IS GASTON A TRUE DISNEY VILLAIN OR IS HE JUST MISUNDERSTOOD?
By Joseph Williams and Seth Wiedemann
Depending on which of us you ask, you’ll get a very different answer to the question of how much of a villain Gaston (from Beauty and the Beast) actually is. To provide some context, the two of us have debated (for many, many, many hours on road trips, at dinners, and any other time a snide, button-pushing comment can open up an all-out debate) how villainous Gaston is for months. It first began when we watched Beauty and the Beast on Blu-Ray. Then, when the movie was re-released in theaters in 3D, we couldn’t resist going to see it and the debate continued.
Spoiler alert: (not concerning the plot of the film… we’re going to assume you’re a good American and have seen it already) We have not come to a compromise or an agreement in any way. That is why we bring the argument to you here on The Wise Guise, to comment and vote in a poll about Gaston’s true nature.
We’ll begin our arguments to you with Seth’s opening argument. We’ll proceed with some past arguments between us, and then we’ll let your voting and comments decide. Odds are though, neither of us will give any ground to the other’s arguments. We’ve happened upon one of the most underrated debates and divides of our time.
Seth’s Opening Arguments:
Picture this: The year is 1760, and you live in a poor provincial town somewhere in France. All your life you’ve been exceptional at everything you try. A master hunter and sportsman, you have the undying respect of everyone in town. Then disaster strikes. Word reaches you that a monstrous beast is terrorizing your town. Two people, including the girl you love, have been abducted. You don’t know when or where the beast will strike again, and the townspeople are terrified and panicking. A natural born leader, you take it upon yourself to lead an expedition of 50 men to protect the town.
These are the real-life issues that faced the character, Gaston.
I want to say first off that Gaston is not a good guy. He is arrogant, selfish, and tried to put Belle’s father in an insane asylum (not cool).
What I am saying is this: Gaston didn’t do anything throughout the entire movie that even compares to the atrocities committed by our hero. The Beast, with his bipolar fits of rage, threatened Belle constantly, withheld food from her, and kept her as his prisoner. Like Gaston, the Beast tried to lock up Belle’s father – only he actually succeeded.
Why are we so quick to judge Gaston for going after the Beast? Given the circumstances, would any of us do anything different when it came to protecting the town? Do we just sit by and let the Beast abduct people at will?
For all his faults, in the end Gaston was merely trying to rescue Belle from a terror that was all too real. A terror that she herself couldn’t possibly have even recognized.
Once again I would like to reiterate that Gaston is not a good guy. But is being selfish and arrogant enough of a crime that we should condemn him to death? I think not.
Luckily for us, Disney gave us even more secondary evidence into the dark soul of Gaston when they adapted the Academy Award-winning film for Broadway. There, they adapted Gaston’s pigheaded proposal to Belle into song. Claiming that Belle will be his property? Saying women only have uses on occasion and are limited to childbearing and childrearing? Listen, I’m pretty conservative and you are too. But this is offensive even to us!
After comparing himself and Belle to his pair of thighs, Gaston continues his self-centered ways. Look, I can look past some of Gaston’s mistakes. Yes, he was the strongest man who had to seemingly protect the town. Sure. BUT, when does he begin to become morally culpable beyond just being a frat star chauvinist?
Some (me included) would argue it’s when he begins to lead by instilling fear in the populace, being less than honest in getting Belle’s father committed, and leading a mob against the Beast. But even if you concede that Gaston is just trying to protect the town, you simply cannot defend him during his showdown with the Beast. As a society of fallen creatures searching for redemption, we must give credit to the journey of change each character is on. And no place is this distinction convicting Gaston as a horrid villain clearer than at the end of the film in the final fight scene. At this point, regardless of past sins, the Beast redeems himself. He turns the other cheek. He has mercy on Gaston. It’s clear to Gaston, at this point, that he won’t have Belle. But he’s delusional. Driven by his own narcissism and need for controlling the world to be exactly as he wants, he attacks the very being that JUST MOMENTS BEFORE had mercy on him. Like the wicked servant in the parable who was given grace by his master only to turn and condemn someone who owed him, Gaston went after the beast. There is no greater example of pure human blindness to his own fallen condition. And, like that, in a moment, he falls to his death… certainly not due to the mercy shown him by the Beast, but by his own choices and actions.
Seth: I’m not even going to address arguments based off a Broadway play adaptation (or any other adaptation) of the movie. I’m talking about the Gaston from the animated film.
You seem to hinge your argument on the final moments in the movie, and that’s fair. This is a tough one, as these are difficult decisions that Gaston himself no doubt wrestled with. The thing is, I cannot fault his actions at Beast’s castle.
In the final moments of the film some say the Beast allowed Gaston to live, but if we think about it, what kind of life has he given him? He gives Gaston a life where he and his townspeople would forever be under the Beast’s dominion. We’ve already seen what horrors the Beast put Belle and her father through, and Gaston understood that surrender here meant a lifetime of terror for every man, woman, and child in his town.
