To begin, let’s first define motif for those of you who don’t know. A motif is a recurring subject, theme, idea, etc. It is clear to see that the show has quite a few motifs surrounding the explosive relationship of Helga and Arnold. Whether or not you believe they are soul mates which you totally should because it’s true is totally up to you. However, allow me to shed some light on the motifs used for them.
1. Arnold Hears Helga
First started in the first episode on Nickelodeon, “Downtown as Fruits”, it has remained a quintessential gag. The first one went like this:
Helga: Hey! Where are the fruits?!
Phoebe: They’re not here Helga. They never showed up.
Helga: What? *blinks* Arnoooooold!!
*cut to wide city view then to bus*
Arnold to Gerald: Did you hear something just now?
This gag continues throughout the series, most notably in “Helga Blabs it All” and “Buses, Bikes, and Subways” where Arnold is the only one to notice that Helga is missing from the school bus. While many people seem to find this to just be a gag or just meaning that Arnold is possibly so fearful of Helga that he can sense her anger, there is a camp of people who believe that it is a sign of Helga and Arnold being meant for each other. It’s a common cliche in romantic films for the male to sense when his female companion is in danger, so it is logical to conclude that the purpose of Arnold being the only one to hear Helga scream his name, or just scream, is to show that they are meant for each other. Furthermore, while some may argue the fear of bullying end, think of this. In an episode of How I Met Your Mother, soul mates Lily and Marshall discuss how connected they are to the point where if Lily eats ice cream, Marshall gets ill because he is lactose intolerant. So why else would the writers make this gag except to push the idea forward that Helga and Arnold are soul mates? Furthermore, in the episode “Magic Show” where Helga experiences a dream world where she no longer exists and is not missed a la It’s a Wonderful Life, whenever Helga screams in her dream world, Arnold does not hear her as she doesn’t exist and therefore cannot be his soul mate. I don’t know if I’m going to far with that bit, but eh I’ll note it.
Throughout the show, Helga dons a variety of disguises around Arnold. The only time he doesn’t know that it’s her though is when she is disguised as Cecile in “Arnold’s Valentine”. Through her disguises, pivotal moments occur and important lessons are learned. The first time that Helga dons a disguise around Arnold is in the aforementioned episode. Initially, the disguise fails as Helga nearly reverts to her bullying mechanism and abrasiveness when Arnold notes that Helga really bugs him. Furthermore, Helga is so fearful initially that Arnold will figure out its her that she is unable to relax and let her true personality shine through. The initial disguise also isn’t very good as it is quite, erm, gah there were no words. However, after she vomits her cervelles braisees avec les oeufs brouilles, which she was kindly informed was cat brains and eggs, she relaxes, allows her soft side to shine through, and even cheers Arnold up after he realized how vapid Ruth really was. Her disguise even becomes more feminine and softer and she does somewhat confess to liking Arnold. Through this disguise, Helga was able to show Arnold the side of her that only Phoebe ever saw and gains confidence in their compatibility as he really likes what he sees. Here’s a listing of her various other disguises through out the show’s run and their pivotal moments and lessons.
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