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Characters / Hey Arnold! - Helga G. Pataki

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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.

Helga Geraldine Pataki
"Move it, Football head!"
Helga as she appears in The Jungle Movie 

Voiced by:
Francesca Marie Smith
Katie Bartlett (preschool Helga in "Helga on the Couch")

"Oh, Arnold. Bastion of sanity in this crazy mixed up world in which we live. How tender I feel when you brush past me. How I forget my cares. How the essence of you lingers, sweeping the air. And I feel peace, true peace at last."

The Tritagonist and usually Main Antagonist of the Hey Arnold! series and also the Deuteragonist of the last series of "The Jungle Movie". Helga is a deeply insecure girl who became the resident bully of Arnold's class. She constantly bullies and professes to despise Arnold, yet this is all a cover to hide her deep feelings of love for him. She also bullies and threatens other people (including her sister Olga, Lila and her own best friend Phoebe to name but a few), but this behavior too comes from her fear that if she showed her true kind nature, she would in turn be bullied. She becomes the villain sometimes and keeps her crush a secret in order to protect her reputation, often going to insane lengths to do so.


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  • Abhorrent Admirer: Throughout most of the series Arnold can barely stand Helga thanks to her constant bullying, and rejects the idea that she actually likes him whenever it is suggested to him. In "Married" he is downright horrified at the prospect of ever being married to her, and in both movies he is quite perturbed by her confessions of love. He of course warms up to her eventually.
  • Accidental Misnaming: In "Beaned", she feigns amnesia (after getting over it) because Arnold felt guilty for causing it and took care of her before she regained her memory. As part of the ruse, she pretends to forget his name and calls him other "A" names, such as Ambrose, Archibald, Algernon, Andrew, etc.
  • Accidental Pervert: When she snuck into Arnold's room in "Helga's Parrot", she was stuck to the wall the couch folds into. She ended up seeing Arnold disrobe, even though she didn't mean to. Not that it prevented her from cooing and passing out.
  • Acid Reflux Nightmare: In "Helga Sleepwalks", Helga started sleepwalking after eating pork rinds.
  • Act of True Love: Her sacrifices in "Arnold's Christmas" and Hey Arnold! The Movie definitely count as this. In the former episode, she gave up her Christmas present, the ultra-rare Nancy Spumoni Snowboots, in order to help Arnold find Mr. Hyunh's daughter. In The Movie, she gives up the chance of profiting off of her dad's new Beeper Emporium in order to save the neighborhood from being destroyed by Scheck, so that Arnold won't have to move away. She also sacrifices her locket in The Jungle Movie as a replacement for the sacred Corazón, which was accidentally knocked into a ravine in order to release the cure for the sleeping sickness.
  • Action Girl: She's never one to shy away from a fist fight, but in The Jungle Movie she risks her very life multiple times. First she beats a guard unconscious with a stapler, joins in with the other Green-eyed kids in beating Lasombra, and then when Eduardo is engaged in a life or death fight against Lasombra, Helga is the first of the kids to join in the fray. She throws Lasombra's satchel over his head, climbs onto his shoulders and proceeds to repeatedly punch him even as he pulls at her pigtail and brandishes a poisonous dart.
  • Adaptational Dye-Job: In the book version of "Arnold's Valentine" she takes her disguise a step further and has her hair dyed pink.
  • Aesop Amnesia: In both "Arnold's Valentine" and "Helga's Masquerade" Helga learns that she does not need to act exactly like someone else to be liked by Arnold, but generally acting nicer will earn her his love.
  • Affectionate Nickname: One from Olga - "Baby Sister". Helga clearly doesn't like it.
  • Age-Inappropriate Art: Her poem in "Helga's Parrot" is way too sexual for a poem written by a nine-year-old.
    "Arnold, my love, my sultry preteen. Why must I hold you only whilst I dream? Will I be forever enslaved by your spell? Why must I worship you and never ever tell? Arnold you make my girlhood tremble, my senses all go whacky. Someday I'll tell the world my love...Or my name's not Helga G. Pataki."
  • Alas, Poor Villain: She spends all of "Operation Ruthless" harassing Arnold and sabotaging his attempts to get close to Ruth, and though her plans succeed Arnold still remains undaunted and determined to win Ruth over someday. This only makes Helga angrier, but when she sees Phoebe and Gerald walking away holding hands and she starts to cry softly, as if realizing that her meanness is only isolating her. The episode then ends with the lights shutting off around a very lonely looking Helga and it's pretty hard not to feel for the girl.
  • Aloof Big Sister: Inverted. Helga is the younger sister but has nothing but contempt for her older sister, Olga. The main reason behind said contempt comes from Helga always seeing her parents fond over Olga and her accomplishments, while ignoring her.
  • Amusing Injuries: Helga tends to end up disheveled, bruised, black-eyed, and occasionally in a neck brace as a result of her antics.
  • Anti-Villain: This largely depends on the episode. Earlier seasons tend to cast Helga more into this role while later episodes have her largely becoming an Anti-Hero.
  • Art Evolution:
    • In the Pilot episode, Helga's dress was solid pink with a white collar and white stripe instead of pink with a white undershirt and red stripe. And in the first half of season 1, her pigtails were longer and thinner and she was much uglier.
    • Like all the characters, her outfit has also been updated for The Jungle Movie.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other:
    • With Olga and her parents. They may not always show it, but Helga and her family do care for one another.
    • Also done with Phoebe, since many episodes imply that Phoebe is more of a slave to Helga than a friend, but sometimes, such as the majority of episodes that Phoebe stars in, Helga will show that she really does care about Phoebe.
  • Ax-Crazy: Capable of veering in this direction, especially if the situation has anything to do with her crush on Arnold. Special mention goes to "Helga's Parrot," notably the scenes in which she tries to kill the parrot with a chainsaw, when she breaks out of the boardinghouse ceiling, and when she again attempts to kill the parrot by bludgeoning it to death with an umbrella (this time, in front of the entire class). Her Tranquil Fury throughout and the fact that the shenanigan stops being Played for Laughs about halfway though (which makes it either funnier or creepier, depending on who you ask), is what really seals it together.
  • Badass Adorable: A scrawny little girl unafraid to take on kids (and sometimes adults) twice her size. Possibly justified; in the episode "Career Day", she mentions that she has taken a jiu-jitsu class.
  • Batman Gambit: She pulls off quite an impressive one in "School Play". Helga wants to play Juliet in order to get a kiss from Arnold's Romeo, but since she didn't audition, the part is given to Rhonda with Sheena, Phoebe and Lila as the understudies. So she comes up with a plan to convince each girl to drop out of the role by exploiting their idiosyncrasies. First by taking the role of head costumer and constructing a hideous frock for Juliet, knowing that Rhonda would object to wearing it. Then she informs the queasy, pacifist Sheena about the violence in the play, and finally, she exploits Phoebe's perfectionism and nervousness to scare her out of performing. Unfortunately, none of these worked on Lila, who correctly guesses that Helga wants the role to kiss Arnold. Helga is forced to tell her and Lila agrees to drop out of the part.
  • Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: The Brawn to Lila's Beauty and Phoebe's Brains.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Helga fell in love with Arnold because he was the first person in her life that noticed her and treated her kindly. In somewhat of an inversion, this is also why she treats Arnold like garbage.
    Dr. Bliss: So, nobody's ever noticed you..
    Helga: ...there was someone...
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: With Arnold — Although Arnold is definitely not a jerk, Helga's constant bullying has made him hostile occasionally towards her (or at least as much as someone like him can be) and Helga is one of the greatest Tsunderes you will ever see.
  • Beneath the Mask: She pretends to hate Arnold to hide her true feelings for him, and only expresses said feelings when she's alone. Or when she thinks so, and Brainy always somehow teleports behind her.
  • Berserk Button: Asking what her Mysterious Middle Initial stands for is one way to set her off.
