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Hey Arnold! character index
Arnold Shortman | Helga G. Pataki | Students of P.S. 118: Mr. Simmons' Class, Other Students | The Adults: Part One, Part Two | Other Kids

WARNING: There are plenty of unmarked spoilers throughout (spoilers from Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie WILL be marked as necessary), so read at your own risk.

Arnold Phillip Shortman
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/heyarnold.jpg
"Whatever you say, Helga."
Arnold as he appears in The Jungle Movie 
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Voiced by:
J.D. Daniels (pilot episode)
Toran Caudell (season 1 and singing voice in "What's Opera, Arnold?")
Phillip Van Dyke (seasons 2 and 3)
Spencer Klein (season 4, most of season 5 and The Movie)
Alex D. Linz ("April Fool's Day" and "The Journal")
Mason Vale Cotton (The Jungle Movie)
Rusty Flood (preschool/toddler Arnold in "Helga on the Couch" and "Parents Day")

"You think you're so bad, but deep down, I don't think you are. In fact, I have a feeling that you're probably a nice, normal person. And maybe one day, you won't be so afraid to show it."

The Main Protagonist of Hey Arnold!. He always strives to do the right thing and wants everyone to get along.


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    A-L 
  • The Ace: He 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.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Arnold is one of the most mature animated pre-teens ever imagined.
  • Affectionate Nickname:
    • "Short man" from his grandfather (which is a pun on his surname "Shortman").
    • "Arnie" from Coach Wittenberg.
    • While she normally uses it in an insulting manner, Helga occasionally calls him "Football Head" affectionately, implying it to be an Insult of Endearment.
    • Grandma Pookie has the habit of calling Arnold "Kimba" (he somewhat resembles a lion).
  • All-Loving Hero: He never opts for violence (aside from "Mugged"), and would rather have everyone get along.
  • Always Someone Better: So much that even Rhonda can't compare herself to him.
  • Anime Hair: It's spiky, and lampshaded a lot throughout the series. In fact, it's so iconic, that's it's weird to see him have it combed or hidden beneath a hat ("Helga Masquerade", "Married").
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Briefly in "Mugged" after learning karate. After he goes too far and assaults a man who was only trying to ask for help, he quickly snaps out of it.
  • Art Evolution: He started out wearing an orange sweater in the pilot and his head was shaped more like a blimp before changing into a taco-shaped look. His sweater also switched from orange (in the pilot) to turquoise (Season 1), and then to teal (Season 2 onwards).
  • Author Avatar: In this chatroom, Word of God states that he relates to Arnold the most.
  • Badass Pacifist: Arnold never resorts in violence to solve his problems, and was able to fake being Ax-Crazy well enough to stop Harold from fighting him.
  • Bare-Fisted Monk: He was taught Karate by his grandma, and he took to it like a fish to water.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: With Helga — Although he is definitely not a jerk, Helga's constant bullying has made him hostile towards her (or at least as much as he can be) and Helga is one of the greatest Tsunderes you will ever see.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Arnold really didn't like being called a jinx in "Eugene's Birthday".
    • Making fun of Abner won't fly with him. He was actually violent when it happened.
  • Betty and Veronica: The "Archie" for Helga's "Veronica" (rude, violent, Loving Bully) and Lila's "Betty" (optimistic, proper, All-Loving Hero). In the end, Lila doesn't reciprocate Arnold's feelings for her and Word of God confirms that he would return Helga's feelings, with the two marrying each other as adults.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Arnold is usually reserved and really friendly, but he's not afraid to exhibit his savagery should he be messed with.
  • Big Damn Kiss: With Helga in The Jungle Movie after he finds out what she's really like.
  • Blithe Spirit: Most of the time, he does some miracle with someone's life.
  • Blue Is Heroic: His outfit is mainly blue and he's the titular All-Loving Hero protagonist. He also mentions that blue is his favorite color in the episode "Married."
  • Born During A Storm: Arnold's mother went into labor during a volcanic eruption in the middle of the jungle. The eruption stopped the exact second Arnold was born.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Gender Inverted and Zigzagged with Helga. Arnold is an All-Loving Hero who gives emotional advice and support to others (including Helga) when they are in some personal crisis; Helga is a Broken Bird who acts as a bully to hide her insecurities and vulnerable side. However, because the latter acts as if she hates the former, they hardly make any development in their relationship resulting in more friction. until The Jungle Movie comes along anyway.
  • Characterization Marches On: He was more eccentric and naive early on. He was also a chronic daydreamer; many episodes in season 1 begin with a dream sequence. These were dropped for season 2, and most of his eccentricities and his naivete were phased out as he became the Only Sane Man and Wise Beyond His Years (although he remained Oblivious to Love throughout). Towards the very end of the series he abruptly developed a bit of a mischievous streak.
  • Cheerful Child: Although, it's more in the sense of being optimistic and good-natured than hyperactive and playful.
  • Chick Magnet: Arnold has had three girls like him over the series. Helga, Lila (at first), and Timberly. Patty even called him cute once and Rhonda wasn't too repulsed by the idea of kissing him in Romeo and Juliet.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: With Helga — They first met in pre-school, have a complicated relationship by elementary school (mostly due to Helga being unable to express her proper feelings to him), and Word of God confirms that the two would eventually marry as adults.
  • The Chosen One: He's the fabled "Child of the Volcano" revered by the Green-Eyed People. In fact, this partly justifies his football-shaped head (not only did he inherit it from his mom, the God of the Green-Eyed People has such a head) He was also prophesied to use the Corazon to cure the Hidden City of the sleeping sickness. Subverted to some degree as it's actually Helga who fulfills the prophecy and cures the sleeping sickness with her locket.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: At the beginning of the series he would frequently delve into euphoric daydreams. This went away halfway through the first season.
  • Color Motifs: Blue. It's his favorite color. His main outfit is mainly blue. And it represents his heroic nature and Only Sane Man tendencies.
  • The Conscience: To everyone, especially in later seasons, he serves as a voice of reason trying to warn them against bad decisions.
  • Cool Loser: Subverted. He sometimes finds himself at the butt of his classmates' jokes or abuse for no good reason, but he otherwise is always included in their group activities and, one-on-one, gets along well with almost all of them most of the time.
  • Dead Guy Junior: He was named after his mother Stella's late father. Craig Bartlett subsequently revealed that he's actually named for both of his grandfathers; his middle name is Phillip, though Phil is still alive.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Somewhat. Arnold does have some subtle character development over five seasons, but it's Helga who has the most clear character arc, and in some crucial moments does most of the work that Arnold inadvertently gets credit for.
    • In "Arnold's Christmas" Arnold tries and fails to reunite Mr. Hyunh with his long lost daughter, and it's Helga who ends up saving the day.
    • Similarly in "The Jungle Movie" Arnold actually does very little to advance the plot, and Helga again has to be the hero. In the end it's she who activates the machine that cures the Greeneyes and Arnold's parents.
  • Depending on the Writer:
    • Arnold's attitude towards Helga. Either he's indifferent to her and ignores her bullying for the sake of keeping peace, outright hates her and is almost as cruel to her as she is to him, or tries to be nice to her because he knows she's not mean deep down and hopes that his kindness will encourage her to show it.
    • A variation of this trope in that each of the main voice actors to play Arnold had a different take on him:
      • Toran Caudell's Arnold is by far the most prone to flights of fancy; he's also a lot less of a busybody than later Arnolds and tends to just go with the flow - he's the most easily influenced (and corrupted) of the Arnolds as well.
      • Phillip Van Dyke is a good "middle ground" Arnold, but he's also less ambitious or driven than the others and mostly lacking in guile, definitely the most innocent of the Arnolds (the fact that he lacks a love interest for most of Van Dyke's tenure helps).
      • Spencer Klein plays Arnold the way that most of the fandom tends to remember (and depict) him: he's the most serious of the Arnolds, and the most romantic and sensitive (witness his approach to Lila vs. how Caudell's Arnold approached Ruth). He's the one who by far shows the most interest in Helga ("Dinner for Four", "Married", and "Arnold Visits Arnie" all happened during Klein's tenure, plus The Movie), and he's also the most goody-goody of the Arnolds - "Deconstructing Arnold" wouldn't have worked as a season 1, 2 or 3 episode.
