has everything the way it was. I do not doubt in my mind that it has never occurred to Helga that Arnold didn’t outright reject or accept. She believes he’s dense and a goody-two shoes. She’s too relieved that she escaped from that and that her football-headed love of her life doesn’t know.
But the two parties knew what Helga confessed is the truth. And Helga doesn’t know Arnold has thought of the FTI confession much more afterwards.
With given time, Arnold had a lot to think now. He had quickly realized that he might have given both themselves an escape, and that he questioned himself why he didn’t really confront Helga about that. Something held him back. One of the main reasons why, and I think this is the very main point that held Arnold back, and this is something he consciously concluded, I think when Arnold learnt of Helga being Deep Voice, and what she had done was amazing and did it for him and most of all, she did it secretly. That’s what hit Arnold that Helga tried to hide her good deeds and wasn’t arrogant or gloated about it. It spoke volumes that Helga does not desire fame, money or everyone’s attention. What she did was selfless, and did it for him. And just in those moments, he had admired at her with awe. He felt she did something amazing, and it’s sort of the least he could do for her. But it was also more that her ultimate good and amazing deed is what held back from Arnold rejecting her completely.
But also, he had been shocked and frustrated. That knowledge had been very out of blue and left him very confused. He didn’t really solve her, and there are more questions about Helga more than ever. That Helga loved him yet she still bullies him and it left Arnold so annoyed. It probably drove him mad a bit even in his sleep, and he is force to put that memory in the back of his head and talk to his Grandpa maybe. I’m not really sure if that is something Arnold would share to someone or even his best friend Gerald. But he’s left very confused in his mind and in a inner battle of this mysterious Helga G. Pataki.
And before Fifth Grade, assuming the movie was set during summer after fourth grade, Arnold decided to listen to this advice, and I think his Grandpa said it = Follow your instincts.
So by the time he encounters Helga again, it’s all normal between them. Arnold felt a little free, and in the back of his mind, he wants to let it all play out naturally and see where it goes between them. For now, Arnold just wants to be friends with Helga and still offer her his help.
He’s following his instincts.
He decided that he would approach Helga much more differently than his other crushes like Lila and Ruth. He had learnt from those experience and he has to play it out, that’s the advice he has to follow when it comes to love and relationships. He just wants a clear mind and see if he might reciprocate her feelings, and give himself and Helga time to think. He’s not really leading her on, his goal is the same as before, to try to be her friend and offer her his help.In a way, he has to pretend FTI didn’t happen. Also for the sake of his sanity. But he’s accepting that possibility if the two ever did become a couple, he just needs to get to know Helga and have her guard down. One step at the time. But I don’t believe that’s what he thinks all the time or goal to see if he has feelings for her. He’s following his instincts and just pretending FTI didn’t happen. He wants it naturally. He’s just accepting the possibility but he needed a reason.
But it’s more after learning a lot from his old crushes (Ruth, Lila, and Summer), that he has to be now more sure and careful of his love and who he gives it to. He’s not exactly protected heart as Helga, but he’s getting much more cautious. He’s being cautious with Helga, but not overthinking about it with intentions. It’s more afterwards with Lila, Arnold has to identify between “falling in love with the idea of someone” and “really falling in love with someone”. So pretty much after he gave up on Lila, he’s careful but pretty much open-minded these days.
I imagine afterwards the FTI confession, that Arnold does watch Helga a little more closely and tries to figure out when they passed or encounter. Helga would do something amazing and show once again her kind side, and she would quickly cover up as Arnold was left a little amaze to see that side of her. Arnold may be able to tolerate Helga a little a better, but there are a lot of moments when he forgets about that kind side of her and her confession and is just frustrated at her bullying him. I imagine Arnold starts to doubt what Helga said is true and wonders why she is still bullying him if she has feelings for him, so it became much a little easier to pretend FTI never happened.
April Fool’s Day, is the only episode we get to see what’s Arnold’s perspective and reaction afterwards of the FTI confession (no, no, we are not including The Journal, since we didn’t see how Arnold reacts to Helga) He was annoyed and went to a breaking point, deciding to get back to her. He forgets in that episode what Helga felt till after he accidentally blinded her, that he had remembered of Helga’s good side. The good guy he is, he of course felt guilty and offers to help her. For once, he felt he was really taking care of the real Helga instead of a forgetful amnesia Helga. But it was a bit tiring for Arnold. He couldn’t believe he sunk that low in her level.
And when he learnt that Helga was faking it, he decided to get back at her by pushing her to the pool. But he needed to really distract so he tango with her. I don’t think he truly thought of distracting with intention of knowing that he would use her feelings, at least consciously he didn’t. His ultimate goal was to get back at her and distraction. What better way than pull her much closer to him. He was smug with the whole dance, satisfied that he knows what’s coming and that HE has the control over her. He was enjoying the dance, no denying and was flirting with her. But he was not intentionally using her feelings, it is just happening and he’s following his instincts. He doesn’t know why he’s being much more…sexual and close and being a bit husky, but he feels like he’s playing the game and he’s in control. He’s releasing his frustration at her through tango dance. But this is also for the second time, probably, where Arnold stands up to Helga and be very firm. In ways, they became equal. Arnold had decided to be Helga in a way. And he learnt a new side of him (or as you guys prefer to call it, Dark Arnold, but Arnold is not really going to think about it that much except that he had a good time with Helga). Hehehe. I think he and Helga shared a good laugh and it felt like a truce in the end of the episode, at least, for the day.
Afterwards that episode, I believe Arnold had been surprised at what he did, playing that memory of tango dance again and again, and he is analyzing why did he flirt and dance with her much sexually. He was reminded once again of Helga’s feelings for him, and he slept peacefully at night, accepting once again that he did enjoy dancing with Helga. And that just maybe, maybe, he does feel something for her. And that’s the moment where he finally admit to himself.