  • Betty and Veronica: The "Veronica" (rude, violent, Loving Bully) to Lila's "Betty" (optimistic, proper, All-Loving Hero) for Arnold's "Archie". In the end, Lila doesn't reciprocate Arnold's feelings for him, and in The Jungle Movie he returns Helga's feelings, with Word of God stating that the two will marry each other as adults.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Helga leads the charge against Lasombra when he attacks Eduardo with the intention of killing him.
  • Big Damn Kiss: With Arnold in "The Jungle Movie". After he realizes her true kind personality underneath her mean exterior - particularly being touched by the lengths she went to in an effort to help him find his missing parents - he and Helga share their first (mutual) kiss. She even lifts her leg in her joy.
  • Big Eater: Implied by her Jabba Table Manners and she orders a crap ton of food in "Dinner For Four" (though most of it was to stall because she couldn't pay the bill). She also orders a very large milkshake on "April Fool's Day" and the waiter tells her that she has a big appetite for such a little girl. Normally played for comedy, until you consider the subtext that her negligent parents often forget to feed her.
  • Big Ol' Unibrow: Helga has a thick, black unibrow. While unibrows are a dime a dozen in the Hey Arnold! universe, she's the most notable example.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Inverted. She's the younger sister and will initially forgo helping her older sister, Olga, but will do what's right in the end and come to her defense when the latter is in trouble. One notable example is when she blackmailed her sleazy fiancé to break up with Olga, after Helga discovered he was a Gold Digger and cheating on her.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The Blonde to Phoebe's Brunette and Lila's Redhead.
  • Breakout Character: Helga grew in popularity due to her compelling Character Development. By the end of the series, there were so many episodes that revolved around her that most people would think she was the main character instead of the football head due to how much spotlight she had. In fact, the show was meant to have a spinoff series specifically geared around Helga as the main focus in high school, but it was cancelled before it could air because it was deemed "too dark" for Nickelodeonnote .
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Though not a perfectionist like Olga, the aptitude test shows she is nearly as competent, and she writes some damn good poetry despite her young age. Even Mr. Simmons comments how her poems are the highlight of his career. Unfortunately, her hard life has destroyed her confidence and most of the time she doesn't even try.
  • Broken Ace: We see lots of Helga's potential here and there, but as mentioned above, her hard life has left her so angry that she can't properly express herself and contribute to her work, which makes her look dumber than she is. Then again, considering all the "love (read: stress)" they put on her sister, maybe she's doing it to avoid getting their attention as well.
  • Broken Bird: She's had it pretty hard for a kid. A negligent, greedy father, an alcoholic, scatterbrained mother, and a perfectionist sister who is utterly adored by all. She mentions in "Helga on the Couch" that she would probably go crazy if it weren't for Arnold.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Gender Inverted and Zigzagged with Arnold. Helga is a Broken Bird who acts as a bully to hide her insecurities and vulnerable side; Arnold is an All-Loving Hero who gives emotional advice and support to others (including Helga) when they are in some personal crisis. However, because the former acts as if she hates the latter, they hardly make any development in their relationship resulting in more friction.
  • Brutal Honesty: Hurt her one too many times and she'll deliver "The Reason You Suck" Speech, with no-sugar coating whatsoever.
  • Buffy Speak: As impressive as her vocabulary is, she still tends to slip into this from time to time.
    Helga: [Ruth]'s nothing but a stuck-up, sixth grade-y, training bra wearing, brace-y faced, sixth grade-y...sixth grader!
  • The Bully: She bullies others as a way to conceal her true self from the world since she has always been treated like shit when she tries to be nice or victimized herself if she dares to show any weakness.
  • Butt-Monkey: She never succeeds in winning the affections of Arnold, is treated like dirt by everyone and all of her schemes backfire in hilarious ways (most times deservingly so).
  • Calling Parents by Their Name: All throughout the show, Helga almost always refers to her parents by their first names - Bob and Miriam - as they often neglect her, and as such, she really has no true bond or relationship with them; any instances where she does refer to them as "Dad" or "Mom' are incredibly rare. The times she does call her parents "Dad" or "Mom" are often times when her parents show care for her or show a skill, as a sign that she recognizes/respects it. Neither parent seems to care as they don't bother to correct her.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Keeps her crush on Arnold secret because she's both afraid of rejection and afraid that other kids will bully her for it. When she finally did admit it in Hey Arnold! The Movie... she took the chance Arnold gave her to deny it.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "Football Head."
    • "Criminy."
    • "Bucko!"
    • "One side, moron!"
    • "Doy!"
    • "How I despise him! And yet, I love him."
  • Cerebus Retcon: Much of her background becomes unfunny after "Helga on the Couch" shows it in a far more serious light.
  • Characterization Marches On: In the first half of the first season, Helga more or less lacked any redeeming qualities (even though it was a throwaway line and Played for Laughs, hearing her say she wants "world domination" in "Arnold's Hat" is quite unnerving), her crush on Arnold was more selfish and stalker-like that was also Played for Laughs, and the mistreatment she suffered at home was presented as a straight-up Hilariously Abusive Childhood. After that, she developed a Hidden Heart of Gold, performed several acts of true love towards Arnold and had several Pet the Dog moments with Phoebe and various others. By the end of the series, the neglect and abuse she suffered stopped being Played For Laughs.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: With Arnold — They first met in pre-school, have a complicated relationship by elementary school (mostly due to Helga being the Loving Bully to him), and Word of God confirms that the two eventually marry as adults and have their own family.
  • Childish Bangs: As a contrast to her personality.
  • Child Prodigy: A more subtle version of this trope (and it's never really ventured on). It's only revealed and hinted at that Helga could very well be this; she's the only one (other than Olga) to score a 100 on the school's aptitude test, learns Romeo and Juliet in one night (though not seeming particularly interested in anything Shakespeare's written earlier on), wins poetry contests several times (with work she rather randomly created), and Dr. Bliss brings up her above-average knowledge with art and literature.
    Helga: Yeah [Edward Hopper]'s okay. Kind of simple, though. And what's his deal with women, anyway?
    Dr. Bliss: That's pretty astute for a 4th grader.
  • Chromatic Arrangement: Pink to Phoebe's Blue and Lila's Green.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: She often tries to ruin Arnold and Lila's time together because she wants to be the one going out with Arnold.
  • 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.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Usually subverted, especially with regard to her tormenting of Arnold. Despite laughing maniacally all the while she's causing him misery, she normally reverts to cursing herself for her meanness moments later and scolds herself. She does on occasion show no remorse for her actions, however, typically when Lila or another girl is involved.
  • Consummate Liar: When she has to put up an act, like amnesia in "Beaned" or blindness in "April Fool's Day", she pulls it off very convincingly. Other times, she's an expert at hiding her feelings for Arnold which makes him completely oblivious in the first place.
  • Cosmic Keystone: Her locket typically serves as a simple prop, but in "The Jungle Movie" it ends up being of great importance and essentially becomes the lynchpin of the whole series. After the Corazon is lost in a confrontation with Lasombra, she uses her locket as a replacement, symbolically and literally offering her heart to Arnold, and culminating her entire character journey of learning to lower her guard and risking Arnold's possible rejection by being open and sincere about her feelings.
  • Cosmic Plaything: 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.
  • Crash into Hello: A common Running Gag has her rounding a street corner and bumping right into Arnold, with both falling over, then Helga yelling, "Watch where you're going, Football Head!"
  • Cultured Badass: Helga is a fighter but she's also well-read and a talented poet.
  • Cursed with Awesome: As Olga points out, being The Unfavorite means that Helga isn't raised by her parents with expectations of great academic and career success, allowing her to live her life however she pleases.
  • Cute Bruiser: A nine-year-old girl who can kick butt.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Her early childhood had her being completely ignored by her parents, who instead showered all of their love and attention on her older sister Olga. When she left the house for preschool at three years old, no one even realized she was gone. On top of it, neither of her parents can even remember her actual name, always calling her Olga. Needless to say, this resulted in Helga becoming a Broken Bird with other major emotional issues due to feeling rejected and out of place in her own home and family.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Helga is by far the most sarcastic character in the entire series.
