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Villain Overview

Well, a boy's best friend is his mother.
~ Norman Bates' most famous quote.
She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes.
~ Norman Bates on his mother, foreshadowing his true nature.

Norman Bates is a fictional American serial killer and keeper of the fictional Bates Motel in California.

Bates suffered from psychosis and Dissociative Identity Disorder, believing himself to be his controlling Mother. At the same time, he suffered from visual and auditory hallucinations, in which his mother apparently talked him into committing acts of violence in order to appease her. When the Mother personality took over, Bates would fly into murderous rages targeting women who aroused him, usually whilst dressed in her clothing. He is known to have eventually slaughtered his mother and kept her mummified corpse in the basement of his house for many years.

He is the titular main antagonist of the 1959 suspense novel Psycho and the 1960 film of the same name and appears as the titular anti-heroic protagonist of the movie three sequels. He was the secondary antagonist of the sequel novel Psycho II, and the protagonist of Psycho Sanitarium.

Portrayals

Related Media

  1. A 1987 TV pilot titled Bates Motel was produced following the release of Psycho III, which had Norman Bates [played by Kurt Paul] in a minor part alongside fellow psychopath Alex West. It was filmed in black and white in keeping with the style of the original film. The pilot was poorly received and any plans for syndication were abandoned. Of note, the story had Bates die whilst incarcerated, and the new protagonist West inherits the motel and house.
  2. In 1990 (the same year Psycho IV: The Beginning was released) Perkins appeared as Norman in a commercial for Oatmeal Crisp & Oatmeal Raisin Crisp cereal. This along with Psycho IV would be the final time he portrayed the character.
  3. A three-part comic adaptation of Psycho was released in 1992. Although a colorized adaptation of the Hitchcock film, Norman did not look like Anthony Perkins due to the actor refusing his likeness to be used. Instead, Norman appears like he did in the novel: a middle-aged, overweight, balding man.
  4. Vince Vaughn portrays Norman in the 1998 shot-for-shot remake of Psycho.
  5. In 2016 a fourth Psycho book titled Robert Bloch's Psycho: Sanitarium was released and written by Chet Williamson. The book takes place after the events of the original Psycho novel (and before Psycho II) and explores Norman's stay at the asylum.

List of Norman Bates Victims

Book Series

  1. Norma Bates - poisoned by arsenic in Ice Tea.
  2. Joe Considine - poisoned by arsenic in Ice Tea.
  3. Mary Crane - decapitated with a butcher knife in the shower.
  4. Detective Milton Arbogast - stabbed to death with a razor.
  5. Ronald Miller
  6. Myron Gunn
  7. Eleanor Lindstrom
  8. Dr. Isaac Goldberg
  9. Dr. Felix Reed
  10. 1st Nun - strangled to death with rosary beads.
  11. 2nd Nun - hit in the head a tire iron.

Film Series

  1. Norma Bates - poisoned by arsenic in Ice Tea.
  2. Chet Rudolph - poisoned by arsenic in Ice Tea.
  3. Holly - stabbed to death with a kitchen knife.
  4. Gloria - strangled with a rope and drowned in a swamp.
  5. Marion Crane - stabbed to death with a kitchen knife in the shower.
  6. Detective Milton Arbogast - stabbed to death with a kitchen knife. 
  7. Emma Spool - hit over the head with a shovel.
  8. Maureen Coyle - head impaled. 
  9. Patsy Boyle - stabbed to death with a kitchen knife.
  10. Duane Duke - hit over the head and left to drown in the swamp. 
  11. Red - stabbed to death with a kitchen knife.

