One thing worth noting about the horror genre is that it produces images that resist quick mental erasure. From the statuesque model who turns into a decrepit, decaying old woman in the infamous shower scene of The Shining to the bloody womb hanging limply outside the skin of Nola Carveth in The Brood, horror does nothing if not supply us with grotesque images of often monstrous women. Psycho’s Norma Bates, then, is no exception. In Hitchcock’s original film, Psycho, we see Norma not as a mommy so much as a stereotypical mummy; all that is left of her is a skeletal, eyeless frame and some tousled hair pulled back in a bun. We hear her character, and therefore understand her character, only through Marion Crane’s ears as the delusional Norman voices her from afar in the antiquated Victorian house on the hill outside Bates Motel. But Norma is a famous mummy, and a famous mommy, to be sure, one who lingers in the mind of the viewer long after the theater lights go on, and one who has lingered in the cultural imagination now for sixty-one years and counting. Significantly, Norma Bates didn’t get to speak for herself until 2013, when the hit TV show Bates Motel rescued and re-invented her character through Vera Farmiga’s portrayal of her as Norman’s mildly cooky but vivacious and loving mom. As a woman who navigates an excruciating past, a corrupt, drug-infested city, and a psychotic son with surprising sangfroid, Norma Bates in Bates Motel is who I choose to feature this year for the annual Fiction’s Fearless Females blogathon.Continue reading “Norma Bates: Fiction’s Fearless Females”
W. Scott Poole quotes Judith Halberstam, who calls the monster a “meaning machine.” This observation seems to suggest that the monster is always overdetermined – that the monstrous body in a particular work can mean a variety of things in any given time and place. Poole agrees with Halberstam when he argues: “The subject of monsters contains too much meaning” and goes on to observe that “the very messiness of the monster makes it a perfect entry into understanding the messiness of American history” (xv). In Monster Theory, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen lays out the seven theses of the monster, and his first theses is that “the monster body is a cultural body” (4). Cohen also believes that we can read the monster, but the monster’s meaning always has a basis in the culture that surrounds it. While Poole asserts that monsters are indisputably real—created by material circumstances and producing material consequences – Calafell, who bases her readings heavily on Poole and Cohen, find the monster a useful metaphor for describing problematic identity relations in the United States; she seems to embrace both a metaphorical reading of the monster and the contention that monsters can be very real, at times.Continue reading “Navigating Norman: The Serial Killer Monster as Meaning Machine”
Anthony Perkins is Norman Bates. Point blank. There are no two ways about it. Except, of course, when he isn’t Norman Bates. And what an unusual experience it is to envision someone else fulfilling the role, especially since it’s been years since I’ve seen the Gus Van Sant remake. The beauty of the comprehensive exam is that I can select the books I put on my lists (based on a unifying theme), and I was really excited to add Robert Bloch’s Psycho. Of course, I’ve seen the original movie many-a times, but I’ve never read the text, and like any horror fan, I was immediately interested in how the novel would compare with the film. I decided, then, to do what I did with The Shining. In “Let’s Not Overlook Anything” I blogged about the Shining in small increments and spent a considerable amount of blog space discussing one or two scenes. I decided I would do the same with the text Psycho – blog a little bit about each section as I read it. So this is my “insanely long series,” my observations about Bloch’s Psycho. And my first observation is that Bloch’s Norman Bates is fascinating.Continue reading “An Insanely Long Series: Reading Psycho Bit by Bit”
Well, it’s official. I’ve written an uneven 73 posts on Just Dread-Full since the blog’s inception in late October of 2015. Now, before I continue, I had a different introduction written in this piece, but the ghost of Miss Jessel is apparently bitter about how I depicted her in my piece on The Innocents, because she’s crawled out of the movie and consumed my laptop. Really. Michael and I lost my laptop in the transition from his parents’ house to his house (one of us was carrying the bag). We, and his parents, have searched every conceivable place, and it’s simply disappeared. As such, I’m typing from his laptop, and I have to start this piece over again.
Tonight, after a dinner at the Public House, Michael and I headed to Erie’s Warner Theater on 8th street to watch Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho on the big screen while the Erie Chamber Orchestra sat under the screen, playing the score. The experience was phenomenal. Watching musicians play the opening score while credits splashed across the screen was so exhilarating I got chills. Of course, one pivotal musical moment happens during the infamous shower scene, but the music was similarly arresting when the last remains of Marian’s car sink under the swamp, and when “Mrs. Bates” turns around, and we see her “in the flesh.” (Or, if I may, in the lack of flesh). In fact, I never realized how beautiful Psycho’s score was until I saw it produced by a live orchestra. Continue reading “We All Go a Little Mad Sometimes: Examining Evil, Psychosis, and Human Error in Psycho and Other Films”