Bryant Sculos, a professor at Florida International University, argues that the Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” films are riddled with “toxic masculine capitalism.”
Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” films have “plenty of aspects, ” Sculos argues in a rambling, incoherent article for the academic journal, Class, Race, and Corporate Power. According to Sculos, the films highlight “problems with capitalism (e.g., bourgeois [and in this case anachronistic] identity politics and a cathartic personalistic conclusion with no systemic change, just to name two).”
Sculos teaches in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Florida International University. He was recently a postdoctoral fellow at the Amherst Program in Critical Theory at Amherst College. Sculos makes very loose ties between “corporate capitalism” and the “Beauty and the Beast” films. In a passage that barely mentions the films, Sculos seemingly attempts to link all social ills to capitalism. He even manages to squeeze in a jab at President Trump:
We are taught by our society that to be a man is to embrace competition. To be a man is to never be weak or naïve. To be a man is to be in control. To be a man is to be violent (whether virtual or real), especially when it isn’t really necessary. To be a man is to never have to ask for permission. To be a man is to never have to say, “No, I can’t really afford that.” Absent the kind of irrational wealth that makes the last position actually tenable, guns, cruelty, misogyny, bullying, and all kinds of social sadism that don’t require great wealth take over—and even with wealth, they often take over in some form. This is the toxicity of contemporary masculinity.
Toxic masculinity is not some alt-Right aberration, though its most extreme manifestations have fueled the alt-Right’s, and de facto Grand Wizard Donald Trump’s, rise. Toxic masculinity merely reflects the toxicity of masculinity in general. And while not all of these above mentioned aspects of the discourses and practices of masculinity hold in all or most cases, most hold in many cases. The more we fuel a society that demands a capitalistic mentality that privileges the commodification of life and life-sustaining goods and services, masculinity will continue to be a toxic manifestation of the same. Toxic masculinity is toxic because of its causes and effects; that is, its overall social context. It is a social virus, and it is highly contagious. In neoliberal identity politics and corporate feminism, we see that even women and non-gender conforming people are infected by its causes and effects. Neoliberal capitalism is perhaps the ideal system for a gender-neutral toxic masculinity.
Sculos saves most of his condemnation for the story’s villain, Gaston, who serves as the archetypal example of “toxic masculinity.” Sculos argues that Gaston is a mix between embattled ex-pharmaceutical industry executive Martin Shkreli and President Trump. He refers to Gaston as having a “necrophilic existence.”
“In the original animated film, we see a bit of the role that the villagers play in glorifying Gaston’s grotesque and necrophilic existence,” Sculos wrote, “but this socially-cultivated necro-narcissism and megalomania has more prominence in the recent version.” The only definition for the word “necrophilic” that could be found refers back to “necrophilia,” or the sexual attraction to corpses.
Sculos finishes his tortured article with an analysis of the Beast. He suggests that the Beast’s transformation back into a human represents social action. “From the beasts created and cultivated by racist, patriarchal capitalism to humane, literate, sensitive, community-defending, cooperative, loving, self-sacrificing people,” he finishes. “We need “men” to become human, perhaps not again but for the first time in history on a mass scale. It is not masculinity that needs to purged of its toxicity, but rather it is humanity that needs to be purged of the toxicity of corporate-barbaric masculinity.”