It's a tale as old as time. The large, terrifying monster kidnaps a girl who was proposed to days before and convinces her to love him through selfishly selfless acts that all around convey a creepy feeling of Stockholm syndrome.
Okay, well maybe that's not the way we remember it, but I'm not wrong. All of that did happen. The Beast kidnaps Belle. Belle was literally proposed to the day before, or maybe a few days before. And everything Beast did, though arguably with good intentions, was done because he and the entire castle knew that they needed him to find true love in order to break a spell.
Of course we could argue about how falling for Belle and having her in turn fall for him was very selfless because he did it to save his servants. But instead, I want to talk about another plot point I mentioned. The proposal. Namely because we're here to talk about one guy in particular.
There's no man in town as admired as . . .
Now this is one guy I can't fully consider a villain. Sure, he did try to kill the Beast. Yeah, he meant to put Belle's father in an asylum. And he actually meant to throw Belle in there too at the end. But, honestly, he's just not your typical Disney villain. If anything, he's just an overgrown background character. Just think about it, if he weren't so...large, then he'd be the same as most of the other townspeople. He could've easily been as insignificant as the baker with the same bread and rolls to sell.
However, I'd much rather talk about him because Monsieur D'Arque still gives me the willies.
God, he's creepy. Anyways, back to Gaston.
Why Gaston isn't much of a villain
The only truly evil thing he does is try to kill the Beast. We, as the audience, hate him for it. But that's because we have been watching the entire movie unfold and watched the Beast's transformation and know that underneath those gnashing teeth and slashing claws, he's a good guy. All Gaston sees is a monster. It doesn't really help that throughout the entire movie that they call Prince Adam, "Beast."
But, honestly, Gaston really did, in some way shape or form, love Belle. Maybe not for the right reasons, but he loved her. Where the entire town saw a strange, young lady, he saw a beautiful woman who he was willing to court at any and all costs.
Now, that's more genuine than Beast if you ask me. The Beast did all of his courting in order to break a spell placed on him because he was selfish. Gaston was surely selfish, but he sought after Belle because he wanted to. Not because she was the only human girl to appear at his front door in several years.
Gaston really tried. Leading up to the opening number, he must've been trying for a very long time, and thought he was succeeding. He must've taken her books several times because of how calm she was about the whole situation.
It seemed to be working, too. Why else would he attempt to ask for her hand in marriage? He thought it was a no brainer that he would win her over. Clearly, he didn't know what was waiting for him.
The guy falls in mud. He gets humiliated in front of the whole town. He has at least three other girls fawning after him. He can barely contain his anger, resentment and sorrow. Yet, he still tries to win over Belle.
Yes, his methods are faulty and generally evil, but he had some encouragement and help on that part. But he still had as good of intentions as an over-confident townsperson can have.
And when he attempts to put Belle's father, Crazy Old Maurice, into Monsieur D'Arque's asylum, he did truly believe Maurice was crazy. Maybe not entirely, or not enough to be condemned. But he did believe that Maurice was slightly unhinged.
Gaston is the best person in that town. Maybe not intellectually, because if it is a battle of the wits we can all agree that Belle and Maurice would probably win. But he is the best shot in the whole town. No beast alive would stand a chance against him. And no girl for that matter (except for Belle who moved to that poor, provincial town). No one fights like Gaston. Douses lights like Gaston. In a wrestling match, no one bites like Gaston. And he's got biceps to spare.
So, in his mind, and the mind of the entire town, when a monster or threat appears, he's the one to protect them. So, when an eerie beast the with fangs, razor sharp ones, massive paws, killer claws for the feast appears just beyond the borders of town, who else should step up? He put his own life on hold so that he could protect the rest of the town.
He's a hero in his own right. And if this were a different town, a different world, a different story, he would've been the prince the princess chose.
Gaston is a sad excuse for a villain, really he is. But he does cause far enough conflict and gets the plot to move forward. As I've mentioned, he would've been a hero or a prince in any other situation. But because he was here, he's a villain. Last bit of information, is it just me or does he look like a distant cousin of Prince Eric?