Hey Arnold / Tropes A to I

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    A 
  • A Boy and His X:
    • "Abner Come Home" from season one was about Arnold and his pet pig Abner.
    • Season two gave us "Harold's Kitty", where Harold takes in a kitten initially assumed to be abandoned and names it Cupcake.
    • "Helga's Parrot" from season four could be construed as a rather twisted take on A Boy, A Girl, and Their Parrot.
  • Aborted Arc: In "Helga's Show", Helga was able to do impressions because P.S. 118 just got a new student lounge. But after that episode, the lounge is neither seen nor mentioned again.
  • Abhorrent Admirer:
    • Curly has an obsessive infatuation with Rhonda and never accepts that she's not interested.
    • Brainy is a milder version of this trope; his presence annoys Helga to no end but all he really does is breathe down her neck.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: In ''Sewer King", Arnold and Gerald encounter the Sewer King in the sewers, which are way more spacious than real life sewer systems.
  • Abusive Parents:
  • Accidental Misnaming: Helga's father always calls her by her sister's name, Olga. He also occasionally incorrectly refers Arnold as "Alfred".
  • The Ace:
    • Helga's "perfect" college-aged sister Olga only looks perfect, but she's dangerously neurotic and melodramatic thanks to having to live up to her parents' constant attention and high standards. She even tells Helga once she'd rather be The Unfavorite since that would let her be free like Helga is.
    • Lila's a parody of the character being perfect at everything they do, as well as a general Parody Sue.
    • Arnold himself can do anything. By the time of the movie, most of the neighborhood believes he can save them from having to sell up and move. And he does.
  • Acid Reflux Nightmare: In "Helga Sleepwalks", Helga started sleepwalking after eating pork rinds.
  • Acquainted with Emergency Services: In Season 5, "Stuck in a Tree", when Arnold, Eugene, and Harold are stuck in a tree, they see Chocolate Boy and tell him to get help from the fire department. Eugene tells Chocolate Boy to mention him to the firefighters because they know him from previous rescues. Arnold has a "Why am I not surprised?" reaction to what Eugene said.
    Arnold: (to Chocolate Boy) Go to the fire station, tell them we're stuck in a tree, and we need help getting down.
    Eugene: Tell them Eugene sent you. They know me. They rescued me many times before.
  • Acrofatic: Harold sure can move quickly for a big guy.
  • Actually Not a Vampire: In "Sid The Vampire Slayer", Sid spends the whole episode believing Stinky is a vampire and tries to get proof. When he confronts Stinky, he has a perfectly logical explanation for everything and Sid leaves feeling stupid. Cut to later that night, where we see Stinky, talking to a bat and looking suspiciously like a vampire!
  • Adaptation Expansion: Arnold originated in a series of claymation shorts, albeit as much different character who frequently daydreamed. Needless to say, it was nothing like what it would become.
  • Addiction Displacement: Chocolate Boy gives up chocolate in his spotlight episode and starts eating radishes instead.
  • Adults Are Useless: Zig-Zagged. How helpful adults are in solving the kids' problems depends on what is needed for the episode's plot.
    • Exemplified on "Longest Monday". The Fifth Grade Class participates in a sadistic ritual in slamming the Fourth Graders into trashcans or dumpsters, often rolling them down hills while IN the trashcans regardless of traffic. They even break into the Fourth Grader's refuge and preform the act on a bus. Where are the parents, schoolteachers, staff? Unknown, no adult is shown at all in the episode.
      • Truth in Television. Adults often overlook yearly traditional hazing rituals in the same vein as the episode, provided that they aren't too violent.
  • Aesop Amnesia:
    • Rhonda apparently learns not to be a self-centered libby several times, Olga seems to forget all about her past visits to the Pataki household with each visit, proclaiming her wish to better connect with Helga while unconciously annoying her in all the usual ways.. In one episode, Harold gains new confidence when he learns just how smart he can be if he puts some effort in... next we see him, he's back to being the Butt-Monkey crybaby of the class.
    • Justified with Miriam. She learns to be a better mother a couple times; but a couple other episodes make it seem like she's back to her old ways. She relapsed.
    • At least two episodes had the characters involved immediately forget their aesops before the episode even ended, in one Rhonda isn't invited to a party because she chose to alienate everyone else, at the end of the episode she shows she realizes this was wrong, but before the episode ends quips that the next day she'll be 'popular' again and not a geek like the rest of the party who alienated her for her alienating them, thus showing she really learned nothing. Harold had one where he gained a lot of extra weight and worked hard to lose it, at the end of the episode after losing all the excess weight (not all of it, he was still the Big Eater of the show) he immediately accepts a bet of eating 50 ice cream bars, the same act that caused him to feel bad about himself at the start of the episode.
    • "Olga Comes Home" had Helga and Olga share a touching moment when Olga reveals she hates all the attention and being, as she describes 'Some sort of wind up doll' for their parents and admitting that she wishes she was neglected like Helga. Both Helga and Olga have apparently forgotten this since their main conflict in every episode is Olga's perfectionism and Helga forgetting how 'good' she has it.
    • In "Helga's Masquerade" Helga learns that she does not need to act exactly like Lila to be liked by Arnold, but generally acting nicer will earn her his love. In her next appearances, she's back to jeering at Arnold.
    • Similarly, Arnold will often forget Helga's acts of kindness or getting along with him by the time of the next lesson, acting surprised as if he sees her being nice for the first time in his life.
  • Affectionate Nickname:
    • Olga always addresses Helga as "Baby Sister," and when she hangs out with Lila in one episode (as part of the "Big Sis, Little Sis" charity) addresses her as "Little Sis."
    • Grandpa always calls Arnold "Short Man". Craig Bartlett has confirmed that it's supposed to be a pun on his surname, "Shortman".
  • Air-Vent Passageway:
    • Dino Spumoni crashes the concert of an incredible stimulation of himself by crawling through an air vent.
    • Helga sneaked in and out of the Sunset Arms through an air vent in more than one occasion.
  • The Alcoholic: Helga's mom, Miriam, according to Craig Bartlett, but this could only be implied thanks to Nickelodeon's Media Watchdogs. She drinks a lot of "smoothies," talks in a tired, slow voice, looks extremely depressed, is oblivious to her surroundings, forgets things, doesn't drive anymore (and when she did on an episode where Helga and Miriam try to bond during a road trip, she drove rather erratically), and is often found asleep (usually in strange places, like behind the couch or on the living room table). When making a "smoothie", she grabs a bottle of hot sauce.
    • To enforce this, Helga never seems to find her mother's behaviour unusual or incorrect, implying that it's been going on for so long that to her, it's perfectly normal.
    • If the spinoff The Patakis had been made, it was said that Miriam would be attending AA.
    • It has been suggested that Helga merely refers to the booze as 'smoothies' for reasons ranging from basic ignorance, to being told to do so.
  • All Just a Dream: "Arnold Visits Arnie" ends with the revelation that Arnold only dreamed about visiting his cousin Arnie.
  • All Love Is Unrequited:
    • In "Arnold Visits Arnie", Arnie has a girlfriend Lulu who is madly in love with Arnold, who has a crush on Hilda who falls in love with Arnie.
    • Arnold had an unrequited crush on Ruth in the first season.
    • Arnold's unrequited crush on his substitute teacher in "Crush on Teacher" is an understandable case, given the age difference between them.
    • Rhonda is stalked by Curly a lot, too.
  • All There in the Manual: the sixth installment of the chapter book series, Arnold's E-Files, confirms that Brainy is in love with Helga and that he has Hidden Depths.
  • Alma Mater Song: P.S. 118 has a particularly unpopular school anthem. (Which is set to the tune of "Far Above Cayuga's Waters".)
  • Alpha Bitch:
    • Rhonda very often uses her social status as an excuse to be stuck-up and snobby.
    • The sixth-graders that use Phoebe also fit into this category; they also move Rhonda to the back of the bus when she gets glasses.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Hedy Lamarr, the actress Grandpa always talks about was a real actress in the 1930s and 40s.
  • Ambiguous Disorder:
    • Arnie, Arnold's cousin. Hobbies include reading ingredient labels, counting things, and collecting lint. He also doesn't seem to know social norms; he asks Rhonda if she wants to see his ball of lint.
    • Curly definitely has a few screws loose, considering how unpredictably hostile and manic he can act.
    • Crappy life aside, there's evidence to suggest that Helga has some kind of disorder herself.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Gerald has shown interest in a few girls in the series (most notably Phoebe) but in the movie, he seems to be a bit infatuated on Scheck, mentioning how good he looks in that suit at least three times.
  • Ambiguously Gay:
    • Eugene. He has a room decorated with rainbows and unicorns, and often takes interest in anything related to dancing and musicals.
    • Mr. Simmons is voiced by an openly gay actor, has an effeminate personality, likes theater and a man who may or may not be his partner shows up in "Arnold's Thanksgiving". Craig Bartlett states that he is in fact gay, but a kids show at the time could never openly state so.
    • Principal Wartz apparently lived with another man in "Sid's Revenge", though it's unclear if this was a partner, a roommate, or simply a visitor. In another episode, Wartz was shown to be excited about a singer mostly popular among young girls. He also hangs out with Mr. Simmons lot, even briefly dancing the tango with him in "April Fool's Day".
