“We all go a little mad sometimes.”
Psycho, Hitchcock’s 1960 horror film follows Marion, a woman who decides to steal $40,000 thinking it will help her marry the man she loves. Driving in a torrential downpour, she stops at a motel and meets Norman Bates. She learns his mother lives in the main house with him, and notes the strange relationship they appear to have through overhearing their bickering. After deciding to return the money, she takes a shower and is stabbed to death. This excursion of hers was fueled by wanting to be with Sam, and it led to her death.
When Norman Bates walks into cabin 1 and finds Marion lying dead on the ground, he is shocked, but not nearly as shocked as I thought he should have been. After a moment he leaves and reenters calmly with cleanup supplies. My immediate thought was that he has had to do cleanups like this before. However, it is revealed at the end that he is both cleanup crew and murderer.
I thought the reveal of Lila finding the corpse of Mrs. Bates and then having Norman walk in dressed as his mother and carrying a knife was a startling moment.
After being locked up by the police, a psychologist determines that he was close with his mother, she eventually became romantically involved with a man, and Norman killed them both. As a result of this, he took on the role of his mother partially. When he found himself sexually attracted to Marion, the “mother” side of him took over and killed her. It is almost as if there is an imagined reverse Oedipus complex going on within Norman Bates.
Even before this reveal, he was portrayed as weak. His mother seemed to have a good deal of control over him from what we overhear of their “conversations.” According to the typical coding of feminine and masculine, he fits the feminine stereotypes of dependent, passive, sensitive, quiet, weak, and nurturing. He gets scolded by his “mother,” and does not argue back, and when he returns to Marion with sandwiches for dinner, his metaphorical tail is tucked comfortably between his legs.
Hendershot, Cyndy. “The Cold War Horror Film: Taboo and Transgression in the Bad Seed, the Fly, and Psycho.” Journal of Popular Film & Television, vol. 29, no. 1, Spring2001, p. 20.
Psycho. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Perf. Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. 1960. DVD.