Man and Beast…Post 4 continued

This promotional still depicts Anthony Perkins and a large stuffed owl.  Bestiality was and still is associated with mental illness.

This promotional still depicts Anthony Perkins and a large stuffed owl. Bestiality was and still is associated with mental illness.

            When Marion and the audience first meet Norman Bates, the camera lens immediately focuses on the numerous preserved animals on display.  Marion asks if Norman’s interests include taxidermy and he replies that his hobby is “stuffing things” (Psycho).  During the Classical Age (1650-1800), bestiality was associated with madness and mental illness (Erb 52).  The bestiality theme “surfaces over and over in films about madness, and remains one of the key ways of stigmatizing the insane” (Erb 52).  The character of Norman Bates is associated with a large, stuffed owl that fills the background of a still photograph used for advertising purposes.  Hitchcock, through his camera, leads the audience to the conclusion that some form of mental illness exists within the context of the film, then he proceeds to set the stage that misleads the spectator into believing that Mrs. Bates is afflicted rather than Norman.  It is always about Mother, at least from Freud’s perspective. 

            Unlike Norman, the Lodger is not surrounded by a bevy of preserved animals but his erratic behaviour leads the audience to believe that he too is afflicted with some type of mental disturbance.  The Lodger, like Norman, is youthful in appearance.  At times he is portrayed as intense and eager to please.  He has no facial hair and appears to easily take tantrums.  When he gets into trouble and is handcuffed by the police, he runs away like a little boy to lie down on a park bench where he assumes the fetal position.  The Lodger explains his actions to Daisy and, like Norman, it is always about Mother and the demands that she places on him.  But, in contrast, the Lodger’s ego and personality remain intact.  He is able to circumvent the control and demands of his mother that extend from beyond the grave.  Daisy does not go against the symbolic order, therefore the “cause-and-effect” series of events that take place in Psycho do not exist in The Lodger (Chatman 474).

            Hitchcock explored the issues of mental illness by researching real life situations but he was also interested in “surrealism’s promotion of the irrational” (Erb 52).  By drawing attention to mental illness, he also directed people’s attention to the poor state of institutions and the need for better health care for those afflicted with mental illness.  Both Psycho and The Lodger deal with issues of mental health but on close inspection of The Lodger, there is one instantaneous flash across the screen that leaves the spectator with the image of a poverty stricken woman and her child sleeping in the streets of London and, with this, Hitchcock draws the public’s attention to the plight of the poor and destitute.

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