Bates Motel

Common Sense Media says

Dark drama updates a horror classic with blood and violence.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The overall tone is pretty dark, with a sense that there's something sinister lurking beneath the surface. The Bates' dysfunctional mother-son relationship is another major theme, with an emphasis on keeping family secrets.

Positive role models

Although he'd like to be a "normal" teen, Norman's twisted home life makes it nearly impossible for him to make good choices. There's some good in him, but his mother -- whose outlook is overly paranoid and who may be suffering from mental illness -- is a dangerous influence.

Violence

Violent scenes include stabbings, rape, torture, etc. Blood is visible but not gratuitous.

Sex

Some sexual tension between teens. Some bare skin during rape, but no sensitive parts visible.

Language

Mostly terms like "hell," "bitch," "ass," etc.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some teens drink underage at parties and use illegal drugs like pot.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Bates Motel's violent content isn't constant, but when you see it, it's intense -- and it's an integral part of the main characters' lives. Violent visuals include stabbings, rape, and torture, with some blood (although it isn't overly gory) and several scenes depicting violence against women. There's also some sexual tension between teens, many of whom drink underage at parties and use illegal drugs like pot. Language is generally light, with characters using words like "damn," "hell," and "ass."

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Uprooting Alfred Hitchcock's infamous mother-son duo and transplanting them to modern times, BATES MOTEL reimagines the backstory of Psycho's Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga), as a twisted tale of secrets and lies. The story picks up when Norma drags her son to the coastal town of White Pine Bay, where she buys a motel and makes plans to build a new life after the death of her husband. But once there, they must turn to murder to protect what's theirs.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Hitchcock purists beware: This updated take on the Master of Suspense's horror classic Psycho takes plenty of liberties in terms of character and plot, most notably moving Norman Bates and his mother into the 21st century. But if you can get past the fact that Norman listens to moody indie pop tunes and texts his friends on an iPhone (yes, really), you'll find a gripping series that -- at least in terms of art direction and costume design -- stays surprisingly reverent to its roots with thoughtful references to the film that inspired it.

You'll also find a series that pushes the envelope with iffy content, not so much with blood, but with some disturbing scenes involving violence against women and veiled allusions to incest -- not quite at the level of, say, American Horror Story, yet still shocking enough to give parents pause. But never fear: Families whose kids aren't quite ready for the TV-MA thrills of Bates Motel will have better luck with Hitchcock's version.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about dysfunctional family relationships and discuss why writers so often turn to them for good material -- both for drama, in the case of Bates Motel, or for comedy, in the case of a show like Arrested Development. What role does mental illness play in the relationship between Norman and his mother?

  • How does Bates Motel compare to the Hitchcock horror classic (and the novel of the same name) that inspired it? Why did the show's creators choose to set the action in modern times -- and do you think that was a good decision?

  • Does the series accurately reflect what it's like to be a teenager today? How does Norman measure up as a role model -- and should he be held accountable for his actions, considering his home life?

TV details

This review of Bates Motel was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 13 years old Written byRango813 March 19, 2013
AGE
12
QUALITY
 

Really Good Show, but FOR MATURE TEENAGERS ONLY!!

Bates Motel is officially my new favorite show. That isn't to say it's the best thing I've ever seen on television, in terms of how good it is and content wise. But it is very, very, very good.
For those of you who don't know, Bates Motel is a prequel to the 1960 horror classic Psycho. It is set in modern times, but a prequel nonetheless. The show focuses on Norman Bates as a teenager living with his mom, Norma. The show starts with Norman and Norma moving to White Pine Bay six months after Norman's dad died in a tragic incident (hmm…). The first episode is mainly set-up for the next 9 episodes, but it does manage to keep us on our toes.
If your child has seen Psycho, which has little to no violence besides the shower scene, and expresses their desire to see this, I strongly suggest a pre-viewing on parents' parts. This is probably the edgiest TV-14 I have ever seen. Nowadays, Criminal Minds and NCIS are about my limits on TV-14 violence, but this took it to a whole new dimension. This next part will have MAJOR spoilers for the first episode, and it might get graphic, so bear with me.
The episode is about an hour long, and about 25 minutes in is when the action really starts. Earlier, a man came over and confronted Norma and Norman about the property, which was apparently owned by a distant relative of his. Later, he returns drunk and brutally, brutally rapes Norma while Norman is out of the house. This is accompanied by about 20 seconds of Norma just screaming; it is a very disturbing scene. Luckily, Norman comes back and hits him over the head, which knocks him out. The mother-son duo then proceed to get the emergency kit (Norman) while Norma stabs the man to death multiple times.
The rest of the episode is basically blood, blood, more blood, with some suspense as well. It also shows Norman trying to cope with the murder. (Okay, there's not as much blood as others like The Walking Dead or AHS) I think that the creepiest part of the show was not the rape or the murder, but that SMILE at the end. The episode ends with Norma hugging Norman and saying something like "I love you Norman." Norman responds, "I love you too, Mom" and he just looks straight into the camera and does one of the creepiest smiles I have ever seen. Not only that, but Freddie Highmore does a really good job at portraying Norman. At first, he seems kind of shy, but then quickly gets trapped in a web of murders. By the end of the episode, I looked into his eyes and saw something along the lines of evil and insanity blossoming...*shudders*. I'm 13 and I found this show highly disturbing, especially to kids who are 12. But, it is also a very good show in a creepy way. 13 and up

What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Parent Written byMissCollier March 17, 2013
AGE
17
QUALITY
 

RAPE SCENE WAS INTOLERABLE FOR ANY AGE

DO NOT WATCH THIS SHOW UNLESS YOU SUPPORT VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. THE RAPE SCENE WAS UNNECESSARY AND OBNOXIOUS. IT IS INTOLERABLE AND ONLY CONTRIBUTES TO OUR CULTURAL ABILITY TO IGNORE THIS TYPE OF BEHAVIOR AS INSIGNIFICANT OR TOLERABLE. I HAD TO TURN IT OFF MID WAY THROUGH THE RAPE SCENE HAVING BEEN A RAPE VICTIM MYSELF. THIS TV SHOW IS SHAMELESS AND INEXCUSABLE.

What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Parent Written byPoonboy777 April 21, 2013
AGE
15
QUALITY
 

A Modern Take On A Truly Astonishing Psychological Thriller

Bates Motel is a riveting new drama with multivariate psychological themes and elements. It is a modern take on a true horror classic. Parents can expect to see infrequent violent altercations between characters and mild language, much expected from other A&E network dramas. There are some adult themes depicted in the show but there are also positive messages on family dynamics and boundaries within peer relationships. Bates Motel is full of high energy, unexpected turns and superb acting by the lovely veteran actor Vera Farmiga and the young, up and coming Freddie Highmore. Bates is a fabulous new thrilling drama with a fascinating plot and is appropriate for the viewer 15 years of age and older, and it is sure to keep the fan craving and anticipating more with each new episode.

What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Top Kids' Movies: An Essential Guide for Families