Norma Bates is a character in Psycho film series. She is the evil mother of Norman Bates, and would indirectly influence her son's development into a serial killer. Norma had an incestuous relationship with Norman throughout his teenage years, causing him to develop an exaggerated form of the Oedipus Complex. She is depicted as highly unpredictable, cruel, controlling, jealous and possessive, but at other times very loving and effectionate. Although never mentioned as yet in any film, it is possible, and very likely that Norma suffered from severe mental health issues.
Norma Bates [nee Spool] married John Bates in the 1940s, and lived with him in Fairvale, California. They had one child together, who they named Norman. When Norman was only a few years old, John died after being attacked by a swarm of bees. John's death deeply affected Norma, causing her to become overprotective of young Norman, even smothering him with her affections. She began toying with Norman when he was barely out of diapers, provoking various reactions out of him then punishing him immediately. Norman recalled in his conversation with talk show host Fran Ambrose that whilst they attended John's wake, she tickled him as they sat in the church causing him to laugh. She immediately chastised him for his laughter, despite being the direct cause of it. This behaviour would continue as Norman grew into a young man, with the relationship becoming sexualised to the point were simple mother-son play would result in her sexually stimulating him, then punishing him for developing an erection. As Norman started to become interested in girls, she imposed a strict belief system on him which had him believe that all women, apart from her, were whores and should be punished for being promiscuous. She would become very jealous if Norman interacted with girls, even blowing up into a rage when she found a pornographic magazine in his bedroom. When Norman was in his teens, Norma became romantically involved with Chet Rudolph, and was not shy about her sexual activity with him around the house. Chet himself repeatedly discussed his sex life with Norma in front of Norman, and was egotistical, chauvanistic and pig-headed. Norman quickly grew to dislike Chet and became extremely jealous of his relationship with Norma. After Norma married Chet, they built and invested in a motel which they built close to the house.
During a conversation with Norman whilst out in the yard hanging some laundry, Norma expressed her hatred for Norman and told him that he was a mistake and should never have been born. This was the end for Norman, who decided he could no longer tolerate her abuse.
After a night of having sex with Chet, Norma was surprised to find Norman had made them both two iced teas. After consuming the drinks, Chet began to convulse, shortly followed by Norma. Chet instantly surmised that Norman had poisoned them, and he was correct; the drinks were laced with arsenic. Despite suffering the agony of arsenic poisoning, Chet found the strength to attack Norman, and after a short struggle and scuffle, fell down the stairs to his death. Norma would die on the bedroom floor.
Norman would dispose of Chet, and carried Norma's corpse to the basement where he would embalm her.
Norma's voice is heard at various points throughout the first film, with it transpiring that it was either Norman hearing voices, or him emulating her voice himself. We are led to believe that Norma is the killer until the film's climax, when it is revealed that she has been dead all along, with Norman taking on her persona and donning a disguise. Her dessicated corpse is located in the basement of the Bates house by Lila Crane. It is later given a proper burial.
Norman starts to lose his mind again, which prompts Dr. Raymond to prove to him his mother is truly dead. Norma's coffin is dug up and opened, showing her corpse similar to the one in the original film. During a psychotic episode, Norman hears her voice over the telephone and becomes convinced that she has come back to haunt him.
Although not shown, it is revealed that Emma Spool is Norma's sister, making her Norman's aunt. There is a love triangle between the two sisters with Mr. Bates. So he chooses Norma, making Emma jealous of this as she could have been Norman's mother.
She only appears in flashbacks and is played by Olivia Hussey.
Norma first appears with her son at his father's funeral. She tickles him in order to get him to laugh and slaps him for it, warning him to not laugh at the dead. For years, they live together as if they were the only people in the world. However, Norman gets abused by his mother such as locked in a closet for having dirty magazines, dressed up like a girl and bringing a prostitute.
Later, she becomes engaged to a man named Chet Rudolph. This makes Norman jealous as he believes his mother betrayed him for a lover. As a result, he ended up poisoning them both, starting the events of the first movie.
Norma is portrayed in the 2013 series Bates Motel by Vera Farmiga, with Freddie Highmore playing a teenaged Norman Bates. The show is set in modern day and retcons much of what was established in the original films. Farmiga's performance differs greatly from Olivia Hussey's in Psycho IV, with her being much more sympathetic and a lot less caustic and spiteful than the original interpretation. She is no less an overbearing mother however and so far is seen to have an unhealthy sexual interest in her son. She also appears to be aware, and more understanding, of Norman's trance-like episodes. In the show, she has another older son with whom she has an antagonistic relationship. This same son is uncomfortably aware of, and openly criticises, her interactions with Norman.