Friday, October 10, 2008

Norman, Is That You?

I don't remember my reaction to this spot but I imagine that at the time this commercial originally ran (somewhere in the late '80s, early '90s) I would've considered it heresy to use the iconography of Psycho to hawk Bud Lite. At the very least I would've rolled my eyes at the crass abuse of a classic film in the name of commerce. But I was, of course, younger then and much more prone to taking things seriously.

Now to watch this makes me nostalgic for a time when an ad spoofing Psycho was guaranteed instant recognition - from baby boomers who were traumatized by the original and from their kids who saw the Psycho saga continue in the '80s with Psycho II (1983) and III (1986). Norman Bates was widely recognized as the godfather of Jason, Michael Myers, and Freddy so even though he was old, he was cool - the single vintage horror character at the time who wasn't simply another generation's idea of what was scary. Psycho was a film that parents who didn't understand the new wave of graphic FX could hold up as an example of how it was possible to scare people without gore (even though people conveniently forgot the virulent reaction that Psycho's violence received) but thanks to the sequels, the series was in step with the '80s (I can attest that my ninth grade classmates unanimously felt Psycho II was a huge improvement over the original!).

It's been a long twenty-two years now since Psycho III debuted in theaters (the exact amount of time between the original and Norman's return in Psycho II - as that sequel's tagline noted "It's 22 years later, and Norman Bates is finally coming home"), eighteen years since Anthony Perkins' final appearance as Norman in the made-for-cable prequel Psycho IV: The Beginning, sixteen years since Perkins passed away, and ten years since Gus Van Sant tore the stuffing out of mother in his Psycho remake. Today the world is more psycho than ever (Perkins' widow and the mother of his two children, perished in one of the ill-fated flights on September 11th) but it's not a Psycho world any more.

No comments: