#YesAllWomen and the Tale of Gaston

So I was doing my morning browse of the #YesAllWomen hashtag on twitter, and I stumbled onto this tweet:

I responded with a joke (“Nooooooooooooooo oooooooooone BENEFITS FROM PATRIARCHY like Gaston no one DOESN’T UNDERSTAND THAT NO MEANS NO like Gaston o/~”), but I started thinking more seriously and have come to a conclusion.

Gaston is a flawless poster child for one frequent theme of #YesAllWomen: that generally speaking, men are socially conditioned to believe that they’re “owed” something by women, and that women aren’t ‘allowed’ to reject them without a “good reason” (like having another man— or beast —in their life).

Now, I don’t think anyone will disagree with me that Gaston is a big fat sexist jerk, especially with his lampshade statement about how icky it would be for women to think, but bear with me while I talk a bit about his story as we know it.

While Gaston’s childhood isn’t exactly addressed in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, we can make a few assumptions based on his character and the song “Gaston”: he’s always been physically strong (“When I was a lad I ate four dozen eggs every morning to help me get large”), and most likely also attractive and popular as well. Within the movie girls fawn over him, men envy him, and everyone generally follows his lead. The society around him has trained him to believe that he is “The Best” and therefore— doesn’t he deserve The Best?

Early in the film, Gaston harasses Belle in the street, snatching her book away from her, dismissing her polite request to have it returned AND her reading hobby, throwing the book in the mud, and physically imposing himself in her way to prevent her from taking it back, briefly. He makes physical contact next, putting his arm around her and guiding her in another direction (while again attempting to withhold her book). She slips away shortly after that.

No one gets rejected like GastonLater, Gaston uses physical and social intimidation to try to force Belle to marry him…but before he does that, he jokes to the gathered crowd that he has to go in to Belle’s house and “propose to the girl,” which is met with laughs from the male audience. When he does propose, even Belle, who is presented as a strong-minded woman with her own opinions and desires, finds it hard to give him a straight-forward “no,” instead proclaiming that she “just doesn’t deserve him.”

The next time we see Gaston he is complaining about being “rejected…publicly humiliated” in the bar with the townspeople. After the (yes, wonderful and amazing!) “Gaston” number, he hatches another scheme to force Belle to marry him, this time by threatening the well-being of her father: in other words, blackmail of a sort.

Belle gets her father’s situation sorted, but at the cost of showing the townspeople the Beast by way of a magic mirror. Gaston observes her face as she calls the Beast kind and gentle and accuses her of having feelings for him. It’s not hard to guess that he immediately sees the Beast as the obstacle between him and getting what he deserves— Belle. If he were to KILL THE BEAST!, Belle would certainly have to say yes to him, wouldn’t she? Gaston confirms this by proclaiming that “it’s over, Beast— Belle is mine!” before falling to his death.

What do you think would have happened if Gaston had lived and the Beast had died? I think we can safely say that Belle would still have rejected him, of course, but what then? Would Gaston, in his high-adrenaline state, have backed off to scheme again? Or perhaps attacked Belle herself, raging that she denies him what he has “earned”? Or something else entirely?

This is not to decry Disney or Gaston as a character— he’s a villain, after all, and the film doesn’t generally suggest that his behavior is acceptable. I guess what I am trying to point out is that Gaston isn’t some antiquated long-gone stereotype, he is a caricature of a way that many (not all, of course, but many) men still think and act every single day.

(That’s the end of my rant, but interesting tidbit: the screenplay for Beauty and the Beast is generally credited to a woman, Linda Woolverton, whose novel Running Before the Wind revolves around a young woman with an abusive father.)

Yesterday I’m Hustlin’

I finally got around to seeing American Hustle. Here’s my short review: it was a fun, entertaining movie, with a little bit more layer than your average flick. It felt very much like Argo in that respect. If you want to analyze movies you can spend time discussing the characters and motivations; if you just want a fun story with some great actors, that’s easy enough here…it’s got a little bit of heft, without being the sort of weighty film that you can really sink your teeth into (and which can be off-putting to mainstream movie-goers).

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Observations on Frozen & Its Deluxe Soundtrack

Warning: This article will contain spoilers for the film Frozen. They will be marked off as spoilers.

Anyone who has spent any time with me in the last month knows that I’m completely over the moon aboutFrozen, for a variety of reasons. I’m not denying that in some ways it is a step backwards from Disney’s last animated musical The Princess and the Frog (yes, there were POCs in historical Europe, so the fictionalized setting isn’t that much of an excuse for the blazing whiteness of all the characters…also the “musical” portion of Frozen just kinda stops after the trolls’ number, which isn’t inappropriate for the story but is a little weird/lopsided).

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Extinction Point Review

Rating: * * * * (of 5)

Imagine a New York City without any people. No cars rushing by, no chatter at every street corner, no bright lights, no sirens…all silence. This is the New York envisioned by Paul Antony Jones after the spooky disaster he rains onto the city, literally. Reporter and protagonist Emily Baxter is suffering through a fairly normal day of errands and interviews when a strange red rain begins to fall from the sky. The thick substance bears a more than passing resemblance to human blood, and further— some eight-ish hours after its brief but heavy appearance —people begin to die. By the millions.

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The Elite Review

As worthy a follow-up as one might expect to The SelectionThe Elite picks up right where the first book left off. America (“Mer”) is one of the remaining contenders to become the bride of Prince Maxon of Illéa and she surprises herself by feeling strongly for the prince. However, Aspen, the boyfriend she left behind at home after he broke her heart is now at the palace serving as a guard and she finds herself caught between the two. There’s also supposed to be an element of danger here because— as she learns by example —to be caught being disloyal to the prince during the competition can be deadly.

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Skyship Academy: The Pearl Wars Review

TL;DR version: The story got interesting (eventually), but the bland characters leave this novel a little lifeless.

Skyship Academy tells its story from two points of view: first-person narrator Jesse, a bottom-rung student at the titular academy; and a third-person limited narrator detailing the events as seen by Cassius, an agent of the academy’s biggest enemy, the Unified Party.
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Insurgent Review

Of the post-apocalyptic and/or dystopic YA I’ve been reading (and there is so much of it lately!), Divergent is probably the most promising start once the ridiculous premise is forgiven, and Insurgent is mostly also pretty solid— not in the least because it promises that the third book will explain that ridiculous premise, which I was not really expecting an explanation to at all. Kudos for that!

The biggest problem Insurgent suffers from, and to be honest that a lot of novels suffer from, is that the main characters make nonsensical choices or have ridiculous arguments seemingly just to further the plot, rather than because they make the least lick of sense. Tris and Four fall victim to some of this, with Four acting pretty rude (why does Tris always need to be the one who has to understand his side? Why can’t he understand hers more), and it’s unclear what impact this will have in the finale.

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