    • Miss Slovak, the original fourth grade teacher is elderly and unmarried. She also retired to pursue a career in professional golf (golf being a Butch Lesbian stereotype).
  • An Aesop: Quite a few episodes had important lessons to teach.
    • "Helga on the Couch" taught kids that seeing a shrink isn't a negative thing.
    • "Mr. Hyunh Goes Country" says that sometime people who are incredibly talented don't want to be rich and famous for it.
    • "Suspended" teaches that certain punishments can be worse than you anticipate them to be.
  • Animation Bump:
    • The first season was handled by Hong Ying and Wang Film Productions. While the animation quality wasn't bad, it just looks slightly off compared to the rest of the series, which was animated by Saerom.
    • At the beginning of Season 4, the show switched from cel animation to digital ink and paint.
    • Another animation bump appeared right at the end of the series, when Hey Arnold! The Movie, April Fool's Day and The Journal were being made. All three of them (particularly the movie) look considerably better than the rest of the series.
    • The test footage made for Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie looks even better than the first movie. The real footage from the rebooted Jungle Movie looks even better than that!
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Gerald's little sister, Timberly. A more realistic example. According to Jamie-O, Gerald is this to him, but it's incredibly hard to feel sympathy for him when Jamie-O is one of the biggest Jerkass characters of the series. Jamie-O does eventually decide that Gerald isn't as much of an annoying younger sibling after he points out that his relationship is parasitic.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    • The rules at the aquarium include no guns, no knives, "NO SUSHI CHEFS!", no plastic explosives, no diving in the shark tank, "and most importantly — NO SKATEBOARDS!"
    • In "Harold the Butcher," when Harold has to see his rabbi because he stole a ham from Mr. Greene's butcher shop, the rabbi tells Harold that stealing violates one of the Ten Commandments. However, he goes on to say "most importantly, you stole a ham," referring to Jewish dietary laws. Apparently, if Harold would have stolen some lamb or some other food permitted by the Torah, Harold's sin wouldn't have been as bad.
  • Art Evolution: Faces became more detailed and expressive as the show went on (particularly Grandpa's). Arnold's head looked more like a blimp at first, but then became taco-shaped. Helga's pigtails got thicker and shorter over time and her ugliness was toned down. And for most characters, their arms became thicker and their necks got shorter.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Phoebe is Asian and very intelligent.
  • Aside Glance: Arnold looks toward the viewer at the end of "Arnold Saves Sid" He looks directly at the screen though.
  • Atrocious Alias: After Eugene manages to wreck his and Arnold's go-karts in the go-kart episode, they decide to combine their karts for the big race. Eugene and Sid argue over which name from the original karts to use for the new one when Stinky suggests combining their kart names. Cue "The Mauve Avenger", which everyone else absolutely hates. Apparently naming the kart its other combination, "The Dark Storm," never crossed their minds.
  • Ax-Crazy:
    • Curly is definitely a dangerous psycho. One episode mentions that he once bit off the head of a live chicken, though he insists it was only that one time.
    • Arnold fakes being insane to scare off Harold from beating his ass in the original pilot and "24 Hours to Live".

    B 
  • Back to School: Arnold's grandpa does so in "Back to School", passing fourth, fifth, and sixth grades all in one episode.
  • Bad Humor Truck: The Jolly Olly Man is a downplayed example. He is an ice cream man and he's far from being a pleasant person, but he's more of an asocial jerk than evil.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy:
    • Arnold and the other boys are shown shirtless in a few episodes and none of them have nipples.
    • Another example is in "Rhonda Goes Broke", where Rhonda's sweater has a large tear in the chest area, yet still doesn't expose anything.
  • Bare Your Midriff:
    • Olga and Lila's counterpart Lulu wears an outfit that leaves her navel exposed.
    • Olga's outfit in "Student Teacher" is an exception—a longer version of her signature plaid miniskirt and a black sweater. However, there are frames where she appears to skirt the line a bit.
  • Beach Episode: "Summer Love" has the characters go to the beach.
  • Beauty, Brains and Brawn: Lila, Phoebe, and Helga are respectively a beautiful girl, an intelligent girl, and a girl who relies on physical force.
  • Bee Afraid: "Helga's Boyfriend" has a scene where Helga gets attacked by bees at the park.
  • Befriending the Enemy: Some episodes involving Harold, who is a bully to the other kids in his grade are frequently like this. Arnold being an All-Loving Hero befriends Harold in multiple episodes. Even deciding not to rat out on him to the principal in one "Full Moon", and helping Harold lose a ton of weight he gained in "Weighing Harold".
  • Beneath the Mask: Helga only expresses her feelings for Arnold when alone. (Well, alone with Brainy sneaking up behind her, anyway.)
  • Beta Couple: In certain Ship Tease episodes, Gerald and Phoebe would hook up in the background. And interview with Craig Bartlett stated that had The Patakis gone through, Gerald/Phoebe would've been the "cool couple" to contrast with the somewhat dysfunctional long-distance relationship of Arnold and Helga.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Discussed at the end of "Curly Snaps."
    Mr. Simmons: I think we all learned a valuable lesson here today.
    Helga: Yep. Don't ever trust the quiet ones. They'll go bonkers and hole up in the principal's office.
  • The B Grade: "Olga Comes Home" had Olga spiral into a depression over Helga changing one of the perfect grades on her report card into a B+.
  • Big Applesauce: The city the show takes place in is pretty obviously based on New York, Brooklyn in particular. Craig Bartlett states that there are generous bits of Seattle and Portland, OR mixed in as well.
  • Big Brother Bully: Gerald's big brother Jamie-O is often picking on him for no reason.
  • Big Eater:
    • Harold frequently eats lots of food.
    • Seymour, as revealed in "Eating Contest", is able to eat an assload of ice cream in one sitting despite his small size. However, Arnold beats him.
  • Bigger on the Inside: As seen in "Phoebe Cheats" Phoebe's house has several rooms that look like they should be in a mansion, like a sparring room and a jacuzzi room.
  • Big Storm Episode: "The Flood" had the kids dealing with a flood happening at Hillwood and endangering them while they were at school.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: Harold, Stinky, and Sid frequently hang around and are obese, skinny, and short respectively.
    • Sunset Arms boarders Mr. Huynh (big), Oskar (thin), and Ernie (short) to a lesser extent at times.
  • Big "WHAT?!": "Spelling Bee" has Bob Pataki holler "What" in response to Helga deliberately screwing up spelling her word to throw the spelling bee.
    Helga: Qualm. Q-u-a-l-...(looks at her father)...-x?
    Bob: WHAT?!
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: An in-universe example in "The Flood," when Helga catches Principal Wartz attempting to dance the salsa while she was trying to break out of the school. The characters-in-question even agreed that they'd never speak of it again.
    Principle Wartz: This moment never happened.
    Helga: Gotcha.
  • Birds of a Feather: Olga and Lila get along well in "Big Sis" due to both being cheerful and perfect on the outside, but troubled on the inside.
  • Bittersweet Ending: There are a few episodes with bittersweet endings.
    • "The List" ends with Arnold failing to do any of the objectives on the list of things to do for the ultimate weekend, but his grandmother helps him realize that he shouldn't be upset over it.
    • "Eugene's Bike" ends with Arnold upset that his attempts at giving Eugene a good time have all ended in disaster, but Eugene forgives him because he still enjoyed the moments they had in spite of the misfortunes he suffered during them.
    • "Pigeon Man" ends with the Pigeon Man forced to leave Hillwood, but he parts with Arnold on good terms and hopes that he'll find another kid like him in the next place he goes.
    • "Crabby Author" has Arnold disillusioned by finding that his favorite author has become a bitter recluse, but is cheered up to learn that telling her that he still considered her his favorite author has inspired her to get back to writing books.
    • "The Journal" has Arnold learn why his parents have gone missing since he was a baby, but he also finds a map of San Lorenzo, which gives him hope of being reunited with his parents. This is followed up on in The Jungle Movie.
  • Bizarro Universe: "Arnold Visits Arnie" had Arnold dream of visiting his country cousin Arnie and finding that his rural town has polar opposites of Arnold's friends.
  • Black Best Friend: Gerald is black and Arnold's closest friend.
  • Blind Black Guy: One of the subway passengers in "Das Subway" is a black man who happens to be blind.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Helga, Phoebe, and Lila have blonde, brunette, and red hair respectively.
  • Body Wipe: in "Wheezin' Ed" near the end where Harold is rolling, and his butt fills the screen before running over everyone.
  • Born Unlucky: Eugene (whose name, ironically, means "born lucky") could practically serve as the Trope Codifier (it doesn't help that he was born on Friday the 13th). See also Butt-Monkey.
  • Bottle Episode: "Stuck in a Tree" consists mostly of Arnold, Harold, and Eugene being stuck in a cherry tree with very little changes in scenery.
  • Break the Haughty: Rhonda constantly gets her comeuppance for being rude and arrogant to the other kids. There are at least three different episodes dedicated solely to the idea ("Rhonda's Glasses", "Polishing Rhonda", and "Rhonda Goes Broke").
