2018 is almost here and I know we’re all making resolutions that we may or may not stick to. But for those of you who need help reflecting and introspecting, what’s better than watching our favourite Football Head learning to be himself. Hey Arnold! stars a boy who’s way too wise for his age, teaching university students like us a thing or two. There is much to learn from this beloved childhood cartoon, and we’re hoping to go into 2018 with a few of the show’s most valuable life lessons and teachable moments.
Source: Hey Arnold Wiki
Hey Arnold! is a Nickelodeon cartoon that centres on Arnold, a fourth grader that lives with his eccentric grandparents, Phil and Pookie (Gertrude) in an inner-city boarding house that they run. The plot revolves around his experiences navigating city life while dealing with problems faced by everyone he encounters. The show tackled common themes like love, optimism, grief and so much more. Heck, I woke up at 5am in the morning before school to watch Hey Arnold! up until the last days of my high school life. The impact it left on me is still felt until today and I hope to share a little bit of that with you too.
Maturity in Love
Love doesn’t have to make sense to work. Arnold’s grandparents, as eccentric as they are, make their relationship just work. The show introduces some messed-up relationships that are just plain dysfunctional, and yet the most unpredictable pair in the show have the most stable relationship. The way they just stare at each other adoringly and how understanding they are of each other regardless of the absurd things they say or do, demonstrates what is important in a relationship: understanding and patience. Maybe these are a couple of values we could stand to practice more in 2018.
We may not fully comprehend how Phil and Gertrude’s relationship works, but the show reminds us that love isn’t always simple. Helga G. Pataki, Arnold’s bully, is also his secret admirer/stalker.
Source: Hey Arnold Wikia
Helga represents something that most of us have felt, her six-year unrequited love with Arnold. Helga has dealt with the pain of unrequited love for a majority of her life, and constantly lives with the question of whether her love for Arnold will ever truly come to be, or whether she will be ultimately rejected by him. It’s a fear that most of us share during our younger years, maybe even still or into adulthood (and hopefully will be some thing we leave behind in 2018). One thing that Helga’s crush has shown us was that unrequited love is anything but healthy, and you will only end up hurting yourself in the end. Let’s face it, her constant bullying might not have been the best way to handle her emotions. Helga’s toxic relationship with her own feelings is a lesson to us all when we face unrequited love. Being in love doesn’t always make us feel like we are on cloud nine, especially when we have mixed emotions about the object of our affections. Those feelings may never be clear-cut but they’re what make us human.
Source: Hey Arnold Wikia
Besides Helga being a bit wacky in her obsession over Arnold, her parents, Big Bob and Miriam Pataki don’t fare well either in the relationship department. Miriam views her marriage to be one of her greatest mistakes and felt that she is held back by her marriage. She is an alcoholic that tends to ignore Helga in favour of her elder daughter, Olga. She is sees Olga as her second chance on life, instead of the unhappy marriage she has with Bob. Yikes.
Source: Dreamwidth Studios
While much of the love seen in Hey Arnold end on an unhappy or ambiguous note, there are some joyous moments such as Arnold’s grandparents’ crazy but happy marriage. Hey Arnold! portrays love with a sense of toughness that ring true. It isn’t all rainbows – sometimes you get lucky and grow old with the love of your life, sometimes you realise you hate who you married. Damn.
Optimism and Looking at the Brightside
Arnold, the eternal optimist constantly looks on the bright side of things, it is a major theme and lesson that the show imparts to its viewers. Somebody always needs to be able to look on the bright side of a situation or the world will stay dark, cold, and dreary. Arnold’s optimist attitude is largely why he can stand up to bullies, help people out and restore friendships or any problem that faced by anyone. Even if it is not the most sensible or practical thing to do at times, he is able to see the best in people.
Source: The Odyssey Online
In the very first episode, we see Arnold take his friend, Eugene, Murphy’s Law incarnated, out for a day of fun, after Arnold accidentally ruins his bike. This leads to even more accidents for poor Eugene, who falls into a sewer, almost choking on a hotdog, and getting stuck on the bus door when the bus leaves. Eugene, a guy who also looks at the bright side, thanks Arnold for the friendship and the effort, regardless of what happened that day. It was the thought that counts, reminding us of how small acts of kindnesses like these can mean a lot to someone else, especially if that someone else isn’t used to it. So in 2018, let’s resolve to look at things less cynically, for fear we’ll miss the acts of kindness that is right in front of us.
“Don’t Look Away, Look Up!”
Although Arnold may be optimist, like all of us, there are days where we are just not our best. There are times Arnold himself was unable to look on the bright side. In the episode, “The List”, everything he did on that day was a failure or unsuccessful endeavour. He was in a depressed mood until his grandma appears and cheers him up by singing a song to him, “Look Up”:
Grandma: When life gets you down, wearing a frown, don’t look away, look up,
‘Cause memories true come out of the blue; you know the way — look up!
Come on, Arnold!
Arnold: Nah, Grandma. I’m really not in the mood.
Grandma: When skies are gone gray, things gone astray, don’t hide away, look up;
Arnold: I had a bad day; nothing went right; I hate my dumb life; I’m down.
Grandma: When you’re feeling under the weather, and the dark clouds are getting to you,
Make your troubles light as a feather, and soon you’ll be seeing a bright patch of blue;
You….Gotta look up, you gotta be strong, you gotta take things as they come,
‘Cause everything new that happens to you is better when you…look up!
Source: Hey Arnold Wikia
All of us could benefit from having this level of optimism, it is often overlooked, but it is what makes Arnold so damn likeable. People genuinely do not like being around negative people, it can be draining and unappealing, so possessing the ability to look on the bright side of things is truly a gift that is often taken-for-granted. While Arnold does make it seem easy, it does take a lot of discipline and patience. Start adding some positivity into your universe, and sooner or later, you will reap the benefits and lead a happier, more fulfilling life.
Hey Arnold! has imparted many life lessons to me that will stay with me for a lifetime, lessons on friendship, altruism, sacrifice and real human flaws. I wanted to look on the bright side, be a moral person, and be able to support people I care for through everything.
As we go into 2018 with fear and excitement for the people we will be in the new year, maybe we could take a step back, smell the roses and sit back with a children’s cartoon that understood what it was like to be human. Nothing better than a little bit of wisdom to help that ‘new year, new you’ self-growth.
P.S. For fans who wanted more Football Head, go check out Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie (2017), if you haven’t done so, it is worth the watch.
Also, have a Happy 2018!
By Tyler Lai