Psycho: A Sexual Transgression

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Favorite Quotes:

"Norman embodies the fear of one who pushes the button blindly, bringing about random destruction of innocent victims." -Cindy Hendershot, "Taboo and Transgression in The Bad Seed, The Fly, and Psycho"

"Following is Gothic predecessors, it expresses the most serious of transgressions-murder, necrophilia, incest- highlighting the taboo that prohibits such activities" -Cindy Hendershot

"Hitchcock deliberately cast a pall of secrecy over the filming of Psycho." -Cindy Hendershot

This week has been crazy busy for me, so I decided to do some not mandatory reading to chill out and relax.  So I decided to pull out Hendershot's article for some light readings, not expected to be so enthralled by her findings.  As I have mentioned before, I have always loved Psycho so when I found out that I had the opportunity to study it... I was really excited.  Then, after reading this article, I realized how much I missed without really reading in between the lines.   Apparently, I passed over the entire premise of sexual tension and erotic psychosis.  I guess I was too pent up about Norman have a triply-split-personality!

The first time I read/watched Psycho, I never really paused to think about the time frame that it was written in. Reading this article really put things in perspective for me, as to how sexuality and erotica were viewed back in 50s.  Talk about how things have changed! I personally found it really interesting that Hitchcock hired a nude model for a stand-in for Marion. It was like he was taunting the culture: he was very secretive, didn't put a lot of emphasis on the film, but yet...he almost announces to the world-- HEY! NUDE MODEL IN THE MOVIE! I love how he managed to subtly drag people in...very clever.

-------->"I think Hitch Deliberately hired the model partly to plant the seed in people's
 minds that this picture had nudity.  He had started to manipulate the audiences
 before the film was even in a theater.  He teased the pros, the nonpros, the sophisticated, and the naive."  Janet Leigh

To go a little more in depth on the notion of sexual transgression and erotica, I wanted to talk a little about some of the finer points on the argument that I honestly never would have thought anything of, unless I read this piece.  Hendershot mentions each character's desire/sacrifice that they made/were in the process of making towards their infatuation/lover.  Now as I was reading and paying attention to the relationship between Sam and Marion, I did notice that Sam didn't seem to be as involved as Marion did... I mean he passionately kiss Lilia for god's sake! But something I didn't notice at first was the frustration that Marion was really feeling towards Same.  For instance, Hendershot writes, "Marion's love for Sam has caused her to sacrifice her virginity to him, and her frustration stems from the fact that he postpones marriage."  Now on that note, we have to remember the time frame that we are in.  In the 50s, even the thought of premarital sex was unquestionably wrong, and if a girl was doing it, it was as if they were wearing the scarlet letter. So Marion is really in a position here where she has given her heart to the man she loves...just it doesn't seem as if he is really all that grateful.
------> Another quick quote to further develop this point is that Hendershot even comments on Marion's need to be with same in a sexually perverse way. She brings to our attention the scene in which Marion is told that she needs a vacation from her job and in response she says "I'm going to spend this weekend in bed."  Hendershot claims that this erotic fantasy/need is put into play by her want for Sam, and even after she steals the money and gets to the hotel...she places it on the bed as well.  At first I thought this was pretty ironic, but the more I think about it, it truly does make sense.  I mean, the movie starts out with sex, proceeds to Norman peeping on Marion, and then leads to the murders based on his mother's anger with Norman's friends. Suddenly, the idea of sexual transgression doesn't seem so foreign to me.

THEN the part that I found most intriguing and awfully interesting was her views on Norman's mother.  I NEVER would have thought of something like this, so I thought it was a really cool read.  I viewed Mrs. Bates as a (no pun intended) psycho who was simply nuts and killed because she didn't want Norman being close to anyone but her.  That was my first impression.  Now, I might have a slightly reformed viewpoint on dear Mrs. Bates.  Here are the finer points of Hendershot's argument taken directly from the article:
  • "Norman attains his fusion with Mrs. Bates only after her death; Marion also hideously achieves her desired fusion with Same after death (29)."
  • "...Mrs. Bates emerges as a woman very much like Marion Crane, a woman who followed her erotic desire to the point of death itself.  The Bates's house suggests a woman enmeshed in the erotic.  The physical sign of Mrs. Bates apart form her corpse is the heavy indentation in her bed.  The sign she has left behind is the sign of her intense and transgressive desire for a married man (29)."
Now after reading this, it was like a light-bulb went on in my head.  I wondered why they would make the indentation so noticeable in the movie, and at first I kind of thought that they were just trying to really show the personality splits of Norman (showing how intense they were, and how far he was willing to go with them).  But now that I think back about Mrs. Bates and her boyfriend's death... it does make sense.  It's almost as if they left an unnoticeable stain on the bedroom with their passion for one another.  By Bloch creating a heavy indent in the bed, it shows us two sides to the persona of Norman Bates:  the jealous son and the raving madman. To him, everything involved with sex or erotica has lead to death, or bad naturally he would a darker viewpoint on it (even though he is technically unaware).Great article. I'm very tempted to watch the other movies mentioned now!

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