Arnold’s personality

Downtown as Fruits

Season 1 Episode 1

Downtown as Fruits Title

On October 7, 1996 Hey Arnold! premiered on Nickelodeon as one of their brand new Nicktoons. The episode Downtown as Fruits is the official pilot episode for the Nickelodeon debut, and it has remained a classic Hey Arnold! episode since then. In this episode we get introduced to the students of PS 118 in the midst of their preparation for the school play on the food groups, as put on by the one and only Helga Pataki. While this episode does show a good number of the characters, it mainly focuses on introducing the viewers to the main three, namely Arnold, Gerald, and Helga. A wise move as the rest of the show’s episodes tended to be focused in some form on these three characters.

Episode Synopsis

The episode opens with Arnold surfing an awesome wave on what seems to be a very pleasant day out at the beach. He is immediately snapped back to reality by Helga who is obnoxiously yelling at him to get off the stage. The students of PS 118 are preparing for a play on the food groups, to premiere that night, and Director Helga isn’t happy about their progress. She bosses and bullies the students around, clearly taking pleasure in her position of authority. None of the students make any attempt to stand against her, showing that they are all quite fearful of her threats. That night, Arnold dressed as a banana and Gerald dressed as a strawberry board the city bus to get to the school. It’s during this ride, where they are given many weird looks, that Gerald has the brilliant idea to *miss* the stop for the school and a few stops after that in order to get out of performing in the play put on by Helga. After a brief internal moral dilemma, Arnold decides to go along with it. At the school, Helga is informed by Phoebe that Arnold and Gerald are missing, thus causing her to yell Arnold’s name and Arnold to hear her angry cry all the way on the bus across town. They quickly reach the end of the bus line in downtown and are forced to get off. With no money and a disconnected pay phone, they begin to realize how serious their situation is.


Downtown as Fruits

We're fruits.

That is, until a mysterious person tosses them a bag full of cash, telling them to take it as they know what it is. They gladly take it commenting on the kindness of downtown people and rush off to purchase some actual clothing. The viewer sees after Arnold and Gerald that two goons dressed as the same fruits were supposed to have received the money, showing that Arnold and Gerald just got mixed up in a case of mistaken identity. With the newly gained cash, Arnold and Gerald purchase some funky rags, eat some delicious street food, and dance and play pool at a downtown bar.

Meanwhile back at PS 118, Helga’s play is beginning to fall apart. It seems that Helga is about to go into an angry tirade about Arnold not being there, however her tirade quickly turns into a beautiful speech regarding her beloved. The classic back and forth of “I love you’s” and “I hate you’s” is said by Helga and Brainy is punched for the first time on the show.

Arnold and Gerald’s fortune takes a quick spiral downward when they are discovered by the goons and are chased out of the bar. They land in a fortune teller’s den who asks them if there is someone they have wronged. Gerald thinks back to Helga and answers no, but Arnold becomes horrified at the fact that they have wronged Helga and he yanks Gerald away while yelling that they have to make everything right again.

Things seem to be getting dire at the play and Helga goes on stage to announce a change of program as the fruits are absent. At this Arnold and Gerald leap on stage fully costumed and sing an adorable song about fruits. They are joined by the rest of the class in song as Helga watches from the side with an adoring look at Arnold. The audience gives the students a roaring ovation and the episode ends with Helga knocked down by the falling curtain with a bouquet of roses thrown at her face as she happily sighs, knowing that her play was a success and that Arnold had indeed shown up.


We're Fruits

It's fruits! It's fruits that really make us toots!

Characters, Traits, Etc.

Seeing as how this episode is the start of everything for the show’s Nickelodeon run, we learn A LOT. We first learn that Helga isn’t at all who she appears to be on the outside. She is seen by the other students as a condescending bully who is to be feared and tread carefully around when in actuality she can be quite poetic and secretly harbors a crush on Arnold. We do not actually see the depth of this crush and initially regard it as a regular school girl crush. Arnold is shown to be a boy with good moral character as he initially does not want to skip the play and ends up being the one to decide that they have to return to the school when they do end up skipping. Gerald is introduced as Arnold’s best friend who is willing to break the rules and doesn’t mind wronging the school bully at all. We also get a brief glimpse at Phoebe’s character, who is displayed as more of an assistant to Helga at this point in the show. Phoebe also looks up to Helga as when Helga cries due to her play being ruined, Phoebe begins crying too.

Other students briefly introduced and seen include Harold, Sheena, Eugene, Curly, Pea Pod Kid (who gets his name from his pea pod costume in this episode), Stinky, Rhonda, Nadine, Iggy, and Park.

Two last things to note. First, how awesome were Arnold and Gerald’s funky rags?! I totally agree with Gerald, too. Arnold’s banana shoes totally pulled his outfit together. Secondly…why did we have to see Helga’s underwear? This is the only time we ever see them, but it’s pretty random that we do. Oh the random things that go on with this show.


Funky Rags

Two suave looking nine year olds, ready to hit downtown!


There are the start of so many recurring gags and minor characters in this episode because, well doi! It’s the pilot episode! Recurring gags are a major component of Hey Arnold! and are part of what make it such a memorable show. Noteworthy gags that get their start in this episode include Monkeyman, the animals running out the Sunset Arms door as Arnold opens it, Arnold being the only one to hear Helga angrily yell his name across town, Brainy punches, Eugene’s clumsiness, and Helga’s confessions of love to the locket photo of Arnold. Love all the gags!


First Brainy Punch

The first ever punch from Helga that Brainy receives on the show!

Lessons Learned

We learn several important lessons in this episode. Firstly, treat your peers with respect. Helga abuses her position of power as director and writer of the food groups play, thus leading to Arnold and Gerald skipping out. If she had treated her peers with respect and directed them kindly, she probably wouldn’t have found herself in the compromising position of watching her play fall apart right before her eyes.


Love Hate

If only Helga could be her kind self all the time, but then we'd miss her awesome temper!

A minor thing we learn is a new word! We are basically told by Helga that legumes means beans, which personally, I didn’t know when I was watching the show as a precocious nine year old. Oh Helga and Arnold, you guys taught us so much vocabulary it’s ridiculous.



"Legumes? I thought we were beans!"

Another lesson learned is to always do the right thing. Arnold opts to miss the stop for the school, even though he knows it’s not the right thing to do. Even though he and Gerald end up having a great time downtown initially, the night nearly ends in disaster as they are almost caught by the gang. If Arnold had pulled the rope and gotten off at the correct stop, he might not have had the best time, but he would have stopped a whole lot of grief from happening.


Moral Dilemma

Even the most morally upstanding of us are susceptible to immoral behavior.

Finally, two wrongs don’t make a right. The main drive behind Arnold and Gerald deciding to skip out on the play was because they were really ticked off with the fact that they were doing this play for Helga, a big school bully. By deciding to tick her off by skipping, Arnold and Gerald end up nearly having a disastrous night of their own. This is summed up when they go visit the fortune teller who asks if they have wronged anyone as they have disrupted their karmic energy field. Gerald is fine with having wronged Helga, but Arnold realizes that disappointing Helga was not the solution to their problem and finally mans up and returns just in time to complete the play.


Are you kidding?!

Gerald you gotta be kidding! Think of Helga, and her play, and all the kids back at school who we're letting down!

Overall this is a wonderful episode and is an instant classic. No fan can resist this episode, especially with that adorable “It’s Fruits!” song at the end!

Really Boss Quotes

“Do vegetables have souls?” -Curly

“Slow down! This strawberry really chafes!” -Gerald

Helga: “First the legumes.” Pea Pod Kid: “Legumes? I thought we were beans.” Helga: “You are, genius!” -Helga and Pea Pod Kid

Gerald: “The journey is the destination man.” Arnold: “What’s that mean?”      Gerald: “I don’t know, I heard it in a hippy movie.” -Arnold and Gerald

“Wow, people downtown are really nice!” -Arnold

Helga: “If I ever get my hands on that Arnold I’ll…I’ll…soothe his fevered brow. Oh my poor lost sweetheart. How I love you, and yet I hate you! And yet I love you! And yet I hate you!” Brainy: “Breathe breathe breathe.” Helga: *punch* -Helga and Brainy

