March 28, 2013

How (Not) To Raise A Psychopathic Child - Things I've Learned From Watching A&E's New Bates Motel

Ad for A&E's new series Bates Motel     It's been difficult to watch a full-length feature film for a while.  There's now a three week old infant in the room  most nights, and he sets the schedules.  His scheduling doesn't include too many ninety minute blocks of downtime, so I've been making due with hour long horror dramas like American Horror Story, The Walking Dead, and A&E's new Bates Motel.  I can almost get through an hour long episode during Gunnar's between feedings nap time.  I'm looking forward to the debut of Eli Roth's Hemlock Grove on Netflix next month, too.  Should I be watching this kind of programming with a baby in the room, though?

     Yeah, I know, it's probably a bit early to be worrying about whether or not the baby is being irreparably damaged by exposure to televised horror programs.  For one thing, he's unable to hold his head up long enough to watch anything.  The only time he displays any neck strength at all is when I'm trying to burp him, and then he seems determined to throw a red-faced skunk eye on me throughout.  He can hold his head up just fine for that.  Still, I know he's cognizant of what's going on around him.  It makes me wonder if immediate and prolonged exposure to this kind of entertainment explains what happened to me . . .

Thom Yorke of the band Radiohead
Thom Yorke of Radiohead - Hey, man, are you OK?
     The baby seems to have an affinity for the music of Radiohead already, and I attribute that to the fact that he heard a lot of Radiohead while still in utero.  If Thom Yorke's solo album calms the baby,  I'm more than happy to store that in the arsenal alongside his swaddling cloth and his Bippy.  Whatever works, right?  Then I'm watching the first episode of Bates Motel - while holding the baby, of course - while onscreen the young Master Bates attends a high school party (wait - what?), and waddayaknow, the music playing in the background is a Radiohead song.  . . . so a young Norman Bates + exposure to Radiohead = Psycho.  And I'm playing the kid Radiohead to soothe him.   Nature versus nurture.  I may as well start collecting small animals for Gunnar to kill.

     Of course, Norman's problems are the result of a far more complex set of circumstances than just the music he hears.  I watched the second episode of Bates Motel last night, and I nearly crawled out of my skin with "eeeew!" when Norman's mother very nonchalantly stripped clothing in front of her teenage son.  Sure, in this case we know this is heading to a bad place, but . . .   Only an hour or so before I'd been holding the baby because he'd been particularly fussy.  I'd finally succeeded in getting him to momentarily settle down and rest, his next feeding was in the warmer, and I didn't want to rouse him unnecessarily before his bottle was ready.  Here's the rub:  I really, really needed to pee.  If I laid him down he would immediately open his eyes and fuss.  Well, I can hold the baby with one hand, and I can pee with one hand, sooooo . . . Don't judge me - I wasn't wearing a diaper.

Norma Bates cleans up a murder scene in A&E's Bates Motel
Norma Bates doing some household cleaning
   Still though, I've yet to enlist Gunnar's assistance in cleaning up a murder scene, so maybe there's still hope.  As long as I continue to tend to those chores solo then everything should be just fine.  That'll also forestall the touching family moment we have prior to disposing of a dead body in the lake together.  As far as I know, Gunnar doesn't yet have a sketchbook full of bondage pics hidden under his bassinet, so we're good there, too.

     I just want the little guy to grow up healthy and happy.  I want the same for young Norman.  Maybe there's hope for him, too.  The show's producers have already made clear that they won't necessarily be beholden to canon based upon Anthony Perkins' portrayal of the character.  Is it possible that we live in a world where the young Norman Bates might somehow escape his dour fate, upbringing be damned?   I actually think that would be weirdly inspiring.  If there's hope for the most psychopathic fictional mama's boy that ever misused the cutlery, then maybe there's a chance I won't do too much damage to the wee baby Gunnar. 

Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates at the end of Psycho
We can fix this, right?

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