Young Professionals "Hey Arnold," the most subtly cultured show of your childhood.

"Hey Arnold," the most subtly cultured show of your childhood.

How ‘Hey Arnold’ secretly exposed kids to great poetry, lit and jazz

Published on January 22nd, 2014 | by Josh Hafner

Nickelodeon’s animated programming raised many a millennial like myself in the ’90s. And from my view, “Hey Arnold” was a turning point  — the last of the greats.

It debuted years after the network’s golden age of original shows like “Doug,” “The Ren & Stimpy Show” and “Rugrats” but before the lesser offerings of “Rocket Power” and “The Wild Thornberrys”.

The show wasn’t as quirky as Nicktoons before it but even as a ten-year-old I recognized its depiction of kids and urban life was lofty, intellectual and cool. This week, Classicalite confirms it.

The jazz and classical music news site published a neat post Monday on how the creators of “Hey Arnold” infused their show with references to culture-shaping works of poetry, opera and jazz.

Arnold’s girlfriend and sometimes bully, Helga, portrayed Carmen from the Georges Bizet opera “Carmen”.  And jazz always emanated from Arnold’s high-tech bedroom. Studies suggest exposing children to jazz music can aid in brain development, the post notes.

Other characters reference poetry greats from Walt Whitman to William Carlos Williams, the New Jersey poet who inspired a character on the show named Walter Charles Walter.

See the whole post and appreciate the show even more at Classicalite.

About the Author

covers young professionals for The Des Moines Register. Josh can be reached at or on Twitter via @joshhafner.

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