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Elbows and Assholes: The Anal Work Ethic in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho

  • Larrie Dudenhoeffer
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Abstract

The commentary on the infamous shower murder scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) runs steadily in the direction of a theoretic crapshoot. In the film, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a real estate clerk, absconds with $40,000 in order to marry Sam Loomis (John Gavin), with whom she is carrying on an affair. She flees and, during a freak storm, checks into a desolate motel, where she meets Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), who seems at first gentle, friendly, and almost childlike. Norman, though, is not “normal”: after once murdering Mrs. Bates and internalizing the mother’s voice, he reappears in drag to stab Marion to death while she takes a shower. He disposes of the corpse in a swamp close to the motel, motivating Sam and Marion’s sister Lila (Vera Miles) to investigate the disappearance. Robin Wood, concentrating on a close-up of Marion’s eye after the murder sequence match-cut to the shower drain, argues that this scene allegorizes “the potentialities for horror that lie in the depths of us all … which have their source in sex.”1 Raymond Durgnat agrees with Wood’s assessment, while also suggesting that this scene exaggerates and counterpoints the quickie with Sam that opens the film’s narrative, in that it more fully emphasizes Marion’s “sensuality.”2

Keywords

Anal Work Symbolic Extension Cato Manner Shower Scene Horror Cinema 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Robin Wood, Hitchcock’s Films Revisited (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989), 149.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Raymond Durgnat, The Strange Case of Alfred Hitchcock, or the Poor Man’s Hitchcock (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1974), 325.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Robert Samuels, Hitchcock’s Bi-Textuality: Lacan, Feminisms, and Queer Theory (New York: State University of New York Press, 1998), 140.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Linda Williams, “Discipline and Fun: Psycho and Postmodern Cinema,” in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho: A Casebook, ed. Robert Kolker (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 171, 175, 178.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Robert Kolker, “The Form, Structure, and Influence of Psycho,” in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho: A Casebook, ed. Robert Kolker (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.), 217, 247.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    George Toles, “‘If Thine Eye Offend Thee…’: Psycho and the Art of Infection,” in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho: A Casebook, ed. Robert Kolker (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 120–45), 104, 138.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Norton, 1998.)Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the “Spirit” of Capitalism and Other Writings, trans. Peter Baehr and Gordon C. Wells (New York: Penguin, 2002), 5.Google Scholar
  9. 25.
    Serge Leclaire, A Child Is Being Killed: On Primary Narcissism and the Death Drive, trans. Marie-Claude Hays (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998), 41.Google Scholar
  10. 30.
    Slavoj Žižek, Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992), 6.Google Scholar
  11. 33.
    Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share: An Essay on General Economy, Volumes II and III: The History of Eroticism & Sovereignty, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Zone, 1989), 61.Google Scholar
  12. 35.
    Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share: An Essay on General Economy, Volume I: Consumption, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Zone, 1991), 120–24.Google Scholar
  13. 39.
    See Linda Williams, “When the Woman Looks,” in The Dread of Difference, ed. Barry Keith Grant (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1996), 20, 28–31.Google Scholar
  14. 40.
    See Pascal Bonitzer, “Hitchcockian Suspense,” in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Hitchcock (But Were Afraid to Ask Lacan), ed. Slavoj Žižek (New York: Verso, 1992), 24.Google Scholar
  15. 55.
    Laura Mulvey, Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image (London: Reaktion, 2006), 100.Google Scholar
  16. 57.
    Slavoj Žižek, “‘In His Bold Gaze My Ruin Is Writ Large,’” in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Hitchcock (But Were Afraid to Ask Lacan), ed. Slavoj Žižek (New York: Verso, 1992), 250.Google Scholar
  17. 59.
    Calvin Thomas, Male Matters: Masculinity, Anxiety, and the Male Body on the Line (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1996), 33–34.Google Scholar
  18. 62.
    Carol J. Clover, Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 23.Google Scholar

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© Larrie Dudenhoeffer 2014

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  • Larrie Dudenhoeffer

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