Quotes

Exploring the blackness of the subconscious man!
~ One of the original film's taglines.
[As Norman and Marion are having dinner] Norman: Where are you going? [Marion looks slightly shocked] I didn't mean to pry.
Marion: I'm looking for a private island.
Norman: What are you running away from? [Marion freezes, given the 40000 dollars she stole that morning]
Marion: Wh-why do you ask that?
Norman: I don't know... People never run away from anything.
~ Norman and Marion.
Norman: You know what I think? I think that we're all in our private traps, clamped in them, and none of us can ever get out. We scratch and we claw, but only at the air, only at each other, and for all of it, we never budge an inch.
Marion: Sometimes, we deliberately step into those traps.
Norman: I was born in mine. I don't mind it anymore.
Marion: Oh, but you should! You should mind it!
Norman: Oh, I do, [laughs] but I say I don't.
~ Norman and Marion on people's personal "traps".
Marion: You know, if anyone ever talked to me the way I heard — the way she spoke to you...
Norman: Sometimes — when she talks to me like that — I feel I'd like to go up there, and curse her, and-and-and leave her forever! Or at least defy her! But I know I can't. She's ill.
Marion: She sounded strong.
Norman: No, I mean... ill. She had to raise me all by herself after my father died. I was only five and it must have been quite a strain for her. She didn't have to go to work or anything like that. He left her a little money. Anyway, a few years ago, Mother met this man, and he talked her into building this motel. He could have talked her into anything. And when he died too, it was just too great a shock for her. And, and the way he died. I guess it's nothing to talk about while you're eating. Anyway, it was just too great a loss for her. She had nothing left.
Marion: Except you.
Norman: A son is a poor substitute for a lover.
Marion: Why don't you go away?
Norman: To a private island, like you?
Marion: No, not like me.
Norman: I couldn't do that. Who'd look after her? She'd be alone up there. The fire would go out. It'd be cold and damp like a grave. If you love someone, you don't do that to them - even if you hate them. You understand that I don't hate her. I hate what she's become. I hate the illness.
Marion: Wouldn't it be better if you put her... someplace?
Marion Crane: Wouldn't it be better if you put her... someplace?
Norman Bates: You mean an institution? A madhouse? People always call a madhouse "someplace", don't they? "Put her in someplace."
Marion Crane: I-I'm sorry. I didn't mean it to sound so uncaring.
Norman Bates: What do you know about caring? Have you ever seen the inside of one of those places? The laughing, and the tears, and the cruel eyes studying you? My mother there? Oh, but she's harmless! She's as harmless as one of those stuffed birds!
Marion Crane: I am sorry. I only felt... it seems she's hurting you. I meant well.
Norman Bates: People always mean well. They cluck their thick tongues, and shake their heads and suggest oh, so very delicately! Of course, I've suggested it myself. But I hate to even think about it. She needs me. It-it's not as if she were a maniac -- a raving thing. She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven't you.
Marion Crane: Yes. Sometimes just one time can be enough. Thank you.
Norman Bates: Thank you, Norman.
Marion Crane: Norman.
~ Norman and Marion regarding Norman's mother.
Arbogast: Let's say, for the sake of argument, she wanted you to gallantly protect her. You'd know you were being used. You wouldn't be made a fool of, would ya?
Norman: But I'm not a fool. And I'm not capable of being fooled, not even by a woman.
Arbogast: Well, this is not a slur on your manhood. I'm sorry...
Norman: Let's put it this way. She might have fooled me, but she didn't fool my mother.
~ Norman to Arbogast about his mother's knowledge on Marion's whereabouts.
Norman Bates: Now mother, I'm going to uh, bring something up...
Mother: Haha... I am sorry, boy, but you do manage to look ludicrous when you give me orders.
Norman Bates: Please, mother.
Mother: No! I will not hide in the fruit cellar! Ha! You think I'm fruity, huh? I'm staying right here. This is my room and noone will drag me out of it, least of all my big, bold son!
Norman Bates: They'll come now, mother! He came after the girl and now someone will come after him. Please mother, it's just for a few days, just for a few days so they won't find you!
Mother: 'Just for a few days'? In that dark, dank fruit cellar? No! You hid me there once boy, and you'll not do it again, not ever again, now get out! I told you to get out, boy.
Norman Bates: I'll carry you, mother.
Mother: Norman! What do you think you're doing? Don't you touch me, don't! NORMAN! Put me down, put me down, I can walk on my own...
~ Norman has a conversation with himself and his Mother persona.
This place? This place happens to be my only world. I grew up in that house up there. I had a very happy childhood. My mother and I were more than happy!
~ Norman to Sam regarding the motel.
It's sad when a mother has to speak the words that condemn her own son, but I couldn't allow them to believe that I would commit murder. They'll put him away now as I should have years ago. He was always bad, and in the end he intended to tell them I killed those girls, and that man, as if I could do anything, except just sit and stare, like one of his stuffed birds. Oh, they know I can't even move a finger and I won't. I'll just sit here and be quiet just in case they do... suspect me. [pause] They're probably watching me. Well, let them. Let them see what kind of a person I am. I'm not even going to swat that fly. I hope they are watching. They'll see. They'll see and they'll know, and they'll say, "Why, she wouldn't even harm a fly." [Norman Bates smiles evilly.]
~ Norman's voice-over at the end of the original film.

