By Emily Ashby,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Strong storytelling and characters mark worthwhile cartoon.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
The show intends to entertain rather than to educate, but there are some good messages about friendship and working with others imbedded in the stories.
The show centers on a group of kids who get by pretty well with minimal input from adults, and the stories offer themes of problem-solving and cooperation. Helga's bullying behavior causes some of her peers to cower around her, and the fact that her actions are meant to hide her crush on Arnold doesn't make them forgivable. Mild gross-out humor like squished worms and crusty scabs.
Positive Role Models
Arnold approaches every predicament with his trademark mellow attitude, which helps him make good decisions and solve problems. His best intentions sometimes lead to disaster for himself and his friends, but he tries to right his wrongs and always looks for the best in people. Characters demonstrate compassion and integrity.
Violence & Scariness
Cartoon-style accidents (crashes and collisions) that sometimes lead to broken bones and scratches, as well as some punching that's meant for comedy.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A girl harbors a secret crush on a boy, often admitting in secret that she loves him.
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No cursing, but kids say things like "I hate you," "freakin'," and "crap," and there's some name-calling like "dork" and "geek."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Hey Arnold! is a '90s cartoon filled with zany situations, but the characters' responses to them hold some good messages for kids about creative thinking and solving problems. Overall the quirky characters comprise a likable bunch, and in particular, laid-back Arnold will strike parents as the kind of kid they'd like their own youngsters to befriend. There is some bullying from a loud, overbearing girl, who picks on all of her peers but singles out Arnold for the worst of it to hide her crush on him. Her iffy behavior is a notable hiccup in an otherwise fun cartoon for kids. Expect some mild playground language ("freakin'," "crap," and names like "dork" and "geek") among the classmates to be the worst of the content.
Where to Watch
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Based on 16 parent reviews
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What's the Story?
HEY ARNOLD! centers on the everyday life of a fourth-grader named Arnold (voiced by Phillip Van Dyke) who has his share of ups and downs in his big-city life. He lives in a boarding house run by his grandparents, and between their assortment of quirky residents and his array of equally unique classmates, Arnold never wants for adventure. Often he and his peers -- including his best buddy, Gerald (Jamil Walker Smith), and his social nemesis and secret admirer, Helga (Francesca Marie Smith) -- find themselves in sticky situations, and it's Arnold's level head that typically saves the day.
Is It Any Good?
This show fits right in with the colorful array of cartoon characters who grace the TV screen these days, and kids will be drawn to the off-beat personalities among the cast. Hey Arnold!'s unique artistic style, which gives its characters football-shaped heads, foot-tall Afros, and other exaggerated features, is an enticing blend of oddities that make for a fun visual experience to accompany the stories.
As protagonists go, you won't find one much more appealing than Arnold, who's a loyal friend and a thoughtful problem solver, and who always tries to find the best in everyone. Even when life gets him down, he bounces back to make things right, and his mellow approach to life and adversity is a welcome change to the near-hysterical characters in many kids' shows. The show itself is well written, with simple stories that make valuable points and send good messages to kids.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how Arnold and his friends handle the situations they get into in Hey Arnold!. Do they respond the way you would in a similar predicament? How does their big-city lifestyle compare to yours? How does a person's environment affect how he or she grows up?
Kids: Is Arnold a good role model? What are some of his positive qualities? Do any of your friends remind you of him?
What defines bullying? What are some different means of bullying others? Do you ever see any of this behavior among your peers? What rules does your school or community have about bullying?
How do the characters in Hey Arnold! demonstrate compassion and integrity? Why are those important character strengths?
- Premiere date: October 7, 1996
- Cast: Dan Castellaneta, Francesca Marie Smith, Jamil Walker Smith
- Networks: Nickelodeon, Nicktoons
- Genre: Kids' Animation
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Integrity
- TV rating: TV-Y7
- Last updated: February 3, 2023
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