―Belle expressing her dislike for Gaston to her father
Gaston (Meaning, "from Gascony" in French, a real life area in France) is the main antagonist of Disney's 1991 film Beauty and the Beast. He is voiced by Richard White.
In the 1988 screenplay, although Gaston himself did not exist, there did exist three suitors for Belle who competed for her hand in marriage who were ultimately similar to him, and shared the role of antagonist with Belle's wicked sisters. They ultimately were transformed into animals, alongside Belle's sisters, by the Enchantress as punishment for their misdeeds, including nearly murdering the Beast.
In the 1989 screenplay, the three suitors were condensed into a single character, Gaston. In this version, Gaston was depicted very differently. Instead of a hunter who was the town hero, he was a marquess, or French nobleman. He would have shared the role of antagonist with Belle's aunt, Marguerite who would have chosen him as Belle's suitor, specifically as revenge towards Maurice (who in this version was a failed merchant who lost his wealth at sea, just like in the original tale). In the climax, he was to have traveled to the Beast's castle, also stealing the Sedan Chair to ensure he tracked down the castle, and upon arrival fight off several of the Enchanted Objects with a rapier before personally dueling the Beast in battle. He also met his fate differently (see Death section below).
As such, his design was also completely different. He was tall and lank with a mole on the left side of his face and a crooked nose. His attire consisted of a sky-blue jacket and a powdered wig tied with a red ribbon. All of these features gave him a somewhat similar appearance to French noblemen, such as Jean Rousseau or Napoleon.
After Jeffrey Katzenberg demanded a rewrite to the film, Gaston's characterization was altered significantly, being made into the town hero as well as the village's local hunter. According to Linda Woolverton, she had based this version on Gaston on previous unsuccessful relationships, and she had also wanted Belle's decrying of Gaston being her suitor (whom Woolverton referred to as a blockhead) to be the focal point of the film, necessitating that Belle's wicked sisters and their respective love interests be left out, as well as cutting her snobbish Aunt Marguerite.
Story reels for the original screenplay (included in the Platinum and Diamond Editions of the final film) indicate that his surname was intended to be LeGume, as he is referred to with said name by Marguerite. This acted as a pun on his small-minded views. This was presumably dropped in the final release, as in both "Belle" and its reprise, the Bimbettes and Belle referred to him and herself as "Monsieur Gaston" and (albeit sarcastically) "Madame Gaston" respectively, implying that "Gaston" was his surname.
Gaston is strong and handsome, and he is all too aware of this. He is very popular in his village, who seem unaware of his true nature (Gaston reprise in the original film notwithstanding), and this serves to fuel his already massive ego. A narcissist who sees himself as superior to everyone around him, Gaston is boorish, uncultured and sexist. He also was arrogant, as evidenced by his (in the original film) setting up a wedding before he even proposed to Belle under the expectation that she'd approve of becoming his wife, and later his fight against the Beast. However, his arrogance may have been justified due to his abilities. Despite his belief that thinking is "a dangerous pastime" (suggesting that he is anti-intellectual) however, Gaston is not unintelligent; in fact he is quite cunning which is emphasized twice in the story showing that he is not all brawn and no brain. He comes up with a clever plan to get Belle to marry him by threatening to have her father, Maurice, thrown into an asylum, and when that plan is foiled by Belle showing the Beast with a magic mirror, Gaston takes it in stride and quickly turns the tables by manipulating the villagers into forming a mob to kill the Beast.
However, in the film, he is also depicted as being very reckless in regards to planning, as especially evident with the Gaston reprise where he managed to blurt out key details about his plan to blackmail Belle with the threat of locking her father up in front of a crowded tavern, and without indicating anything that would indicate it was either morally imperative or otherwise beneficial for anyone to follow the plan. His vocabulary skills are also slightly inconsistent: When Belle refers to Gaston as being "positively primeval" early in the film, the latter apparently takes it as a compliment, clearly not knowing what the term actually means. However, in the Gaston song, Gaston at one point accurately used the word "expectorating" in reference to his skills at spitting ("expectorating" being a more fancy way of saying the term "spit.").
Gaston's view of women is rather sexist considering the time period in which the movie takes place (1700s, pre-revolutionary France), and while he appears charming to most of the women of the village, such as The Bimbettes, Belle is the only woman in the entire town to be able to see him for what he really is from the start of the film. Because of this, Gaston's attempts to charm Belle always fall flat because of his chauvinistic and boorish behavior. He believes that women should not be able to think for themselves or even get ideas, and even stamps Belle's book into the mud in an attempt to get her to focus on "more important things" such as him. If he had actually succeeded in persuading her to marry him, he would have only treated her as if she were his property and as inferior to him (as was the case for marriages in those days) rather than as an equal (like most marriages today).
His sexism is also shown by the fact that he does not seem to even consider the possibility of having daughters with her as he states he wants "six or seven strapping boys" like himself. Gaston suffers from obsessive love which is shown by his intense infatuation with Belle. Indeed he is so obsessed with her that he ignores all the other pretty women in the village who would be happy to be his "little wife," even, ironically, those who technically matched Gaston's standards of how women should behave. When Gaston is singing about wanting to marry her in the opening song, he says "When I met her saw her I said she's gorgeous and I fell", implying that he fell in love for Belle at first sight. The Marvel Comics serial likewise strongly implied that he had feelings for Belle since they were children. Gaston is also adulterous (at least in the musical), as he states to Claudia and her sisters that his "rendezvouses" with the girls will continue after he marries Belle, which makes it clear that he does not know or care that marriage is a one-woman commitment or that is it supposed to be based on love and affection rather than ownership of property.
