Study Guide

Psycho Voyeurism


Looking With Hitchcock

Hitchcock, like Norman, likes voyeurism.

The dramatic opening shot of the film starts high over Phoenix, and then swoops down to a window. You then move inside, where you see Marion half-undressed after sex with her boyfriend.

Sure, it's a movie. But it's also totally creepy… and totally entrenched in what is known as the male gaze. (Source)

When Norman looks at Marion, therefore, he's only doing what you have already done. Marion, first thing in the film, is presented as an illicit object of desire; someone you stare at lustfully without her knowing.

It's you (or Hitchcock) who are in the first place guilty of looking through that peephole and wanting Marion. You are guilty, and so, to wipe out that guilt, and to deliver the suspense shocks, Marion must… die. Yikes, huh?

Looking With Norman

After Norman and Marion have dinner, Marion goes back to her cabin, and Norman removes a picture from the wall of the office. Behind the picture is a peephole. Norman looks through it, and you see a shot framed in darkness (as if seen through the hole) of Marion undressing. The camera then cuts to an extreme close-up of Norman's eye, staring intently at the illuminated, ragged hole.

Norman's eye here is also your eye. He's looking excitedly at Marion undressing, just as you're looking (excitedly or otherwise) at Janet Leigh undressing. Norman and you are watching together, which means you are put in Norman's place, desiring Marion.

And Norman's desire leads to guilt… which causes him to stab Marion to death.

Looking At Norman

One of the most famous juxtapositions of the film is a shot of blood swirling down the drain in Marion's room, followed by an extreme close up of Marion's staring eye.

This look at Marion's eye mirrors the look at Norman's eye. Marion can't really see once she's dead, of course. But if she could see, she'd discover a real secret: Norman's a murderer. Marion's dead eye looks on Norman's secret.

The film's gazes voyeuristically at Marion. But it also examines, stares at, and uncovers the secrets of Norman.

At the end, Norman acknowledges as much:

NORMAN: I hope they are watching... they'll see. They'll see and they'll know, and they'll say, "Why, she wouldn't even harm a fly.."

Norman's thinking that the authorities are watching him. But the person watching is you, the movie-goer. You look through the peephole and see Norman's secrets, sexual and otherwise. You know Norman's mom would hurt a fly. You are the all-knowing voyeur, with a bigger peephole than Norman could ever dream of.

Yup. Movies are creepy.

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