That's Marvin, as in Marvin, the manically depressed robot from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Because sometimes the characters you really like aren't even people!
I suppose a 2-headed alien and some earth guy traipsing around the galaxy in his bathrobe were the characters that should have grabbed my attention the most ... and they did. But then I met Marvin. It was instant chemistry. I loved Marvin!
Writers need to be careful ... those supporting characters can sometimes rise up and overshadow your hero. You see it in television series and movies quite often when spin-offs develop from the original, because somebody in casting found exactly the right actor for that supporting role.
When I think of The Hitchhiker's Guide, my first thought is not Arthur Dent or Ford Prefect. It's Marvin. I read most of that book just anticipating the next time Marvin would show up. I doubt that Douglas Adams would be very happy with that ... but, oh well ...
Marvin is a cynic and a realist. And I know about those, because I have got a bit of the cynic inside of me, too!
A cynic is a dreamer gone sour. Dreamers are idealists who haven't crashed into reality yet. Realists are the ones who dreamed, crashed, and rose up from the ashes a bit more grounded and possibly just a bit soured. Welcome to life!
Creatives know all about this, because we are the ones who are observing, pondering, interpreting and expressing the life all around us through our art. It can be a double-edged sword, because examining our flawed reality so closely will either leave us overwhelmed and defeated or challenge us to rise up and overcome! If, through life, a person continues to attempt rising up, and continues to get knocked back down, over and over ... well, you can certainly see how they could end up cynical. That's what happens to us humans sometimes ... but, a robot?!
Marvin is like he is because someone made him like that ... on purpose!
He does whatever he's told to do, but not without lots of groaning and sighing. Question: Can you sigh if you don't actually have lungs or the ability to breathe?
He gets into arguments with the other machines ... there's a thought! If we ever get worried about artificial intelligence and the machines taking over the world, we'll just keep them occupied with arguing with each other over some unanswerable question. Perhaps a never-ending, unwinnable game of tic-tac-toe. Problem solved!
Clearly The Hitchhiker's Guide is satire and comedy. But characters like Marvin can be utilized in any kind of story. Those are the characters that can and will say out loud what everyone else is thinking, but won't – or perhaps shouldn't – say. They can provide a little break from the heaviness in dark stories. They can be aids to the other characters and help move the story along. They can be the disposable characters that can duck in and out of the story as needed.
But writers, beware! Sometimes those side kicks will upstage your hero and turn out to be your readers' favorites! And who can blame us?
While I really love Marvin, I don't think he'd be great to have around while quarantined during a pandemic ... or, maybe he would ... I suppose it would depend ...
If he was in the lab, with all his brain power, he would probably be very useful in coming up with a cure or a vaccine, or maybe a solution to get us all working again. But if I had to be cooped up with him at home, I might be trying to figure out how to unplug him after a few days! All that cynicism and cold hard realism would get very, very old, very, very fast! When you're already anxious, it's not fun to be around somebody who's going to be restating the obvious gloomy facts over and over. Or who needs to be continualy reassured and propped up. Sorry, Marvin! But I think you'd be a lousy shut-in companion!
I'll leave you with some of my favorite Marvin quips:
"I've been ordered to take you down to the bridge. Here I am, brain the size of a planet and they ask me to take you down to the bridge. Call that job satisfaction? 'Cos I don't."
"Do you want me to sit in a corner and rust, or just fall apart where I'm standing?"
"What a depressingly stupid machine," said Marvin and trudged away.