If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you know that Elisabeth was home sick a few weeks ago. During her quarantine we watched Frozen approximately 1,359 times. Eventually I convinced her to try a new film – one of my childhood favorites – Beauty and the Beast.
A few hours after the viewing Elisabeth announced, “I think Hans is badder than Gaston.”
“No way!” I immediately replied. “Gaston is way badder.”
Then I paused. Was Gaston truly “badder” than Hans? With Gaston’s violent attack on the heartbroken Beast still fresh on my mind, he had seemed the obvious answer. Perhaps too obvious. I had to probe further.
“Why do you think Hans is badder than Gaston?” I asked Elisabeth, opening up a deeply philosophical discussion on the nature of evil with my four-year-old.
“BECAUSE THE DUNGEONS!”
Ah, yes. The dungeons. That explained everything.
Yet, the question still nagged me. Who is the viler of villains? Why did I automatically assume Gaston was worse? Clearly, I needed to dig into this.
At the beginning of Beauty and the Beast, Gaston is established as the antagonist. He’s a narcissistic brute; anyone who brags about his chest hair is a total bro, amiright? The arrogant clown assumes he will easily woo the bookwormish but beautiful Belle, whom he only wants because she’s the prettiest girl in town. He doesn’t even respect her! What a D-bag. So we get it. Gaston is a sleazy scumbag. Sleazy, but not evil.
Meanwhile Hans enters Frozen as the clumsily charming Prince of the Southern Isles. Anna falls for him right away. He’s handsome, kind, funny… What’s not to like? (Also, she hasn’t had any other human contact besides the castle staff for most of her life, so it kind of makes sense she would fall for the first guy she meets.) That he proposed within hours of meeting Anna is kind of a red flag, but Hans just gets her, you know?
Back to Gaston. Rejected by Belle, he plots to blackmail her into marrying him by imprisoning her quirky (but not crazy) father in an insane asylum. Here we start to see Gaston evolving from Buffoon to Bad Dude. Soon he realizes that Belle has feelings for the beast and his frail ego just can’t handle it. In a jealousy-induced rage, he LOCKS BELLE AND HER FATHER IN A CELLAR, USES FEAR MONGERING TO RILE UP AN ANGRY MOB, AND CHARGES THE BEAST’S CASTLE TO KILL HIM. What did the Beast ever do to him? Steal his woman? Not a good reason to turn into a murderous thug.
Now back to Hans. Hans continues through Frozen as the noble prince, seeking to help his beloved Anna help the misunderstood Elsa restore summer to Arendelle. Of course, it’s really an evil plot to take over the kingdom. As the youngest of thirteen brothers, marrying Anna is his only chance at power. (Side note: This would be way more realistic if he were the sixth or seventh brother, because everyone knows it’s the middle children with these kinds of issues.)
So, yeah. Hans was pretty evil the entire time. Gaston only turned evil toward the end of the movie. Does length of time as villain equal worse villain? I’m not so sure. Hans was a mastermind of deceit throughout his film, but it’s unclear if he would have turned to murder had his original plan had been executed properly. Gaston, however, set out to kill an innocent creature – even after that innocent creature spared his life.
Let’s check out their malicious motives: Sex and Power. Gaston wanted a hot baby mama and goes dark when he doesn’t get what he wants. (Note to Gaston – the girl who spends all her time in the library is probably not your best bet for trophy wife.) Hans wanted to reign over an entire kingdom. Which is worse? Er… Probably depends on who is reading, so I’ll leave that one up to you.
I’d say at this point, it’s a draw. Really, it comes down to a numbers game. As in, number of attempted murders:
Gaston: 1 – One Beast
Hans: 2 – TWO ORPHANED SISTERS.
Yeah. Hans is way worse. No contest.
This was apparently way more obvious to my four-year-old than to me. When I revisited the question of who was “badder” and why, Elisabeth stuck with her original answer of Hans. “Because he was trying to kill both of them. Anna and Elsa.”
“What about Gaston?” I asked.
“He was just trying to kill the beast.” Duh, Mom!
Seriously. Hans is so obviously the more evil of the two. How had I missed that? Had I been swayed by Hans’ wit, charm, and love of sandwiches? Did his appearance of chivalrous nobility, however false, obscure his deeply rooted malevolence? Did the fact that Hans merely got punched in the nose and sent back to his brothers as punishment for his transgressions, while Gaston plummeted to his death, signal to me that Gaston was worse? (Yes.)
Now, how Hans stacks up to other Disney villains remains undetermined. If we’re to bring lady villains into the mix, my gut says Ursula might take the cake – manipulation, deception, and, you know, slavery. But that’s a blog for another day.