What is the fascination with serial killers? Let’s be honest with ourselves. We put on a facade in public that serial killers are diabolical filth we do not wish to be fetishized. In actuality, if you are not directly involved in their schemes or one of their victims, you can’t help but hold a bit of intrigue for them. If you don’t believe me, then why is Showtime’s Dexter on its seventh season?
So if you are willing to admit that we are all a bit sick and demented, I’d like to present you with #27 on the GrizzlyBomb Countdown to Halloween – Norman Bates. You may see Norman as the crazy cross-dresser with mommy issues, but I see Norman as a fictional character inspired by real life American murderer and body snatcher Ed Gein. Though Edward Theodore Gein did not technically qualify as a serial killer, his dysfunctional upbringing and acquired taste for exhuming corpses certainly made him the maniacal model for Norman Bates (As well as Leatherface and Hannibal Lector). To make a long story short, a man marries a woman, they hate each other, the man dies, mother despises children. Meanwhile, the youngest son grows ridiculously dependent upon mother. When mother dies, son decides he needs a sex change and crafts a woman suit for himself out of corpses. Let’s call that the sparknotes of Ed Gein.
Enter Norman Bates. Norman, son of Norma, was raised much like Mr. Gein. Norman’s father died when he was young, and as expected, his mother taught him of all the indecency in the world. She pointed out that all women, excluding herself, are whores. Norman was fed these delusions until his adolescence when his mother took on a lover. Enraged with jealousy, he murdered both his mother and her lover. To ease the guilt, he took on her personality and became both Norman and Norma. Hence the incredible plot twist that Norman committed his murders dressed as his mother while also assuming her personality.
Norman Bates has had such an incredible influence that the character has spanned over countless decades among several different mediums. I personally will always associate the name Norman Bates with Anthony Perkins, but to consider in his original format, Norman was an older, fat, balding, momma’s boy in the 1959 Robert Bloch novel Pyscho. Alfred Hitchcock only made the changes to the character because he felt the audience would be more apathetic to the handsome, slender Anthony Perkins. The choice of Perkins played in nicely for the film sequels in which each plot revolves around Norman, his love interest, and “Mother” getting in the way. The audience would have been less convinced that women were falling for a committed psychopath unless he was at least tall and handsome. In 1992, a three-part comic book series was created which modeled the films, but used the image as described in the 1959 novel. This choice was made due to Perkins’ attempt to distance himself from the role.
It has now been well over 50 years, and we still hold an affection for Norman in current pop culture. There’s even an upcoming A&E show called Bates Motel that will serve as a prequel exploring the relationship between Norman and his mother. This current generation will hopefully be introduced to the fear that gripped older generations.
I cannot think of the last time I showered in a hotel without fearing my blood would be used to stain the porcelain. Not to discredit any medium over the other, but the 1960 film will always be my favorite interpretation of Norman. When I think of that film, that house, and the terrifying skeleton imposed image at the end, I can’t help but feel chills. Here’s to you Norman, you poor, demented bastard.
The Vince Vaughn remake was intentionally not mentioned because I hate it. How dare you make me bring it up!
Keep an eye out as another character on the Countdown will be revealed every night at 12:01 am for the rest of the month. You’ll also be able to find them HERE.