Nostalgia 101: The Wonders of the 90's: Arnold's 4th grade quests
Published: Sunday, October 6, 2013
Updated: Sunday, October 6, 2013 22:10
One of the most memorable and long running NickToons of the 1990s was “Hey Arnold!” The kid with the football head and his gang of friends had so many adventures; it was hard to believe they were only in fourth grade.
Every generation has their own experiences in childhood cartoons, and each feels like their own was superior to all else. The NickToons of the 1990s are held to a high standard by their original viewers who claim there was never anything better and nor will there be.
“Hey Arnold!” was no exception to this. The show made an effort to address the rites of passage for boys and girls growing up and the complications along the way.
Even though sometimes there were situations that weren’t quite realistic, such as the enormous flood that had no later repercussions, or meeting the sewer king who lived in an enormous sewer domain with rats that could play chess, the show never fell short of a truthful and sincere theme.
For example, if you can recall the episode where the gang finds use for a trashed vacant lot as their new baseball field, you’ll remember that within a day the adults took it over and ruined it and began squabbling over space and damage to their sections.
In the moment, Helga Pataki said it best, “This is what happens when adults rule the world.” It goes deeper than invasion of personal space, it was likely an allusion to the fact that adults are constantly taking for themselves with little to no regard of who they are displacing while benefitting themselves.
This was a pretty heavy theme that most of us probably missed as kids. There were also plenty of simpler themes that kids could identify with such as crushing on older girls, hiding from the “fifth graders” or anyone older, surviving the heat wave or how to spend your snow day.
Not as many, hopefully, identified with Helga’s excessive obsession with Arnold. Maybe you really liked some boy or girl in elementary school, but was it enough to build a shrine and statue out of his used bubblegum behind the clothes in your closet?
As the show wound on, Helga’s obsession became more and more apparent to everyone except Arnold, who remained clueless, mostly because of the bully façade Helga played on a regular basis.
The characters in the show are what really allowed for the plot to develop in most episodes because they were all very classic personas but displayed through kids.
There was Arnold, the voice of reason, Gerald the keeper of urban legends and youthful wisdom, Phoebe, best friend and secretary to Helga, and Arnold’s grandparents, who were wise, inspiring and always there for him because his parents couldn’t be.
Grandma and Grandpa were easily two of the most interesting characters, because as adults they held some sort of power in the world that the kids did not, but most of the time acted like kids themselves.
A lot of shows, especially NickToons and old Disney movies have plenty of jokes and hidden innuendos that you likely missed as a kid. I’d recommend that next time you’re procrastinating for a paper or an exam, find some of it on the internet. I bet you won’t be able to watch just one.
There was so much about this show that I didn’t get the chance to discuss, but I could talk about it for hours. If there’s something about this column that caught your eye or you think was missing, tweet at me @Gigantos.