“Come on, we’ve got a karmic energy field to fix.” -Arnold

It’s fruits, it’s fruits, that really makes us toots;
It’s fruits, it’s fruits, that give us all a hoot!
It’s not like other food gorups aren’t important;
In fact, you need us all to make your fingernails and eyes and organs-
Fruits, it’s fruits, you gotta have your fruits;
That’s what the folks with scurvy say;
‘Cause it’s fruits, us fruits, that really makes us sing;
This is the end of our play! -Students of PS 118

“Wait till I get my hands on you Arnold, you…beautiful creature.” -Helga


An age of exploration: that’s what childhood is all about.  But it isn’t all about exploring the mysteries of the world, such as why the sky is blue or where do babies come from; it’s also about exploring who you are.  This is where general personality profiles, such as horoscopes, become a fun, handy, and great way to learn about yourself.

The most agreed upon birth date for Arnold is October 7 which is, coincidentally, also the first day “Hey Arnold!” aired on television.  This makes him a Libra (September 23 – October 22).  However, it does not mean that Arnold might be a “true Libran”, in which all Libran characteristics apply to him.  The following will evaluate how well common Libran characteristics apply to Arnold.


Runaway float

Libras are Sociable People

Libras are sociable people and great to hang out with: they’re great listeners, charming, empathetic, and tactful.  And these characteristics suit them well, for they generally like attention and dislike being snubbed by others.  Also, they work best in groups.  In terms of friends, Libras will be happy and settled as long as they have one close friend (they tend to feel lost and upset if they don’t).  However, the downside of their curiosity and love for people is that they can become prone to gossip.

Indeed, Arnold is a very sociable person.  He’s a great listener, empathetic, and tactful – and that’s good because that’s the traits he needs if wants to help other people.  And in terms of charming…

Arnold's Valentine

…yeah, he’s pretty charming.  (Helga especially thinks so!) 

However, Arnold isn’t exactly what we would call an attention-hog.  He usually doesn’t do stuff in order to impress other people; he just does it for the pleasure of doing it.  For example, Arnold doesn’t give advice to people just because he hopes to gain some sort of recognition (e.g. an award) for it someday.  He just helps people because he wants to and he can.  He’s a very altruistic person and, in fact, he takes it pretty well when other people don’t listen to him or even insult him.  For example, in the episode “Deconstructing Arnold”, he was relatively calm (albeit a little depressed) when everyone started to ignore his advice and put him down. 

As a sociable person, Arnold actually does work best in groups.  Helga did once say he’s the type of guy who would say something like, “C’mon guys, if we all pull together and pool our resources, I just know we can achieve our goals” (in the episode “Helga’s show”).  He frequently tends to work in groups for projects such as talent shows, soapbox derbies, or even projects to break a world record.

World records

 And in terms of friends, Arnold does seem happiest whenever he’s with someone close, such as Grampa Phil or Gerald.  We have seen him fighting with Gerald before (e.g. in the episode “Part time friends”) and, of course, he isn’t happy without him. 

Finally, Arnold’s curiosity and love for people hasn’t dragged him deeply into the world of gossip yet.  He’s usually on the receiving end (i.e. hearing gossip/stories) instead of the giving end (i.e. telling gossip).  Good for him!


Libras Have an Eye for Beauty

Libras are one of the most stylish people out there!  When shopping, they tend to avoid shoddy products, going for the high-quality stuff instead; hence they can have expensive tastes (which you can tell by their possessions).  Their image can become something of great value, which is why they may fight to do everything in style.  However, their desire for extravagance can lead them to overspend their money and, when combined with their sociable nature, even be promiscuous.  One of the most interesting things about Libras is that their environment can greatly influence their mood: they prefer and work best in clean, light, and airy places.  Dirty and ugly places can really put them down.  However, their eye for beauty can also make them really artistic and creative.  They tend to excel in the fine arts such as art, music, drama, floristry, design and architecture.  Plus, they can be real romantics!

Like Rhonda said, Arnold does have a unique sense of style (like that weird little skirt thingy he always wears!)  And if you don’t believe he’s stylish or has expensive tastes, I’ve got two words for you: his room.

