As an avid Dexter fan, my TV dreams died when Miami’s favorite blood spatter analyst traded in his slides for a lumberjack beard in the devastating series finale. My Netflix nights were spent in mourning until finally I found a new fictional serial killer to gush over: Norman Bates. But I’m not referring to Anthony Perkins’ adult slasher from Hitchcock’s black and white masterpiece. I’m talking about the boyishly adorable Bates in the form of doe-eyed Freddie Highmore (sweet as an Everlasting Gobstopper in Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) from the modern-day Psycho (1960) prequel Bates Motel.
Before the shower-stabbing and mommy corpses, Norman was just a shy kid recovering from his father’s untimely death while dealing with his smothering mother Norma’s breakdowns. In a new town, Norman attracts attention from the hottest girl in high school, Bradley, who is similarly reeling from her daddy’s death. Not to mention Emma, the yet-to-bloom nerd with CF who becomes his BFF.
Before transforming into the maniac motel manager, Norman helps Mamma Bates get away with murder literally after she offs the motel’s previous owner who assaulted her. We see Norman first as an overwhelmed innocent before a schizophrenic slasher, allowing us to sympathize with him. The recipient of frequent kisses and mind-blowing manipulation from Norma played by the insanely charismatic Vera Farmiga, is it any wonder Norman has mommy issues!? In fact, Norman is surrounded by gorgeous women who often use him. Even his English teacher seems to have the hots for him! If it weren’t for the occasional sex-trafficker, drug-dealer, and police officer, you’d think Norman was the only man in a twenty-mile radius.
Without the guidance of a stable father, Norman is lost in a sea of estrogen. Sensitive and sweet, he is effeminate—even cooking breakfast in his mother’s apron in a creepy harbinger of things to come. Still, he is undeniably straight as he says to theater-tech Cody in season two. Sexuality is a prevalent part of the series as seen first in Norma’s violent rape and then in Norman’s one-night-stand with the girl of his dreams who breaks his heart. In the world of Bates Motel, sex is pain. As the series progresses—sexual consummation is a predecessor to death. But how can Norman be held responsible when he himself is not cognizant of the atrocities he’s committed? Atrocities triggered by unbearable anxiety and sexual guilt? Drowning under the weight of his mother’s crimes inside his labyrinth mind, Norman may be the biggest victim.
After all, he’s an affectionate son who fights against trafficking and an unflinchingly loyal friend who always speaks from the heart. It’s hard not to fall in love with Norman Bates. And if that makes me psycho, so be it.
In preparation for season three which premieres on A & E, March 9th, here’s a video of the cast auditioning for their roles—enjoy!!!