Illustration by Mike Manalo
Day 6 of Spoiler Free Review’s 12 days of Christmas

There are dozens of animated Christmas specials out there. CHARLIE BROWN is amazing. So is the original THE GRINCH. And many people love the RUDOLPH and FROSTY stop-motion classics. Even SHREK THE HALLS is pretty good. But HEY ARNOLD!: ARNOLD’S CHRISTMAS was the one I wanted to cover because 1) it doesn’t get the love and recognition it deserves, and 2) it is 100% the holiday special the world actually NEEDS right now!

Without getting too political, it’s not an exaggeration to say we’re living in challenging, divisive times. Any moment, whether online or in person, there’s the potential to see the worst, most selfish qualities in humanity. And it’s easy to put on a holiday special and feel better, but it honestly takes more than messages about the dangers of commercialism to fix things. Human kindness in the face of real human challenges is honestly the best message one can spread at this time; a lesson we all can use. And that, in my opinion, is what sets ARNOLD’S CHRISTMAS apart from the rest.

For those who haven’t seen it, the special finds the titular football-headed Arnold secretly trying to help his neighbor Mr. Huynh track down the long lost daughter he was separated from during the Vietnam War, in hopes of reuniting them for Christmas. Even outside the microcosm of animated holiday specials, for any kid’s animated series to tackle a subject as heavy as the Vietnam War, and what it did to separate families is completely unheard of. Though light-hearted in nature, the episode is ballsy enough to feature a heart-breaking flashback scene of dozens of Vietnamese citizens trying to flee the turmoil happening in their country, and Mr. Huynh’s desperate efforts to ensure his daughter is afforded a better life. From there, we see the heartwarming and hilarious efforts of multiple characters making personal sacrifices to do the compassionate, human act of bringing a family back together.

Funny, mature, warm, and poignant, if you haven’t seen it in a while or ever, I encourage you to find it and rectify that injustice this Christmas.

HEY ARNOLD!: ARNOLD’S CHRISTMAS is available to view on Hulu (season 1: episode 11 of the original series).

Mike Manalo

Born a Slytherin. Baptized into Marvel. Bitten by a Radioactive DC fan. And raised a Jedi, Mike Manalo is a silent guardian, a watchful protector… a Dark Nerd!

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