From Our Readers
November 11, 2014 12:51 pm

Almost every fourth grader at PS 118 loved to hate Helga G. Pataki. She was the school’s resident bully, mean girl, and all around troublemaker, equipped with her signature spitballs, nicknames, and, of course, who could forget her infamous fists: Ol’ Betsey and The Five Avengers. Yet, behind closed doors, trash cans, and even school buses, Helga was quick to show us 90s to early 00s kids that she was, in fact, a brilliant and creative romantic. Helga was fearless, and kind of a lyrical genius when it came to her poems, monologues, and lovelorn stories that she told to her heart-shaped picture of the Football Head himself (well, up until she punched the lights out of Brainy, the kid who would pop up and ruin everything with his breathing).

Sure, we all have fond memories of the pink bow-toting, pigtail-wearing (sans hair ties), “criminy!”-yelling little girl from Hey Arnold!, but, there was much more to Helga than a lot of us 90s kids remember. She was actually a dynamic character who was equally as flawed as she was smart and funny. In fact, the writers of Hey Arnold! probably gave Helga more back-story than Arnold, Gerald, and the whole gang combined. Helga G. Pataki is every woman, and here are the four reasons why.

Her parents kind of, well, suck.

Arnold had one of the coolest bedrooms in all of 90s cartoon history and a pair of fun-loving grandparents who just got it, even when Grandpa didn’t have his hearing aid on. The difference is stark in comparison to Helga’s bleak home life. In the episodes where we got a peek into her family, it was easy to understand that she was consistently being neglected by her boorish father and sleepy mother, always in pursuit of her signature “smoothies.” Helga barely refers to them as “mom and dad,” opting for “Big Bob and “Miriam” instead. So, Helga didn’t exactly have the best home life, and there are plenty of episodes that displayed that.

Helga who?

Olga, Olga, Olga. Who could forget Olga? As Helga’s sweet-voiced, delicate, yet uber-smart and over-achieving older sister, Olga got mostly all of their parents’ attention growing up, leaving poor little Helga by the wayside. In most episodes, we saw Helga get pretty annoyed with her sister, referring to her as “perfect.” Yet there were moments where Helga would show her empathetic side to her sister, realizing the solidarity of being raised by the same overbearing parents, which showed viewers that neither Olga nor Helga was perfect at all.

The caterpillar brow

Helga wasn’t exactly known for her looks around the halls of PS118, in the same way that Lila Sawyer was most definitely known for her freckles. I mean, there’s almost no doubt that Helga was going through an awkward phase with her prominent unibrow, kitchen scissor bangs, and goofy pigtails. We’ve all been there. On top of that, she was again eternally being compared to Olga, who was described as “beautiful” on a regular basis. Helga failed to be validated, not only inside, but outside as well, which made sense of the hostility she held toward her classmates, friends, and teachers.

Her football-shaped heart (and her heart-shaped locket)

There are plenty of episodes where Helga dedicates her life to Arnold, and pronounces a solid, “Oh, Arnold!” The moments where she would slip into her closet and dance around her bubble gum, football-shaped shrine were where we got to see her intensely artistic mind at work. She can drop a soliloquy in a second, and recognizes Edward Hopper paintings, so yeah, she’s smart for a fourth grader. Her eternal, obsessive love for Arnold showed us that she’s highly sensitive too, even for someone who’s considered her school’s biggest bully.

Nicole Valdes is a Miami based writer who knows much too much about media, movies, music, and TV. She loves day dreaming, thinking up fiction stories, and designer perfume commercials. You can follow her on her blog, regularlady.com, or on twitter @nickyvaldeezy.

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