Norman Bates: The Neighbor We All Fear
When I was a kid, I loved to watch shows and movies that were just creepy enough to spook me, but not scary enough to completely put me off the horror genre. One of my favorite tv shows was Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Although the show was in black and white, I remember gripping my pillow in anticipation, wondering what would happen next to the ill-fated characters. It didn’t matter to me that it was pretend, that not a whole lot of gore was shown, I wanted to see with all of my heart what would happen next.
I always admired Alfred Hitchcock’s directorial style and the movie Psycho was one of my favorites.
For those of you not familiar with the name Norman Bates, he is the main character in the movie Psycho directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Alfred Hitchcock directed many old black and white films and later in color films that used the fear of the unknown to chill his audience members to their very bones. Other examples are The Birds and Vertigo.
However, what made Psycho so unique was that it presented us with a character so seemingly nice, so the boy next door, that we found it inconceivable that he could be capable of such heinous acts. Suddenly the trustworthy becomes the villain and innocence is a myth.
Here is a brief synopsis of Psycho. A woman decides to steal a large sum of money from a bank she works at. She runs away, planning to meet her lover once she feels that she has gotten away with the crime. She decides to hide out in an old secluded motel that is off the beaten path. She meets the manager of the hotel, Norman, and hears the voice of his mother. Before long, she is trapped in a bloody story where she becomes the victim and her loved ones search for her, trying to figure out what happened.
Just a note for all of those who are familiar with Norman Bates. The movie Psycho is actually based off of the novel by Robert Bloch of the same name. Strangely enough, only thirty-five miles away from where Bloch lived and only two years prior to the publication of Psycho, a real life man named Ed Gein was arrested by police for murdering women. Bloch was shocked to realize the similarities between his novel and this real life one, but the case only supported the theory of his book-that even your next door neighbor could be dangerous.
The cable network A&E currently has a TV show that is meant to be an origin story about Norman Bates. The show is titled Bates Motel and has been on the air for four seasons. (If you’d like to catch up, the seasons are available on Netflix to stream). The show explores the question that those of us who watched the original Psycho wondered. Was Norman Bates born without a conscience or did his emotionally abusive mother drive him to insanity? Watching Bates Motel, my theory is that maybe it was a combination of both. While Norman’s mother is certainly no saint, it is her smothering nature that pushes her son further and further down the brink.
The story of a sweet, charismatic man is nothing new. After all, we hear real life horror stories of seemingly harmless people who preyed on the innocent. It has become a time period where movies and tv resemble the world and vice versa.
Still, we have to ask ourselves, why are we so fascinated by them? What drives us to listen to these chilling stories? Are they warnings, like the old fashioned fairy and folk tales our parents and their parents used to read us? Are they a sign that humanity has failed?
What goes on in the mind of someone who is so seemingly nice, but seeks to obliterate everything in this world?
We could explore their minds, ask questions, record experiments, but would that really help us to understand? Or is a mind without a conscience beyond understanding?
I think that until we finally gain the answers we seek; we will continue to be fascinated by the macabre characters.
If you’re curious to see more about Norman Bates, I’ve included first a trailer of the black and white movie Psycho (again one of my favorite old movies to watch) and a trailer for the TV show Bates Motel.
Also, just for kicks, I’ve included a clip from Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Thanks fellow geeks and hope you enjoyed this disturbing little dip in the crazy pool!