Disney made yet another hit with it’s live action adaptation of it’s 1991 classic, Beauty and the Beast. In the new film we are reintroduced to familiar and favorite characters: Lumiere the lamp, Mrs. Pots the tea pot, Belle, and of course one of Disney’s most memorable villains: Gaston. The theme of this article is “Don’t Be a Gaston.”
Gaston was created as a twisting of the cliche most fairy tales fall into, with the strong handsome hunter defeating the hideous beast that lurks in the forest. In his character we find qualities commonly associated with surface manhood and taken to unhealthy extremes. From Gaston we will examine the dangerous cliffs we might face, and how to avoid falling off the edge. In examining this character, we will refer to both the live action and animated iterations of the character.
If acquainted with the classics, you may recall that hubris was the tragic end of many Greek heroes. Icarus’s father warned him to not fly too high, nor too low. But, Icarus ignored his father and flew to close to the sun which melted the wings his father made.
When full of glory, the hero forgets his human limits. Growing out of proportion his ego leads to making mistakes and ultimately, his death. Gaston is no different. He is a man in love with his own story, one that is even sung to him by adoring followers.
This excessive pride can be found as the root of most sins, Gaston’s and often our own. When success starts coming to a young man, it can become difficult to maintain a proper ego, treading a fine line of confidence and arrogance.
Gaston excelled in physical feats, training himself to the point where, by his own admonition, he’s “as large as a barge.” However, he’s only developed superficial attributes. He has no depth of any kind. Gaston has only surface appearances of manhood, without its nobler qualities.
We also see this from how he treats those around him. When Gaston expresses his desire for Belle, it is only because of her appearance, without consideration for her strength of mind or character.
He Fought The Wrong Beast
One of the great themes of Beauty and the Beast, both versions, is the contrast between the Beast as the beast in body, and Gaston as the beast in heart. While Gaston may be the handsome man of the village, proficient in all martial sports, he is the worst kind of a man. Rather than redeem his own character, Gaston repeatedly attacks that of others. Maurice he calls a crazy man and tries to lock away, when Belle refuses him a final time he also decides she has to go. Ignoring Belle’s pleas, he and the townspeople go after the Beast, where he he will hunt the “monster” for more glory.
While we shouldn’t always believe the negatives things others say about us, it shouldn’t be entirely ignored. Our critics may see faults that we, and our adoring followers, do not. Rather than locking them away and tossing out the key, we should examine to see if there’s truth in what they say.
Even in our own lives we too often see this drama play out. How frequently do we, when confronted with a mistake or fault of our own, seek to dig up another’s skeletons to improve our image? Instead of confronting what is really wrong in our own lives we find it easier, and more pleasant, to go after another’s fault (or appearance).