A&E's Bates Motel
explores the lives of Norman and his mother Norma Bates as they build a new life in White Pine Bay after the death of Norman's father. Each episode gives another glimpse of not only the seedy underbelly of the idyllic town but hints at the influences that eventually turn a sweet, mild-mannered boy like Norman into a murderer. This week's episode
went deeper into Norman's sexual development and how it appears to be intertwined with violence. Norman's burgeoning sexuality is both suppressed and nurtured by Norma. Two girls, Emma and Bradley, have indicated an interest in spending time with Norman. Norma tried to squash any contact with Bradley in the premiere by outright forbidding him from spending an evening with her. This denial sent Norman into a rage. Yet, even though he snuck out to be with Bradley, he didn't try to kiss her, hold her hand or even make physical contact with her in any way. Norma was more tolerable when introduced to Emma
, who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis and therefore is terminal.
A teenage boy, denied a normal sexual outlet, Norman has started to make his mother the object of these feelings. In the premiere
, he casually looked into her bedroom window, only to have his glance linger when he saw her moving around in her bra and underwear. In the second episode, she actually partially undressed in front of him and then chastised him when she caught him staring. She has failed to establish normal boundaries but then makes him feel as if his curiosity is wrong. The confusing, and ever-changing dynamic between them sometimes has Norman playing the role of husband and other times son. This doesn't escape the notice of Norma's eldest son Dylan, who enters the kitchen one morning and says "Good morning Mr. and Mrs. Bates."
Norma herself does not act as if she enjoys the company of men in any capacity, much less sexually. However, she is not blind to the act of seduction. But, so far, she has only used it as a means to an end with Deputy Shelby. The Norma that viewers have seen doesn't match the description of the woman that raised Dylan. That Norma was an adulteress, and Dylan views her as nothing more than a whore. Meanwhile, in Norman's eyes she is or was, until she was raped by Summers, the biblical Madonna. This could be one explanation as to why Norman specifically kept the man's belt. Yet, as often as Norma mentions the sexual assault, Norman remains ambivalent about it. Has he witnessed aggressive sexual acts involving his mother before? Or, has he chosen to block out what he doesn't want to see?
Norman is fascinated with the possibility of sex having a violent component. The sketch book he found in the motel is full of pornographic images, many of which seem to illustrate bondage and other sadistic proclivities. Norman's fantasy about his own teacher has her in a submissive pose. Is this because Norman is oppressed by his mother and yearns to exert his own dominance?
Norman's stunted and distorted view of sex is sure to be further explored in upcoming episodes. Instead of processing sexual arousal normally, will he continue to grow jealous, angry, frustrated, physically ill and violent? Could a girlfriend enhance these behaviors or eradicate them? I think that Bates Motel
has to address Norman's personality as it pertains to being in a romantic relationship with a girl his own age. His character is incomplete without it, even if it or especially if it, ends badly.
airs Mondays at 10pm on A&E. Add the show to your personal Watch List when you download the free BuddyTV Guide app
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(Image courtesy of A&E)