Let’s have a fun round of a game I like to call Devil’s Advocate. This is an article where I take a popular, fictional, antagonist and do my very best to spin the existing plot mechanisms to prove that a villain could very easily be seen as a hero if taken in a slightly different perspective. Even as a kid, I always tired of the overused hero formula. I found it much more fun, and challenging mentally to try to view the story through the bad guy’s lens. I think this will be a great feedback generator, and give you all a chance to be part of the so called “action” we have going on here. So, put your dukes up and get ready to prove me wrong!
I have a few mainstay flagstone characters that I have complete manifestos on, and we’ll start this bout with a personal favorite: Gaston from Disney’s 1991 classic Beauty and the Beast. While vain, shallow, and petty I find that defending Gaston in realistic terms is pretty easy.
Remove the preconceived assumptions you had from your indoctrinated knowledge of the fact that this is a fairy tale and the Beast is benevolent. Try to see Gaston as one of the people who live in the cozy, little village in the movie would see him. They’ve never heard the fairy tale, try to see Gaston in an objective manner and remove the pretext that you know the Beast is the good guy.
Even with our new, shiny goggles of objectivity donned, I’ll concede that Gaston as a character is still pretty deplorable as far as personality is concerned. Let’s clarify, I may root for him as a juxtaposition to ordinary formula, but he is hardly likeable. Join me in watching Gaston’s journey as Spock would: Logically, no social biases, and no known knowledge of the classic tale.
The town’s mental case has disappeared after traveling to a fair to show off his latest contraption and failing to return. His equally odd daughter shortly after disappears as well, when she sets out to find him. The old man returns raving about a giant monster residing in a nearby enchanted castle. This is where Gaston attempts to have him committed in order to extort Belle into marriage. Belle whips out the magic mirror to show the crowd. The mirror dramatically flashes a fiery image of a roaring behemoth. Any normal peasant of that time period would shit their pants at the idea of a magic mirror in and of itself, let alone the raging creature it projects. In a flash of bravery, and master strategical maneuvering, Gaston decides to rid the town of this new nightmare. Both ensuring his goal of forced marriage to Belle, while making himself a hero to boot. Brilliant!
If you concede Gaston anything, it’s that he has brass balls. He’s merciless, determined, and crafty. I respect that. All the bad things about him, the ego, the forced marriage, the incitement of the lynch mob, are all small potatoes when compared to his attributes. He engaged a one on one fight with a giant monster! Granted that the beast was forlorn and not fighting back at first, but the very fact that Gaston engaged him at all shows that his aforementioned brass balls are indeed enormous as well. I’ll deduct some cool points for the begging when the beast is dangling him over the ledge, but I still think the cheap shot with the dagger was top notch as far as winning a fight goes. Poor, misunderstood Gaston falls to his death and the sickening maelstrom of Disney sentimentality kicks in.
In the end, this movie is just a 100 yard dash to bang Belle. It’s just a matter of which suitor you’re rooting for. In one corner, you have a spoiled prince who was cursed and is on a timer to find “true love” before a magical rose dies on his twenty first birthday. Any adult knows full well that “True Love’s” end result is always fluid exchange. In the other corner we have the town blowhard, alpha male, who’s set on having the one thing he can’t possess. Either way, Belle is getting the beef bus parked in Tuna town.
I just found it more realistic to root for Gaston. His motives are more human and understandable to me. I don’t get the Beast, he’s still spoiled rotten, but now he just gets to have his cake and eat it too. Even whilst under the curse he had a full staff of servants, and a magnificent palace. So he just sulked for years? While being pampered? Fuck him. Let the rose die, I’d be much happier with a dark reboot done by George R.R. Martin, where Gaston wins and the story ends with the glazed view of the Beast’s taxidermisted eyes staring out blankly as yet another trophy on Gaston’s wall, blankly witnessing Belle’s reluctant acceptance of creating Gaston’s fabled brood of strapping young boys. One can only dream.
So am I way off base? A Lunatic? What say you reader? I’m interested in your retorts, so don’t hold back and thanks for reading!