      • Alex D. Linz didn't play Arnold for long, but what little we see of him is a drastic shift from previous Arnolds. He's similar to Caudell's Arnold in that he is back to behaving like a normal kidnote , but with a few added layers, such as being a surprising mischievous streak - at least when it comes to Helga, flirting with her in an almost Trollish manner. The fact that Linz's appearances as Arnold take place after Helga confesses her love to him in Hey Arnold! The Movie, this may have something to do with the shift.
      • Mason Vale Cotton's Arnold in The Jungle Movie is less a deliberate rejection of Klein's take on the character (as Linz's was) and more a distillation. He's back to being (mostly) serious but he's less of a goody-goody (probably because he's too busy with his own plot to meddle in everyone else's). He has more of the Van Dyke childlike innocence to him, but also definitely has the most determination of them all, and although freaked out by Helga's advances at first, he eventually comes to terms with them and reciprocates, completely dropping the bizarre trolling-flirting combination he briefly employed when Linz voiced him. Despite returning her feelings, he's still more tentative with Helga than Klein's Arnold would have been - letting Helga initiate the kiss instead of kissing her himself.
  • Determinator: Arnold possesses strong will and believes that all problems are temporary.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: When he realizes that he really does like like Lila, Lila refuses to reciprocate his affections.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: "Football Head". He doesn't make a big deal out of it, but it's obvious that he hates being called that.
  • The Everyman: In the later seasons, he became rather generic.
  • Everyone Has Standards: As forgiving as Arnold is, his forgiveness and compassion do have limits.
    • Mainly whenever he's dealing with Oskar, Arnold will be pushed past his breaking point and call Oskar out for being a hopeless, lazy loser. Normally, it's Oskar knowing that he managed to get Arnold to lose faith in him that Oskar realizes just how horrible he is.
    • Arnold can only tolerate so much of Helga's bullshit before he snaps, such as in "Girl Trouble" where he threw yellow paint on her after constant torment during an art project.
    • In "Weird Cousin", when Stinky keeps rubbing in the fact that Lila prefers Arnie instead of Arnold, Arnold tells Stinky to shut up.
    • But the biggest example comes from "Arnold Betrays Iggy," when it's only after trying to do everything he can to gain Iggy's forgiveness for leaking his secret (which wasn't even his fault, but Sid and Stinky's) and humiliating himself in front of the whole city does Arnold sever ties with Iggy; the next day, Iggy has realized that Sid and Stinky were the true culprits and tries to make amends with Arnold, but by that point, Arnold refuses to even give him the time of day.
    • Despite being nice towards everyone, he can't stand Campfire Lass as he thinks she's irritating and faking her accent.
  • The Face: Among his circle of peers, he's the most sociable and problem-solving.
  • Flanderization: He started out as a good-natured kid that sometimes made mistakes, but as the seasons went on, he turned into an incorruptible advice-giving saint who was never wrong and could do almost anything. He was de-flanderized in the post-movie episodes.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The Phlegmatic. He's a people person and also coy at times.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Arnold's compassion extends to animals as well, as shown in "Field Trip" and "Big Caesar".
  • Generation Xerox: In "Girl Trouble," it's revealed his grandparents had a relationship very similar to the one he has with Helga when they were younger.
  • Girl of the Week: Although some crushes have lasted through at least a season (Ruth McDougal and Lila Sawyer), he's had minor crushes not far in-between, like Maria, a sixth grader, Miss Felter, a substitute teacher and Summer, an aspiring actress who's at least a couple years older than him.
  • Given Name Reveal: His mysterious surname is finally revealed in The Jungle Movie when he signs his passport. Turns out it was not the first time we heard it.
  • Good Is Not Soft: As nice and helpful as they come, but won't hesitate to call someone out for their misdeeds when they make him mad. He'll also stand up for others when they are in danger.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Spiky, blond hair + Nice Guy + All-Loving Hero = Arnold.
  • Hairstyle Inertia: He's had that weird spiked hairdo since he came out of the womb.
  • Handshake Substitute: He has a secret handshake with Gerald - both would either link their hands and wiggle their thumbs or hold their hands next to each other and wiggle their thumbs.
  • Happily Adopted: Played with: while his grandparents have taken him in and raised him as their own, and he's happy under their parenting, he still longs to find his mom and dad. And in The Jungle Movie, he, Gerald, and Helga do exactly that.
