The perception of mental illness in Hitchcock's Psycho (1960)

Analyze the trope of the violent schizophrenic in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Take into consideration the construction of Norman Bates and consider the contemporary treatment of psychosis. Ask yourself whether or not the trope of the violent schizophrenic serves an artistic end or merely perpetuates an existing stigma and stereotype against the mentally ill.

  • To push this further, and if you want to open up the discussion to the more general question of representing mental illness on screen, you should look at other films that deal with this issue. Psycho won't be enough to open up the discussion, although it is a great one to focus on. An extra paragraph at the end exploring more representations through other films would be interesting – Rachel Elfassy Bitoun 9 years ago
  • Rachel Elfassy Bitoun! Thank you for expressing interest. I think that a comparative study would be very valuable, indeed. – InAugust 9 years ago
  • I think to expand this topic into further films would be a good idea, with The Shining and Jack Torrence being another one tha would be good to look at, as well as Black Swan for a more modern and female perspective. As for mental illness being represented itself in film (and especially in Psycho and The Shining) is the character that usually has the illness is villainised. I think this is a reflection of how society looks down on those who suffer with mental illnesses. There's a grey area whether the villainisation is of the people who suffer the ilness or the illness itself. I would say in earlier films the former would be true, where the latter would hopefully be true of more recent film portrayals. – Jamie White 9 years ago
  • I would look at Bates Motel maybe? Or just a more recent film in its depiction of mental illness. Cause although a classic it is an old representation of mental illness and bringing it to today's existing stigma seems like an issue. Not to say it shouldn't be talked about, more the relevance on the portrayal is called into question. So either look into more recent depictions OR bring up the relevance of such an analysis on a classic. Are we still doing this? Does this film have influence on other portrayals including today? Did it start a pattern in film? – Erin Derwin 9 years ago
  • I know that this film is seen as a horror film, especially in the year of 1960. This film is actually quite sad to me. You see that Norman Bates is externally happy, but you can sense that he isn't quite there. Many people think that this characteristic in one is intentional, but it often is unavoidable due to lovely biology. It is all what it comes down to; yes, Norman ended up murdering within this film. What this film leaves us at, if we haven't seen Bates Motel, is what caused him to be this way? Was he always like this? There are so many questions that I don't think is fair in the retrospect of the monster is proclaimed to be. – caitlinndwyer 9 years ago

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