The little pink book

He has a sunroof, a sweet stereo system, and even a potato alarm clock!  C’mon, how is that not stylish?  However, Arnold doesn’t really buy stylish things just to maintain his image; again, he just buys things simply because he thinks they’re cool.  After all, he doesn’t give into peer pressure easily (e.g. in “Deconstructing Arnold”, he didn’t participate in pranks just because he was called a “wet blanket” and in “Hey Arnold! The Movie” he didn’t give up on rescuing the neighbourhood when everyone else did).  We have yet to see the negative impacts of Arnold’s desire for extravagance (such as going broke or being promiscuous), probably because he’s too young for these kinds of problems.  There were times where Arnold was low on cash to buy what he wanted (such as tickets to Mickey Kaline’s last baseball game), but it wasn’t clear whether it was because he spent too much money on other things, or simply because he doesn’t earn a lot of money as a kid.  And in terms of promiscuity, we’ll just have to wait until the hormones kick in full gear, don’t we?  We’ll just assume that he’ll become a responsible adult and not become some sort of pimp.  (However, if you read the essay “An Arnold Visits Arnie Essay” by Anomynous, there’s some evidence that, by choosing Hilda over Lulu, he’ll live an honest love-life.) 

Arnold does always seem to be the little bright light in the dark room.  Circumstances don’t really hold him down.  Even in the face of large adversity (such as a glooming corporation threatening to tear down his neighbourhood), Arnold is always willing to put a fight to achieve his goals.  So the Libran characteristic of being heavily influenced by the environment doesn’t really apply to him.

His eye for beauty does give him an artistic and creative side.  Arnold has artistic skills in some areas: when working for Mrs. Vitello, he was chosen to be the floral designer for his terrific floral arrangements, and his float design won the Award for Best Float in the City Day Parade.  However, he there are other areas where he is not the greatest, such as sculpturing and acting.

Girl trouble

“You call that blob a buffalo?” – Helga, “Girl trouble”

School play

“So let me get this straight: I’m the last guy on your list [to be Romeo]?” – Arnold, “School play”

Although Arnold was last on the list to play Romeo in the school play, he is, in fact, quite the lover-boy!  He had several crushes in the fourth grade (e.g. Ruth, Miss Felter, Lila, Summer) and had many other girls once/still hold the torch for him (e.g. Helga, Lila, Siobhan, Timberly).  And when he’s crushing, he can get really daydreamy, sentimental and gushy.  Unless you want to hear him spout love poems like crazy, get that book of Shakespeare poems away from him!  Geez, Arnold, most guys gotta wait for the 7th grade to have this kind of girl trouble!


Libras Make Great Diplomats

There’s a reason why the symbol for Libras is a scale: it represents how they tend to seek balance and serenity in their lives.  For you see, they like everything in their lives to be peaceful and harmonious.  They dislike arguments and roughness of any sort and, because they are highly idealistic about human nature, will strive to solve these problems.  But the good thing is that they have the traits of an excellent diplomat – they have a strong sense of right and wrong, are able to give impartial advice, and are always willing to compromise.  However, their desire to please people can become a problem, as they can eventually ignore their own needs.  Plus, their tendency to study every aspect of a situation before making a decision can make them indecisive.  Nonetheless, they still make excellent diplomats.

Yes, yes, and yes.  Arnold has all the traits of an excellent diplomat.  In fact, when he took an aptitude test, it turned out that he would a wonderful ambassador to a foreign land!  He’s always there to help other people and give advice.  It’s just in his nature to do so.  However, his highly optimistic and idealistic view of people can get him hurt.  He’ll have to learn that not all people can be changed (such as Wolfgang) and that he can’t keep making sacrifices in order to please people.  The latter is especially true if he is going to be Helga’s soulmate.  Helga needs to learn that Arnold can’t always bend over backwards to please her, and Arnold needs to learn that he can’t always be pushed around to please others.  And although Arnold is relatively quick in doing the right thing, he can be indecisive at times, especially when it comes to his relationship with Helga.  After all, he has to make the right choice.  So after all the events that have occurred in “Hey Arnold! The Movie”,  it would be normal for Arnold to put a lot of thought in how to think about and respond to Helga’s confession.  Let’s hope he does the right thing!

Field trip