  • Brick Joke: During Helga's dream sequence in "Magic Show", she finds that Phoebe became best friends with someone named Gloria, who dresses the same as Helga but looks sweeter and cuter. Come "Helga's Boyfriend", and Stinky ends up dating Gloria and proves she actually exists, which stumps Helga.
  • Broken Aesop: In "Hookey", Arnold and Gerald skip school but their fear of being found out interferes with any fun they might have had. Eventually, they go to school only to learn that there was a surprise carnival day. This weakens the Aesop as skipping school is wrong because you miss class, not because you miss a fun day. The "weakness" of the episode's moral is Lampshaded at the end.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • In "Eugene Goes Bad", Eugene finds that his idol "The Abdicator", an Arnold Schwarzenegger-esque Action Hero is not a real Action Hero, but a fictional character played by a Jerk Ass that's obnoxiously spoiled, bosses the staff on the set around, and doesn't do his own stunts. Upon finding this out, Eugene does a temporary Face–Heel Turn that ends when the actor saves him from falling to his death, showing that, for all his flaws, he's a fundamentally good person who cares about his fans.
    • In "Pre-Teen Scream", Phoebe gets to meet pop singer Ronnie Matthews, whom she idolizes for his lyrics which she thinks are deep and meaningful. She's devastated when it turns out he doesn't write or even sing his own music—he just gets paid to lip-sync and pretend to play the guitar. Simultaneously inverts the trope, as this causes Helga to admire him due to how he's managed to make so much money scamming people.
  • Buffy Speak: Helga's description of Ruth in "Arnold's Valentine" has her resort to making up words.
    Helga: She's nothing but a stuck-up, sixth grade-y, training bra wearing, brace-y faced, sixth grade-y...sixth grader!
  • Bullying a Dragon: Several episodes deal with people (usually Sid and Stinky), teasing either Harold or Big Patty, either of who can and will beat the crap out of them in retaliation.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: A heartwarming example—in the Veterans' Day-special, it turns out that Gerald's father is a Vietnam War veteran. However, he was sick with the flu during most of basic training, so he was unable to partake in any actual combat and mostly worked as an office clerk—in fact, the only real action he saw was when he once happened to come upon a fallen soldier who had a severe leg wound. Gerald's dad explains that he used some spare files to create a makeshift bandage for his leg—Mr. Johansen didn't think anything of it (he was just helping someone who happened to really need it). Twenty years, while Gerald and his dad, with Arnold and his Grandpa Phil in tow, are in Washington DC at the Vietnam War-memorial for soldiers, they run into the same man that Gerald's dad had saved in Vietnam—the man reveals himself to be named Private Miller and explains to Gerald's dad that if he hadn't done what he did to help in the war, he would've bled to death. Private Miller (who's with his wife and kids) adds that he's been waiting twenty years to personally thank him for ultimately saving his life.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Phoebe has a Japanese dad and a white mom. Plus, Phoebe's last name, Heyerdahl, certainly isn't Japanese - unless her dad is only of partial Japanese descent.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Eugene constantly gets injured or subjected to misfortune in all of his appearances.
    • Arnold is not completely safe either (particularly if Helga's involved), and as Eugene, he doesn't have a too hard time handling his problems. This makes him into a No Respect Guy.
    • Sid, Stinky and Harold to a lesser extent than the former and latter.
    • Brainy, at the hands of Helga. Helga backhands him every time she notices him.

    C 
  • The Cameo: During later seasons, it's pretty common to see past/minor characters in crowd shots and backgrounds. Hey Arnold! The Movie has a ton of these during its first act.
  • Camp Gay: Mr. Simmons is a toned down version of this, as while he is confirmed to be gay, his effeminate traits and mannerisms aren't blatant.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • In "Girl Trouble", Arnold is fed up with Helga's bullying and goes to his Grandpa for advice. Phil guesses that the reasons she bullies him is because she likes him, pointing out that a girl named Gertie (who turns out is Arnold's Grandmother) did the same thing to him when he was younger. Arnold dismisses this theory.
    • In "Married", Rhonda repeatedly tells Arnold that he will marry Helga (via a marriage predictor). The only one who believes it is Helga, but as per the word of Craig Bartlett, they do get married in the future.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: The art style makes good use of creative head shapes and various body sizes and proportions to make the characters distinctive and not resort to reusing character designs.
    • Bartlett's brother-in-law is Matt Groening, who actually advised him to make his characters so that they are recognizable through silhouette, which is why Arnold has a football shaped head, and Gerald has a high hairdo, etc.
  • The Cat Came Back: Subverted in "Phoebe Cheats" when out of guilt Phoebe tries to dispose of a trophy she didn't earn. There are logical reasons why it keeps coming back into her possession, but she doesn't see them and she thinks it's moving by itself.
  • Catch-Phrase:
    • Helga often says "Criminy" when she is frustrated or annoyed.
    • Grandpa's - "Never eat raspberries".
    • Stinky always either says "this bites" or "this really bites" when something upsets him.
    • Sid says "boy howdy" fairly often as well.
    • Harold often grumbles "Madame Fortress Mommy'." Whenever he's scared he usually cries out Mommy!
    • Gerald has "Are you thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?" He apparently got it from his father, who does it to Phil in the Veterans Day episode.
      • In the April Fool's episode Arnold borrows it and turns it around:
    Arnold: I think you're thinking what I'm thinking.
    Gerald: (whispers in Arnold's ear)
    Arnold: That's even better than what I was thinking.
    Arnold: You're a bold kid, Gerald.
    Gerald: Hey, that's my line.
    • Eugune has "I'm okay..." which was "I'm fine" in earlier episodes.
    • Then there's Mr. Hyunh with always calling some of the show's more eccentric characters "creepy" (which they admittedly are).
    • The Jolly Olly Man has "Who's laughing now eh? WHO'S LAUGHING NOW!?"
    • Harold has a tendency to say, "I was hungry!" whenever people look at him for eating something he shouldn't.
  • Caught on the Jumbotron: Arnold and Gerald are caught on the big screen at a baseball game while skipping school in "Hookey", much to their horror.
  • Celebrity Is Overrated:
    • Stinky doesn't want to be an idiot in soda commercials in "Stinky Goes Hollywood".
    • "Mr. Hyunh Goes Country" is about this: Mr. Hyunh could have been the next big country music star, but after tasting fame, he gives it up because he prefers his normal, simple life.
    • In "It Girl": Helga is against modeling for Johnny Stitches from the start, only doing it for the money and the free stuff. Seeing everyone wearing her dress and bow (even some boys are wearing it) pushes her over the edge. So she tries to get fired by shoving a model during another one of Stitches' shows, then by spitting in front of the press. Realizing that being mean only makes people love her more (since Helga's nastiness is much of her image), Arnold suggests that she try acting nice at Fashion Week. And it works.
  • Celebrity Paradox: In the Hey Arnold! universe Dino Spumoni is a stand-in and Affectionate Parody of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, but in Dino Checks Out it shows that Dino was a member of the Rat Pack along with them.
  • Celebrity Star: Randy Travis in "Mr. Hyunh Goes Country". Voiced facsimile Travis Randall, and the titular Mr. Hyunh (when singing).
  • Cerebus Retcon: Originally Helga's situation with her family was Played for Laughs. Helga's mom falls asleep all the time while making "smoothies"? Hilarious. Helga's dad always calls her by her sister's name? Hysterical. Neither of them really pay attention to her? Knee-slapping. Then came the episode "Helga on the Couch" and her family's neglect of her was shown in a far more serious light.
  • Character Development: There was much character development through the series, with Harold and Helga's developments into being nicer and more sympathetic characters being the most apparent cases.
    • In fact, Arnold is probably the character that got the least, and what little he does get usually pertains to his feelings for his Love Interests. After pining after Ruth McDougal for most of the first season, he finally goes on a date with her in "Arnold's Valentine" and almost instantly loses interest after spending time with her. His more notorious attraction to Lila, which began in season 3 with "Arnold & Lila", actually comes to an end in "Timberly Loves Arnold", late in season 5. Tellingly, in "Eugene, Eugene!", which immediately followed "Timberly Loves Arnold", he shows absolutely no interest in her - even in a scene when he and Stinky are watching her audition (while Stinky fawns over her). Lila also has no more speaking parts after this and it's been confirmed that she will not appear in The Jungle Movie. This since has become a case of either Lying Creator or Changed My Mind, Kid, as she can be seen in the SDCC clip, but didn't do anything important
  • Characterization Marches On:
    • Remember when the Jolly-Olly Man used to be a simple, nameless, smiling ice cream man and not a total psychopath?
    • Remember when Arnold was a chronic daydreamer?
    • Remember when Harold was a Jerkass and less of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold?
    • Remember when Stinky was a bully and sidekick to Harold? Furthermore, remember when he wore those spiky wristbands?
    • Remember when Sid wasn't a paranoid nutcase? The guy even gained episodes dedicated to him because of it.
    • Remember when Rhonda wasn't rich?
    • Remember when Helga was so unsympathetic that her failures and neglectful home life were amusing? And her crush on Arnold was of the stalker variety? Well, that last part never changed much, but she did eventually commit several acts of true love.
  • The Chew Toy:
    • Eugene, the Anthropomorphic Personification of bad luck.
    • Arnold's father Miles is pretty accident-prone too. Not as extreme as Eugene though.
    • Pick an episode where Helga's secret is in danger of some sort, and you'll get an episode where the universe itself plots against her for eleven minutes straight.
  • Chez Restaurant: Chez Pierre and Chez Paris who are right across the street from one another, the better to aid any would-be Two-Timer Date.
  • Christmas Episode: "Arnold's Christmas", where Arnold tries to reunite Mr. Hyunh with his daughter as his Secret Santa present.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • Mr. Hyunh's daughter Mai was never seen again. Possibly justified - after all, she presumably had adoptive parents in the US, given that her father hadn't been in her life for about 2 decades. She is mentioned only once, in "Family Man".
    • Ruth McDougal (the sixth grader Arnold had a crush on in the first season) mysteriously disappears towards the middle of the series. One could guess that she simply graduated from P.S. 118, since she was already in sixth grade, and Arnold never mentions her (or his crush on her) after the Valentine's Day episode in which Arnold tries to go on a date with both Ruth (who thinks she's seeing a famous poet named "Anonymous") and his French pen pal, Cecilia, and discovers that Ruth isn't all that bright or interesting to be around. In "What's Opera, Arnold?," she appears mainly for Helga to have a foil in Arnold's dream opera. Afterwards, she only cameos two or three times.
    • Tucker, Coach Wittenburg's son. Appeared in one episode and was never seen or mentioned again. Odd, since Coach Wittenburg gets a few focus episodes. It's particularly glaring when one such episode deals with Wittenburg's estrangement from his wife. He finally reappears in The Jungle Movie alongside his parents.
    • Mr. Smith (the first season boarder whose face nobody sees) never appears after "Door #16"
    • Lana Vail, the brunette woman who lived in the boarding house, also disappears midway through the first season, but shows up in background shots on occasion; for example, at the restaurant with the cockroaches in "Dinner for Four". Some sources say that her original characterization was considered too inappropriate for Nickelodeonnote  so they dropped her altogether.
    • Mr. Purdy also disappeared after only a quick gag in one episode. The boarding house sure suffered a loss of business after season 1.
    • Torvald seems to have completely disappeared after only a few appearances.
    • Billy, a member of the geek ensemble introduced in "Eugene's Bike" disappeared without a trace after the first season.
    • Inverted with Grandpa's sister Mitzi, who appeared out of the blue with no previous mention during the fourth season. However, she also never made any other appearances afterwards.
    • Ludwig never appeared again after his debut episode despite the implication that he and Wolfgang would join forces from then on.
  • Circle of Shame: This happens dozens of times. Often, several of the characters forming the circle were laughed at in an earlier episode, because Kids Are Cruel.
  • The City vs. the Country: Lila moves from a farm to the big city and is immediately resented and made fun of by the other kids. Subverted when she stays in the city and the other kids warm to her.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander:
    • Arnold's Grandparents both tend to be very eccentric and prone to bizarre habits.
    "Hey! Crazy lady! Come back here with my bulldozer!!"
    • In the first season, Arnold himself was this way, being very quiet and introverted, with a tendency to frequently lapse into intense daydreams.
    • Principal Wartz, too. During the flood, he dressed in Mexican garb and danced around, then climbed onto the school roof and started singing. He later quit his job as principal for an episode to seek a career as a singer.
  • The Collector of the Strange:
    • Helga's statue of Arnold made out of wads of ABC gum the boy threw away, doubles as a Stalker Shrine.
    • Arnold's cousin Arnie collects lint.
    • Ernie has his apartment filled with the last brick of each building he demolished (which is over 500). Amazing the extra weight hasn't caused his floor to give in.
  • Comic-Book Time: Several dates in the background show the series takes place in the mid-to-late 1990s. During "New Bully on the Block", the scoreboard said Gerald Field was founded in July 1997. A newspaper printed on October 9, 1998 appears on "It Girl", and the show Arnold and Helga appear on on their beach trip is filmed in July 22, 1999. Despite these dates being from 3 different years, very few characters are shown having birthdays, and none of the kids ever move on to the 5th grade. The Jungle Movie moves the timeline all the way to the 2010s, with Rhonda being shown taking selfies with a smartphone.
  • Compressed Vice: Oskar's illiteracy. "Oskar Can't Read?" is the only episode where it comes up.
  • Consolation World Record: "World Records" has everyone in Hillwood try and fail to break a lot of world records, but end up breaking the record for the most record-breaking attempts to ever be attempted!
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Lila mentions she gets sick on the big amusement rides in "Love and Cheese". After riding the coaster in "Timberly Loves Arnold" she's seen throwing up
    • The premise of "Beaned" calls back to the plot of "Dangerous Lumber," showing that Arnold still has a perfect record for beaning people with baseballs. And the plot of "Dangerous Lumber" could be seen as continuing off of the event that kicked off "24 Hours To Live."
    • In the episode where Arnold tries to help Chocolate Boy overcome his chocolate addiction Gerald mentions several of Arnold's past accomplishments which were all from past episodes.
    "Helped Stoop Kid and The Pigeon Man, found Mr. Hyunh's daughter, saved Mighty Pete, stopped the teachers strike..."
  • Cool Big Sis: Olga tries to be a cool older sister to Helga, but Helga resents her most of the time. She gets along better with Lila in "Big Sis".
  • Cool Car: Grandpa's vintage Packard; it was even the focus of "Grandpa's Packard".
  • Cool Loser: In "Cool Party" Gerald is on the "geek" list. Subverted in that Gerald was only put on the "geek" list by Rhonda because he beat her for the position of Class President in 2nd grade.
  • Cool Old Guy: Arnold's Grandpa is a very good guardian to his grandson and will sometimes join in his grandson's pastimes.
  • Cool Old Lady: Arnold's Grandma occasionally is the one who helps Arnold save the day.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Arnold's Grandpa after entering fifth grade becomes more prone to dishonest behavior.
  • Covert Pervert: In "Timberly Loves Arnold", Lila says this immortal line:
    Lila: That is, if Arnold doesn't mind making it a threesome.
  • Comic Trio: Harold (Moe), Sid (Curly), and Stinky (Larry), especially earlier on, when Harold was more of a one-dimensional bully and Sid and Stinky were his flunkies.
  • The Cowl: Hillwood's local superhero Monkeyman strives to fight for the good of all.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Subverted and inverted at the end of "Summer Love" in which Helga gives Arnold CPR after being rescued in a "Babewatch" film shooting, only for her to give him a kiss which surprises Arnold.
  • Crack Defeat: Subverted in "Family Man", where Mr. Hyunh worries that his new boss will pick an inferior cook as the new head chef of the restaurant he works at simply because he has a family, but Mr. Hyunh gets the position in the end precisely because he's a way better cook than the other guy.
  • Crappy Holidays: "Arnold's Thanksgiving" has Arnold and Helga complain about their own Thanksigivings, but finding that Mr. Simmons' Thanksgiving is even worse.
  • Crazy People Play Chess: The Sewer King plays chess and is strongly implied to be out of his gourd.
  • Creative Closing Credits: Quite a few episodes (particularly special/serious ones) have their own unique credit music. Some episodes even have the credits playing over actual animation and dialogue ("Principal Simmons").
  • Creepy Child:
    • Curly, and his Troubling Unchildlike Behavior sometimes comes to the point of high-potential Ax-Crazy. Upon finding that he wasn't assigned the Ball Monitor privileges that he anticipated for that week, he holed himself up in the principal's office with the balls, throwing them at anyone who tried to reason with him. He tried to get Eugene expelled simply because he ruined his favorite pencil. Curly's Stalker-iffic admiration of Rhonda intersects with this trope more often than not.
      "SO HOW ABOUT A LOCK OF YOUR HAIR TO KEEP UNDER MY PILLOW?"
    • Stoop Kid. The neighborhood kids are rightfully scared of him.
    • To an extent, Arnie is a bit creepy as well.
  • Curse Cut Short: In "Ghost Bride", while Arnold is reading the epitaph of the titular Ghost Bride.
    Arnold: Here lies Cynthia Snell. She lived her life and went straight to... I can't read the rest.
  • Cute Bruiser: Helga is 9 years old and still pretty capable of giving beatings to other people.

    D 
  • Darker and Edgier: In-universe in "Eugene, Eugene". The director deliberately changes the original happy ending of the play into a Downer Ending, to stimulate the Black Comedy fan crowd.
  • Dark-Skinned Blond: Nadine. This becomes a bit more...somewhat plausible when you notice that in Parents Day, her dad is white and her mom is black.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Despite his name being in the title, there are more than a few episodes where Arnold has absolutely no connection to the plot at all.
    • Indeed, by the end of the series, it's easier to count the secondary characters who didn't ever get an episode focusing on themnote ; practically every kid in Arnold's class and "permanent" member of the boarding house had at least one. Even Helga's parents had at least one each.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: In an in-universe example, one episode involves Dino Spumoni faking his death to rekindle an interest in his music and raise his sales. It works too well as a Dino-impersonator comes along, doing his songs and gigs, dates his former wife, and his dog loves him, and drives Dino jealous and reveals he isn't dead.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Grandpa and Jimmy Kafka exchange a bunch of these in "Old Iron Man" when they believe they're about to drown.
    Grandpa: We're going to Davy Jones' Locker!
    Jimmy: Kicking the bucket!
    Grandpa: Buying the water farm!
    Jimmy: Checking out of the Hotel of Life!
    Grandpa: And checking into the Hotel of Death!
    Jimmy: The Big Roundup!
    Grandpa: The Last Tango in Paris!
    Jimmy: The Last Tango in Paris? That's not a euphemism for dying!
    Grandpa: I know but it was my turn and I ran out of euphemisms and I didn't want to lose the game!
    • In "Grandpa's Birthday", Grandpa uses the phrase "Buying the farm" to Arnold. Arnold takes it literally at first.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Gerald will frequently make sarcastic remarks about the situation.
    • Helga can snark with the best of them.
  • Dean Bitterman: Principal Wartz can be grouchy and unreasonable at times.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Arnold's parents, Miles and Stella, were assumed to be deceased during the original run, and therefore fell into this trope. They have devoted their lives to working with and healing the inhabitants of remote jungles. In the ultimate saintly move they left Arnold with his grandparents after being pressured to go on one last mission—and never came home. In The Jungle Movie it is revealed that they fell to the sleeping sickness they were working on curing, and were comatose for nine years. They recovered along with the Green Eyes tribe when Arnold and Helga activated the machine that spread the antidote throughout the Green Eyes' encampment.
  • Deconstruction: Arguably for shows like Arthur and Recess. For in those shows, there is a memorable/colorful cast of characters, all with their own personality quirks. While that is present here in Hey Arnold, the quirks and traits that make the characters more or less memorable, are usually the result of some hidden neurosis, or psychosis. Some characters have even received therapy for said problems; only to regress to their former problematic ways at the story's end.
  • Defeat Equals Friendship: Subverted in the episode "24 Hours To Live" because even though Arnold never fought Harold directly, he still gained his respect after the "fight" sequence, through the way he got himself out of the fight.
  • Demoted to Extra: After Arnold finally gets over Lila in "Timberly Loves Arnold/Eugene! Eugene!", she becomes a background character and never has another speaking role.
  • Denser and Wackier: Later episodes became more comedic and off-the-wall in tone.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Coach Wittenburg repetitively overuses words.
  • Depending on the Writer: A lot about the way the kids relate to one another change depending on the plot - which makes a bit of sense for grade school kids.
    • Most obvious is how close the gang is: sometimes they're one huge tightly knit group of friends that hang around together with little to no friction ("Arnold's Halloween"; any time they play on the vacant lot), while other times they seem to have no problem with insulting/making fun of their friends. Generally, it's shown that Arnold's closest friends aside from Gerald are Harold, Sid, Stinky, and Eugene.
      • The True Companions approach to the 4th graders is most often used in episodes where they go on some kind of adventure ("Ghost Bride") or are up against a common enemy ("New Bully on the Block"; "New Teacher"), and got a bit more common in general episodes as the show went on.
    • Helga's relationship with Arnold - sometimes Arnold sees her as a bullying nuisance and doesn't seem to like her very much ("Girl Trouble"; "Summer Love"; "Married"; and particularly "Egg Story", so much that it seems out-of-character), whereas other times, it's evident that he is aware that her abrasive attitude is a cover of some kind and approaches her as a friend regardless of her behavior ("Helga vs Big Patty"; "School Play"; any episode where Helga has a family problem and Arnold gives her advice).
  • Determinator:
    • Helga will refuse to let any setback stop her, particularly when her secret is in danger of getting out. The climax of "Helga's Parrot" in particular has her single-mindedly driving herself through the roof to keep things under wraps.
    • Brainy has been given Offhand Backhands whenever he tries to be near Helga since the age of three…now nine, he still does it.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Harold's plan to get a week off from school by intentionally getting himself suspended in "Suspended" proves to have a few holes in it. For starters, he intended to spend most of his time watching TV and eating junk food and didn't anticipate that the programs he wanted to watch would be interrupted by an emergency broadcast or that he'd currently be out of the kind of food he likes to eat. He also tried to hide the fact that he was suspended from his parents so he could have the house to himself, but failed to realize that his parents would lock the front door if they thought he was at school.
  • Dinner Order Flub: Helga, trying to pass herself off as Arnold's French pen pal whilst in disguise and with a very rudimentary knowledge of French, attempts to make a order from the menu of a fancy French restaurant. It isn't until she's happily tucking into the dish that the waiter informs her that she's eating cow brain and eggs... which prompts a dart to the bathroom. Arnold played it safe with a steak and fries.
  • Disability Superpower: The blind guy in "Das Subway" had a really good sense of smell.
  • Disappearing Box: Helga gets involved in the trick in "Magic Show", but decides to run away instead of staying behind the secret wall, thinking what life would be like without her. It leaves Arnold trying to bring her back many times with no avail.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: Helga experiences a bizarre series of hallucinations after drinking an (alleged) anti-love potion in "Helga's Love Potion."
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Curly's main schtick, besides (or in addition to) being completely Ax-Crazy. Him terrorizing the gang through a cemetery dressed as an undead murderess because he couldn't be the one to tell a story is one thing, and him barricading himself in the principal's office and laying siege to the school with dodgeballs because he couldn't be ball monitor is another, but enacting an elaborate plot to get Eugene expelled from school simply because Eugene borrowed and chewed on his favorite pencil? That's just insane. And, "FREE THE ANIMALS!!!"
  • Distracted by the Luxury: Rhonda frequently prioritizes her attention toward the gifts her parents shower her with.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Arnold becomes a mild version after realizing that he's interested in Lila, only for Lila to continually clarify to him that she's realized that she doesn't like like him.
  • Doing It for the Art: In-Universe. Mr. Hyunh, who has an incredible country-western singing voice, only likes to play music for his friends and family as a way to relax, while perfectly happy to work his restaurant day job. When Arnold and Gerald try to make his famous, he's clearly not comfortable with it.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male:
    • Zig-zagged with Helga. While her bullying (of everyone, not just Arnold) is not treated as seriously as a male bully would be, it is still not portrayed as being okay by the show, pointing out repeatedly that it is a problem, and that what Helga is doing is not acceptable behaviour for anybody. Helga on the Couch: Principal Wartz didn't seem to pay much attention to Helga punching Brainy, as usual, until Dr. Bliss informs him of this. It's possible that Wartz, like the students, had grown accustomed to it or the instances didn't get reported considering how Helga is.
    • However, in one episode, Helga throws glue on Arnold, and Arnold snaps and throws paint on her. Arnold is the one who gets yelled at.
    • Played straight with Arnold's grandparents when they were kids, where his grandmother would do the same (if not worse) to his grandfather.
      • There is an unfortunate amount of Truth in Television in how bullying is reacted to in schools in this show. Principal Wartz's non-reaction is normal for an American school administrator, and bullying (be it physical or verbal) is largely given a blind eye unless someone outside the school makes an issue of it. And Arnold being punished for throwing the paint is also an unfortunate norm: Anyone who lashes out at a bully gets punished for "perpetuating the problem", frequently while the bully escapes with either a warning or no punishment at all.
  • Downer Ending:
    • "Arnold Betrays Iggy" ends with Arnold cutting off ties with Iggy after suffering public humiliation.
    • "New Bully on the Block" ends with the gang being beaten up and losing Gerald Field to Wolfgang and Ludwig.
    • "Operation Ruthless" and "Love and Cheese" have a downer ending for Helga. The episodes have the same basic plot, with Ruth and Lila, respectively. Helga brings it on herself both times, since she shouldn't be allowed to get away with what she does, but both endings portray her as so pitiful that you can't help but feel for her.)
    • "Helga and the Nanny" ends with Helga's home life going back to its dysfunctional state after she pushed away the one person that was improving it. Just like the above example, Helga doesn't really deserve a happy ending, but it's hard not to feel sorry for her.
  • Dream Sequence: Many dream sequences appeared in the first season when Arnold was portrayed more as a Cloudcuckoolander, but went away as the show went on.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty:
    • Lieutenant Major Goose can be pretty petulant and demanding, he was Arnold's teacher for short time,(after Miss Slovak and before Mr. Simmons), he's a satire of Major Payne.
    • Coach Wittenburg also had the sports discipline of a drill sergeant.
  • Dropped Glasses: Happens to Phoebe in the hallway in "Hall Monitor", where she frantically searches for her dropped glasses as other students step on them.
  • Duck Season, Rabbit Season: Helga pulls this trick on Arnold in his dream in "Married", tricking him into saying he does want to marry her by switching sides of their argument after it's gone on long enough.
  • During the War: Grandpa's war story. Which includes the tale that he personally beat up Hitler, and this tidbit:
    Arnold: Grandpa, you did not fight Adolf Hitler! You're making this all up.
    Grandpa: Okay, ya got me. I made that part up. It was Goebbels.
  • Dysfunctional Family: Dear God, the Patakis. Very much so.

    E 
  • Early-Bird Cameo:
    • Monkeyman can be seen (and heard) in the background in several episodes before his Season 4 debut. In fact, he appears in the very first episode "Downtown as Fruits".
    • Patty first appeared in "Ms. Perfect" as a nameless character who unintentionally falls victim to pranks Helga intended to inflict on Lila.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The original Stop Motion shorts are nothing like the main series. Aside from being in a different animation medium, the shorts focus not on solving real-life problems, but on drifting off into Arnold's imagination. In addition, Arnold himself is a cross between Mr. Imagination and a Cloud Cuckoo Lander, his fascination with dinosaurs is much more apparent, and the sequences themselves are bizzare in comparison to the main series.
    • The first season is a lot different from the other seasons. The animation is of much lower quality, with lots of Off-Model scenes, the students are taught by Miss Slovak instead of Mr. Simmons, there were fewer episodes centered on Helga (and she lacked any redeeming qualities for a while, with the abuse and neglect she suffered being used as a form of Comedic Sociopathy), Arnold has a crush on Ruth, who is nowhere to be found after season 1, there is a heavier focus on bizarre one-shot characters as opposed to Arnold’s classmates, and on top of all that, Arnold is FAR more child-like and immature compared to the later seasons.
      • One early episode has Gerald as the voice of reason, and another has Pookie act as the voice of reason. Watching the later episodes you'd be surprised to see this.
    • The original pilot episode of the series depicted most of the characters as having differently-colored clothes and gave Gerald a more saturated skin tone.
  • Easy Amnesia: Helga gets amnesia in "Beaned" after getting hit with a baseball. Subverted in that she gets her memory back normally when she wakes up the next day, not by getting hit again. However, she continues to fake amnesia to take advantage of Arnold's kindness, and when she feels guilty about it, she intentionally hits her head again so she can pretend that she just then got her memory back.
  • Election Day Episode: "Mr. Green Runs" had Marty Green, a butcher shop owner, angry at the fact that his councilman was failing to do things to help the community he represented (such as failing to get funds to repair and repave roads which had massive potholes) and spent more time golfing than working on legislation, decided to oppose him in the upcoming election. Green wins.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Curly's real first name is Thaddeus.
  • Ensemble Cast:
    • While Arnold is the kid with his name on the show's title, the series doesn't focus only on him. There's a certain (and rather large) group of characters that appear pretty darn often: Helga, Harold, Gerald, Phoebe, Sid, Rhonda, Stinky, Eugene, Mr. Simmons, Big Bob, Miriam, Grandpa, Grandma, Oskar, Ernie, and Mr. Hyunh.
    • Then there's characters that appear fairly often, but not quite enough to be considered part of the main circle: Principal Wartz, Curly, Lila, Brainy, Suzie, and Olga
  • Escaped Animal Rampage: In "Cool Party", Curly goes crazy (again) after he's among those not invited to Rhonda's party, and acting on an impulse, frees all the animals from the zoo.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Big Bob's greedy, but he's not a murderer. He also refuses to bulldoze a tree upon realizing there were kids up there, but mostly his kid (which in of itself is something, considering how neglectful he usually is of Helga.)
    • Helga gives Arnold a lot of crap but during the parents day episode when Bob calls Arnold (who was in earshot) an orphan, she is shocked and later goes up to Arnold and apologizes for it, justified because it's probably one of the only things that can hurt him.
    • Played with when Rhonda (forced by circumstance to pretend to be his girlfriend) publicly dumps Curly and humiliates him, Helga is disgusted with her and tells her she has a black heart. To Rhonda, Helga is the biggest Jerkass around (only the audience knows about her hidden heart of gold).
    • Speaking of Helga, the other children aren't really evil but can be cruel Jerkasses at times but even they called Helga out when she framed her nanny for theft.
  • Everybody Cries:
    • "Ms. Perfect" involves Lila refusing to attend school after being the victim of a prank courtesy of Helga, Phoebe, Rhonda, Nadine, and Sheena. When the girls arrive at Lila's house to drop off her homework, they discover that Lila and her father are suffering from financial issues. The moment Lila's father breaks down crying when he is told he has been rejected as a job candidate, Helga and the other girls start to feel remorse over their treatment of Lila and start shedding tears too.
    • In "School Play", when P.S. 118's production of "Romeo & Juliet" comes to a close, there is hardly a dry eye from anyone who had watched the play.
    • In "Full Moon", Harold, Sid, and Stinky are all crying as they confess to Principal Wartz to mooning him in order to clear Arnold's name.
    • In "Synchronized Swimming", Coach Wittenburg talks about his emotional experience watching a movie called "Come Back, Wayne", particularly the ending. By the time he has finished talking about his experience to his synchronized swimming team, he and most of his team are in tears. The only ones who don't cry are Arnold and Gerald, although Gerald's lips do quiver at one point.
    • "On the Lam" has Harold, Sid, and Stinky once again crying together. Only this time, not only does it involve them thinking they blew up a police station, but they all cry twice in one episode! The first time is when they confess to Arnold about their "actions" in his basement and the second time is when they confess to everybody on live TV near the end.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Stoop Kid, Chocolate Boy, Pigeon Man, Monkey Man, and The Jolly-Olly Man are just some characters on the show who are seldom addressed by their real names, if their real names are known at all. (Pigeon Man's real name is Vincent, while Jolly Olly's real name is Willie.)
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Helga and Lila for Arnold to a certain degree, since he has blond hair and they are attracted to him (the latter at least initially).
  • Everyone Went to School Together: In this case, they all went to pre-school together, as revealed in a flashback in "Helga on the Couch." Strangely, even Harold was there, even though a previous episode had made Harold several years older than his classmates.
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: When Mr. Simmons becomes principal, there are a lot of rainbows at the school.
  • Everytown, America: Hillwood is your typical made-up American city used as the setting for a work of fiction.
  • Evil Laugh: Curly wins in the best psychotically evil laugh department, but Helga has a pretty impressive one as well. Some of the other characters get one in certain episodes: Sid for example gets on in "Sid's Revenge," and Phoebe gets a brief but creepy evil chuckle in "Phoebe Breaks a Leg."
  • Evil Overlooker: Scheck is depicted as a giant reaching for Arnold and friends below him in the poster for The Movie.
  • Evil Plan: Helga refers to her schemes to get what she wants as "evil plans", often with episodes dedicated solely to her pulling a series of them. A running gag in the series is that her evil plans always fail in ways that only help the person she's trying to hurt and hurt her instead.
  • Excited Show Title!: Hey Arnold! is written as if it's something being shouted.
  • Expressive Hair: Helga's pigtails will occasionally perk up or droop depending on her mood.
  • Expy:
    • Lieutenant Major Goose from New Teacher is an expy of the title character of Major Payne.
    • Wally the Alligator in "Ransom" is the most obvious Barney expy ever.
    • The mechanic in "Road Trip" is Karl Childers with a unibrow.
    • The owner of the scarf store is modeled after Peter Lorre.
    • Mr. Green is partially based on Ernest Borgnine's character from Film/Marty.
  • Extreme Doormat:
    • Phoebe takes everything Helga throws at her - however, she gets some Character Development, in a few episodes where it's shown Helga also depends on Phoebe's support.
    • Arnold himself lets people take him for granted a few times.

    F 
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Helga's attempts at admitting her love to Arnold always end in failure. Subverted in The Movie, when she finally tells him face-to-face, and for good in The Jungle Movie.
  • Fan Disservice: Gertie decides to go naked in "Summer Love" after encountering some naturists at the beach, her nudity thankfully obscured by a surfboard. Phil even lampshades it.
    Phil: Aw, Pookie. Nobody wants to see that!
  • Fandom-Specific Plot:
    • The Jungle Movie fanfics, write-ups, and speculatory scenes were very popular in the decade-plus period between the end of the original run and the film's final airing.
    • Fanfic writers are also particularly fond of the plot where a character leaves/runs away from town, stays away for years, and then comes back as an adult. This type of story usually stars Helga, who comes back hot and much nicer, and at the end finally manages to be with Arnold.)
    • It's almost difficult to find an Arnold/Helga fanfic that doesn't feature Arnold seeing Helga with her hair down and realizing she was "Cecile".
  • Fantasy Helmet Enforcement: The kids always wear helmets and other protective gear when they go biking.
  • Fat Bastard:
    • Harold is obese and was quite mean in the earlier episodes. As the series went on, he became The Big Guy with a slight hint of Jerkass.
    • Big Bob is slightly overweight and not a very pleasant guy at all.
  • Fat Idiot: Harold is shown to possess the IQ of a piece of furniture. This quote from Helga perfectly sums up why.
    Helga: Everything that happened today was your fault. You can't do anything right! Take the bus for example. Why do you think we missed it, Harold? Oh, let's see, hmm... maybe was it be because you were too busy eating twice your body weight in chocolate Num-nums?! Oh, how about this one? "Let's take the subway, I think it goes to Lincoln." Oh wait, no it doesn't, it goes straight to the bowels of the underworld!! Population: Homicidal! Toothless! Midget clowns!! "I know, let's steal their bike, they won't mind." Now, you'd think that would be enough to fill any moron's day, but you're not just any moron, are you, Harold? You're the king! Your day's just getting started! So, because of your amazing curiosity about the world around us, you pulled the plug out of the bottom of our getaway boat!!! You idiot.
  • Fire-Breathing Diner: "Chocolate Boy" has Chocolate Boy exhale flames when he and Arnold try chili peppers as a substitute for chocolate to cure his addiction to chocolate.
  • First-Name Basis: Helga refers to her mother and father as "Miriam" and "Bob" respectively, most likely because she doesn't view them as true parents, and for good reason.
  • Feud Episode: "Best Friends" focused on a temporary falling out between both Arnold and Gerald and Dino Spumoni and his songwriting partner Don Reynolds.
  • Flanderization:
    • Arnold started out as a good-natured kid that sometimes made mistakes, but as the seasons went on, he turned into an incorruptible, squeaky clean, advice-giving saint.
      • This spread to other characters who contrast it - in later seasons they were practically total buffoons or borderline immoral jerks, watching some episodes in which the voice of reason is someone like Gerald or even Grandma seems rather weird.
    • Eugene's bad luck intensifies with each passing season.
    • Grandma started out eccentric and a little batty, but ultimately sane and always willing to give Arnold a little advice (even if it was delivered in a non-traditional manner), but she got slowly crazier as the series wore on and by the end of the series she's little more than a crazy old lady who lives in Arnold's house. This can be somewhat justified in a somewhat horrifying way - senility.
    • Olga started out as overachieving drama queen that would actually be treated like Helga if she wasn't successful and understood Helga's plight to.... just a content, overachieving drama queen. Also, you'll be damned if you see Miriam functioning despite drinking and scouring the city to get Helga a sold out gift for Christmas in any later season.
    • Lila started as a seemingly perfect yet struggling girl who had Hidden Depths, and finished as a Parody Sue who was ever-so-certain about everything.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Arnold (phlegmatic), Helga (choleric), Gerald (sanguine), and Phoebe (melancholic/leuquine).
  • Free-Range Children: The nine-year old cast runs about the city (which is quite big) with little concern from any of their parents. This includes playing sports in the middle of a busy street, running away when a car comes. This particular instance doubles as Truth in Television.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: If you pause in "Phoebe's Little Problem", you can see that apparently they have school over the summer. Maybe they're making up the days they missed from the Teacher's Strike?
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Helga, due to her bullying tendencies, isn't well-liked by the other kids. Only Phoebe and occasionally Arnold truly consider her a friend. Everyone else just tolerates her out of fear and/or proximity.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • As seen in one of Helga's days in the limelight, "Helga on the Couch." She discusses with the school psychiatrist her obsession of Arnold which is deeply embedded into her family life. On her first day of pre-school her parents were more focused on her sister Olga playing the piano. They didn't even acknowledge her existence when she asked them to take her. She had to walk there herself and on the way it began to rain, mud got splashed on her, and a rottweiler stole her lunch. Then Arnold gave her his umbrella, which was possibly the first time somebody showed her genuine kindness. She began her assertive personality when Harold stole her crackers and the other kids teased her about her crush. She explained to the psychiatrist that she treats Arnold the way she does because she fears rejection like how her family seemingly rejected her. It's safe to say that not one member of the audience had a dry eye when the episode was over. And Helga was placed top of the show's Woobie list.
    • Parodied with the Jolly Olly Man: If you had to drive daily to a wasteland of a city to sell ice cream to horrible children you will be a little crazy too (even more scary, the true source of his problems is his father, who doesn't believe in him and is clearly expecting him to fail).
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: Miriam is hinted to be alcoholic in a way that doesn't mention alcohol. She's shown drinking "Smoothies" and falling asleep in odd places, as well as putting Tabasco Sauce in them. She has slurred speech and signs of depression.
    • Averted in "Buses, Bikes, and Subways" when Mr. Simmons' class sings the "explicit" version of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall."
  • Funny Foreigner: Mr. Hyunh has shades of being foreign comic relief at times, but Oskar Kokoshka defines this trope.

    G 
  • Gag Nose: Sid, Stinky, Oskar, and Grandpa all have big noses.
    Sid: I bet [Rhonda] thinks I'm a geek because of my big nose!
    Stinky: It's not that big.
    Sid: Thanks, but you're only saying that because you have the biggest honker in the world. No offense.
    Stinky: None taken.
  • Gainax Ending: "Sid the Vampire Slayer". Throughout the episode, Sid believes that Stinky is a vampire, citing strange though incriminating reasons and trying to take a stake to Stinky's chest. Fortunately, Arnold proves to Sid that Stinky is not a vampire...only to show at the very end that Sid was right, as Stinky has a chat with a bat, reveals his sharp fangs, and cackles maniacally. This wasn't brought up again, so Rule of Funny was probably in effect.
  • Gay Paree: Subverted. When Helga tried to pass herself off as Arnold's pen pal, he asked about her home and Helga responded that Paris is a big noisy city, full of French people. Then Arnold recalled Cecile saying that she lived in a farm, catching Helga off guard.
  • Gentle Giant: Patty Smith the Huge Schoolgirl of P.S. 118 is reasonable and good-natured when she isn't bullied or provoked.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Has its own page.
  • Gilligan Cut: It's a Running Gag to immediately cut to characters doing what they said they wouldn't.
    Helga: I am not taking the subway! (cut) I can't believe I'm taking the subway!
    Gerald: There's no way we're fishing in the swan boat! (cut) I can't believe we're fishing in the swan boat.
    Arnold: We are not calling our go-kart the "Mauve Avenger". (cut) I cannot believe we called our go-kart the "Mauve Avenger".
    Helga: Look, I am not going to in there and tell them the truth and end up washing dishes. (cut) I can't believe I told them the truth and I wound up washing dishes.
    Oskar: I never lose! (cut) I can't believe I lost.
    Helga: I am not gonna be part of your dumb little football game. (gets the shit beaten out of her) I can't believe I'm part of their dumb little football game.
    Rhonda: There is no way I am wearing that shirt! (cut) I cannot believe I am wearing this shirt.
  • Girly Girl with a Tomboy Streak: Rhonda is a spoiled, rich Alpha Bitch, but she's not above playing football and baseball with her friends.
  • Girly Scream: Sid, Eugene, and Mr. Simmons have feminine-sounding screams.
  • Glasses Girl: Phoebe wears glasses.
  • God: Appears in Stinky's prophetic dream in "Stinky's Pumpkin", voiced by Tony Jay.
  • Gonky Femme: Patty was at first a girl that was tall and big enough to beat the official bully, Helga, and no characterization was given apart from being scary, strong... and wearing a skirt and a headband. In a later episode she has her own day in the limelight, where she is shown to be feminine, polite and graceful enough to excel in Manner Classes, even getting to tutor the shows girliest girl, Rhonda.
  • Good Parents: Surprisingly, most of the cast members, except Helga, have parents who do their best to raise them right. Some kids are shown only with one parent, but it's generally assumed the other one is there and simply not relevant to the plot. (The goodness of Arnold's parents was mostly implied until The Jungle Movie.)
  • Granola Girl: Is Helga's nickname for Sheena, which seems to be more or less accurate given her obsession with eating healthy.
  • G-Rated Drug:
    • Chocolate Boy's obsession with chocolate is very similar to a drug addiction. In one episode, he begs Arnold to help him get over this. It is revealed that his nanny who took care of him as a very young child always gave him chocolate. He was devastated when she was forced to leave him. He ate chocolate to remind him of the one person who ever loved him.
    • Miriam's "Smoothies" are a clear way of hinting she's an alcoholic without having to mention alcohol.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Arnold accidentally hits Grandpa in the groin in "Mugged" when he tried to kick a can off his head.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Grandpa Phil is reasonable for the most part, but he does show a grouchy side whenever he argues with the tenants at the boarding house.

    H 
  • Halloween Episode: "Arnold's Halloween" was a Whole Plot Reference to Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds radio prank.
  • Hates Being Touched: Helga doesn't like being touched by Arnold, or at least she pretends to.
  • Hate Sink:
    • It's probably not a coincidence that Wolfgang was introduced around the same time that Helga and Harold started undergoing their Character Development. He's a worse bully than both of them ever were and has no redeeming qualities, so it's very easy for fans to hate him.
    • There are also numerous one-shot characters that are this. In particular, Arnold, Oskar, Ernie, and Mr. Hyunh's rival Chauncey from "The Racing Mule" is a real piece of work. There is not a moment where Chauncey isn't arrogantly rubbing his victories in the heroes' faces, making fun of their mule Glueboy, and acting like an immature Manchild (including taunting Arnold and sticking his tongue out at Arnold like a six-year-old before the race). He even cheats by kicking Glueboy in the face during the mule race itself. Needless to say, he's such a detestable character that it'll be immensely satisfying to see Chauncey get knocked off his high horse (er, mule) when Arnold manages to beat him at the mule race despite Chauncey's efforts, which is immediately followed by Sore Loser Chauncey being kicked out of sight by his own mule.
  • Headless Horseman: The Headless Cabbie is a legend surrounding a cabbie being decapitated and his ghost haunting the park at night.
  • Here We Go Again: Several episodes end with the characters going through similar events to the ones they just resolved, like "Weighing Harold" (where Harold is again given a bet that he can't eat 50 Mr. Fudgie bars in one sitting) and "Phoebe Breaks a Leg" (where this time, Helga is the one with a fractured leg and Phoebe is the one who has to tend to her needs until she heals).
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Arnold is attracted to the red-headed Lila.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: There are more than a few close friends consisting of two people of the same gender.
    • Arnold and Gerald.
    • Principal Wartz and Mr. Simmons, at least during the "karaoke night" ending of "Principal Simmons." (Played with, as according to the series creator Mr. Simmons is actually gay.)
    • Helga and Phoebe, appropriately enough, considering their respective relationships with Arnold and Gerald.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: Gerald's informant "Fuzzy Slippers" was mentioned several times in the early episodes, but was never actually seen.
  • Hidden Depths: As confirmed by the chapter book Arnold's E-Files, Brainy is as eloquent as Helga… only that he cannot talk because of his asthma.
  • Hikikomori:
    • Stoop Kid somehow manages to be both pathologically afraid of leaving his home and a gutterpunk at once.
    • Arnold becomes this when he loses his hat in "Arnold's Hat", saying that he'll never come out of the house without it.
  • Hit Flash: The show had an instance of this, featuring colorful stars rapidly flying on a black background that originated in the pilot episode, and was recycled numerous times throughout the series and in the movie.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: In "Sid's Revenge", Principal Wartz gives Sid detention for a prank he didn't pull. Out of revenge and his frantic paranoia, Sid carves Wartz' likeness into a bar of soap. The next day, Sid finds out that Wartz is in the hospital, and is told by the doctor that he's already "checked out." Following this is a string of signs that soap voodoo worked. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Homage: 'What's Opera, Arnold?' was a Homage to the opera Carmen, right down to altered song lyrics. It's also an homage to the Bugs Bunny cartoon, "What's Opera, Doc?"
  • Homeless Pigeon Person: A "pigeon man" (trope picture) lives on a rooftop, with some elaborate cages containing hundreds of pigeons. At the end of the episode, he actually flies away carried by his birds.
  • Honor Before Reason: Almost every episode is about Arnold choosing to do the honorable thing over the logical thing.
  • Hot Teacher:
    • Arnold finds substitute teacher Ms. Felter attractive in "Crush on Teacher".
    • Olga is seen as attractive by the male students in "Student Teacher".
  • Hourglass Plot:
    • Happens to Phoebe and Helga in "Phoebe Breaks A Leg" - when Helga is indirectly responsible for Phoebe getting injured, out of guilt she starts waiting on her in the way she often had Phoebe wait on her. In a twist, Phoebe quickly realizes this is happening and - tired of being treated like an assistant all the time - conspires to keep it that way for as long as she can.
    • Happens to Arnold and Iggy in "Arnold betrays Iggy" - For accidentally blabbing an embarrassing secret of his friend Iggy, Arnold unsuccessfully tries to apologize to him. When Iggy finds out the truth, he begs Arnold for his forgiveness.
  • Huge Schoolgirl: Big Patty is way bigger than the other students. Also Sheena, who's as tall as most of the adults on the show.
  • Humiliation Conga: Helga tends to get these in episodes where her evil schemes go south in particularly unpleasant ways. Rhonda, as well, gets pretty severe ones in episodes where she's particularly haughty.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • In "Gerald's Tonsils" Gerald tries to practice singing with with his new post-tonsillectomy voice and a kid overhears him and makes fun of it, saying he has a "crazy voice." The kid has a very annoying and nasally voice himself.
    • In "Helga's Masquerade" Harold makes fun of Helgs's Big Ol' Unibrow despite the fact that Harold has a unibrow too.
    • "Girl Trouble" features this classic bit from Pookie.
    Pookie: Just remember, Arnold. Violence is not the answer.
    She karate chops a watermelon to slice it, hard enough to splatter some of it across the wall.
    • "Spelling Bee" has a banner hung outside the location holding the titular spelling bee. What does it read? "WELCOME SPEELERS!"

    I 
  • I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin!: In Chocolate Boy's self-titled episode, Arnold helps Chocolate Boy quit his "obsession" with chocolate for two weeks, only to get a 10 pound bag of chocolate which he immediately devours in one sitting. After Chocolate Boy realizes how pathetic he has become, he wants to quit for good. Chocolate Boy's mannerisms in this episode are very similar to a crackhead. Justified somewhat by the sheer quantity of chocolate Chocolate Boy consumes. Child or adult, that much caffeine and sugar will mess you up.
  • If I Had a Nickel:
    Harold: If I had a dime for every time somebody called me dumb...I'd sure have a whole bunch of dimes!
  • Ignored Confession: In The Movie, Helga says she loves Arnold. And then they agree it was heat of the moment.
  • I Know Karate:
    • Arnold learns it in "Mugged." He ends up becoming an Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy who ended up inadvertently chopping the clothes off of some guy who was looking for the bus stop.
    • In the episode "Career Day," Helga comments that the jujutsu class she took really helped her when taking down the perps she encountered on her police "ride-along."
  • I'm Okay!: the catchphrase of Eugune said when something bad happens to him.
  • Impossible Leavening: When the kids try to bake the world's biggest pizza puff, the whole thing explodes after Sid mentions that when reading the amount of yeast to use, he misread "tsp" as "ten square pounds".
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Helga in episodes where she's antagonistic, particularly as the series goes on. Especially noticeable in episodes involving Lila. The series does this especially well: because we know Helga's true insecure reasons for doing what she does, when her Evil Plans to humiliate Arnold or Lila or whoever's incited her jealous wrath fail epically and/or backfire hilariously on her the audience laughs, but also feels truly sorry for her.
  • Inept Aptitude Test: The plot of "The Aptitude Test" has Helga and Harold's test results being mixed up and causing problems for both of them.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Lila. Nearly every boy in Mr. Simmons' class has a crush on her (especially Arnold) and her beauty is often commented on by others. However, she doesn't look much different than the other girls, aside from the ones with exaggerated features such as Helga and Sheena.
  • Informed Deformity: While it's clear that Helga probably won't be winning any beauty pageants anytime soon (though she was a model for a brief time) she is one of the few characters who is outright called ugly despite the fact that this world is full of football heads, unibrows, inhuman looking faces and whacky hairstyles.
  • Ink-Suit Actor:
    • Mr. Simmons strongly resembles his voice actor, Dan Butler. They're are also both gay.
    • Councilman Gladhand in "Mr. Green Runs" looks a lot like his voice actor, John O'Hurley.
    • Radio announcer Nashville Ned resembles creator Craig Bartlett.
    • Mr. Scheck from the Movie looks a lot like his voice actor Paul Sorvino.
    • Coach Wittenberg has a slight resemblance to Jim Belushi.
  • Ironic Echo Cut: So very, very many times, coupled with the Gilligan Cut. "I can't believe I'm taking the subway."
  • Ironic Inversion: Stinky had no intention of becoming the mascot for Yahoo Soda in "Stinky Goes Hollywood" and only intended to be at the auditions to cheer Arnold on, yet he ends up picked after everyone else who auditioned was rejected.
  • Ironic Nickname: Curly, as Lieutenant Major Goose pointed out.
    Lt. Major Goose: YOUR HAIR'S NOT CURLY! WHAT'S YOUR REAL NAME?
    Curly: Thaddeus.
    Lt. Major Goose: *beat* CURLY, GO STAND OVER THERE!
    • Made even more ironic in that Curly actually sports a "Moe" haircut.
  • Insufferable Genius: Played straight with Phoebe. "Phoebe Cheats" and "Ms. Perfect" even shows us that she has to meet her own expectations with "being the best at everything".
  • Insult Backfire:
    • When the boys meet Rex Smythe-Higgins III in "Tour de Pond", Gerald mocks his haughty attitude by asking if he's the owner of the park. Rex tells him that his family actually does own the park.
    • "Phoebe Skips" averts it, with the sixth-grade girls using Phoebe's intelligence and niceness to their advantage.
  • Irrevocable Message: Helga got high off of laughing gas in "Helga Blabs it All" and left a message on Arnold's answering machine declaring her love for him, then spent the rest of the episode trying to delete it.
  • It's All My Fault: Arnold in "Beaned" and "April Fool's Day" blames himself for Helga's amnesia and temporary blindness in both episodes; Helga in "Phoebe Breaks a Leg" is shown to be very remorseful for Phoebe breaking her leg while doing errands for her.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Craig Bartlett says that Brainy ultimately wants Helga to be happy and wouldn't mind if her happiness meant not getting together with her.
  • I Was Beaten by a Girl: Harold by Big Patty in an arm wrestling match in "Harold vs. Patty". He is so upset, he attempts to escape from those mocking him by hiding under a drinking fountain. He finally gets over it by the end of the episode - after she beats him again in the citywide arm-wrestling championships - and smacks Sid and Stinky together when they trash talk about him after his loss, but not before publicly defending Patty as the better opponent. (The end of the episode implies a Relationship Upgrade for Harold and Patty due to this.)
  • I Wished You Were Dead: Sid with Principal Wartz in "Sid's Revenge". When Principal Wartz goes missing after Sid carves a voodoo doll of him out of soap, Sid comes to the conclusion that his actions have resulted in Wartz' death and is very distraught by his assumption that he killed Principal Wartz.


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