Fans who grew up watching Hey Arnold! likely have a soft spot for Helga. Her unrequited crush on Arnold and her parents' lack of attention made her pretty sympathetic. But there's another side to Helga's home life that younger viewers might not have noticed. Helga's mom likely struggled with alcoholism, according to a new theory from BuzzFeed writer Andrew Ziegler. And his evidence, based on some observations from the Hey Arnold! Wikipedia page, makes a lot of sense. (Bustle reached out for comment to Nickelodeon on the Helga's mom theory, but has not yet received a response.)
As Ziegler points out, Helga's mom, Miriam, often seems incoherent, or like she isn't all there. In Season 1's "Olga Comes Home," for example, Helga's sister experiences a depressive episode where she doesn't leave her bed for several days. When Helga's dad says that his daughter "can't just lay around the house moping," Miriam responds, "Sure she can... I do."
And that's just a throwaway line in an episode about the two sisters' relationship. Miriam is often tired, Ziegler notes, even passing out at the family's kitchen table at one point. She's also frequently seen making and drinking smoothies, which may or may not include something stronger than produce and protein powder.
Plus, Miriam eventually loses her driver's license, after some seriously dangerous driving in Season 3's "Road Trip." And later that season, Miriam has to do community service at an animal shelter in "Helga and the Nanny," which may be in connection with the license situation.
You might be reading this and thinking everyone already knew this, but for many viewers, this wasn't explicitly obvious during the show's initial run. There are plenty of tweets from fans who've only recently realized that Miriam may have struggled with alcoholism and it definitely adds a new layer to the show.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol can be linked to sleep disorders. So Miriam's constant tiredness could definitely be a cause for concern. And a pamphlet aimed at children and teens from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration pamphlet cites driving under the influence and acting in "confusing and unpredictable ways" as signs that a parent may be struggling with addiction. Miriam's tendency to pass out, as well as her her erratic driving, do seem to be evidence that Helga's mom may have struggled with alcoholism.
Hey Arnold! was known for dealing with tough issues, and it looks like there may have been even more tough topics on the show than fans originally realized. Miriam was definitely going through something, whether or not she struggled with alcohol addiction.
Of course, Miriam's relationship with Bob didn't exactly help, either, as some commenters on the BuzzFeed story have pointed out. There's also the aforementioned episode about Olga's depression, to which Bob is entirely unsympathetic.
All in all, Helga's home life was definitely not a happy one, which only makes her character's story arc even more sad. Hopefully, Miriam was eventually able to get any help that she needed, whether that meant leaving Bob or seeking treatment for addiction.