2. GASTON’S SONG
Film: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.
LINK TO THE SONG
(Incidentally check out THE FEMALE VERSION of this song, which I hold in equally high esteem).
Obviously part of the reason why I’m placing this song so high up is that it describes a narcissist, and I am myself a narcissist, so inevitably our interests communicate. Other than personal bias, though, there are a number of reasons why this song made it to second. As all the other songs on this list, it is funny, catchy and charming, effectively shifting from solo vocalists to chorus. Obviously the meat of the message is one of split personalities – Gaston and that little scrawny guy who tries to cheer him up are two aspects of the same self, representing how we secretly see ourselves and how we secretly fear we are (the Loser’s servile attitude, ostensibly so selfless, is in fact an apology for his shortcomings). The song is an exploration of the interdependence of these two poles, each requiring the validation they reciprocally offer to the other. It doubles up to yield a social reading as well, with Gaston and the Loser representing two power poles (alpha and omega), and the dichotomy internal to the human psyche carrying over to its wider social structures: Father and son, leader and follower, captain and sailor, winner and loser, star and outcast, and so on.
That being said, the song would not be so exceptional if Gaston weren’t so profoundly endearing. What I like about this guy is his eternal jubilation, his indestructible joie de vivre for being, truly and totally, his own glorious self. The song is meant to be cautionary – there is a Gaston in all of us. But this is something which I find exhilarating as much as it is worrying. It means that in all of us there is an instinct towards an innate, profound joy of living, one which I wouldn’t call immature as much as primordial, a circular ‘Hurrah’ which precedes the symbolic and starts from the self to go back to the self. It is insufficient from a social point of view, yes – but, throughout the (often painful) process of our social maturation, it is also revitalising and protective. Proof of this is the emotive progression of the song. Gaston starts out ‘looking so low in the dumps,’ depressed after having been rejected by the object of his love (a situation we’ve all been through, I may add). Yet as they start singing for him and reminding him of his identity, his bad mood reluctantly, gradually dissolves before his inexhaustible exuberance. He is initially recalcitrant, but slowly he is drawn into their chorus, throwing out casual sentences like ‘As a specimen, yes, I’m intimidating’ or ‘As you see I’ve got biceps to spare.’ In the end he completely surrenders to his irresistible narcissism and therefore metaphorically dives into his infinite joy of living by diving into a brawl (the one where ‘nobody bites like Gaston’).
Towards the end of the song, Gaston grabs the Loser and starts dancing with him in a duet which, of course, affirms the interdependence of the two poles, but which is also a really funny cameo. Gaston is so unashamed. Not only is he so inherently positive that even the world’s toughest rejections cannot keep him down, he celebrates this positivity with no worry for any public consequence – in the funniest, most delightful and even most ridiculous of choreographies. How can you not love a guy like this?
On Philando Castile
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