Sign in to follow this  
TopBilled

Norman Bates' subtext

62 posts in this topic

Does the subtext in PSYCHO suggest that Norman Bates is gay...?

 

norman-bates-4.gif

 

We know he has a mother fixation. But what does that mean in terms of his sexuality?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I never felt that Norman Bates could be gay. Stereotypically speaking, he was a mama's boy, but not all boys who love their mother are gay. 

 

I just felt bad for Norman because his mother, who abused him verbally enough to create a dependence, was so much in his head that he couldn't have a sexual thought without shaming himself. And, his victims were women. 

 

What do you see TopBilled, if you don't mind me asking?

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I never felt that Norman Bates could be gay. Stereotypically speaking, he was a mama's boy, but not all boys who love their mother are gay. 

 

I just felt bad for Norman because his mother, who abused him verbally enough to create a dependence, was so much in his head that he couldn't have a sexual thought without shaming himself. And, his victims were women. 

 

What do you see TopBilled, if you don't mind me asking?

Well, Norman definitely has conflicted views (inner torments) about sex. He seems quickly taken with Marion Crane (and perhaps others who had previously stopped off at the motel). But I am not sure if he is enamored of Marion, or if he is using her to defy his mother, and then the other side of his personality destroys Marion to keep him from having a relationship with a woman. 

 

The Van Sant remake has Norman (Vince Vaughn) gratifying himself watching Marion through a hole in the wall. But how do we know that he didn't do the same thing looking at men through the wall?  

 

Then there is the whole subject of Norman's cross-dressing. Does a straight male ritualistically dress up as a woman? I think not. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

Then there is the whole subject of Norman's cross-dressing. Does a straight male ritualistically dress up as a woman? I think not. 

 I don't know, Ann Coulter definitely does. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As to the serious response to your question, I would say that given the confines the film gives us, I think that Norman is acting out the voice in his head, not wishing he was female. Dating the 60s, I am sure given the dominant thought on homosexuality and transsexuality, he seems to be a strong indicator for what society fears and kind of still does- gender fluidity, and seeing Psycho is a horror drama, Hitchcock amplifies the fear as to why Norman Bates is someone we should fear. 

 

But then again, Hitchcock shames all sexual expression in some way. Mostly because he was traumatized as a child. 

Edited by hepclassic
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As to the serious response to your question, I would say that given the confines the film gives us, I think that Norman is acting out the voice in his head, not wishing he was female. Dating the 60s, I am sure given the dominant thought on homosexuality and transsexuality, he seems to be a strong indicator for what society fears and kind of still does- gender fluidity, and seeing Psycho is a horror drama, Hitchcock amplifies the fear as to why Norman Bates is someone we should fear. 

 

But then again, Hitchcock shames all sexual expression in some way. Mostly because he was traumatized as a child. 

Excellent post. I agree with it for the most part. I think the casting is important here, too. Perkins was actively bisexual and I am sure Hitchcock must have known that and it factored into Perkins getting the part. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Excellent post. I agree with it for the most part. I think the casting is important here, too. Perkins was actively bisexual and I am sure Hitchcock must have known that and it factored into Perkins getting the part. 

I don't know. I don't think Perkins' orientation had anything to do with his getting the part. Perkins was already gaining traction as a starring actor at that point in Hollywood, and you couldn't be out then. Also, I don't recall the rumor mill relating to his orientation at all. 

 

Hitchcock just needed an actor, with a young face. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know. I don't think Perkins' orientation had anything to do with his getting the part. Perkins was already gaining traction as a starring actor at that point in Hollywood, and you couldn't be out then. Also, I don't recall the rumor mill relating to his orientation at all. 

 

Hitchcock just needed an actor, with a young face. 

What I meant is that if Tony Perkins gave off a slightly sexually ambiguous vibe, Hitchcock would have noticed it and realized he could use it to effect. Tony might have been tortured by his own real-life sexuality and that could be exploited for Norman's self-torment. It doesn't mean Norman was gay. But Hitchcock liked to work in the gray areas with characters and someone like Tony Perkins would have come to the role with a lot of his own demons.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What I meant is that if Tony Perkins gave off a slightly sexually ambiguous vibe, Hitchcock would have noticed it and realized he could use it to effect. Tony might have been tortured by his own real-life sexuality and that could be exploited for Norman's self-torment. It doesn't mean Norman was gay. But Hitchcock liked to work in the gray areas with characters and someone like Tony Perkins would have come to the role with a lot of his own demons.

