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The 3 Most Depressing Minor Characters in Famous Movies

I'm not great at dealing with human beings and their feelings. Sometimes a person does that thing with their face where it changes into a shape that is altogether unpleasant and there's no way I can make the face go back to normal, even with money and snacks. Close friends are kind enough to realize that they'd have a better shot at receiving empathy if they talked their problems out with friends that aren't me, or helpful-looking strangers, or a dog of above-average intelligence. I'm great for remembering where people parked and untangling difficult knots, but absolute dogshit at helping you deal with emotional issues.

This problem (which I am in no way working to fix) probably stems from the fact that all of my empathy is reserved for the fictional characters on my television and movie screen. My heart breaks not just for the obvious candidates -- your Eponines, your Bambis, your Misters T, and so on -- but for every sad character, even and especially the minor ones that I feel like no one else is paying attention to.

#3. Unnamed Lonely Bus Driver (Mrs. Doubtfire)

20th Century Fox

In Mrs. Doubtfire, Robin Williams has to dress up as a sweet Irish lady and pose as a nanny in a misguided attempt to be closer to his children. He does a bunch of voices, there are some shenanigans, there's obviously a scene where he has to balance dinner with his family as his widowed alter ego Mrs. Doubtfire and a dinner with his boss as himself at the same time in the same restaurant. It is, in general, one of the most '90s movies ever made. When annoyingly young people ask me what the '90s were like, I show them Mrs. Doubtfire, Space Jam, Independence Day, and The Rock.

In between shenanigans and montages set to Aerosmith songs, we meet a sweet old bus driver played by the late Sydney Walker.

20th Century Fox

Williams as Doubtfire has to take a late bus home from work most nights, and this bus driver is usually the only other person on the bus. When he sees her, he smiles and sweetly flirts with her. It's cute. And the audience watching along is supposed to laugh because, hehehe, the bus driver doesn't realize he's flirting with a guy!

There was no reason for the movie to follow up with this guy because the character only exists as a joke. (In the less sensitive and politically correct '90s, "Man likes other man but doesn't know it!" was an incredibly popular punchline.) I don't know what went wrong in my brain to make me this way, but I think about that guy all the time. To begin with, he's a lonely old man who works the late shift for a bus that is almost always empty. He's obviously single, which means his wife either died or left him, or he still hasn't managed to find someone yet. Then he meets a woman who seems sweet and seems his age and isn't rebuffing his advances, so he probably suspects she's single. Available women his age are probably hard to come by, and now he's found a pretty one that actually seems to like him; he must feel pretty lucky.

20th Century Fox
This was his Basic Instinct.

He also seems like just the sweetest man. When he sees Mrs. Doubtfire's bare legs covered in the thick and wild fur that is Robin Williams' natural pelt, he doesn't balk or abandon his flirtation like some other, more shallow men might. He accepts Mrs. Doubtfire, bear-like legs and all, as "Natural. Healthy. Just the way God made you."

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

I think about this man and the way he looks and smiles at Mrs. Doubtfire, and I can't help but think that seeing this woman and briefly getting the opportunity to flirt with her is the highlight of his day. Maybe tonight'll be the night I ask her out. Nothing big, just a cup of coffee or something, I imagine him saying to himself at his house, alone, because I'm the kind of person who thinks like that, because I'm a lunatic.

Or maybe he'll never ask her out because he doesn't need to. I say this as a guy who has been nervous, awkward, and lonely in his life: Sometimes seeing the courage you muster to flirt with a stranger rewarded with the smile of a pretty girl is enough to carry you through anything. Maybe the few minutes every night that he gets to spend admiring the beautiful stranger is keeping this sweet old (fictional, remember that he's fictional, Daniel) man going. A nightly flirting routine that reminds him of his younger days, when he had the time and opportunity to flirt with beautiful women. Every night he gets to time travel to the swagger of his youth.

20th Century Fox
"You're my tropical island in an ocean of bus-hobo pee."

Mrs. Doubtfire gets her own TV show by the end of the movie. That means the bus driver is going to see it, check the credits, find out that it's Robin Williams in a wig, and just crash. I'm not saying this is a Crying Game situation, where he'll freak out because he's horrified for being attracted to a man; I'm saying he'll be crushed when he finds out that the harmless, nightly flirting ritual with the attractive stranger was just a bunch of bullshit. It was probably hard enough on the bus driver when Mrs. Doubtfire suddenly stopped showing up on his bus route -- now he has to find out she doesn't even exist?

Back to the lonely bus route. The only thing he has.

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Daniel O'Brien

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