Trivia

  • Norman Bates was presumably based on the American murderer and body snatcher Ed Gein, though the author, Robert Bloch, stated that he'd started writing Psycho before becoming aware Gein, and was struck by "how closely the imaginary character I'd created resembled the real Ed Gein both in overt act and apparent motivation." Bloch inserted a line alluding to Gein into one of the final chapters after learning of Gein's initial crimes (before learning that Gein also had lived in isolation with a religiously fanatical mother and had been trying to make a "woman suit" to wear so he could pretend to be his dead mother).
    • Norman's usage of the alias "Ed" in the last Psycho film may be a nod to their similarities.
  • Psycho IV and The Godfather Part III came out in 1990. They were also the final films in their respective sagas.
  • Norman Bates' incestuous relationship with his mother is an exaggerated interpretation of the human Oedipus Complex. The psychiatrist Sigmund Freud coined the term to describe the theoretical psychosexual desires of a child, whom during his development desires his mother's love. Freud theorized that this could manifest in both male and female infants, with the female iteration being the Electra Complex.
  • Interestingly, the film Scream 3 would explore a similar concept depicted the original novel's sequel decades later, with a spree of killings occurring on a film set intended to emulate the environment of the original film's murders. The Scream series itself was, in part, inspired by Psycho, with references made to the films in dialogue.
  • Norman's pattern of killing those who arouse him is plausible in the psychological development of sociopaths. Real life murderers such as Andrei Chikatilo were known to enact extreme forms of violence in order to achieve full sexual gratification.
  • The character of Norman Bates and the Psycho mythos has been said to have inspired dozens of other horror films and is considered as the benchmark for slasher movies. The character name of Sam Loomis in Halloween was taken directly from Psycho, with the character of Billy Loomis in Scream being inspired by both characters of the same name, and even quotes Bates in the final act of the film.
  • When Norman kills Duane Duke in Psycho III, this is the only time that he is not seen acting up as "Mother."
  • Anthony Perkins was diagnosed with HIV during the filming of Psycho IV. That aside, the film's director, Mick Garris, described Perkins as one of the most difficult actors he has ever worked with.
  • It was rumored that the middle initial of Norman Bates is "F.", because of the coincidence that the license plate on the rear of Marion Crane's vehicle is titled "NFB 418".
  • The film Norman is the only version to be alive, as his television and book counterparts perish. As a result, he is the oldest Norman Bates by the events of Psycho IV: The Beginning.

Navigation

            Alfred Hitchcock Villains

Silent films

The Pleasure Garden | The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog | The Ring | Downhill | The Farmer's Wife | Easy Virtue | Champagne | The Manxman

British sound films

Blackmail | Juno and the Paycock | Murder! | Elstree Calling | The Skin Game | Mary | Rich and Strange | Number Seventeen | Waltzes from Vienna | The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) | The 39 Steps | Secret Agent | Sabotage | Young and Innocent | The Lady Vanishes | Jamaica Inn

Hollywood

Rebecca (Mrs. Danvers)
Foreign Correspondent (Stephen Fisher, Rowley)
Shadow of a Doubt (Uncle Charlie)
Lifeboat (Willy)
Spellbound (Dr. Murchison)
Notorious (Alexander Sebastian)
The Paradine Case
Rope (Phillip Morgan, Brandon Shaw)
Under Capricorn
Stage Fright
Strangers on a Train (Bruno Antony)
I Confess (Otto Keller)
Dial M for Murder (Tony Wendice)
Rear Window (Lars Thorwald)
To Catch a Thief
The Trouble with Harry
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) (Rien)
The Wrong Man
Vertigo (Gavin Elster, Madeleine Elster, The Fugitive)
North by Northwest (Phillip Vandamm, Leonard)
Psycho (Norman Bates, Norma Bates)
The Birds (The Birds)
Torn Curtain
Topaz (Jacques Granville, Rico Parra)
Frenzy (Bob Rusk)
Family Plot (Arthur Adamson)

Television

Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Original

Carol Arlington | Mrs. Johnson | Melinda Jensen | Iris Teleton | Sylvia Leeds Kent | Judy | Susan Harper | Marie Jensen | Wanda Ferlini | Mabel Wagner | Kate Devore | Margo | Irene Sadini

The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

Helen Clarvoe

Remake

Dr. Marion McGregor | Susan Forrester