not in our stars, but in ourselves
Probably because Bates Motel has descended on TV screens, one of the lesser known movie channels (Retro, I think) has been playing Psycho (1960) a fair amount recently. I would sooner iron my own hands than watch the contemporary prequel (as I’ve mentioned), but I love the original more and more every time I see it. Last night, I even found myself tearing up a little bit. What’s happening to me? Getting soft in my old age, probably, but I think that part of the reason Psycho improves on repeat viewing is the pathetic tragedy of Norman Bates. On first viewing, he’s just a weirdo who turns out to be dangerously insane. But then, once you know what happens, you can focus on just what a sad little boy he really is.
I really don’t think we need a TV show to imagine for us what happened to Norman and his mad mother. The facts we have from the film are enough; we can all fill in whatever details we want:
The poor dear. It seems to me that, had things worked out differently, he’d have been a total sweetheart. Consider:
Well, the, uh, mattress is soft, and there’s hangers in the closet, and stationery with “Bates Motel” printed on it – in case you want to make your friends back home feel envious.
I don’t set a fancy table, but the kitchen’s awful homey.
Are you sure you wouldn’t like to stay just a little while longer? Just for talk?
Twelve cabins, twelve vacancies!
Marion Crane: Taxidermy. That is a strange hobby.
Norman Bates: A hobby should pass the time, not fill it.
Marion Crane: Do you go out with friends?
Norman Bates: A boy’s best friend is his mother.
He makes jokes! He’s self-deprecating, in a really sweet and lovable way! He just needs someone to give him a big hug, and have a sandwich with him, and not let him go into the house by himself (where he’ll just “argue” with “Mother”).
I’m not really up on my horror movie characters, but it seems to me – based on my extremely limited knowledge – that Norman is a rarity: a truly deranged murderer who remains sympathetic up to the end. Not just a killer with charisma, like Hans Landa or Hannibal Lecter; or a charming sadist who enjoys what he does, like Patrick Bateman; no, not poor Norman. He’s horrified by what he/Mother does. He struggles miserably against his desire for normal girls, and his lifetime of abuse (probably) at the hands of his crazy mother. He was, as he says, born into a trap – and he’s never budged an inch, for all his fighting and clawing.
Yeah, okay, he’s a murderer – but don’t you feel terrible for him? I feel worse for him than I do for any of his victims, even. They all show up in the wrong place at the wrong time; he’s been living in that wrong place all his sad little life. Poor baby.