Prof bemoans 'toxic masculine capitalism' in Disney film

A professor at Florida International University recently argued that the Disney film Beauty and the Beast is rife with “toxic masculinity.”

Bryant Sculos, who teaches politics at Florida International University, argues in an academic journal article that Gaston and the Beast, the two male protagonists of the story, are emblematic of “toxic masculinity” in both the 1991 animated version of the film and the 2017 live-action remake, albeit in different ways.

“The beauty of the 1991 Beauty and the Beast is that it taught young boys that sometimes the sensitive, intellectual guy could ‘win’ the heart of the beautiful woman,” Sculos notes, later adding that “the portrayals of toxic masculinity in the original animated feature and the more recent live-action remake are quite similar—with one categorical exception: the role of others in the (re)production of that toxic masculinity.”

Whereas the animated film offers few insights into why the other residents of the Beast’s castle are being punished, he explains, the remake clarifies that “they were complicit in his creation,” showing that all of the characters were “responsible for the violent, close-minded toxic masculinity that nearly destroyed their small community.”

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Sculos goes on to argue that just as the villagers all bear some responsibility for the Beast, so do we “all bear responsibility for the evils of a system that produces such noteworthy villains,” describing Gaston as “Martin Shkreli Mixed with Donald Trump.”

Despite having previously insisted that Beauty and the Beast is not “secretly about capitalism,” he then asserts that both the 1991 film and the 2017 remake provide insights into “toxic masculine capitalism.”

“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,” he declares, calling masculinity a “social virus” that is “highly contagious.”

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Using Beauty and the Beast as a metaphor for present-day America, Sculos suggests that “transformational love” is needed to help men shed their masculinity, just as Belle’s love broke the Beast’s curse.

“We need ‘men’ to become human, perhaps not again but for the first time in history on a mass scale,” Sculos concludes. “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.”

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The article was published in the Labor and Social Justice issue of the journal Class, Race, and Corporate Power, alongside articles on union organizing and white supremacy.

This is the first article that Sculos has published on gender; the vast majority of his other articles are on the perils capitalism or the merits of Marx, according to his CV.

Campus Reform reached out to Sculos for an interview, but he declined, instead providing a statement giving his opinion of Campus Reform, which he insisted be printed in its entirety.

"Campus Reform is a retrograde website that traffics in white supremacy, the exploitation of working people, chauvinism, misogyny, and heterosexism—all of which combine to contribute to the reproduction of a society where men, and not few enough women, feel comfortable sexually assaulting and otherwise abusing people,” he said. “If there is a hell, there will be a special place in it for Campus Reform."

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen