Maniacal Monday: Gaston, from Beauty and the Beast

Disney is full of the most wonderful stories of our generation. But “The Happiest Place On Earth” certainly has some of the most frightening villains as well. From the insane Cruella de Vil to the pious Minister Frollo, Disney certainly knows how to play to the fears of all people. However, not all Disney villains are quite as obvious as the audience is led to believe at the beginning of their films, at least not until they show their true colors near the climax of the movie. Many times, they seem like a genuinely good guy, or just an annoying character that serves to set the events in motion. “Beauty and the Beast” illustrates this perfectly with Gaston.

The story of “Beauty and the Beast” is one about the harsh reality of prejudice. Our own misconceptions about the original antagonist and even of the village’s unwillingness to look beyond what they see are brought into stark contrast with the kind understanding of our hero Belle. Gaston is, at the beginning of the film, nothing more than a shallow, stuck-up muscleman who desires to marry Belle. Belle’s father, Maurice, is imprisoned by a selfish prince transformed into a hideous beast, until she offers to take his place in the castle. As she and the Beast slowly get to know each other, Maurice runs back to their village, telling the villagers about the hideous Beast who has imprisoned his daughter. They don’t believe him, of course, but this is when Gaston’s true colors begin to show. He threatens to throw Maurice into an insane asylum if Belle does not marry him, but when Belle proves that the Beast exists, he immediately rouses the villagers into frenzy, ignoring her desperate pleas that the Beast is a good person. The villagers are too repulsed by the Beast to consider him as being anything but a horrid Beast, and immediately march off to the castle to destroy him. When Gaston finally corners the Beast, who refuses to fight back, he is completely beyond rational thought, completely convinced by his own thought that what he is doing is just and right, despite finding no opposition from the Beast. It is not until Belle shows up that the Beast regains the will to fight, easily overpowering Gaston, but refusing to kill him. Even after this deliberate act of mercy, Gaston stabs the Beast in the back, but loses his balance in the process, falling to his untimely death.

One word easily describes Gaston: Hubris. His excessive pride and overconfidence define him as a character, almost to the point where he is a caricature of himself, if not for the rage and resentment that festers underneath, visible whenever he feels threatened. He is the typical manly man, who has to prove his manliness all the time. As I mentioned earlier, for the majority of the movie, Gaston is a fairly unimportant character. During the opening scene, he harasses Belle by showing off just how manly he is, (Did I mention he’s manly? Just checking.) much to the disappointment of the other women in the village. He is respected throughout the village, the whole town showing up to his and Belle’s “wedding party,” and praising him during his fun character song, “Gaston.” He’s rather unique in the sense that he is one of the few villains that are accepted by society in general, even though he’s a jerk most of the time. This relates back to the theme of prejudice and judging people based on their appearance rather than who they actually are. It isn’t until we begin to see the Beast as less of an antagonist that Gaston begins his descent into true villainy. In an act of childish anger, Gaston tells Belle that if she refuses to marry him, he will throw Maurice into the loony bin. He’s accustomed to getting everything he desires, and abuses his power over the villagers to continue doing so. When he is proved wrong, he immediately turns the situation in his favor by turning the villagers against the Beast. It can easily be argued that his overconfidence and pride directly lead to his death; he sees the Beast as a threat to his own reputation, and an obstacle to getting what he wants, and sets out to eliminate that threat. Even when the Beast spares his life, his pride cannot allow the slight against him to go unpunished, and rather than accepting his defeat, he stabs the Beast, hoping to regain his lost ego. Instead, just like in Greek tragedies of old, his hubris ends up causing his own death.

The music associated with Gaston is also very apropos. In “Belle,” a song that explains Belle in the eyes of the people around her, Gaston’s verse is still self-centered, focusing on how Belle would be perfect for him, rather than merely giving more information about Belle beyond what we can already see. His vocal range also contributes to his character, a rich bass/baritone voice that’s practically dripping with resonance and power. His character song, “Gaston,” is also a perfect song; dedicated entirely to enumerating the wonderful things about Gaston. With lyrics like, “For there’s no one as burly and brawny/As you see I’ve got biceps to spare,” it’s hard to see him as a person with even an ounce of humility, because he very clearly isn’t. But of course, his true nature is shown in the villain song of the movie, “Kill the Beast.” Underneath his “charming” exterior is just a man whose hubris has driven him and his fellow villagers to mania. Even the lyrics bring the fact that they don’t really know WHY they’re going to kill the Beast to the forefront, “We don’t like what we don’t…/understand and in fact it scares us,/and this monster is mysterious at least./Bring your guns, bring your knives,/save children and and your wives,/so save our village and our lives!/LET’S KILL THE BEAST!” The fact that Gaston was so socially powerful that he could convince an entire village to wage war on something they know absolutely nothing about is scary, to say the least.

So Gaston is the perfect villain for a story that’s all about not judging a book by its cover. There’s a good chance that we all know someone just like Gaston: a person who is popular, powerful, and so engrossed in themselves that they don’t care for anyone else, and would be willing to do anything to maintain that image. He starts off as a minor hindrance in Belle’s path, but soon grows into a much bigger threat, and is much more realistic because of it. In the end, the true Beast is the one that masquerades as a normal person, rather than the one who looks like one.

Next Week: Gilderoy Lockhart, from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

People also view

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *