A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What 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?
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.
Talk to your kids 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?
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