We love cartoons. Period. We grew up in an era where the cartoons on Nickelodeon were literally the best. Doug, Ren & Stimpy, Rocket Power, Rugrats, The Angry Beavers, Recess, and so forth. However, our personal favorite would have to be Hey Arnold. For those of you who are either too young, too old, or living under a rock, allow us to explain. The show’s premise focuses on a fourth grader named Arnold who lives with his grandparents in Hillwood. The episodes center on his experiences navigating big city life while dealing with the problems he and his band of friends encounter.
For a little while Netflix had all the seasons for instant streaming, but they ended up taking the show off when Nickelodeon announced that they would play Hey Arnold in syndication after Nick at Nite, so we can’t get our Arnold fix as much as we would like to. The other day we brought up Hey Arnold and how well it represented the life of every kid born and raised in a major city. And by major city we mean New York, Chicago, and maybeeeee LA–ya’ll have Rocket Power to relate to.
Arnold’s Family & Home: While Arnold was too much of a snitch and good kid himself, you really have to respect how he was raised. Arnold’s parents died when he was young, leaving him to be raised by his hilarious and amazing grandparents in their boarding home. In our elementary school classes we had thirty other kids who came from all over the city. It was normal for your classmates to have a unique family life: split parents, growing up in other family member’s homes, some even homeless–these were all the norm for us. In fact, as sad as it sounds, it was more surprising for us to have those kids in our class whose parents were still together.
Arnold grew up in a setting that wasn’t like any other cartoon or television show. Arnold lived in the gritty city of Hillwood. It is reminiscent of Brooklyn, New York with it’s urban vibes, brownstones, subway stops, public schools, and strange neighborhood folks! Arnold and his friends used the city as their stomping grounds and really had to get creative for their adventures. Much of their adventures remind us of the adventures we had growing up in our own city. The fights, new friends, getting played, petty thefts (we’ve all done it, don’t judge), and hanging out in the neighborhood or at memorable hang out spots. RIP to the McDonald’s on the 5th floor of the Water Tower, Demon Dogs, and Rainbo Roller Rink–today’s children of Chicago are really missing out!
Arnold & his gang: Arnold, Gerald, Harold, Eugene, Phoebe, Helga- all different faces, different races, and come from different places. Yeah, sometimes they fought and they didn’t always see eye to eye, but they always had each other’s backs, especially when it involved 5th graders! Pull out your 4th grade birthday party pictures and tell us it doesn’t look like a poster for the United Nations.
Strange Characters: Remember Crazy Mary on Rush Street? The man who STILL preaches on State Street in front of the Old Navy? The CTA man who bounces between the Western and Damen blue line stops? Hey Arnold had their own strange city characters that the kids would run into on the daily such as Pigeon Man or Stoop Kid (Stoop Season is a thing in Chicago. Get familiar with it.) the only difference is that Arnold and his friends made friends with these weirdos…we just taunted and laughed at our Chicago weirdos.
Helga: Yes, we are fully aware she is crazy, but you would be too if your mother was a pill-popping, alcoholic and your dad loved your sister more than he loved you. At the end of the day, Helga loves and wants to be loved–hence the crazy Voodoo shrine she has dedicated to Arnold. She’s actually really smart and was the one friend we all had who was good at being a lil sneak.
Arnold: Okay, we saved Arnold for last on purpose because he was such a good kid and sometimes while re-watching episodes we kind of just want to punch him. HOWEVER, the lil dude is a city guy and it shows. He is the real stand-up guy: well cultured, genuine, city smart, Kanye’s style icon, and for a ten year old he has a bad ass jazz record collection that rivals our own. And let’s not even get started on his bedroom! He is optimistic, idealistic, adventurous, and doesn’t discriminate. Every city kid can see a little bit of themselves in Arnold!
Hey Arnold is on randomly during the week late as hell and only if you still have cable. If you’re feeling a bit nostalgic and trying to catch your favorite episode, your best bet is to head on over to YouTube–they have most of the classics, including this gem: