“We All Go a Little Mad Sometimes. Haven’t You?”: Psycho and the Postmodern Rise of Gender Queerness

Abstract: Film historians consider Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) a pivotal point in the rupture from classic forms of horror film and the introduction of a shift in sensibilities. Simultaneously, Psycho represents a landmark achievement in terms of queer depictions on screen. The means of generating shock value first presented in this film was a new, visible queerness embodied in the character of Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). This article argues that apart from Bates’s queer performativity, to a certain degree, every character in Psycho’s cosmos is queered due to a postmodern, all-pervasive deconstruction of gender roles. While these gender-bending film elements can be regarded as groundbreaking, the ways in which queerness in the film is portrayed follows a retrogressive cinematic tradition of queerness as monstrous. Lastly, the article parallels the 1960 original with Gus Van Sant’s eponymous 1998 remake. Remaking a cinematic work from an updated societal standpoint is of utmost relevance to this study since the comparison between the original and the remake not only highlights the changing perspectives regarding queer issues but also reveals how movies that are almost identical can sustain very different meanings.

Psycho and the Emerging Postmodern Horror Film

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), an adaptation of the 1959 pulp thriller by Robert Bloch, is regarded as a pivotal point in film history in several ways. It reinvented the horror genre and inspired a new wave of horror filmmaking that represented a radical rupture from the ways horror movies had previously been produced. This is not to say that the genre changed overnight but that a slow transformation of horror conventions began in this decade before becoming fully established in the seventies and eighties.

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