  • The Heart: His kindness and determination are what's keeping the town together.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Deconstructed. Arnold is one of the nicest characters in the series, but him being an orphan is a very sore spot for him.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: He has a crush on the auburn-haired Ruth and later on the bright redhead Lila. But according to Phoebe in "Ruthless," Ruth's hair is chestnut. Though he eventually ends up with equally blond Helga.
  • Heroic BSoD: In the episode, "Parents Day" when Big Bob makes fun of Arnold's missing parents by calling him "Orphan Boy". Arnold then gets depressed for the rest of the day until he goes to sleep and realizes how much his grandparents have filled the gap his real parents left.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Gerald; they have been best friends since preschool and have a secret handshake.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Arnold appears to be gifted with artistic talent, as mentioned in "Part time Friends" and "Rich Guy".
    • According to "The Aptitude Test", Arnold would make an excellent ambassador to a foreign land.
    • Arnold appears to be a good tango dancer, as shown in "April Fool's Day."
    • In "The Sewer King" Arnold is shown to be extremely adept at playing chess, which was one of the first of many instances that showcase his keen strategic abilities.
    • Arnold has impressive skills in video editing as seen in the episode "Freeze Frame" and Hey Arnold!: The Movie.
  • His Name Really Is "Barkeep": Grandpa's pet name for him is "short man". Word of God, and later The Jungle Movie, revealed that "Shortman" is Arnold's actual last name.
  • Humiliation Conga: Happens to him in the episode "Arnold Betrays Iggy", when he was forced to wear bunny pajamas in public. There's a reason why this is the most despised episode of the show.
  • Hurting Hero: Arnold is a well-adjusted kid and not exactly depressed, but he is somewhat brooding and pretty blue most of the time. He doesn't talk about it often, but a few instances make it clear that the absence of his parents and his lack of knowledge of their fate weighs pretty heavily on him which drives him to overcompensate by being a do-gooder. Then of course by the time of The Jungle Movie he has the extra burden of literally being The Chosen One.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: On his journey to find his long lost parents, he discovers that the elusive Green-Eyed people believe him to be a messianic chosen one destined to save their civilization. This never goes to his head, nor does he appear terribly comfortable with the idea.
  • Iconic Item: His little blue baseball cap is one of the most well-known things about him.
  • Iconic Outfit: Arnold's famous for wearing a red plaid shirt (that's not a kilt), a blue sweater, jeans, and a tiny blue baseball cap.
  • Ideal Hero: High morals, Nice Guy, and willing to help anyone, even those who don't deserve it and treat him like a used napkin.
  • Improbable Hairstyle: How does his spiky hair manage to stay in place like that? As he is never shown to use any products to make it do so.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Arnold is described as such in The Jungle Movie by Gerald and he certainly lives up to it. He is kind to everyone, from the local Alpha Bitch to the meanest of jerks and they can never make him falter. On top of it all, he has changed lives of others with kindhearted advice.
  • Instant Expert: While it wasn't ever stated how long his martial arts lessons took, he became a Bruce Lee tier Badass without taking a lifetime of training.
  • I Will Find You: His primary goal in The Jungle Movie is to find his missing parents. He succeeds. And despite an All Just a Dream tease towards the conclusion, it was all real.
  • Jerkass Ball: Even Arnold can be genuinely mean-spirited sometimes. Examples of this are:
    • "New Teacher", where he participates in the hazing of Mr. Simmons (though he did feel remorse for it much earlier than his friends did)
    • "Egg Story", where he's uncharacteristically cruel to Helga even though she did nothing to provoke him that time.
    • "Timberly Loves Arnold", where he uses Timberly's crush on him to get closer to Lila (who finds Arnold "ever so sweet" for paying attention to Timberly). He does eventually feel guilty about it and apologizes to both girls.
    • "April Fool's Day": Both Arnold and Helga were massive jerks to each other in this episode. Arnold at first tries to ignore Helga's constant practical jokes at his expense, but the last straw was making him sit down in a plate of chocolate pudding, causing him to retaliate. While it's understandable that he wants payback, it's the way he retaliates that makes him a jerk. He calls Grandpa and asks for his gag gift box that, when opened, would temporarily blind the person who opened it. He gives it to Helga, claiming it's a belated birthday present (coincidentally, her birthday was the previous week, the unspoken point is him knowing about Helga's feelings for him at this point, and that they would blind her judgment and make her fall for such an obvious joke). He again feels guilty for his actions (he didn't know it would cause blindness despite Grandpa telling him it would emit a blinding flash) and spends the rest of the episode putting up with her torture until he finds out she's faking the blindness. Then he aggressively dances and flirts with her before tossing her into the pool.
  • Karmic Jackpot: Arnold's exploits involve him helping out nearly everyone in town. A highlights reel of this is what wins him a plane ticket to San Lorenzo, and, by extension, a chance to find his parents.
  • Kid Hero: Arnold is the main character and has saved the day on more than a few occasions.
  • Likes Older Women: Lila is the only one of Arnold's crushes who wasn't older than him. He even has a brief crush on an adult.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Helga says she would probably go crazy if it weren't for Arnold.
  • Love Epiphany: Subverted. Arnold falls in love with "Hilda" in a dream sequence, who is a manifestation of all the good qualities that Helga tries to hide about herself. This suggests on some subconscious level Arnold in fact does share her feelings even if he doesn't realize it.
  • Love Revelation Epiphany:
    • After Helga gives Arnold a second Love Confession (in The Jungle Movie), Arnold has a private talk with her about her flaws and noble qualities, as well as, how the latter led to him finding his parents. All culminating in their first romantic, mutual kiss.
    • If we can pinpoint it to a precise moment, it's when they're hanging from the cliff and they look over at each other - and it's obvious Arnold is finally really looking at her for the first time (They exchange the exact same gaze - and we know Helga loves Arnold.)
  • Loving a Shadow: His interest in Ruth is completely shallow, but also in general, he easily falls in love without knowing his beloved. He at least gets to know Lila, but fails to recognize how little chemistry they share or take the hint that she just doesn't feel the same way about him.
  • Luminescent Blush: He blushes a lot in "Timberly Loves Arnold", where Gerald's little sister has a crush on him. Gets this a bit too in "Arnold Betrays Iggy", when he thinks back to Iggy wearing bunny pajamas. Also get it at the end of "Arnold Visits Arnie" when he realizes that he forgot to change out of his own teddy bear covered pajamas before going outside to meet his friends.

    M-W 
  • Magnetic Hero: Due to his helping and kind nature, Arnold is genuinely liked by everyone in his neighborhood.
  • Man in a Kilt: Averted. Many people in and out of universe think that Arnold is wearing a skirt/kilt below his sweater. It's actually a long, un-tucked plaid shirt, as noted by the plaid collar. He even pulls off his sweater in some episodes to confirm this. Perhaps in response to this trope, his redesign for The Jungle Movie (as seen above) makes it more obviously an un-tucked shirt.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: The Feminine Boy (gentle, soft-spoken, All-Loving Hero) to Helga's Masculine Girl (violent, aggressive, Loving Bully).
  • Master of the Mixed Message: Even though he's normally neutral towards Helga (or in some cases is just as mean to her as she is to him), there are some episodes that imply that Helga's feelings towards him are not one-sided. "Arnold's Valentine" and "Helga's Masquerade" show us that he does enjoy spending time with Helga when she's not being mean to him and he flirts with her in at least two episodes ("Dinner For Four" by playfully spraying her with water while winking and again during their tango in "April Fool's Day"). In "Married", his saying that he hates Helga and will never marry her sounds more like denial than an acknowledgement of fact. The strongest evidence would probably be his dream in "Arnold Visits Arnie" where he falls for a girl named Hilda who is a nicer, slightly prettier version of Helga, implying that he would like the "real" Helga if she would allow her true self to come out. Since it's been officially confirmed by Bartlett that the two will end up together, he definitely feels something.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It might've just been a coincidence, but Arnold appeared to stop a volcanic eruption and silence all of nature when he was born. This was enough proof for the Greeneyes to believe him to be some kind of demigod chosen one. Regardless of how true this is, it does effectively underscore Arnold's thematic purpose on the show as the center of balance and the peace bringer.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: He ended up being cast as the villain of the titular play in "Eugene, Eugene", and did a surprisingly good job at it.
  • Meaningful Name: It was confirmed by Craig Bartlett that his last name is Shortman. He's one of the shortest kids in his class, being shorter than a good number of his friends such as Gerald, Helga, Sid, Lila, Eugene, etc.
  • Morality Chain: He serves as a moral compass to any character who's on the edge of making an immoral decision, especially Helga.