Speculation aside, we can only know what is in the film and what has been written in the making of the film, and of the players themselves. Given Hollywood's policies reflecting the Production Code, which at the time of Psycho, was on its way out, it would have been scandal. We don't know Hitch's views on homosexuality or bisexualilty or even transsexuality, we only know what is written and verified. 

 

Could someone see Psycho and interpret it freely to suggest views on sexual orientation? Sure. People do it with the Bible all the time. But, looking at historical context of the time the movie was made, and the people who made it in their times, all we have is that knowledge, and speculation isn't fact. I hate coming off as a stickler about this, but facts are all we have. 

 

Maybe we would have to read Tony Perkins' memoirs or Hitch's and see what they thought on the matter to go to the direct source. Regarding the film, all we have is a good one that leaves room for constant analysis and reinterpretation. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What I meant is that if Tony Perkins gave off a slightly sexually ambiguous vibe, Hitchcock would have noticed it and realized he could use it to effect. Tony might have been tortured by his own real-life sexuality and that could be exploited for Norman's self-torment. It doesn't mean Norman was gay. But Hitchcock liked to work in the gray areas with characters and someone like Tony Perkins would have come to the role with a lot of his own demons.

 

Maybe another way to get at what your saying is:   That since Perkins was gay and given the times,  he had to hide his sexuality, just like Norman had to hide parts of his persona,  and that this makes Perkins a better choice to cast in the film over other actors. 

 

Given the amount of prejudice at the time one wouldn't need to be tortured by their own sexuality to be paranoid (e.g. worried that exposure would impacts one ability to earn money).      A key part of Norman's persona was paranoid.    (note that I'm NOT saying Perkins or gay men in general were paranoid to any degree close to Norman). 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Speculation aside, we can only know what is in the film and what has been written in the making of the film, and of the players themselves. Given Hollywood's policies reflecting the Production Code, which at the time of Psycho, was on its way out, it would have been scandal. We don't know Hitch's views on homosexuality or bisexualilty or even transsexuality, we only know what is written and verified. 

 

Could someone see Psycho and interpret it freely to suggest views on sexual orientation? Sure. People do it with the Bible all the time. But, looking at historical context of the time the movie was made, and the people who made it in their times, all we have is that knowledge, and speculation isn't fact. I hate coming off as a stickler about this, but facts are all we have. 

 

Maybe we would have to read Tony Perkins' memoirs or Hitch's and see what they thought on the matter to go to the direct source. Regarding the film, all we have is a good one that leaves room for constant analysis and reinterpretation. 

I believe the original story is inspired by the life of serial killer Ed Gein. Not sure what Gein's orientation was, if anything was documented about it. But Gein's crimes were the starting point for Stefano and Hitchcock. From there, they built their own story and Norman grew into what he was as a character in their carefully constructed narrative.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just looked up Ed Gein, and nothing points to his orientation. But, again, we don't want to consciously fall into stereotype regarding GLBT individuals and violence. 

 

tumblr_mpvxcysB711rjxng1o1_500.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just looked up Ed Gein, and nothing points to his orientation. But, again, we don't want to consciously fall into stereotype regarding GLBT individuals and violence. 

 

 

Honestly, hep, I think it's a little too late for that re: Norman. The minute Stefano decided to put him in his mother's clothing, they embraced the stereotype(s). They could have just as easily played that scene with shadows and Marion's attacker obscured by the steam from the shower. But they chose to show us the attacker in woman's clothing. We did not even have to know the gender of the attacker if it was meant to be a mystery. And we still could have gotten the idea Norman was possessed by his mother with her voice speaking to him in his mind. They did not have to make him a cross-dresser. But they did.

