Study Guide

Sunset Boulevard Madness

Madness

Sunset Boulevard may be where the stars are, but Madness-with-a-capital-M is the ultimate destination. That's where Norma's self-deceptions finally lead. Unable to deal with the fact that she's just murdered Joe, Norma completely loses contact with reality. She's actually deceived herself to the point where she really does believe the deception (where, before, she was haunted by the notion that she really wasn't famous anymore). When we see her in the last scene, Norma makes this painfully evident. She's apparently happy in her state of crazy, but, from the outside, it looks pitiful and—if we're being honest—straight-up scary.

Questions About Madness

  1. At what point does Norma go from being merely eccentric and vain to actually being mad? 
  2. To what extent do people outside Norma's world share her obsession with celebrity, and does it frequently verge on madness? Like, for example, the people who can't sing but still try out for American Idol—are they "mad" in a similar way? 
  3. Is Hollywood itself mad? Is Norma's madness just an individual's version of that greater madness?

Chew on This

Norma's madness is a result of her self-obsession—she keeps returning to one thought, that of her own celebrity, and falls into the same vicious circle.

If Norma really was a glorious figure at one time, with real talent and ability (if not genius), it may have been because the self-obsessive tendencies that destroyed her urged her toward becoming an exceptional actress