  • Determinator: Whenever her secret is in danger of being exposed, she'll go to hell and back to ensure it isn't. "The Little Pink Book" (where her journal containing love poems about Arnold accidentally ends up in Arnold's possession and she has her name signed on the last page and poem), "Helga Blabs it All" (where she calls the boarding house and confesses her love to Arnold while delirious from laughing gas at the dentist) and "Helga's Parrot" (where she accidentally lets a parrot loose that has learned to repeat a love poem she recited that contains her name in the final verse) are examples of this.
  • Deuteragonist: The series takes a heavy focus on Helga, revolving around her home life, friendships, and love for Arnold. One may argue that near the end of the series, she had become the secondary protagonist.
  • Dirty Coward: Especially in season 1. She's very much looking out for herself and is perfectly willing to use and abuse even her best friend to get what she wants, with seemingly no remorse. She constantly talks tough, but whenever things go bad or she feels threatened, she's quick to shout "We're all gonna die!" or just break down into hysterical sobbing. Gradually, though, she loses this side of her and becomes more concerned about others, particularly Arnold and Phoebe (whom she openly says is her best friend). By the time of "The Jungle Movie" Helga has matured to the point that she's genuinely concerned for others, is loyal and brave, and even cries at the genuine pain of others.
  • Dirty Kid: There are many moments that show that Helga is horny for a nine-year-old child.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Zig-zagged. In "Girl Trouble", she tortures Arnold so much that Arnold snaps and throws paint on her in retaliation. Arnold is given detention for his actions while Helga gets no punishment for it. However, "Helga on the Couch" features Helga being sent to counseling after being caught punching Brainy, and the shrink tells her that that type of behavior is unacceptable.
  • Drama Queen: Even taking into account her usual hamminess and issues, she's usually the first person to crack up and go melodramatic in a crisis. (Ironic, considering she's considered the toughest girl in school behind Big Patty.)
    (when stuck on the other side of town.) "Walk!? It'll take days! We'll freeze to death! WE'LL GET EATEN ALIVE BY PIGEONS! Or worse... rats!"
  • The Dreaded: Early on, she was the most feared of the kids (Arnold and Gerald dreading her wrath in "Downtown as Fruits" for example), but as the series progresses, the other students see her as more of a nuisance than a genuine threat, much like what eventually happened to Harold. As other girls like Rhonda and Lila rise in popularity, Helga declines in status from the iron-fisted school tyrant to being a bit of an outcast.
  • DreamWorks Face: On the promotional materials and cover of The Jungle Movie Helga is giving the asymmetrical smirk and cocked eyebrow which tells the audience that she's up to no good. Unlike most actual Dreamworks characters, however, Helga really lives up to her mischievous look.
  • Dumb Blonde: Subverted. Due to her bullying and brash nature, Helga comes off as this trope but episodes reveal her to be a Child Prodigy but she doesn't apply herself due to her own insecurities and dysfunctional home life.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Boy, does she ever. It took 100 episodes, two movies, and two decades, but after all she went through and all she did, Arnold is finally hers at the end of The Jungle Movie. And Word of God confirms they end up Happily Married with their own little family.
  • Easy Amnesia: Helga gets amnesia after getting hit with a baseball. Subverted in that she gets her memory back when she wakes up the next day, perfectly normal with a slight headache, not by getting hit again. However, she continues to fake amnesia to take advantage of Arnold's kindness and attention. When she feels guilty about it, she intentionally hits her head again so she can pretend that she just got her memory back.
  • Entitled to Have You: A lot of the time, Helga will only consider doing nice things for Arnold if it means he might return her feelings as a result. Ultimately subverted when she usually ends up helping out Arnold unselfishly, either without him knowing it ("Arnold's Christmas" and Hey Arnold! The Movie, though he caught her in the act in the latter) or when doing so wouldn't benefit her in any way ("Summer Love"note  and The Jungle Movienote ).
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Being the overdramatic Shakespearean character she is, Helga pretty much quotes this one directly when she catches Phoebe laughing at Rhonda's impersonation of her. She retorts to herself, "Et Tu, Phoebe?"
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • She does some nasty things to Arnold, but takes major offense to her father insultingly calling Arnold an orphan within earshot of him. She gives a genuinely mortified, "Dad!"
    • In "Curly's Girl", Helga calls out on Rhonda for embarrassing Curly after dumping him while pretending to be Curly's girlfriend. Considering that she fears the same happening to her with Arnold, it's possible that this event struck a nerve with her.
      Helga: [referring to Curly] I think Miss Rich and Fancy did a number on him.
      Rhonda: May I borrow the black paint?
      Helga: [paints a heart with the black paint] Perfect, it'll match the color of your heart.
      Rhonda: [offended] Excuse me?!
      Helga:: You heard me, Cruella.
    • On top of that, once she found out that Summer was using Arnold for personal gain (with the intent of dumping him afterward), she focused all her efforts on exposing her for Arnold's sake.
    • Even she's disturbed when Arnold becomes more aggressive at school after learning karate.
  • Evil Laugh: Helga can be dramatic at times and her evil laughter is no exception. When she's caught doing this in the cafeteria by everyone present, literally every single student just gives her a blank yet disturbed stare.
  • Evil Plan: She explicitly refers to her schemes to get what she wants as such, and she has a ton of them. They nearly always fail in ways that harm her and help those she schemes against.
  • Expressive Hair: Helga's pigtails occasionally perk up or droop depending on her mood.
  • Fascinating Eyebrow: She's pretty much a pro at arching her brow in smug amusement.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Her Anguished Declaration of Love in The Movie. Arnold ends up confused about it and she takes the chance Arnold gives her to deny her feelings. Subverted by The Jungle Movie, however.
  • Fatal Flaw: Insecurity. She is unable to be her true, kind, articulate and intelligent self because she fears being shunned by others. Arnold would likely return her affections if she were to stop treating him like garbage and be herself. If she were to try harder in school, her parents would probably pay more attention to her (but as we've seen with Olga, that might not be a good thing) and while she might get a few snickers from Harold or the others, she'd be in a much better place and would be happier for it. Her nanny Inga in "Helga and the Nanny" even tells her that she's doomed to suffer as long as she continues to push others away.
  • Femininity Failure: In "Helga's Makeover", she tries to be a girly girl to attend Rhonda's sleepover but reverts to her old self after refusing an avocado cream mask.
  • Foil: To Arnold. Both are the blonde-haired stars of the show with an Improbable Hairstyle, Iconic Outfit, and Iconic Item that adorns their head (Arnold's little blue baseball cap, Helga's giant pink bow), and are probably the smartest among their peers. Arnold is a sweet and friendly person who rarely gets angry who grew up in an "atypical" family but was given love, respect, and attention. Helga is a mean and anti-social girl who does have a kind side she keeps hidden and grew up in a "typical" family but was emotionally neglected by her parents in favor of her older sister. Then there's their love lives: Arnold has many crushes over the course of the series and they never work out, while Helga only has eyes for Arnold and they become a couple at the end of The Jungle Movie.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Deconstructed with Olga. Helga is the Foolish Sibling — she cares very little for her academics even though she's proven to be quite intelligent, while also usually showing little to no respect for her family, peers, or anyone in general (this leads to her being The Friend Nobody Likes except for Phoebe and occasionally Arnold). However, the reason for her gruff personality comes from growing up in a dysfunctional household with both of her parents neglecting her in favor of Olga, making it clear to Helga at an early age that she's the unfavored child. Her older sister, Olga, is the Responsible Sibling — she's an ace student who is friendly to everyone (making her well-liked not only by her parents, but everyone she meets). But she reveals to Helga that she's a Stepford Smiler who struggles to maintain her "perfect" image and deals with constant stress from the extremely high standards her parents expect her to meet, especially her father. She outright says Helga's lucky she doesn't receive any attention.
  • Foot Popping: She does this when she and Arnold share their first mutual and romantic kiss at the end of The Jungle Movie.
  • Forceful Kiss: Gives a big kiss to Arnold without warning in The Movie. He's too stunned to even react.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The Choleric. She's very ill-tempered and often takes a hands-on approach to things.