  • Never Bareheaded: Unlike Harold and Sid who are shown hatless several times, Arnold is almost never seen without his little blue baseball cap, even wearing it in settings that he shouldn't be allowed to. The only time he's seen without it for a lengthy period was when he temporarily lost it in "Arnold's Hat".
  • Nice Guy: His defining character trait. Even when he's not the focus of an episode, he'll usually be the only one who won't make fun of the episode's protagonist.
  • Nice Hat: He's almost never seen without his little blue hat.
  • No Respect Guy: As shown in "Deconstructing Arnold", his classmates, until the end, don't realize how much wise impact he has on their decisions until after they told him to buzz off with his goody goody righteous personality.
  • Not So Above It All: In spite of how selfless and wise Arnold became in the later seasons, there were still times that showed he wasn't as saintly as you'd think. He keeps going after Lila and hoping she'd reciprocate his crush despite how often she explains to him she doesn't like him that way anymore, and at one point he was willing to use Timberly's crush on him in order to spend more time with Lila. In "Jamie O In Love," Arnold is the one more willing to use Jamie O to get stuff than Gerald is, even after seeing what an emotional wreck Jamie O's toxic relationship is turning him into.
  • Oblivious to Love: Arnold is incredibly oblivious when it comes to figuring out Helga's crush on him. Seriously, he buys any flimsy excuse Helga comes up with to cover up her secret. The one time he didn't buy her excuses was in the movie, and after Helga flat-out tells him she loves him, he still has a hard time believing it.
  • Official Couple: Finally reciprocates Helga's feelings by the end of The Jungle Movie.
  • One Head Taller: Gender-flipped with Helga. Minus the spiky hair, he is shorter than Helga.
  • Only One Name: A Running Gag in the series is that Arnold's last name is never revealed. The creator later confirmed that his last name is Shortman and his last name finally makes an appearance in The Jungle Movie.
    Announcer: And the winner is...Arnold...hm. The last name appears to be smudged.
    Stinky: That must be you, Arnold, on account of you're the only Arnold in the entire school.
  • Only Sane Man: Amongst his eccentric class mates, he serves as the one to prevent their unstable emotions, though Gerald isn't that far behind.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: He can shrug off most insults, but calling him an orphan will cut him deep. Real deep. Even Helga objects against the idea. And whenever the anniversary for his parents' disappearance approaches, he goes dim and it's the only time of the year he wants to be left alone.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Arnold not forgiving Iggy for the hell he was put through in "Arnold Betrays Iggy". You know you're screwed when Arnold doesn't forgive you. The episode "Dino Checks out" imply that Arnold still has not forgiven him.
    • Usually happens whenever his parents are brought into the picture.
      • "Parents Day" has Arnold rejecting Phil's (often fictitious) bedtime stories about his parents. Phil automatically asks Arnold if he's sick.
      • "The Journal" takes place on the anniversary of his parents' disappearance. The normally nice, cheerful Arnold is reduced to a depressed wreck who wants to be left by himself. It's then when he decides to give up hope on his parents ever returning. He packs up all of his mementos of them, even his hat, which shocks Phil to no end. Thankfully, he finds the eponymous journal which gives him (some) of the answers he desires.
    • Played for laughs in "Weird Cousin" when Stinky goes on and on about Arnold's cousin Arnie hooking up with Lila.
    Arnold: (gritting teeth) Stinky.....shut up.
    • The fact that, in The Jungle Movie, Arnold actually starts crying (something he never did before in the series) after the group is imprisoned by Lasombra and it looks like he'll never find out about his parents shows just how far past the Despair Event Horizon he is.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Helga seems to be the one person capable of causing Arnold to snap out of his endlessly kind and patient nature.
    • In "Girl Trouble" after she dumps a can of paint on him he instinctively retaliates, to the shock of Helga, Mr. Simmons as well as Grandpa Phil.
    • In "Egg Story" when he is partnered with Helga he doesn't even give her a chance to speak before unloading on her, declaring he'd rather work with anyone else and saying some uncharacteristically cruel things.
    • By far the most notable examples of Arnold acting out of character occur in "April Fool's Day." First, after being pranked by Helga one too many times he preys on her weakness (knowing by this point how she really feels about him) and pranks her back, which causes her to temporarily go blind. Later, after realizing she has been faking her blindness and using him as her slave, he abruptly starts very aggressively flirting with her to throw her off her guard, and ends up throwing her into a swimming pool. This side of his personality has been affectionately dubbed as "Dark Arnold" by fans.
