Occasionally, I will go back and watch certain cartoons I used to see as a child. It's a nostalgia trip and I sure do enjoy the ride. However, there are certain characters who have a level of psychological complexity that managed to survive the test of time and are unusual for the medium they exist in. Generally, there are cultural perceptions of cartoons as things being just for children. I can agree that shows like Ed Edd and Eddy or Tom and Jerry are definitely serving that role. So far as I can remember, they did not cover anything deeply complex. However, There are times when authors have done things in a children's cartoon that kids themselves may not necessarily understand.
The one character who I am thinking of at this moment is Helga G Pataki. For a show that was centered around children, Hey Arnold managed to pull something off that still surprises me to this day.
At first, there doesn't seem to be much to this character. In the very first episode, she is aggressive and it would appear as if she hated Arnold. However, she pulls out the locket and confesses that it's the exact opposite of what she's saying. This is a person who is putting on a facade and it's not clear right away as to why this is. At first, you might guess that it has to do with the fear of rejection. Yet, as we continue to watch the show it turns out that there is more to it than that. Her behavior around Arnold is partially a manifestation of not only her family life, but the treatment she suffered from her classmates as a child. Helga On The Couch and Egg Story establish that her personality is not just due to Arnold's existence but in fact is related to the fragility that she experienced as a child. She is a character who is projecting strength but deep down is insecure and afraid. There is a war going on between the image she's crafted for herself and her love for the football headed kid. Helga is a character who pretends not to care what others think, but at the same time is easily injured.
The first source of this injury occurs in the neglect she suffers from her father Bob and her mother Miriam. Miriam is implied to be a drunkard and Bob is very clearly meant to be portrayed as a narcissistic parent. For those who don't know, narcissism is a personality disorder in which the person exhibits the following qualities:
A grandiose sense of self-importance
Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
Belief that one is special and can only be understood by or associate with special people or institutions
A need for excessive admiration
A sense of entitlement (to special treatment)
Exploitation of others
A lack of empathy
Envy of others or the belief that one is the object of envy
Arrogant, haughty behavior or attitudes.
Bob sees her older sister Olga as an extension of himself rather than her own person and lives through her successes to the point where it's unhealthy. He famously can't remember his daughter's name throughout the entire show. Helga is left to fend for herself at a very young age and feel estranged from her family. Her parents did not leave a lot of time for her, which made her sad. Then Arnold did something nice for her and afterwards she developed feelings for him. However, she was teased by the other kids and this lead to her feeling down again. Tired of feeling vulnerable and helpless, she took control by lashing out in anger. Her attitude throughout the show and how she acts around the other students is largely due to her fear of vulnerability, of being powerless. This is further exacerbated as she spends more time with Arnold. Her image takes on another dimension in the Egg Story, where Arnold is criticizing her and she tries to control herself from breaking back into her usual routine. Calling him names and playing pranks on the kid were her ways of staying close to Mr. Shortman while maintaining her image. However, eventually that image of hers starts to embed itself into her subconscious to the point where she can't even control herself. Helga is not really one person, but 2: The one we see in public and the other whose thoughts and feelings are put on display when she is in private. She tries so hard to not argue with him and fight, but her public image forces her back into the norm. She quite literally can't force herself to be nice(in public), because she's conditioned herself into being mean around her peers and her negative emotions reinforce it. This is essentially a human being who wants to be herself, but at the same time is terrified of what others think. She is pulled between the person people expect her to be and the girl she really is deep inside her own heart.
Any Characters from cartoons or anime that you found psychologically complex?
This question has come up in my mind. But never really gave it much thought. Let me think about this. I have a few characters in mind
Aoba Seragaki from Dramatical Murder