  • Freudian Excuse: "Helga on the Couch" explains why Helga is the way she is. The reason for her violent behavior is because she feels neglected by her parents and she believes that she has to be aggressive to get any respect from the other students, since negative attention is better than no attention at all.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Only Phoebe and Arnold (Depending on the Writer) truly consider Helga a friend. Everyone else mostly just tolerates her out of fear and/or proximity. Gerald especially has made it perfectly clear that he can't stand her, though their antipathy is seldom explored in depth. However, as of The Jungle Movie, Gerald seems to have warmed up to Helga considerably, probably because of all the work she put in to help Arnold win the trip to San Lorenzo.
  • The Gadfly: Helga constantly enjoys pranking and messing with people, beyond just Arnold to get his attention.
    Helga: So, Phoebe, what do you want to do Saturday night? Goof on the geeks at the video arcade?
  • Gender Concealing Voice: In The Movie, Helga secretly helps Arnold under the identity of "Deep Voice", using a voice distorter to make her voice sound like a man's.
  • Genius Bruiser: She is already fairly known among her classmates as a bully with formidable physical strength. She's also a talented writer/poet, and quite intelligent for her age.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: She doesn't usually get along with her older sister Olga, stemming from Helga being The Unfavorite and Olga being seemingly perfect.
  • Good Is Boring: Subverted. While she occasionally uses this as her reason for being nasty and insensitive, she really would prefer to be a nice person but can't bring herself to lower her guard.
  • Gratuitous French: She speaks French in "Arnold's Valentine" (where she mispronounced all of it) and "Dinner For Four", to impress Arnold.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Some of Helga's best deeds and most redeeming moments in the series go completely unnoticed by the other characters, most notably in "Arnold's Christmas" where she claims no credit for reuniting Mr. Hyunh with his long lost daughter.
  • Greed: Helga is occasionally prone to going against her better instincts in favor of money.
    • In "Grudge Match" she clearly wants to side with Arnold when his grandpa is challenged to a game of golf by her father, but quickly takes her father's side when he offers her twenty bucks to caddy for him. After he hits her on the head with a golf ball and is completely unapologetic, not even asking if she's okay and actually scolds her for "being in the way", she quits and tells him to keep the money. She's later seen cheering with Phil wins the match against her dad.
    • In "Hey Arnold! The Movie" she attempts to talk her dad out of his part in demolishing the neighborhood, but goes over to his side when she realizes they're going to be rich. Her conscience gets the better of her and she decides to secretly help Arnold and Gerald save the neighborhood by covertly giving them valuable information only she would know through her dad.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Double subverted. Helga has blonde hair, but is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: It doesn't take much to set her off. The slightest provocation is usually enough for her to either beat someone up, yell or insult them.
    Arnold: Helga, I'm really full. I don't think I can eat another bite.
    Helga: You'll eat it and like it, Arnold!note 
  • Haughty "Hmph": She does this all the time— she even does it when there's no one around to hear her! She especially likes doing it before diving into one of her lovestruck soliloquies about Arnold.
  • Hates Being Touched: She tends to get angry when anyone touches her. Though when Arnold does it, her negative reactions are clearly a facade:
    Arnold: [after Helga finds his hat] Thanks Helga! Thanks a lot! [hugs her]
    Helga: [sighs dreamily before snapping out of it and shoving him away] Yuck! Who said you could touch me?!
  • Heel Realization: Several episodes show us that Helga is very aware of how mean and cruel she is to others and how it affects them, but is unable to stop herself. "Magic Show" has the subversion of It's a Wonderful Plot where Helga dreams of what the world will be like if she disappeared. Everyone celebrates her disappearance and no one misses her, not even Arnold. Her attempts at apologizing fall flat and she's back to her old ways after that.
  • Heel–Face Turn: During the series, as often as she hides her true feelings of love for Arnold, she confesses her love to him in the first film. However, she continues to pretend to be mean to him when he gives her the chance to return to their normal routine between them. In "The Jungle Movie" she finally gives up her bullying after she helps Arnold find his parents and only pretends to be her old bossy self in public towards him while finally having a real relationship with him.
  • Her Own Worst Enemy: Helga engages in some serious self-sabotage, constantly creating scenarios where she can reject others before they can reject her, due to her fundamental fear of rejection. This behavior ultimately isolates her and prevents her from forming healthy relationships.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Her and Phoebe are two people of the same gender who often get along rather well - mirroring the close friendship of Arnold and Gerald.
  • Hidden Depths: Aside from having a Hidden Heart of Gold, she's really good at poetry for a nine-year old.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: Puts the facade of being mean on in order to stop others from bullying her due to her crush on Arnold. Her not so obvious kindness is shown when she sometimes performs sacrifices for Arnold's happiness, shows genuine kindness for Phoebe and her family, or (more rarely) shows general compassion for anyone other than Arnold and Phoebe.
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Helga's home life was alternately Played for Laughs (as in this trope) and Played for Drama (especially in "Helga on the Couch"). Her father is controlling, a workaholic and uncaring, and her mother is scatterbrained, lazy, seems to have long ago had the will to live sucked out of her, and is most likely an alcoholic due to her love of "smoothies" that contain ingredients commonly found in alcoholic cocktails (such as Tabasco sauce and celery sticks). Any time her beautiful and successful sister (who may have problems of her own, but is so much of a Stepford Smiler that she represses them) shows up, she's overlooked in Olga's favor.
  • Hypocrite: What Helga feels and how Helga acts are always opposite things. She has a habit of calling out Curly for being a psycho even though it's clear that Helga may be a few bricks short of a load herself.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: She'll tease and torment Arnold like there's no tomorrow, but when someone else tries to hurt him, she'll immediately come to his aid, such as the aforementioned instances in "Parents Day" and "Summer Love". Justified since she is secretly in love with him.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In "Arnold's Valentine", she yells at Arnold for not being honest with her about Ruth, even though she's been impersonating Arnold's pen-pal Cecile.
  • Iconic Item: Her pink hair bow is like Fred's ascot. It looks ridiculous but it's strange to see her without it. Presumably, she continues to wear it because Arnold complimented it when they first met.
  • Iconic Outfit: Helga's pink and white dress with a red stripe, and her pink hair bow.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • The episode "Monkey Business" has Helga under the belief that she has contracted a fatal disease called "Monkeynucleosis"...having read about it in a book titled Diseases Long Since Debunked By Modern Science.
    • She must have traded brains with Harold in "Dinner For Four". Instead of going to management and trying to clear up an honest misunderstanding with the free coupon, she continues ordering food, lying to the staff and using Nadine's cockroaches to weasel her way out of paying for the food. Even taking Helga's other behavior into account, this was just weird.
  • Implied Love Interest: Regulated to this until 2017, which brought the Big Damn Movie that, among other things, made her and Arnold an Official Couple.
  • Improbable Hairstyle: Her pigtails look like brooms and have no visible ties or holders keeping them in place.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: She tends to be unsuccessful and easy to pity 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.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: The reason for bullying other children, and Arnold, is to cover up her crush for him and not be bullied by other children for her exterior, plus that her home life is bad enough as it is. Claimed by herself during her gushing sessions about Arnold, she finds it very hard to overcome her shyness and doesn't quite know how to express her feelings since she had never been shown genuine affection (save Arnold) her whole life.
  • Informed Attribute: She claims to know jujitsu in "Career Day" yet we never see her actually use it.
  • Informed Deformity: Sure, she probably won't be winning any beauty contests anytime soon, but Helga is always the one singled out for being ugly even though most of the other characters in the show have inhuman, cartoonish physical features as well (look no further than the football head himself).
  • In Love with Love: Requited or not, pining itself is very important to her. When she first confesses her love to Arnold in The Jungle Movie, it comes across as very selfish. Arnold starts to reciprocate her feelings once she shows her more caring and unselfish side.
  • Insecure Love Interest: The main reason Helga refuses to admit her feelings for Arnold is because she fears him rejecting her.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: She (a fourth grader) forms a bond with Dr. Bliss (a woman in either her late 20s or early 30s) by the end of "Helga on the Couch".
