‘Hey Arnold!’ Gave Helga a Crush On Arnold To Avoid ‘Rugrats’ Similarities

Nickelodeon brought Hey Arnold! to its TV line-up in 1996. It joined a slate of very successful animated series, including Doug, Rugrats, and The Ren & Stimpy Show. As hoped, the kid’s network continued its streak with Hey Arnold! It would go on for five seasons before being canceled, and it also produced two popular movies. 

One of the familiar characters from the show was Helga, whose bullying behavior was only matched by her abiding love for Arnold. There’s a reason Helga had feelings for him, and it might surprise you. 

Gerald, Arnold and Helga wait at the bus stop in 'Hey Arnold!'
Gerald, Arnold and Helga in ‘Hey Arnold!’ | Nickelodeon

The creation of ‘Hey Arnold!’

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Hey Arnold! was the tale of a nine-year-old boy in fourth grade. He lived with his grandparents in tenement housing in the fictional city of Hillwood. According to BuzzFeed, the show’s creator, Craig Bartlett is married to Lisa Groening. If that name sounds familiar, it’s probably because she’s the sister of Matt Groening, who created The Simpsons

With that much animated storytelling talent in the family, it’s no surprise that the show went on to become so beloved. It was unusual at the time because they hired actual children to voice the characters in the show. Over the years the series was on the air, the actors’ voices changed over the years and some of them had to be replaced. 

The unique and sometimes odd characters included Arnold’s eccentric grandparents Phil and Gertrude, his friend Gerald, and Helga. And Helga was in a league of her own.

The complex character of Helga

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According to Screen Rant, Helga seemed to have about as much screen time as Arnold. She came from a difficult home, with a mother who was an alcoholic and a father who was a bully. She also had a sister named Olga who was infuriatingly perfect, something Helga could not stand. 

And that’s how Helga felt about a lot of things. Just like kids tend to do in real life, Helga dealt with her struggles in unhealthy ways. She was a bully who made everyone’s life more difficult, especially Arnold. 

But Helga had layers to her personality too. During one episode, she saw a therapist and shared a fact that made viewers root for her. She admitted that she picked on Arnold because he meant so much to her. He was the first person who ever made her feel as though she mattered. 

Why did Helga have a crush on Arnold?

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Bartlett had planned to have a bully be a part of the show all along, but it was someone close to him that helped tweak the character to make her something more interesting. Mental Floss explains that Bartlett’s wife, Lisa Groening, is the one to thank for Helga’s secret crush. 

Hey Arnold! came to Nickelodeon five years after Rugrats, and she worried that Helga could be too similar to the babies’ nemesis, Angelica. She didn’t want Arnold to have to deal with just another “bully girl.” So Groening advised her husband to give Helga a secret crush. It showed her vulnerable side, and it gave the neighborhood bully a more complex personality. 

At times, it even made her a character that viewers could sympathize with. Fans of Hey Arnold! hoped that the two would eventually get together, and Bartlett has said that he thinks they would have dated eventually in high school. Sadly, he also says that they would have broken up. But at least fans can hold tight to the knowledge that Helga eventually shared some romance with her secret love.