He had flirted, and dance with a lot of tension, and filled with excitement and the mix of the good feeling of finally getting back with her. And yeah, a lot of tension and maybe sexual, simply releasing all the frustration between them.
In all honesty, I don’t think he truly was worried about him and Helga being a couple or the remote possibility THAT much. He may be confused, frustrated and just wants damn answers from her. But I don’t think he’s really worried that one day, he would have to answer if Helga has confessed her feelings to him AGAIN or make the first move. He’s not expecting it, probably. He has plenty of time to think and wait for a serious relationship. At least, he’s not TOO worried about Helga demanding if he does return her feelings once she confessed. But I think he’s also expecting it. He expects in few months or years, Helga will come to him and confess when she’s ready. If she did a couple of weeks or months later after the film, by THEN Arnold will answer that he needed time. He’s not going to completely brush it off, accept nor reject her. I think it sort of depends how Helga acts around him.
He’s being mature, a little cool and laid-back and letting it all play our and see what happens. Especially, he never knows if what Helga has for him was a phase or something. It’s like if the time comes, the right moment, it would happen. He’s not going the way he did with his old crushes, that his usual advice might be if you like-like someone, then tell them. He’s not traditionally doing that with Helga. I think at that point, he really just wants to be close and have friendship first before remote possibility to ask her out on a date. It’s still his goal and what comes first to his mind. To be her friend and understand her a little better. He’s a little platonic, but he’s open minded of the possibility of like her-like her.
I don’t think he could outright confront her and demand that she just admit her feelings to him, at least during Middle School. It’s would be a little hard to predict if Helga would mature and let go of her tough bully thing. If she let her guard down, I do not doubt that Arnold would be drawn to her.
(In theory if TJM didn’t happen, if there is a Season 7 and set either in fifth or sixth grade, I think Helga and Arnold might possibly hide their feelings. Arnold would reach the point that he has feelings for Helga and has admitted to himself, but he’s hiding it. That is, if Helga hasn’t make a move.)
So that’s my analysis of Arnold’s reaction and perspective of Helga and the post-FTI confession. One that will lead to TJM (coming 2017) where we’ll finally have Arnold reciprocate Helga’s feelings. That movie will be the final push, one that made Arnold felt he had a reason now, and will have the courage to make the first move and have his eyes open and see what an amazing person Helga is. I honestly hoped it wasn’t just Helga saving his life or doing some ultimate sacrifice thing. I hope it starts small. I mean, I honestly hope in that movie, Helga decided to have her guard down a little and that maybe when she and Arnold alone, she shows her true colors and Arnold felt that he’s finally getting to know her and some emotional connection between them. Next thing they know, they are running and hiding through the jungle. And blah, blah, probably Helga saving his life or something, and Arnold’s eyes open and will attempt to kiss her and be interrupted by Gerald maybe.
His eyes will open and will finally see that Helga is the one for him, and the kind of person he would fall for. That what she did was truly amazing, and yet he will always be intrigue of her.
After that, I imagine they dated and get to know each other. Arnold admires her even more and learns the full extent of her family issues. And there would be bumpy rides between the two.
Conclusion: Somewhere deep down, Arnold did have repressed feelings for Helga. He hadn’t been aware and it hadn’t fully developed, but subconsciously recognizes a real connection to Helga. That there is part of him that is very drawn to her, and it was meant to head into that direction as long as he gets to know the real Helga. The more Helga has her guard down and the more she acted much more amazing deeds, one that is very UNFORGETTABLE than those small ones (like Helga thanking him sincerely, showing understanding after what he went through). Saving the neighborhood was one big step that even overcomes her tough bully act and make you see the person a whole new light. Arnold’s eyes opened as he starts to really pay close attention and really taking note of the person she is behind the mask and the good deeds that are purely selfless and compassion with generosity, the more he starts to fall in love with her. Or like her-like her.
Hehehe. You might have to wonder who’s really mature about love here between the two?
P.S - You know, in the episode Married, right at the end of what Phoebe pictured. THAT is what I genuinely believe will happen and how Helga and Arnold turns out in the future (yeah, I do believe that’s how they look like and Arnold will always be a couple of inches shorter than Helga. Hahaha) I do truly believe they are meant for each other, just as Craig says so. And I do believe Craig put that one there as a hint and hope and a message to us all Helga/Arnold fans. They’ll be ups and downs, but they are meant in the end to get married and have children, no matter what. They’ll find their way to each other.
That’s my analysis folks! :) See ya when TJM comes next year 2017.
Confession Time: Before this point I had not seen the entire episode. The copy I taped off of TV oh so many years ago cut out right after Arnold and Helga left Mr. Simmons’ house. So I finally got to see the ending where Arnold mirrored Helga’s Arnold’s Christmas ending. I also got to see Olga post-Olga Comes Home acting totally out of character with her self-serving “Missing” posters. I got a fix for that coming eventually, though.
With the now-confirmed theory that Mr. Simmons is gay, his behavior around his friends and family at dinner, especially after his “I love the ballet” line and his “friend”’s glare:
…just shows that Mr. Simmons certainly has a lot of unresolved issues that he really should deal with:
Also, Rhonda played Mr. Simmons’ mother in the play, and, as stroppy as she can be, Rhonda (at least at first glance) seems way better to be around than his real mother:
So I was rewatching Arnold’s Thanksgiving and I noticed a four second scene as a new act of the school play started and the camera was about to go back to Arnold and Gerald talking about their respective Thanksgivings. Rhonda was in this shot…in a new outfit! So here’s that missing outfit, drawn hastily before I settle down to a hearty meal. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!