I used to work somewhere where a real psycho worked. The guy was just… off somehow. He muttered to himself all the time, had strange facial expressions, said strange things, and overall just didn’t gesture or talk the way other people did. He was one of the weirdest weirdos I’ve ever met, and believe me, I’ve seen a few. His oddity earned him a nickname that I’ll never forget: “Norman.” As in, Norman Bates, the antagonist of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, who frequently appears on Alfred Hitchcock t shirts. But why is Norman Bates so famous? What are his archetypal characteristics that make him such a psycho?
Norman Bates is the quintessential serial murderer, the quintessential psycho. He’s the classic wounded villain. He grew up with his borderline-crazy mother. Before he hit adolescence, he was kept in total isolation by her. Eventually, his mother, Norma, fell in love with a man she planned to marry. In a fit of psychotic jealousy, Norman murdered her and her lover with strychnine, poisoning them both. He set the whole thing up to make it look like his mother had killed her lover and then herself. In order to escape the realization of being a double murderer, his personality split in two and he is now psychologically indwelt by his mother, Norma. Norma is a vengeful personality that kills any woman that Norman likes. Because she wants him to stay as her precious little boy forever, she asserts control of his mind and kills any woman whom Norman is attracted to. Conversations between Norman and Norma happen with Norman talking to himself out loud, or to his mother’s corpse, which he keeps in his fruit cellar. When Norma takes full control, he dresses in her clothes and acts out her intentions precisely. More often, though, Norma is not in full control, but influences his actions and takes over only long enough to kill the girls he likes.
Norman Bates is disturbing largely because he looks normal. He doesn’t seem like a weirdo or a psychopath. He acts completely sane most of the time. It’s only in his psychotic rages, triggered by his multiple personality disorder (now commonly known as dissociative identity disorder, or DID) that he is really crazy. Otherwise, he is a somewhat eccentric but otherwise normal young man. That normalcy, and that mask of sanity, is what makes him so scary. Anybody you know could be a Norman Bates, and you would never be able to tell. If the dissociative identity disorder were profound enough, the Norman could even be you! This is the plot of some movies, such as Secret Window and Fight Club.