Guest Author - Barbara Rice DeShong, PhD.
Some mothers simply care too much. Too much to allow their only sons to turn their attention from pleasing and entertaining them to taking care of their wives. Since boys grow into men with adult needs and desires, no matter how carefully the mothers attempt to keep them dependent children, sons are eventually “seduced” (at least the way mothers see it) into wanting a place of their own. What choice do mothers in this dilemma have except to kill these thieving seductresses?
Which would be bad enough. But true queens of manipulation can work their sons so well, that the “men in love” will do the killing. These mothers are so capable of taking over the minds of their sons, the sons do not know where they stop and their mothers begin. In the case of Norman Bates (Psycho, 1960), the mother he had to please in his daily life had been dead for years, and was, in fact, stuffed like the taxidermied birds Norman showcased in his motel office. To please the woman Norman reported to every night, he had to kill the beautiful blonde who brought out thoughts that made him no longer feel like an innocent little boy. Richard Shaw’s mother (The Manchurian Candidate, 1962; 2004), who planned to make her son President of the United States through her shear strength of will, was indeed alive and more present in Richard’s life than the man himself.
Who can forget Meryl Streep as Eleanor Shaw in The Manchurian Candidate? From the way she tosses her coat on a chair as she arrives for a press conference concerning her son’s political candidacy, we know exactly who’s in charge of Raymond Shaw’s (Liev Shreiber) life. And what about the unseen Mrs. Bates from Psycho? Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) cannot function as a separate person, much less as a grown man. One interesting feature in both of these “super mom” stories is that Janet Leigh played both “seductresses”-- Marion Crane, the woman happening onto her unfortunate stay in the Bates Motel and Rosie, the unfortunate fiancé of Raymond Shaw.
Both films have been re-made, the Psycho (1998) effort unremarkable, while the second Manchurian Candidate (2204) came close to the thrill of the first film. Most noticeably, while Vince Vaughn could have made a creepy psycho killer (as he did in Clay Pigeons) not enough effort went into the remake of Psycho and it fell flat. The second Manchurian Candidate, however was unforgettable because the performance of Meryl Streep as the domineering mother rivaled Angela Landsbury’s (1962) frightening portrayal as the ultimate stage mom.