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What Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Can Teach Us about the Dangers of Hookup Culture

If you want to know why hookup culture is bad for women, watch Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I’m serious. The film actually has a number of themes that are relevant to our current culture, but one of them — believe it or not — is the difference between love and lust, and how each motivation affects a relationship.

In the movie, Belle is offered two suitors — and two possible life paths — in the form of Gaston (the narcissistic village heartthrob) and the Beast (the cursed, misanthropic, and misunderstood prince).

Gaston is the hot guy you meet in a bar who takes you home for a night of hot sex but doesn’t call in the morning. He’s square-jawed, big-biceped, and hairy-chested. He’s got a deep, seductive voice, and a confident swagger. He’s nice to look at, but there’s nothing going on below the surface. If you’re looking for love, Gaston’s not your guy. There’s only one person he’s capable of loving, and that’s himself.

The pretty girls in the village are literally falling all over themselves to get into Gaston’s pants. “Be still my heart, I’m hardly breathing. He’s such a tall, dark, strong, and handsome brute!” they sing. But not Belle. She’s got Gaston pegged dead to rights, calling him “boorish” and “brainless,” which he is. And, because she sees right through him, she’s not attracted to him in the slightest. See, a guy like Gaston — who, in modern society, would be a total player — isn’t husband material.

Then there’s the Beast. The Beast, we’re told at the beginning of the movie, ran afoul of the wrong enchantress by being “spoiled, selfish, and unkind” so — poof — he’s a beast. Why a beast? Well, that’s kind of what Gaston is too, right? Someone ruled by his basest male urges — one of them being lust. But now, since the Beast is ugly on the outside, he can’t just go to bed with the girl. He’s got to win her love.

The difference between Gaston and the Beast, of course, is that Gaston’s going to be a brainless jerk whether you sleep with him or not. The Beast, though, is different. We know he’s different because, even though he acted cruelly to the enchantress, he’s a prince in a fairytale — and when you meet a prince in a fairytale you know there’s good in him somewhere. Why? Because symbolism. Trust me.

Let’s imagine, for a second, that Belle felt the way about Gaston that the silly village girls do. So maybe they have a one-night-stand, it fulfills them sexually in the moment, and then they move on. Gaston goes on being the same gorgeous narcissist, and Belle is no closer to finding someone she loves who loves her in return — which is what most women ultimately want.