Point: Gaston is a Deeply Flawed Human
In Beauty and the Beast, Gaston represents what can happen when greed, fear, and ignorance form an unholy trinity of misplaced confidence. Gaston, the de facto leader of the village, should be the voice of reason, especially because he knows the other residents of the town depend on him to make their decisions. Instead, Gaston abuses this power in an attempt to save face.
Gaston is the mirror image of the Beast: he’s person that’s handsome on the outside and ugly in the inside; what the beast might have become had the enchantress not cast the spell, and had Belle not been there to show the beast how to love.
The first time we see Gaston, he is shooting a goose. He’s automatically established as an alpha-male: ultra masculine, the leader of every group he’s in, and representing a paragon (in LeFou’s words) of what a man is traditionally supposed to be like. Indeed Gaston is more than an alpha-male; he’s near primitive in his understanding of the world: men hunt, women cook, etc., and this narrow view of the world makes him both over-confident and dangerous.
He wants to marry Belle for entirely superficial reasons: she’s the most beautiful girl in town. He doesn’t consider her character, her family, whether or not she wants to marry him, or the fact that they would most likely be miserable together. He values physical beauty above everything else and, because he is the most handsome, he won’t deign to be with anyone less attractive than him.
Worse, Gaston forces his view on others, telling Belle that women shouldn’t worry about reading and thinking, but instead should only worry about their husbands’ priorities. He doesn’t respect Belle as a person, but instead only sees her as an object. “This is the day your dreams come true,” he tells her before proposing. He goes on to explain his vision of their future, in which she only exists to please him. When Belle refuses Gaston, his quest to own her only intensifies. He views her as a trophy for his collection and her rejection of him is so utterly unthinkable (to him) that he takes it as a personal challenge.
When Gaston learns that Belle has feelings for the Beast, he turns on her for her lack of aesthetic comprehension (in his eyes) and decides to turn the whole village against the Beast, convincing them to march on the castle. Beast has done nothing to provoke them. They’ve lived peacefully for years. By manipulating the villagers’ fear into a frenzy, Gaston leads the angry mob to the castle.
Beast, showing that he has truly changed, lets Gaston go when he could have killed him. Gaston, though, is not so forgiving and stabs the Beast. Belle’s love of the Beast so confounds Gaston that he can’t allow the Beast to live in the small, petty world he (Gaston) has built around himself. It’s this confusion over the idea that love can be blind, that leads Gaston to stumble and fall to his death.
Is Gaston just a victim of his time? Perhaps. But as the film shows us, the Beast (who begins as a shallow creature not dissimilar to Gaston) was able to change for the better. Through love and understanding he was redeemed. Gaston, however, chose not to expand his horizons, instead turning innocent people into angry, terrified, victims in his larger game of self-importance.
Who is the true monster? Appearances can indeed be deceiving.
Counterpoint: Gaston is the Best at Everything
Gaston gets a bad rep, but he’s really quite something. And we think it’s about time that someone defended this dashing dude. After all…
No one’s slick as Gaston
No one’s quick as Gaston
No one’s neck’s as incredibly thick as Gaston’s
For there’s no man in town half as manly. Perfect, a pure paragon.
No one’s been like Gaston
A king pin like Gaston
No one’s got a swell cleft in his chin like Gaston
As a specimen, yes, he’s intimidating.
No one fights like Gaston
Douses lights like Gaston
In a wrestling match nobody bites like Gaston!
For there’s no one as burly and brawny
You see, he’s got biceps to spare
Not a bit of him’s scraggly or scrawny
And every last inch of him is covered with hair
No one hits like Gaston
Matches wits like Gaston
In a spitting match nobody spits like Gaston
He’s especially good at expectorating!
He’s roughly the size of a barge (though that might be too many eggs, Gaston)!
No one shoots like Gaston
Makes those beauts like Gaston
Then goes tromping around wearing boots like Gaston
Also he uses antlers in all of his decorating.
Plus, he’s trying to woo and marry Belle. And she’s entirely great. So at least he has good taste (albeit he goes about it less than ideally).