I have to admit, as much of an idiot Gaston is, I love him. He’s the ultimate foil to Belle in Beauty and the Beast, but he still wants her.
Gaston is a primeval creature, and I think Disney does a really good job of creating the “pig” that women so often refer to men as. Gaston is that pig, like Clayton in Tarzan. They’re both these massive jerks who think all the women want them.
Gaston, though he has his eye on Belle, has the attention of the Bimbettes (the trio of sisters who long for his love). Sadly, Le Fou is the only one to notice them as they pine for Gaston.
He seems to be an extremely thick man, especially when he thinks that preparing a wedding before having the girl, but Gaston can be quite the crafty bastard. He figures out a way to get Maurice locked up, and hopefully gain Belle’s hand. That’s very clever, but all for nought. He ends up learning of the Beast’s whereabouts and attacking him, just to be killed.
His motive is love, or more appropriately, lust. He wants Belle just because she’s “as beautiful as [him].” I think he represents what we see as the “jock” persona; he’s great at sport (hunting), he gets the “cheerleaders” (the Bimbettes), and he doesn’t understand why a book wouldn’t have pictures. Disney has created the ultimate jock stereotype, and I think that can be both good and bad.
On the good side, it’s great for many young ladies. Seeing that smart girls like Belle don’t want anything to do with men who are “positively primeval” is pretty good. I don’t understand the appeal of a big hulking man who doesn’t seem to know how to tie his shoes.
It’s also good because even though Gaston is persistent, Belle sticks to her guns. Her repeated “no” to his affections can be empowering for girls. If at a young age, a girl is shown that she can say no to men, repeatedly, she may remember that when she’s older.
At the same time, stereotypes are dangerous things. Labeling Gaston’s type as an idiot, along with his followers (Le Fou literally means the fool), isn’t really the best thing to be putting into children’s heads. Stereotypes can lead to bullying, and that has become a more widely recognized problem in schools. Hell, Gaston does it to Belle. But any type of bullying, even the “weaker” mocking the “stronger” is bad. And that’s what Beauty and the Beast can teach us. It’s good to laugh at idiots who don’t understand unillustrated books.
Gaston is also a dangerous character because of rape culture. Little boys may look up to Gaston, and his “try, try again” policy, but in reality, that is showing that when a women says “no,” that’s unacceptable.
I didn’t really expect Gaston to get as political as he did, but oh well.