Listen, I’m not even going to start about how amazing (yes, amazing!) this show was. Even now, especially around holidays, I’ll go on YouTube and search for episodes of this show (remember that time that Helga gave up her Nancy Spumoni boots so Arnold could help Mr. Huynh be with his daughter for Christmas? I tear up every time.)
Now, watching these episodes an adult, I realize, this show was heavy. It dealt with some really intense, heavy issues that kids would find themselves at a loss for. Look at some of the characters. Arnold was an orphan who spent a good part of his life wondering about his parents. Helga was always so overshadowed by her prim and perfect older sister, Olga, that their parents completely ignored her existence. Harold was severely overweight, Eugene was always bullied and Curly was, let’s face it, a total psychopath.
But despite all that, strangely enough, they all got along. The characters worked well with each other, and each episode somehow ended with a lesson. And watching all this, I learned some of the most important things I could know about life that adults would find hard to teach me. So here’re a few, with episode links for a nostalgic trip down memory lane:
Accept everyone’s differences; it’s what makes them unique. I can’t believe some of the characters in this series. There were some real weirdos in Arnold’s neighborhood. Monkey Man and Pigeon Man? The tenants in apartment? But despite that, Arnold was still willing to get to know them and make new friends.
Do your best to help out where you can. This was all of Arnold. I mean, that’s pretty much all he did. He helped everyone. And I mean everyone. Whether it be Stoop kid leaving his stoop, Torvald passing his math test, or Tucker with his free throws, Arnold was always willing to lend a hand.
Don’t betray your friends. Love, care, and respect them, because they’re the ones who will always be there. Gerald was THE MAN. He and Arnold go way back, and while they had their own squabbles and disagreements, they always worked it out. At the end of the day, they had each other’s backs. And that’s what friends are for.
Look at the bright side and stay optimistic. Life gets tough, things break down, shit happens, usually all on the same day. But don’t let the world get you down. There’s always mañana. As Grandma says, “When life gets you down, wearing a frown, don’t look away, look up!”
Be yourself. As Dr. Seuss says, “Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” You don’t need to be anything but yourself. Don’t dress up in 70s clothing and pretend that you’re older to impress the 6th grade girls. Don’t try to act like perfect little Miss Lila to impress the boy you like. None of it works. The sixth grade girls will always go back to their boyfriends, and Arnold secretly likes you anyway. Kind of. In his own way.
Work hard and don’t give up hope. Keep going and do what it takes to succeed. Even if it means being stuck in a glass bubble with the one person you hate most for 24 hours. Do what you have to do.
Enjoy life. Remember “The List for a Kid’s Perfect Saturday?” Watch Saturday cartoons while eating three bowls of sugary cereal, ride your bike, play catch, and lastly, go to the movies and sit through it three times. While that might not be what you want to do on your day off, when was the last time you really let go and took a day off? Go. Now. Enjoy it.
What other lessons did you earn from this show, and any other shows from the glorious days of the 90s?