 

Having read some more about the background of this story, I doubt Ed Gein was homosexual. But in PSYCHO, we have Stefano and Hitch pulling out all the stops and tossing in sexual identity issues, presumably to make Norman more complicated and twisted.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Honestly, hep, I think it's a little too late for that re: Norman. The minute Stefano decided to put him in his mother's clothing, they embraced the stereotype(s). They could have just as easily played that scene with shadows and Marion's attacker obscured by the steam from the shower. But they chose to show us the attacker in woman's clothing. We did not even have to know the gender of the attacker if it was meant to be a mystery. And we still could have gotten the idea Norman was possessed by his mother with her voice speaking to him in his mind. They did not have to make him a cross-dresser. But they did.

 

Having read some more about the background of this story, I doubt Ed Gein was homosexual. But in PSYCHO, we have Stefano and Hitch pulling out all the stops and tossing in sexual identity issues, presumably to make Norman more complicated and twisted.

 

At the end of the movie the psychiatrist states that Norman isn't a transvestite;  a man that wishes to dress and act as a women.    Instead he explains that Norman had a split personality and the other half of that personality was his mother.   This mother just happens to be an older women.     Therefore Norman didn't have sexual issues.    e.g.  if the other half of his personality was his father,  Norman would have dressed up as an older man.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

At the end of the movie the psychiatrist states that Norman isn't a transvestite;  a man that wishes to dress and act as a women.    Instead he explains that Norman had a split personality and the other half of that personality was his mother.   This mother just happens to be an older women.     Therefore Norman didn't have sexual issues.    e.g.  if the other half of his personality was his father,  Norman would have dressed up as an older man.

Um, I don't know. Personally I have always found that scene a bit suspect, and I doubt Hitch wanted it that way. I think they had to write that on the end of the story to appease the censors and the studio bosses. Like, he kills people, and he cross dresses and he is obviously psychotic (hence the title) but he's not a transvestite. Like, for real??

 

But if half of him is his mother, then his dressing as a boy or a young man when he is not killing still makes him a cross dresser on some level, because we have the woman acting and dressing like her son the boy. And also we know it was the woman side of him (Mother Bates) who supposedly killed Marion, and why is she looking at naked women in showers-- doesn't that make her a bit sexually perverse? I mean, they cannot have it both ways. And I feel that tacked on ending is their silly escape clause, and I don't buy it. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Honestly, hep, I think it's a little too late for that re: Norman. The minute Stefano decided to put him in his mother's clothing, they embraced the stereotype(s). They could have just as easily played that scene with shadows and Marion's attacker obscured by the steam from the shower. But they chose to show us the attacker in woman's clothing. We did not even have to know the gender of the attacker if it was meant to be a mystery. And we still could have gotten the idea Norman was possessed by his mother with her voice speaking to him in his mind. They did not have to make him a cross-dresser. But they did.

 

Having read some more about the background of this story, I doubt Ed Gein was homosexual. But in PSYCHO, we have Stefano and Hitch pulling out all the stops and tossing in sexual identity issues, presumably to make Norman more complicated and twisted.

So, what are we really discussing here? Hitch made him stereotypically gay, therefore made him someone to fear, cue the horror! (?)

 

Also, we are looking at Norman Bates through our modern eyes. If we were to pull up a film analysis from 1960 or a few years after, what would we find? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Um, I don't know. Personally I have always found that scene a bit suspect, and I doubt Hitch wanted it that way. I think they had to write that on the end of the story to appease the censors and the studio bosses. Like, he kills people, and he cross dresses and he is obviously psychotic (hence the title) but he's not a transvestite. Like, for real??

 

But if half of him is his mother, then his dressing as a boy or a young man when he is not killing still makes him a cross dresser on some level, because we have the woman acting and dressing like her son the boy. And also we know it was the woman side of him (Mother Bates) who supposedly killed Marion, and why is she looking at naked women in showers-- doesn't that make her a bit sexually perverse? I mean, they cannot have it both ways. And I feel that tacked on ending is their silly escape clause, and I don't buy it. 

Also, regarding the context of the film and the context of the time, "transvestite" wasn't a commonly used word back then, at least to my knowledge. If Norman is viewing women in showers looking through the eyes of his mother, it is to shame other people's sexuality and shame her son, who has a split personality brought on by trauma, for recognizing it. She "takes" over and commits murder. 

