5 Creepy Cartoon Fan Theories That Make Way Too Much Sense

#2. Hey Arnold! Is Actually About Helga (and Super Depressing)

Nickelodeon Animation Studio

Hey Arnold! follows Arnold, a fourth grader who lives with his grandparents, and the trials and experiences he has with his friends in a large city. If you've ever turned on Nickelodeon for more than five seconds, you've seen this shit.

Nickelodeon Animation Studio
His brain is the size of a watermelon, but he still can't pick appropriate-size clothing?

The Theory:

Except that the real protagonist is the antagonist, Helga G. Pataki, a unibrowed bully who constantly makes fun of Arnold's hideous deformity by calling him "football head." So says Redditor iSmokeTheXS, who has apparently never noticed the name of the goddamn show.

Why It's Not That Crazy:

But, wait a minute -- who shouts "Hey Arnold!" (repeatedly) during the show's intro? Helga. And who is the only character who gets to have a monologue (about how much she secretly loves Arnold) in every episode? Helga. Everything that unfolds then is recounted to the viewer, by her, in her opinion.

Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Seriously, what is up with these characters and their ridiculously disproportionate headgear?

This makes sense, because Helga's life is a lot more dramatically interesting than Arnold's -- she's a bully, yes, but this is caused by a neglectful father and a mother who desperately needs to visit an AA meeting. Her older sister, Olga, is adored, while Helga is scorned, neglected, and treated as if she was the black sheep in the family -- her father simply refers to her as "the girl" in several episodes. And to top it all off, she has feelings for a boy but doesn't know how to express it, so she's mean to him.

Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Come on. Who didn't go through that fourth grade serial killer/voodoo altar phase?

And that's what the show is about, ultimately: Helga's obsession with a strange-headed boy, and how she finds meaning in her otherwise bleak life through him. Hence the title, and the disproportionate amount of screen time for Arnold, a secondary character. It's no wonder that the creators wanted to make a spinoff that was openly about Helga, but it was shot down for being too depressing.

#1. My Neighbor Totoro Is Based on a Real-Life Crime

Toho

My Neighbor Totoro is a Japanese animated film that follows two sisters and their interactions with magical forest creatures known as totoros. Together, they embark on wonderful adventures, and ... that's it. There's no confusing metaphysical ending where everyone dies. No weird sexual stuff. No tentacles. Finally, a Japanese movie we can watch with our family and still make eye contact afterward!

The Theory:

Not so fast: My Neighbor Totoro is a reference to a horrific crime known as the Sayama Incident, and those friendly totoros? Yeah, they represent death.

Toho
Death representations are somewhat better fed in Asia.

Or at least that's what one widely spread urban legend says. A legend that is full of made-up facts and inaccuracies, and that the studio has specifically denied. Phew.

Why It's Not That Crazy:

We'd like to believe this theory is completely bogus. We really would. But, sadly, even discounting all the made-up stuff, it still makes a lot of sense. Let us explain: The Sayama Incident happened in May 1963 in Sayama City, when a man kidnapped and murdered a 16-year-old girl. Later, the girl's older sister committed suicide. What the hell does that have to do with a movie about big fluffy cats? First, the sisters' names in the movie are related to the month of May -- they're called Satsuki ("May" in Japanese) and Mei (which sounds like "May").

Second, the movie doesn't take place in Sayama, but it's in the same area, and at one point you see the word "Sayama" on a box of tea:

Toho
"This tea is to die for."

It gets creepier: At one point in the movie, Mei, the little sister, goes missing. We then see her crying at the feet of some Jizo statues, which are a real thing and the protectors of "those who die at a young age." Buckle the fuck up, because it only gets more depressing.

Toho
"Look on the bright side, kid. Death isn't the worst thing that could happen to you in a Japanese cartoon."

In the film, Satsuki asks the totoros for help, so they use Catbus to take her to where Mei is -- according to this theory, the afterlife. Oh, and what does it say on the bus' sign? "GRAVE ROAD."

Toho
Check for yourself.

In the end, the girls return home ... or do they? In the last scenes, they appear to have no shadows, which means they're ghosts, or they're vampires, or the animators cheaped out. In other words, like the real sisters in the Sayama Incident, the little one goes missing and dies, and the older, torn with grief, soon follows her. The totoros are just clever symbolic objects to depict death.

We need to curl up under a bed for a moment now.


Matt has a Twitter here and a blog here.

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Related Reading: Speaking of hidden movie meanings, did you know the webs in the Spiderman movies symbolize man-juice? That one might be a little more obvious than the fact that Aliens was an allegory for the Vietnam war. And if you'd like to know the dark, hidden secret behind Back to the Future, you'd best click here.

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