There’s something very sad about the life of Norman Bates. He is a “Momma’s boy” by all means and yet, he is his own person, such a strong person that even the most powerful force in his life, his mother, cannot stir his resolve. That duality of a troubled mind is ever-present in Norman. He has two reactions when confronted about his over-dependence on his mother – either he breaks into tears or he breaks into a raging fury. And he’s scary in both because there’s no way of knowing what he will do next. I guess that’s when we are just as helpless as Norman because he himself doesn’t know what he will do next. All he wants to do is be with his mother and he doesn’t want anyone to come between the two of them. He is ready to make anyone who dares to come between them pay, even if that means murder. And even if that means murdering his mother, the one person that he just couldn’t detach himself from, the one voice in his head, the one authority he feels answerable to. And the one person he sometimes feels the urge to dress and appear as, especially when he feels there is a need to “teach a lesson” to someone. I’ll spare you the dark, horrifying details of how he does that.
No matter how twisted that is, you can’t help but feel sorry for him. You can’t help but sympathize with this boy who is in his mind and also in truth, just a little boy, terrified of the world, unable to ever fully trust anyone except his mother.
A Mother Who Loved Too Much
Being Norman’s mother is no easy job. He isn’t exactly a boy who acts his age, especially when it comes to his mother. Also, he has a troubled mind. He is a mentally ill boy, and the scariest thing is, he just turned 18. The smiling, soft-spoken, sweater-wearing, modest Norman Bates is the last person you would suspect of being criminally insane, but that’s just the biggest bitter truth about him that you would have to swallow with a heavy heart. Deep down, his mother Norma knows this but she is too afraid to acknowledge it. Can you blame her? She is a woman who has always had to fight to survive. She never had a good childhood or a normal family. Happiness has always come to her at a price. She has been taken advantage of by many men and sometimes she has paid it back by taking advantage of them, twisting and turning events in her own favour.
She has done her share of manipulation, but most of the time, it has been for Norman. And almost all the time, it has been for the fact that she was helpless. No matter how much you disagree with her methods and her actions, you can’t help but see her point. If you have empathy, if you have loved anyone in your life, you can’t help but see her helplessness in those situations. She was cruelly alone in protecting her child, which (the loneliness) she kind of brought upon herself but that’s the price you pay for being too close to your child. You alienate other people.
A Norman Bates in All of Us
I think there’s a Norman Bates in every one of us. We are just better at hiding him than the fictional Norman ever was. When there’s pain, when there’s suffering, when there’s torment, the Norman Bates in all of us takes the wheel. He is an extremely sensitive being who’s always in touch with his emotions. He hasn’t learned the ways of the society in which they teach us to put on a façade of “All is well” at all times. He realizes it but still believes that he too, could suppress that side of his and be like the rest of us. And when he fails disastrously, it’s tragic. It broke my heart every time to see Norman fail in his attempts to be just another normal kid. How desperately he wanted that, how cruelly life steered it away from him, through his own hands.
A romantic viewer like me may interpret the lives of Norman and his mother this way but the truth remains unchanged. Norman is a killer, so is his mother. But even then, she doesn’t lose the connection with society that Norman lost so easily, and at such a young age. He has all the makings of the terrifying “Psycho”, and yet, somehow he makes your eyes teary with his helplessness, desperation and his demons.
I strongly feel that Norman Bates is the most apt anti-hero of modern drama.