 

In regards to your sexually perverse question, is that in relation to character or general? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, what are we really discussing here? Hitch made him stereotypically gay, therefore made him someone to fear, cue the horror! (?)

 

Also, we are looking at Norman Bates through our modern eyes. If we were to pull up a film analysis from 1960 or a few years after, what would we find? 

Well, I do think Hitch had his own hang-ups about homosexuals. It looks like Robert Bloch, who wrote the book that was published shortly before the movie came out, originated the idea of the character cross-dressing. So it was not actually Hitch's idea, or Joe Stefano's (the screenwriter).

 

I met Stefano once-- he was giving a writing seminar at Chapman College in the city of Orange, California. A friend of mine was a struggling screenwriter and I attended with her. I wasn't exactly a horror film fan back then, and I wasn't very educated at the time about Hitchcock's films. But if I had it to do all over again, I would have asked Stefano much more specific questions about PSYCHO and how he wrote Norman. I do remember, based on some of Stefano's general comments to the audience at large, that he said Hitch would give him a basic thumbnail sketch of certain sequences then he'd go off and write it and either Hitch would approve it or have him rewrite it. But reading the synopsis of the book (see wiki link below), it looks like most of the sequences were lifted directly from Bloch's original material:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psycho_(novel)

 

As for film analysis of the time, I think we'd probably find generic reviews-- like those that appeared in Variety or the New York Times. I doubt there was much serious analysis of films in 1960, at least by American writers. The European film scholars, like Truffaut, were the first to really explore the (hidden) meanings in these texts. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also, regarding the context of the film and the context of the time, "transvestite" wasn't a commonly used word back then, at least to my knowledge. If Norman is viewing women in showers looking through the eyes of his mother, it is to shame other people's sexuality and shame her son, who has a split personality brought on by trauma, for recognizing it. She "takes" over and commits murder. 

 

In regards to your sexually perverse question, is that in relation to character or general? 

I think you're interpreting Norman differently than I am. You see him being Norman, then the mother part of him taking over.

 

I see it the reverse way. I see him as a version of his mother, doing these things and blocking him from being his own man. 

 

So when Mother Bates goes into the bathroom and pulls the shower curtain back that is not the real Norman at all. At least that is how I look at it. Then the question must be asked, why is a deranged mother stalking naked women..? On some level she must be quite perverse. (My comment is about the character of Mother Bates-- but generally speaking, the filmmakers may be using "her" to make a comment about deviant sexual types.)

 

Incidentally, there is a film about the real Ed Gein, made in 2000:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Light_of_the_Moon

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Um, I don't know. Personally I have always found that scene a bit suspect, and I doubt Hitch wanted it that way. I think they had to write that on the end of the story to appease the censors and the studio bosses. Like, he kills people, and he cross dresses and he is obviously psychotic (hence the title) but he's not a transvestite. Like, for real??

 

But if half of him is his mother, then his dressing as a boy or a young man when he is not killing still makes him a cross dresser on some level, because we have the woman acting and dressing like her son the boy. And also we know it was the woman side of him (Mother Bates) who supposedly killed Marion, and why is she looking at naked women in showers-- doesn't that make her a bit sexually perverse? I mean, they cannot have it both ways. And I feel that tacked on ending is their silly escape clause, and I don't buy it. 

 

To me Norman had the same illness (condition) as Eve in the Three Faces of Eve.   Eve would also change her appearance to fit each personality.    The only difference with Norman was that one of his personalities was of the opposite gender.     I don't find anything unreal about that.  

 

It is the Norman's side of that personality that is looking at naked women in showers NOT his mom.   When the Mom side finds out she kills the women because the women tempted her son.   

 

It appears we have a very different understanding of this film. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To me Norman had the same illness (condition) as Eve in the Three Faces of Eve.   Eve would also change her appearance to fit each personality.    The only difference with Norman was that one of his personalities was of the opposite gender.     I don't find anything unreal about that.  

 

It is the Norman's side of that personality that is looking at naked women in showers NOT his mom.   When the Mom side finds out she kills the women because the women tempted her son.   