Gaston is incredibly arrogant and is convinced that he is powerful enough to defeat the Beast by himself. He even taunts the Beast, wanting him to fight back as he wants to prove that he can kill him in a fair fight. However, his arrogance makes him underestimate his opponent and once he realizes his life is on the line, his apparent façade disappears and will beg for his life when overwhelmed. Despite this, he was not arrogant enough to believe there was no risk to being killed by the Beast, as he freely admits that fighting the Beast does have the likelihood that he or the other villagers might very likely die during the Mob Song. Gaston is not above using underhanded tactics, which had earlier been implied with LeFou's claim about Gaston being "slick" as well as Gaston's admission about being good at "taking cheap shots," and confirmed when he shows himself to literally be a backstabber in his final moments, showing that he also cheats at things and breaks his promises.
He is extremely shallow, only loving Belle because of her physical beauty and assuming that the Beast is a monster based only on his physical appearance. Gaston not only sees the Beast as a monster, but also a rival for Belle's attention. Even when Belle points out that Gaston himself is the real monster, he dismisses her claim, thinking that she is "as crazy as the old man. He is also extremely petty and unfair because he does not want any other man to be with Belle, or for her to like him in any way at all. Apparently, he wants women all for himself, viewing them as property rather than as people.
At the start of the film and musical play, Gaston did not seem truly evil. Rather, he was simply conceited, male-chauvinistic, boorish and rude than a true villain, but as time goes on his pride and obsession with Belle becomes so intense that it turns him into a twisted, sadistic and murderous monster. His speech to get the mob to kill the Beast in order to protect the village is nothing more than a ploy to get them to help him infiltrate the castle. Gaston does not care about the village very much, even if he genuinely does believe that the Beast is a threat. All he wants is to kill his rival so he can have Belle as his property. By the time of his death, Gaston feels that if he can't have Belle, nobody can. In an earlier version of the story, he was even going to commit suicide after killing the Beast as he knew that no matter what he did, Belle would never love him.
In the Marvel Comics serial, his personality was largely the same as in the movie, albeit somewhat toned down. However, he ended up not acknowledging that the Bimbettes were in love with him other than in general terms, not taking the hint that they wanted him to return the love, which resulted in many of his plans being foiled. Despite it taking place after making plans with the Asylum Warden to falsely incarcerate Belle as well as forcing LeFou to remain on lookout for either Belle or Maurice's return, he seemed to come up, either by himself or with LeFou's input, with various plans to impress and get Belle to marry him, such as a wife auction, killing a bear, and going to the bookstore, implying that he may have put aside that plan temporarily. In addition, one of the plans had Gaston deciding against killing the bear immediately due to it hibernating, implying he was capable of honor, although mostly because he wanted to impress Belle. In addition, in the same issue, he also attempted to fight the bear head on when it was prematurely awoken by the Bimbettes (in a plan to stop Gaston from marrying Belle), although he got shoved out effortlessly.
Although Gaston was fully aware of his popularity with the women in the village, his actual interactions with the village females besides Belle varied between sources. In the film and comics, he largely ignored all of the females in favor of Belle, even specifically refusing all of the girls who sought to marry him as soon as he was informed by LeFou that Belle was among the people at a wife auction and then reacting with anger that "Belle" was actually one of the triplets, Laurette, in disguise in the case of the third issue of the Marvel Comics. It seems he only wants Belle, despite the fact every other girl loves him. In the musical, he was implied to have had "rendezvouses" with several of the women (specifically the Silly Girls), and has insinuated his intention of continuing them after he married Belle, again showing that he views marriage as a minor matter and he does not care about loyalty and commitment to one wife only.
Story Threads show that in the original screenplay, Gaston would have tried to use his rapier to stab the Beast, only to be punched over the garden wall. His fate after that was ambiguous.
In one of the earliest scripts, Gaston's death would have been different, as the battle against Beast would have taken place in the forest. In this early version of the script Gaston would wound the Beast and nearly kill him with his blunderbuss, when Belle strikes him from behind with a rock. This would have prompted him to fall off a cliff and breaking one of his legs. Upon trying to stand up, he notices that the wolves who attacked Maurice and Belle earlier are looking at him, and maul him. This idea was scraped because the writers thought that it was too gruesome and horrible (even for someone like Gaston), although this idea was later used in The Lion King, more specifically in the sequence of Scar's death at the hands (or rather, jaws) of the hyenas.
Ironically, the above mentioned scene of Scar's death (as the final version of the ending) was chosen for the exact same reason why Gaston's original death was cut: The original ending was deemed to be too graphic and scary for a Disney film.
In addition, the final version of Gaston's death also had some alterations: Moments prior to his plunge from the castle to his unseen death, Gaston was supposed to stab the Beast in the back, and later in the leg, but the second injury was cut from the final script to edit violence; it was also originally intended for Gaston to commit suicide after stabbing the Beast in the back and laugh madly as he fell from the tower, believing that if he could not win Belle, nobody else would (which might explain why Gaston chose such a dangerous position to stab the Beast from behind, despite knowing that he would never win Belle's heart). However, this was edited out due to the dark nature of the scene.