Participants of my ongoing Saving Cinderella class have the option to a write guest post on the topic of the session they attended. This post is in response to Session 4 Bestiality? Belle and the appeal of the monster.
To watch past sessions of the class, click here.
The following was written by Eric M. Blake.
In a recent discussion with Faith Moore and others, I brought up an important theme in Beauty & The Beast, necessarily secondary to the issues directly centered around Belle and the Disney Princess mythos, but important nonetheless:
Through the characters of Gaston and The Beast, the film directly addresses the all-important question in our society: What does it truly mean to be a man? Not an adult male, mind you; not a “guy”—a man.
I recall the time a couple fellows showed up in a college class of mine from REAL—an organization centered on, from what I gathered, grounding college-age guys in modern chivalry, in the context of campus culture.
Now, I don’t know much about REAL: Maybe there’s a pseudo-feminist anti-masculinity agenda with them, I don’t know. All I know is, these two seemed as far from Male Feminist Betas as one could imagine. The one who spoke looked not unlike Chris Evans’s Captain America—with a similar personality, to boot.
Anyway, their organization’s shirts had the following slogan: “REAL men get consent.”
I want to focus on that: “REAL men.” The idea of being something beyond an “adult male.” Something more.
In a recent article, Faith noted her former crush on Gaston, for his clear external masculinity. As she put it: “For a girl just beginning to think about romantic attachments, Gaston was exactly what I was looking for: a man.”
She explains that it’s all external, of course: the deep voice, the muscles, etc. But as I noted in our discussion, there’s a vital, clear-cut difference between Gaston and The Beast (aside from the obvious, of course), amid both having such raw, untamed external masculinity:
First and foremost, The Beast understands the need to earn the affections of Belle.
Gaston’s got a sense of entitlement about him. He rhetorically asks LeFou, “Don’t I deserve the best?” He sulks around when Belle turns him down—needing a tavern full of yes-men to prop him up, with a certain song we all know.
Never once does it occur to him that he’s got to earn Belle’s approval. He thinks she’s got to give in automatically.
This is vital, I think. One of the widely accepted elements of masculinity, when you get down to it, is competition. And if there’s no one left to compete with, you compete with yourself—be the best you can always be, lest you slack off and “let yourself go.”
The pseudo-feminists and Gillette marketers may sneer and call it “toxic,” but it’s truly a very positive thing. It’s a constant state of needing to earn. To tweak that slogan a bit, “Real Men earn consent.” And not from the player’s perspective—from the judge’s. That is to say: from hers.
Gaston is no “real man.” He is, if you will, a “man-child.” And frankly, the brief tantrums he throws kinda play that up, don’t they?
Meanwhile, as Faith notes: “In all the ways that Gaston embodied the physicality of maleness, the Beast embodied the essential nature of men. He was independent, proud, and set in his ways. But he was also determined, eager to please, and earnest in his desire to learn. He was brave, loyal, and honest. And he loved with his whole heart, unashamedly, joyfully, and proudly. He was a man. In Beast’s clothing.”
A man. A real man. Not just a glorified man-child with big muscles and a deep voice.
A desire to learn. A desire to earn. Not assume and take for granted what he “deserves.” She’s the judge of that. He’s just the player. Pun half-intended.
ERIC M. BLAKE is the chief Culture & Entertainment writer at Western Free Press. A graduate of the University of South Florida, with a Bachelor’s in Political Science and a Master’s in Film Studies, he is very passionate about political theory and filmmaking–and the connections between the two. Inspired by Andrew Breitbart’s axiom that “Politics is downstream from culture,” he is deeply fascinated by the great influence that popular culture has on public opinion, and is a firm believer in the power of storytelling.
You can also.find him on Twitter, @HardBoiledFilms, and on YouTube, at Hard Boiled Entertainment. Yes, that implies certain cinematic aspirations.