 

It appears we have a very different understanding of this film. 

We're allowed to have a very different understanding of the film. I think it is too convenient to say that Norman enters the shower, then the mother takes over. I don't agree with that at all, because he was already dressed as his mother when he sauntered out of the house, down the hill and into Marion's room and bathroom. He was already in mother mode before he got there. 

 

Also, I still feel Norman exists in all his forms because of Mother Bates-- he is a personality of Mother's, just as much as Mother is a personality of his. There is really no way to tell where one begins and where one ends in this character. So her sexuality is his, and his sexuality is hers.

 

This is what I think is actually going on with Bruce & Caitlyn Jenner. It's a split personality where one is trying to overtake the other...but ultimately it's a merging of the two.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We're allowed to have a very different understanding of the film. I think it is too convenient to say that Norman enters the shower, then the mother takes over. I don't agree with that at all, because he was already dressed as his mother when he sauntered out of the house, down the hill and into Marion's room and bathroom. He was already in mother mode before he got there. 

 

Also, I still feel Norman exists in all his forms because of Mother Bates-- he is a personality of Mother's, just as much as Mother is a personality of his. There is really no way to tell where one begins and where one ends in this character. So her sexuality is his, and his sexuality is hers.

 

This is what I think is actually going on with Bruce & Caitlyn Jenner. It's a split personality where one is trying to overtake the other...but ultimately it's a merging of the two.

 

I didn't mean to imply that Norman entered the shower.   I meant to say that it was Norman that was spying on the women using the peep hole and that turned him on.   This upset the Mother side of him.   Mother took over left the house and killed the girl.

 

Anyhow, you're right we can each have our own interpretation.  

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I didn't mean to imply that Norman entered the shower.   I meant to say that it was Norman that was spying on the women using the peep hole and that turned him on.   This upset the Mother side of him.   Mother took over left the house and killed the girl.

 

Anyhow, you're right we can each have our own interpretation.  

Thanks for clarifying. But--

 

It could have been Mother Bates spying on women through the peep hole, to see what sort of threats might exist at the motel that would harm her boy Norman. In Van Sant's version, with Norman gratifying himself, this takes on an even sicker meaning. 

 

And how do we know that Mother isn't trying to suppress her own same sex desires by using Norman to kill it off...?

 

This is more than just a story about a young man living in some shadow of his mother. It's also a story about a woman living inside her own creation, causing him to destroy any potential threats to the power she exerts in this situation (Marion, Arbogast, Lila). 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We're allowed to have a very different understanding of the film. I think it is too convenient to say that Norman enters the shower, then the mother takes over. I don't agree with that at all, because he was already dressed as his mother when he sauntered out of the house, down the hill and into Marion's room and bathroom. He was already in mother mode before he got there. 

 

Also, I still feel Norman exists in all his forms because of Mother Bates-- he is a personality of Mother's, just as much as Mother is a personality of his. There is really no way to tell where one begins and where one ends in this character. So her sexuality is his, and his sexuality is hers.

 

This is what I think is actually going on with Bruce & Caitlyn Jenner. It's a split personality where one is trying to overtake the other...but ultimately it's a merging of the two.

 

The difference between Norman Bates and Caitlyn Jenner is that Caitlyn knows who she is, and Norman does not. He blacks out when his mother takes over his psyche and he has no idea what he does during and after he does it. 

 

Caitlyn does not have split personalities, she has always felt she was female and life got in the way of achieving her true physical form. 

 

Norman has split personalities. Caitlyn does not. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The difference between Norman Bates and Caitlyn Jenner is that Caitlyn knows who she is, and Norman does not. He blacks out when his mother takes over his psyche and he has no idea what he does during and after he does it. 

 

Caitlyn does not have split personalities, she has always felt she was female and life got in the way of achieving her true physical form. 

 

Norman has split personalities. Caitlyn does not. 

I do not agree with that. I think Caitlyn/Bruce does have a split personality. The difference here is that Caitlyn's acts are self-destructive against Bruce. Mother/Norman's acts are outwardly destructive against women who signify a potential threat. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us