  • Jabba Table Manners: She's a very messy eater, as seen in "Arnold's Hat", "Helga's Masquerade" and "Big Bob's Crisis", where she has ice cream ("Arnold's Hat"), chocolate syrup ("Helga's Masquerade") and barbecue sauce ("Big Bob's Crisis"), all over her face.
  • Jerkass Ball: She's crueler than usual in "Biosquare" (where she unapologetically interferes with every part of Arnold's experiment), "Girl Trouble" (where she's meaner to Arnold than she usually is, to the point that Arnold snaps and retaliates), "Helga and the Nanny" (where she ends up framing her nanny for theft), "24 Hours to Live" (when Arnold accidentally knocks Harold out and Harold gives Arnold 24 hours with Helga counting down and constantly announcing how much time is left until Harold threatens to beat Arnold to a pulp), and "April Fool's Day" (where she retaliates against a prank from Arnold temporarily blinding her by guilt-tripping him into thinking the blindness is permanent).
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Helga isn't the nicest person, especially when it comes to pointing out another person's flaws and problems. But she's always on point when she does.
  • Jerkass to One: She's generally curt and abrasive towards everyone, but she obsessively picks on Arnold, largely due to her crush on him, which she seems unable to express in any other way. In "Helga on the Couch," her therapist very quickly fathoms what's going on just by the excessive amount of time she spends harassing Arnold.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: She's mean, but has compassion deep down, even helping Arnold out of love several times. Hammered home in The Jungle Movie when her locket is able to serve as a replacement for the sacred Corazón (which was destroyed when it fell off a cliff) to release the cure for the sleeping sickness.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Mostly averted (such as the instances of Slapstick Knows no Gender), but played straight in "Girl Trouble". She pushes Arnold to the point where he snaps and throws paint on her. Arnold is given detention, yet Helga receives no punishment whatsoever.
    • Deconstructed in "Helga and the Nanny". When Miriam gets a new job, Helga’s parents hire a nanny named Inga to look after Helga. However, while Inga actually cares for Helga, Helga feels as though Inga is trying to control her life, especially when Inga calls her out on her bad behavior, telling her that sewing is a sane way to canalize anger. Finally, Helga loses her paitence completely, and frames Inga for theft...only to be surprised when the other kids call her out. Inga is fired and has to return to her country. When Helga finds her, her guilt gets the better of her, and she confesses to the framing, only for Inga to tell her she knew it all the time. Helga is confused as to why she is getting off scot-free, until Inga explains that she is not: at the end of the day, Helga is nothing but an angry and sad kid, who pushes away those who care about her, and because of that she cannot be happy. The show ends with Helga in her unhappy home, sadly sewing something, realizing that her actions have cost her a happy home and someone who cares about her.
  • Kavorka Man: Helga has had at least four boys fall for her over the course of the series (Brainy, Stinky, Arnold's creepy cousin Arnie, and eventually Arnold himself). This is despite the fact that she's scrawny, physically unattractive (Big Ol' Unibrow, potato nose, billy goat-like ears, large overbite and questionable fashion choices) and a bully. While Helga does have a Hidden Heart of Gold, only Brainy knows this from the start and Stinky and Arnie never find this out. Arnold doesn't think much of Helga at first due to her always bullying him to cover up her massive crush on him, but over the course of the series, he gets to know the real Helga and by The Jungle Movie they officially get together.
  • The Klutz: Not to the extent of Eugene, but she tends to become very accident prone whenever she's swooning over Arnold. In "Arnold's Valentine", she took one step forward, seemingly tripped over the air and fell. She also tends to be klutzy with any object pertaining to her crush on Arnold. She drops her pink book of Arnold inspired poetry into Gerald's hands, and drops her locket which Abner promptly snatches.

  • The Lad-ette: A pre-teen version. She's brash, aggressive, spits, plays sports, loves wrestling and doesn't give two hoots nor a holler about girly stuff, unless she's trying to impress Arnold (or in "Helga's Makeover").
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: She has been mistaken for a boy a few times due to her unusual features and unfeminine attitude. In fact, this is the reason why she gives herself a makeover in "Helga's Makeover".
  • Large Ham: A running gag is her tendency to break into overly melodramatic monologues whenever she does anything she regrets, as well as villainous monologues when she's scheming. Often complete with theatrical music.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Pick any time Helga kicks a rock while mouthing off. Somehow, through some invariable sequence of events, that rock will find its way back to her and smack her from behind. Helga then goes, "Ouch! Okay!", acknowledging that she's ticked off some greater power.
  • Lean and Mean: Helga's quite scrawny, and is The Bully.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Whenever she realizes she's said too much about her crush on Arnold to Phoebe, she'll end the conversation by saying "this conversation never happened."
  • Like Parent, Like Child: Personality-wise, she actually has a lot in common with Big Bob, but Helga is much more articulate, intelligent and emotional than Bob.
  • Little Miss Badass: Has the reputation of being a very tough young girl.
  • Little Miss Snarker: A nine-year-old girl with the dry wit of someone thrice her age.
  • Love at First Sight: She fell in love with Arnold immediately after meeting him and still loves him two decades later.
  • Love Confession: Once in each film. In The Movie, she confesses but denies it afterwards when Arnold thinks she's kidding. In The Jungle Movie, it takes and the two of them get a Relationship Upgrade.
  • Love Confessor: Confesses her secret of being in love with Arnold to Lila in "School Play" and Dr. Bliss in "Helga on the Couch".
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Zigzagged. While Helga's love for Arnold motivates her to do very dumb, dangerous and destructive things, she claims that Arnold is the only thing stopping her from going crazy.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Aside from the aforementioned incident in "Dinner For Four", "Helga's Masquerade" has Helga not only learn to mimic Lila's behavior and mannerisms to the letter, but dress like her at Rhonda's costume party. Yet she seems saddened and angered that Arnold was only hanging out with her because she looked and acted like Lila.
  • Loving a Shadow: Mega subverted. Helga's crush on Arnold appears to be obsessive and purely played for comedy in early episodes, but as her character develops it becomes apparent that she knows Arnold inside and out and loves him for all his best qualities, and she eventually proves to him that she does unconditionally love him.
  • Loving Bully: The poster girl. Despite being a bully towards Arnold, she's madly in love with him.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: The Masculine Girl (violent, aggressive, Loving Bully) to Arnold's Feminine Boy (gentle, soft-spoken, All-Loving Hero).
  • Master of Disguise: Despite normally donning a Paper-Thin Disguise on the show, in Hey Arnold! the Movie she actually convincingly disguises herself as a man by wearing a trench coat, walking on stilts and even using a voice modulator.
  • Master of the Mixed Message: In-universe example. The audience may know her true feelings, but the other characters don't. Arnold normally buys whatever flimsy excuse she gives when he catches her fawning over him, but even he wised up after a while. In the movie, after he finds out that she was the one helping him defeat Scheck, he straight up asks her why she does so much for someone she claims to hate. Once it's clear to Helga that she can't lie her way out of this one, she finally admits that she loves him. Once Scheck is arrested and the town is saved, Arnold gives her an opportunity to take back what she said and she's back to insulting him. In The Jungle Movie, Arnold states that he suspected that she was mean to him in order to mask her true feelings of adoration and that he wasn't ready to accept Helga's confession at the time.
  • Mean Boss: Usually subverted. She frequently treats Phoebe as more of a sidekick or henchman than a friend, and she frequently belittles her and treats her horribly, but there are several instances that clarify that she and Phoebe truly value one another as genuine friends, as Phoebe completely understands why Helga acts mean.
  • Meaningful Name: Craig Bartlett chose Helga's name to emphasize her two sides:
    • "Helga" sounds very much like "hell girl", emphasizing Helga's mask of being a troublesome bully.
    • The name actually means "holy, sacred, successful", which emphasizes Helga's hidden softer side.
    • "Pataki" is a Hungarian surname that means "creek, brook", originally given to people who lived near creeks.
