The Cultural Impact of “Psycho”


By: Karen Schmidt

Norman Bates.

Did that name just send a chill down your spine?

Robert Bloch sure knew what he was doing when he penned his 1959 novel Psycho, and Alfred Hitchcock furthered Norman’s creepiness by casting the brilliant Anthony Perkins in his 1960 film adaptation of the same name.

Bloch’s inspiration for Norman came from the true story of an American murderer Ed Gein. Gein was convicted of killing two women in his town, along with exhuming bodies from a graveyard and making clothes and items out of the corpse skin. Gein also had a very co-dependent relationship with his heavy-handed mother, just like Norman.

Bloch’s novel describes Bates as a portly, middle-aged balding man, but Hitchcock was on to something by giving us the tall, slim, youthful Perkins as Norman’s portrayer. And the Carlton Cuse hit series Bates Motel found another brilliant actor to portray Norman with Freddie Highmore and his uncanny Perkins-ness.

Most people are familiar with Hitchcock’s film and the creepy mother-son duo of Mama and Norman Bates. For anyone not familiar, I don’t want to give too much away. The book, film, and television series I have already referenced are wonderful works that capture viewers’ attention and take creepy to the extreme.

Hitchcock stayed pretty true to the book with his film. It was low-budget, black and white, and relied heavily on a character-driven story but it worked. Every ‘no’ that he encountered when making the film just made the ‘yes-es’ that much more fantastic. Psycho is said to be the first film in the slasher film genre.

Fifty-three years after the film’s release, the television series Bates Motel debuted on A&E to very favorable reviews. The creepy factor is multiplied drastically as Bates Motel has us spying on the Bateses to see just why you should find some other motel to spend the night.

Bates Motel opens with Norma and Norman Bates (yikes!) as they move to White Pine Bay, Oregon, to start a new life after the death of Norman’s father. Little did they know that White Pine Bay is a town run by drug lords and everyone is somehow involved. There is definitely something wrong with the Bateses when they are the most disturbed people in a town full of liars, cheaters, and killers.

Seasons one, two, and the first half of three give us a slow steady look at the dysfunctional, co-dependant relationship that Norman and Norma share and their spirals into madness. The second half of season three and forward put that crazy train on the fast track, as they struggle to free themselves of each other before that train derails.

Bates Motel is some of the most incredible television I have seen. It heightens your senses; you feel how disturbed they are, but you can’t turn away. And you don’t want to turn away. The penultimate episode of season four features an eerie rendition of the classic song “Mr. Sandman” that gave my goosebumps goosebumps. (Shudder.)

A&E recently aired the show’s series finale after five seasons on the air. Season five introduced Marion Crane, and I’m so happy that rather than the series ending where the movie begins, the showrunners decided to play it all out for the viewers. A welcomed gift from this haunted house/motel.

If you have never seen the show, binging is a must! Creepiness aside, the performances from stars Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore are not to be missed (not to mention the rest of the supporting cast).

If you were a loyal patron of Bates Motel, what did you think of the show’s ending? Hit up the comments and let us know!

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