This puts Gaston in an impossible position. Although his life was spared, he realizes that failure is not an option for the townspeople. He did not fight with honor, and in the end the fatal blow to the monster cost him his life. He did what he had to do, and he paid the ultimate price for it.
Joseph: But now I’ll present to you more past debates between Seth and I that took place in an e-mail thread. This debate has been in person and on the worldwide webs. It transcends normal categories.
Joseph: One day, in an e-mail thread to my wife, sister-in-law, and Seth, I commented: Had I seen Palmer and Seth on an e-mail thread without me, I woulda turned into Gaston (who is not as evil as Scar… who is just the worst.)
Seth: 1.) I’m glad Joseph didn’t turn into Gaston, because that poor guy’s life was tragic. The man was a hopeless romantic, condemned to the sufferings of unrequited love. A Romeo without his Juliet, his only hope was to save his town from a dangerous monster. Beloved by his countrymen, he died protecting those who couldn’t protect themselves. While some people decry his actions, there are many who understood his role.
He’s the hero the poor provincial French town deserves, but not what it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent Guardian. A watchful protector. A Dark Knight.
Joseph: As for your Nolanian defense of Gaston, I present primary source evidence to the contrary:
Joseph: Let me break down this video that clearly shows that Gaston is not just a villain, but an evil one.
Seth: Lets examine this clip. I could not have chosen a better example of Gaston clearly demonstrating both his civic pride and gifted leadership abilities.
Joseph: Gaston’s violence towards a friend, much smaller than he.
Seth: Self defense. Without provocation his face was grabbed and twisted .
Joseph: Turning his back on his supporters.
Seth: Turning the other cheek. He doesn’t want to further engage the man who just assaulted him.
Joseph: Gaston smiling and loving attention from slutty blonde barmaids. (If he truly loved Belle, he’d be turning from them instead of turning from his male admirers and supporters.)
Seth: At this point in the movie, Belle has already turned him down twice. Even though he owes her nothing, he stiffens at the clearly unwanted affection from the sluts. Never making eye contact with any of them, he doesn’t acknowledge their existence.
Joseph: Could this guy be any more self-absorbed or arrogant?!?!?
Seth: Lets take a moment to realize that he has just been showered with outrageous accolades. And each one is not exaggerated and completely true. He is conceding a point, not making a declaration.
Joseph: Feeling the need to show off his strength to the extent that, once again, he punches his greatest friend/supporter, who is 1/16th his size, at most.
Seth: Up to this point, Le Beau has terrorized everyone at the bar (including Gaston multiple times).
Joseph: Beating up more of his supporters, just to show he can. Where’s the restraint in that “silent Guardian”?
Seth: It is a massive brawl. Incited by Le Beau. It’s hard to tell the innocence or guilt of any the individuals involved.
Joseph: Actively trying to impress skanky skank-a-lot skanks by picking them up, looking up their dresses. That’s unrequited love, alright.
Seth: He distracts everyone from fighting and stops the brawl.
Joseph: Bad sportsmanship
Seth: The old man was clearly cheating. He moved his Bishop from e3 to g4. Did his Bishop suddenly become a Knight? If this was a western he would have been shot. Gaston lets him off easy.
Joseph: Does this guy have an inch of humility in him?
Seth: Once again, he concedes a point to his zealous supporters
Joseph: All about showing off, not about actually teaching his followers.
Seth: He is clearly teaching about the benefits of protein
Joseph: Can we be positive Gaston didn’t kill Bambi’s family?
Seth: He did not. Bambi’s Mom was killed two centuries after Gaston was born
Joseph: Wacky old coot? Belle’s father? A joyful inventor and innovator who embodies capitalism’s delicious fruits at its best?
Seth: His horse has a better sense of direction than he does. And have you seen his murderous chopper invention?
Joseph: Loony old man… yeah. This is a guy with true love for Belle and not one bit of lust.
Seth: The only thing his invention chopped was a hole in the side of a house. Belle’s father built a siege weapon.
Joseph: Putting his own personal achievement of goals ahead of Belle’s best interests.
Seth: He is attempting a grand gesture to win her heart. Misguided, but it is clear that his heart is in the right place.
Joseph: And if you are blind or deaf to this evil, I submit my above analysis and breakdown of this evidence.
Seth: If Gaston is guilty of anything in this clip, it is of having a good night drinking with his close friends. The clip of the Beast imprisoning Belle’s father was about 100 times worse than anything Gaston has done in his entire life.
Clayton: Alright boys, this is where I step in and leave it up to the people to vote. You’ve each had a chance to share your opinion. I thought about a simple, “Do you agree more with Joseph or Seth?” poll question. But Seth says the audience is already skewed against him b/c we’ve been trained and indoctrinated to hate Gaston. So he wanted a simple “Give Gaston a chance? Yes or no” I think that’s a bit too much the other direction. To be honest, I really just want to know what the hell are they all drinking in that bar and where can I get some… Because of your antics I’m turning this into a Twilight-esque “Team Joseph” or “Team Seth” poll. Cheesy t-shirts with their picture and team name are optional in this case though.