  • Meet My Good Friends Lefty and Righty: She played this trope straight in a flashback from "Helga on the Couch", when she was barely old enough to talk:
    Helga: Quit laughing, geek bait, or you'll have to answer to Ol' Betsy and The Five Avengers!
    Harold: Old who and the five what?
    Helga: My fists, stupid! That's their names!
  • Metalhead: Judging by the music she opts for playing on full blast while in the car with Miriam in "Road Trip", it's a safe bet that Helga likes rock and/or metal music.
  • Motor Mouth: She can really rattle off when she wants to, particularly when giving orders to Phoebe.
  • Mouthy Kid: Nine years old and has a major attitude. It's not completely unwarranted, however.
  • Mutual Envy: With her older sister, Olga. Helga hates and envies Olga for being pretty, smart, good at everything she does, and being their parents' favorite...but Olga is secretly jealous of her, too, because she hates the insane amounts of pressure their parents put on her to be perfect, and wishes she could be ignored like Helga and free to do whatever she wanted instead of being treated like a wind-up doll.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Whenever she does something mean to Arnold, she tends to be remorseful of it.
    • In "Ms. Perfect", when she and the other girls find out that Lila's not as perfect as they thought, she absolutely loses it.
    • Again when Phoebe breaks her leg, since Phoebe was running errands for her when it happened.
    • When she realizes that she crossed the line and got Inga fired by framing her for theft. She tries to apologize for it, but by then it's too late and Inga informs Helga that she must live with the consequences of her actions.
  • Mysterious Middle Initial: What precisely the "G" stands for is never revealed in-series; it's actually short for "Geraldine", as a tribute to then-Nickelodeon executive Geraldine Laybourne.
  • Nice Mean And In Between: Of the main trio, she's the Mean to Arnold's Nice and Gerald's In-Between. She's The Bully and the most cynical of the trio.
  • The Nicknamer: She has a name for everybody. "Football Head", "Arnoldo" and "Hair Boy" for Arnold, "Tall Hair Boy" and "Geraldo" for Gerald, "Pheebs" for Phoebe (a rare affectionate one), "Pink Boy", "Blimpo" and "Lard Boy" for Harold, "Princess" and "Rhondaloid" (the latter being a play on her first and last name) for Rhonda, "Stinko" for Stinky, "Granola Girl" for Sheena, and "Little Miss Perfect" for Lila.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Craig Bartlett physically based Helga on a photograph of a very young Frida Kahlo.
  • No More Lies: In the episode "The Big Scoop," Arnold and Helga argue about how to run the school newspaper. Helga wants to tabloidize it and run big juicy stories that run deeper than the truth, while Arnold wants to stick to the facts and tell the truth. Helga eventually left with her best friend Phoebe to make her own newspaper. Helga finds success in her newspaper by posting fake stories and half-truth stories, while Arnold struggles to compete with her by just posting the truth. Helga is shown to be willing to steal Arnold's stories and add lies to them. Eventually, Arnold and his best friend Gerald heard that Helga planned to post a story that said the school would be torn down and an amusement park would be built in the school place. Arnold and Gerald investigated and asked Principal Warts, who revealed that while the school was going to be torn down because walls were going down, no amusement park was going to be built in its place. Walls would be torn down because they would add to the school, building more classrooms. After getting a quote that confirms Principal Wart's story, Arnold and Gerald posted the story, and when Helga tried to post her version of the story, their classmates angrily said that's not with Arnold's stories said, and with Principal Wart's confirmation no one believed Helga story. And when Arnold tells Helga that no one believes anything in her paper, she tries to save face by telling more gossip and reducing her paper's price, only for her classmates to say no more lies. When Helga asks why everyone is so upset, she wants to tell good juicy stories that delve deeper than the truth; Arnold answers that she pushed the truth too far. Helga closes down her paper and rejoins Arnold's paper, reporting the weather.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: When masquerading as Arnold's French pen-pal Cecile, she still speaks with an American accent, even when speaking French. She does the same thing when impersonating the Campfire Lass in "Helga Blabs it All" (especially hilarious when you realize that Francesca Smith voices both characters.)
  • Not Good with Rejection: The primary reason that Helga keeps her crush secret is because she can't handle the possibility of Arnold rejecting her.
  • Obfuscating Disability: She fakes amnesia in "Beaned" to get a guilty Arnold to take care of her. She also fakes blindness in "April Fools Day" to get revenge on Arnold for his prank on her.
  • Offhand Backhand: Helga frequently punches Brainy in the face without turning around to face him. So often, that the one time she didn't punch him, he proceeds to punch himself in the face.
  • Official Couple: After helping Arnold win the "trip" to San Lorenzo, find the Green Eyed People, defeat Lasombra, cure the sleeping sickness and reuniting Arnold with his parents Arnold finally returns Helga's affections and they are presumably a couple from here on.
  • One Head Taller: Gender-flipped with Arnold. She'd be taller than Arnold without Arnold's protruding hair.
  • One of the Boys: Zigzagged. Despite her tomboyish personality and tendency to gravitate towards whatever the boys are doing (particularly if it's baseball), the boys are less keen than the girls to include her. Played with in "Helga's Makeover," where, despite Gerald mistaking her for a boy and the rest of the team teasing her for her lack of feminine qualities, they (ironically) refuse to let her play due to her being a girl.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Arnold instantly realizes that something is wrong with Helga when she stops tormenting him in "Helga's Love Potion". This is because she was under a placebo from an "anti-love potion" she took to try and rid herself of her crush on Arnold, which turned her into an emotionless being with nothing to live for. And when she doesn't punch Brainy for sneaking up on her, he gets so confused/terrified that he punches himself out!
    • After Arnold refuses to listen to Helga's second attempt at a Love Confession in The Jungle Movie (following her first one in Hey Arnold! The Movie), she ripped her picture of Arnold to shreds before tossing it and its heart-shaped frame off the back of the boat. Luckily Brainy retrieved it and mended it together before returning it to Helga, who is so overjoyed that she kisses him!
  • Out-of-Character Moment: In "Biosquare", she shows no signs of having a crush on Arnold and she's a bigger Jerkass to him than normal. At the end, she looked like she was about to fight him (while she does tease Arnold and call him names, she never hits him, the closest she comes is pushing Arnold away whenever he hugs her). She must have really hated being trapped in that Biosquare.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise:
    • "Helga's Locket" featured this when Helga attempted to get her locket of Arnold back from Arnold's grandpa. She disguised herself in a black trenchcoat, a derby, glasses, and fake mustache, passing herself off as "Bernard Flotsom", a rich antique art collector. It works for maybe a minute, and after a couple of near-misses (such as one of her pigtails poking out from her hat), Grandpa gets wise once she runs off with the locket saying, "So long sucker!" As she runs off, Grandpa, now mistaking her for some hooligan, calls out "AND YOU FORGOT YOUR MUSTACHE!"
    • Her getup as "Cecile" in "Arnold's Valentine" is arguably this. While it's true that she did change her hairstyle and outfit while putting on makeup, she still wears a pink hairbow, a pink dress and doesn't disguise her voice or accent. It was enough to fool Arnold, though.
  • Parental Neglect: Her parents are at best inattentive, at worst unloving, emotionally abusive, and severely neglectful. Their lack of presence in her life are largely the reason she is such a bully towards her peers.
  • Perpetual Frowner: About 90% of her screentime has her frowning. Played for Drama when Bob sees her frowning in all of her family photos.
    Bob: Look at her. She looks miserable. I gotta think of something I can do for her.
  • Pet the Dog: There are several times where she does something nice to prove that she isn't completely rotten, like in "Arnold's Christmas" (where she sacrifices her Nancy Spumoni boots so that Arnold can succeed in his goal of reuniting Mr. Hyunh with his daughter for Christmas), "Arnold's Thanksgiving" (where she celebrates Thanksgiving with her worried family and apologizes for leaving home without telling them), showing compassion to her friend Phoebe in any episode focusing on her, The Movie (where she secretly helps Arnold in his journey to stop Scheck from tearing down the neighborhood) and "Summer Love" (where she realizes that Summer is using Arnold and does everything she can to expose Summer's true intentions so as to spare Arnold's feelings). And "Helga on the Couch" ends with Helga subverting the Running Gag or her backhanding Brainy by instead politely leading him off screen to have a friendly chat about his creepy behavior.
  • Phrase Catcher: "Whatever you say, Helga." Usually from Arnold (but occasionally from Gerald and other characters) when she tries to browbeat her way out of situations. Arnold typically means it disbelievingly (aware that she's putting on an act) while everybody else is just being dismissive.
  • Ping Pong Naïveté: A Running Gag of the show is Brainy getting an Offhand Backhand from Helga while stalking her. At the end of "Helga's Love Potion," Helga seems to recognize Brainy's feeling for her and kiss him in the forehead, causing him to faint. However, in "Helga on the Couch," she seems to forget that when Helga asks Brainy what is his deal with her after Brainy gaves Helga a toy engagement ring. Brainy seems very confused. Then again, Helga has such self-steem problems and she is a Hypocrite so big that his relationship with reality could be described as "distant" and she could be very well believing nobody loves her.
  • Pink Girl, Blue Boy: Pink Girl to Arnold's Blue Boy. She wears a pink bow and a pink dress while Arnold wears a blue hat.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Subverted. She wears a pink dress as well as a pink bow in her hair but she's rather tomboyish, albeit with a hidden feminine side.
  • Pitbull Dates Puppy: Helga is a rough, short-tempered and violent bully and she's completely in love with the kind-hearted, friendly and compassionate All-Loving Hero Arnold. At the end of The Jungle Movie, they're together.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: More like Politically Incorrect Jerk with a Heart of Gold. She seems to be fond of calling Mr. Simmons names that could be interpreted as homophobic slurs (such "throw pillow" or "cream puff"). Whether these names are targeting Simmons' sexuality or his passive personality (more likely) is unclear; it is implied that Helga picked it up from her father without understanding what the insults actually mean.
  • Potty Failure: She had bedwetting problems as a young child according to Olga, and she's stated to have gastrointestinal issues in some episodes.
  • Practically Different Generations: Since Olga was stated to be 15 when Helga started preschool (and most kids start preschool when they around 3 or 4), this would mean that Olga's around eleven to twelve years older than Helga and that Olga was around 20 or 21 in the main series and around 22 or 23 in The Jungle Movie. Olga's a very accomplished college student, which only strengthens the one-sided rivalry Helga feels.
  • Progressively Prettier: For most of season 1 she is pretty ugly with an ape-like face, a thicker unibrow, a big nose, and a big overbite. From season 2 onwards her features are toned down and she gets cuter as a result.See for yourself.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Red Oni to Phoebe's Blue. She's more reckless and emotional than Phoebe is.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Helga is pretty good at these; she finally tells Olga off in "Student Teacher," gives a pretty cutting one to Miriam about her being a "lousy mom", and a pretty epic one to Harold after he gets them lost in "Buses, Bikes and Subways".
    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.
  • Rebellious Spirit: Thanks to the terrible example her parents set, Helga subsequently shows little to no regard for authority. She constantly talks back and openly defies any adult character who tries to put her in her place. Ironically the whole reason she behaves this way is because deep down she is starved for any kind of attention from her parents.
  • Relationship Sabotage: Any time Arnold is with another girl, you can expect Helga to try and mess everything up for them, with her plans backfiring more often than not. She also did this to Lila and Olga in "Big Sis", once again backfiring.
  • Relationship Upgrade: At the end of The Jungle Movie, her love confession to Arnold finally gets reciprocated.
  • The Scream: Oh she screams. With such volume and ear-splitting intensity that it sends dogs and car alarms into a frenzy for several city blocks. Usually when she thinks Arnold is about to learn her secret.
  • Shadow Archetype: Helga is, ironically, Brainy's shadow.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Most of the time she doesn't care how she looks, and when she gave herself a makeover in "Helga's Makeover", the results were quite disturbing. But when she really tries (and knows what she's doing) she looks gorgeous. An example of this is in "Arnold's Valentine." Well... after she loses the ridiculous haircut, that is.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Helga is constantly ignored and would like some adoration from her parents, while her sister Olga gets all of the attention and would like to be left alone.
  • Sigh of Love: She lets these loose frequently, normally after delivering one of her lovesick soliloquies.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Never shows the slightest interest in anybody but Arnold. note .
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Her feelings for Arnold started when he shared his umbrella with her in the pouring rain and gave her his snacks in preschool. Throughout the series, Helga always comments on how she loves his noble, kindhearted side.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Not exactly, but Helga did get away with some stronger language on a Nickelodeon show; she said "crap" rather frequently, in addition to "freakin'" and "blows/blew".
  • Skyward Scream: She did this a few times in the first half in the series, combined with Say My Name in "Downtown As Fruits".
    Arnold: [on a bus on the other side of town] Did you hear something just now?
    Gerald: Nope.
  • Slapstick Knows no Gender: She has fallen victim to comedic injuries and misfortunes pretty often, from getting crapped on by flying birds to getting into a bumper car accident to suffering two beatings from Big Patty in the same episode. Half of her slapstick moments are deconstructed in "Helga on the Couch".
  • Sour Outside, Sad Inside: Helga is a cynical, always frowning kid. But that's mostly due to her sad childhood.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: More episodes focused on Helga than any other character except for Arnold, and that's not including the many Arnold/Helga episodes. Her list of tropes got so long that it had to be split into its own page, and got one before Arnold did.
  • Stalker Shrine: She has built several shrines of Arnold adorned with pictures she took of him and things that he's discared, such as bubblegum and hair.
  • Stalker with a Crush: To Arnold. She has a shrine, a statue made out of his chewed bubblegum, and has written several books of poetry dedicated to him. She also carries around a heart-shaped locket with his picture in it.
    • In The Jungle Movie, Helga has an underground room (beneath her Stalker Shrine no less) where she has stored hundreds of recorded videos of Arnold's various humanitarian exploits throughout the show (at least one that's simply Arnold getting (un)dressed). How she can possibly have been at some of these locations is anyone's guess....
  • Stealth Expert: Has broken into the boarding house a total of seven times throughout the show's run. All occasions wearing her usual pink and white clothes. There was also the episode where she attempts to sabotage Lila and Olga's friendship where she dressed accordingly. In general, many of her plans involve her having to avoid detection, and to her credit, she's fairly decent at doing just that.
  • Stepford Snarker: Uses insults, threats and sarcasm as a way to cover up her self-hatred and love for Arnold.
  • Strong Girl, Smart Guy: With Arnold. 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 to violence, and gives advice to everyone.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Unfortunately, she gets her looks from her father (Big Ol' Unibrow, big nose, and billy-goat shaped ears), making her not so attractive by default.
  • Successful Sibling Syndrome: Her older sister Olga seems to be perfect in every aspect and is the parental favorite. Therefore, Helga has always had to live under Olga's shadow and is jealous of her seemingly perfect life. In the "Olga Comes Home" episode, however, she does learn her sister's success isn't as much of a blessing as Helga thinks; Olga is constantly pressured by their parents' constant attention and ridiculously high standards, and that's turned her into so much of an obsessive perfectionist that just seeing a B+ on her report card is enough to send her into a severe depression.
  • Surrogate Soliloquy: Helga will often whip out her heart-shaped Arnold locket to talk to when she is alone.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Sees herself as always having to deal with people less intelligent than her, almost saying this word for word in "Arnold's Halloween" when Harold buys the wrong makeup.
    Helga: The face paint won't come off! What kind did you get, anyway?
    Harold: I got something called "permanent exterior latex" 'cause I figured we'd be outside all night.
    Helga: Oh, criminy, I'm surrounded!
    • Later, in "April Fool's Day":
    Helga: Because the people we hang out with are lamebrains and saps!
  • They Do: Word of God says Helga and Arnold eventually get married as adults.
  • Therapy Is for the Weak: She's not too thrilled about being sent to Dr. Bliss for counseling. She wears a disguise to the medical center and spends the first part of the session mocking it. By the end however, she doesn't want to leave.