  • Out of Focus: Most episodes of Seasons 4 and 5 focused on developing the supporting characters, with Arnold himself largely Demoted to Extra. Some random character would face a problem, and at some point, Arnold casually walked up to them, gave them a piece of advice, and disappeared for the rest of the episode. You could take out him out of the episode and there’d be no difference.
  • Patchwork Kids: He gets his facial looks and oblong shaped head from his mother, but his blond hair is from his father.
  • Pink Girl, Blue Boy: Blue Boy to Helga's Pink Girl. He wears a blue hat and Helga wears a pink bow and pink clothes.
  • The Pollyanna: Arnold remains optimistic in spite of his hardships.
  • Precocious Crush: In season 1, he had a crush on Ruth P. McDougal, a sixth grader. In "6th Grade Girls", he develops a crush on yet another sixth grader. In "Crush On Teacher", a season 2 episode, he develops a crush on his substitute teacher, Miss Felter. In "Summer Love" he has a brief romance with Summer, who's also a few years older than him. He’s even shown to have a crush on Olga.
  • Protagonist Title: His name is part of the show's title and he's the main character.
  • Punny Name: He's a short (young) man with the surname Shortman. In fact, Steely Phil uses this to turn his surname into a nickname.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Since he was a baby, Arnold was raised by his paternal grandparents after his parents went missing. It is later revealed that he has at least one maternal aunt or uncle (the parent of his cousin Arnie) who exists only by inference; he or she is never seen or mentioned. Either way, Phil and Pookie obviously took precedence.
  • The Reveal: After spending the series with his last name unknown, The Jungle Movie reveals it actually was "Shortman" and we knew it all along- it wasn't just an Affectionate Nickname from Grandpa Phil, but his real surname. Phil has Arnold fill out a passport and requests he write his name on it as it appears on his birth certificate. Arnold's middle name, however, by that line of reasoning, is apparently nonexistent.
  • Rightly Self-Righteous: Arnold manages to be morally superior to just about everyone else without being obnoxious by going about it in his own gentle, humble, and down-to-earth way.
  • Shorter Means Smarter: One of the shortest kids in his class and also one of the smartest.
  • Strong Girl, Smart Guy: With Helga. While she's quite smart, Helga is mainly known as a Cute Bruiser bully who does not hesitate to use physical force, while Arnold is mature, never resorts in violence, and gives advice to everyone.
  • Suggestive Collision: He and Helga run into one another a lot throughout the series, but in TJM when he saves her from a "booby trap" by tackling her he kind of... cops a feel. Probably accidentally.
  • Supporting Protagonist: In later seasons, many of the episodes focused on Arnold's classmates, roommates, neighbors, or anyone else. He's still involved, but the episode's story doesn't focus on him. It isn't until the first movie that the focus is shifted back to Arnold.
  • Technology Porn: His bedroom, which boasts a glass ceiling and any number of implements operated by remote, including a fold out couch. He also has a personalized alarm clock that shouts "Hey Arnold!", "Hey Arnold!".
  • They Do: Word of God says Helga and Arnold eventually fell in love and got married as adults. They are promoted from Word of God to Canon at the end of The Jungle Movie.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: Rusty Flood voiced the young Arnold during the flashbacks in "Parent's Day" and "Helga on the Couch."
  • Tiny Schoolboy: He is one of the shortest boys out of his group of friends and fits with the adorkable type.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In "Mugged" where Pookie teaches him martial arts. He also Took a Level in Jerkass as the new power corrupted his mind.
  • Tragic Keepsake: His baseball cap, which was given to him by his parents. When he loses it in "Arnold's Hat", he's determined to get it back and is utterly depressed without it.
  • Trauma Button: Whenever Arnold is reminded of his parents, it's not pretty.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Always believes in the best possible outcome, even when he should know better.
  • Wise Beyond His Years: To the point that everyone on the show, including adults and authority figures, have come to him for advice.
  • Wrong Name Outburst: He accidentally calls Helga "Lila" in "Helga's Makeover". Considering that Helga looked and acted exactly like her, it's quite understandable why.
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