  • Thinking Out Loud: During her gushing sessions and whenever she's executing one of her "evil plans". She even lampshades it in "The Little Pink Book."
    Helga: [hiding in Arnold's closet] Go! Go!
    Gerald: What was that?
    Helga": I must stop talking to myself.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: Helga is voiced by Craig Bartlett's daughter Katie during the pre-school flashback in "Helga on the Couch".
  • Tomboy: Obviously more masculine in behavior and mannerisms, as noted by The Lad-ette entry.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: As a tough and aggressive Tomboy, she's a Foil to other girly female characters: her best friend Phoebe is a shy and sensitive Extreme Doormat, her rival Lila is a sweet and polite Proper Lady, and her sister Olga is a pretty, kind, and responsible Daddy's Girl.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: For all her tomboyish and violent personality, Helga always wears pink dresses, her room is filled with girly stuff, and she is a hopeless romantic. Photos of her in "The Big Scoop" also reveal that at one point she took ballet classes.
  • Toxic Friend Influence:
    • Though she often means well in situations where she is made to help others, her idea of the right way to do something is a little... skewed to say the least. In episodes where she gives advice or puts down a plan of action, chances are that plan will be harsh, immoral, and ultimately not helpful. She lampshades it in "Deconstructing Arnold" while explaining to Arnold why he is the right person to give advice and she... isn't.
    Helga: [cheerfully] Look at me! I'm terrible at helping others. I'm the worst! I have no moral conscience whatsoever.
    • She sometimes treats Phoebe unfairly, occasionally manipulating her to do dishonest things.
  • Town Girls: The Butch to Phoebe's Neither and Lila's Femme.
  • Tragic Hero: Helga has a bottomless capacity to be a nice loving person, and she desperately wants to show this side of herself but just can't get past her fear of rejection and ridicule which is why she constantly resorts to her tough and mean guise. In spite of her frequent antagonism she's one of the most sympathetic characters on the show as the audience is constantly privy to her soliloquies that reveal how much she struggles with showing her true self.
  • Tranquil Fury: She's visibly fuming when Arnold accidentally calls her "Lila" in "Helga's Makeover", but she's able to keep that fake smile on her face and talk somewhat calmly. Otherwise, she averts this trope.
  • Troubled Abuser: Just count how many times her crappy life has been mentioned and how it affects her relationship with Arnold.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: While she's no Curly, she's probably the horniest 9-year old in history of Western Animation thanks to all the crap she gets past the Radar in regards to her crush on Arnold. That's not even getting into the shrines, the poetry and the other ways she pines for him is G-rated stalking. Played for Laughs though it may be, it's quite disturbing to some older viewers.
  • Tsundere: She bullies Arnold outwardly but gushes over him when she believes herself to be alone. In fact, she is widely considered to be the clearest example of a tsundere in Western animation. And there are times she can even outshine the likes of Asuka and Naru.
  • Tuckerization: Her middle name, Geraldine, came from the former head of Nickelodeon animation Geraldine Laybourne.
  • Two-Faced: Helga wants everyone to think she's the meanest kid around just to protect herself from being hurt. Despite her outwardly tough appearance and constant displays of bullying, whenever she's alone she indulges in her true nature as a tender-hearted hopeless romantic.
  • Uncanny Valley Makeup: Her makeover in "Helga's Makeover" is enough to cause her mother to faint.
    Helga: Maybe I should've gone a bit lighter on the eye shadow.
  • Undying Loyalty: No matter what she says to the contrary, episodes like Arnold's Christmas show that Helga would move mountains for Arnold if she could.
  • The Unfavorite: Helga is often ignored by her parents in favor of Olga. The show also deconstructs the idea by showing just how badly this has affected not just Helga, but also Olga, the former by causing a massive amount of insecurity and the latter bring forced to live up to near-impossible expectations.
  • Unknown Rival:
    • Lila has no idea that Helga hates her at all, let alone why. Ironically she likely wouldn't want to be considered Helga's rival for Arnold's affections at all, since she doesn't reciprocate Arnold's feelings.
    • Olga is also unaware that Helga resents her. At least until "Student Teacher", where she says to her sister's face that she can't stand her.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Especially in season 1. She's often abrasive, and gives others (especially Arnold, her secret crush) a hard time. However, many of her flaws stem from an unhappy childhood as The Un-Favourite. Often times, she still remains the Only Sane Man among classmates, lamenting their stupidity.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: The flashback in "Helga on the Couch" shows that she wasn't always the mean, bullying, resentful person she is now, and it's clear that the sweet little girl is still in there despite all Helga's attempts to hide her.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Type 1 with Phoebe; Helga is abrasive and domineering, while Phoebe allows Helga to boss her around. The two have a close friendship despite this.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Pre- Art and Vocal Evolution, Helga's appearance was uglier, but her voice was cuter. Post-evolution, her design was cuter, but her voice was deeper and more womanly.
  • Vocal Evolution: As Francesca Smith aged, Helga's voice deepened to the point that she sounds like a grown woman in the post-movie episodes (especially so in Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie).
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: She wants her the approval and attention of her parents (particularly Bob), but she rarely ever gets it due to being The Un-Favourite.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back!: The few times that Helga does try to be outwardly nice, she almost always ends up pissing everyone off except for Arnold.
    • In "Helga's Show" she does a comedy routine where she does impressions of her peers, which offends them to the point where they just start ignoring her. After Phoebe points this out to her, they work together to write a poem highlighting their positive qualities, but the audience boo her off the stage when she tries to read it (probably because they knew it wasn't genuine and just a CYA move). She just goes back to roasting everyone and they laugh at her performance.
    • While trying to get out of her modelling contract in "It Girl" she tries acting as unpleasant as possible (insulting her boss, shoving other models, spitting at photographers, etc.) hoping that they'll fire her. Turns out, it only makes everyone love her more. So Arnold suggests she starts being nice during Fashion Week, which gets her booed out of the building and her agent finally fires her.
    • After envisioning a world where everyone's glad she's gone in "Magic Show", Helga attempts a new outlook on life, only for everyone to be completely weirded out by her apologies, which sends her right back to her old attitude.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Practically all the kids present in "Helga and the Nanny" called her out for framing Inga for theft.
  • What You Are in the Dark: In "Arnold's Christmas" she gives up her Nancy Spumoni snow boots so Mr. Hyunh can be reunited with his daughter. The boots were a rare sign that her parents actually paid attention to her and nobody would have known if she'd decided to keep them for herself. Instead she hands them over to the archivist and convinces him to work through the night to find Mai. At the end of the episode she watches the reunion from a distance and never tries to take credit for her part in making it happen.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: She appears fearless... unless she's confronted with rats.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: This girl is shown to possess near-genius level intelligence based on her talents at poetry, impressive vocabulary and score on her school's Aptitude Test. She could probably surpass Olga in terms of academics if she actually wanted to. It's too bad that life has kicked the crap out of her to the point where she doesn't even try.
  • Witch with a Capital "B": "Olga Comes Home" when Helga changes one of Olga's grades from a "A" to "B+", leading Olga to have an emotional breakdown, has Helga refer to Olga as a "pompous, overbearing, arrogant witch".
  • Yandere: During her worst moments. Helga varies between hating and loving Arnold and is obsessed with him to the point of stealing his favorite hat for her Stalker Shrine made of his bubblegum. She also tends to write poetry about him and swoon over a picture of him in private and has made other shrines of him which she would dance around as if she were worshiping him like he was a god. She shows a slightly unstable side with the lengths she was willing to go to as a way to prevent her parrot (who had heard her say a love poem for Arnold revealing her feelings for him) from repeating the poem to Arnold who had taken it as his pet. She also shows jealousy towards girls Arnold is interested in, like Ruth and Lila, and would occasionally try to sabotage Arnold's relationships/dates with them. She even threatened to strangle Lila if she ever told anyone that Helga liked Arnold because she wasn't ready to tell him yet. She also disguised herself as Arnold's foreign pen-pal in order to go on a date with him.