I've mentioned before that my wife is a regular viewer of most of the ABC Family slate, so it probably won't come as a surprise to learn she was eagerly anticipating last night's Pretty Little Liars finale, which promised to reveal the identity of the mysterious "A." I've been exposed to enough of the show that I'm at least aware of most of the players, though I've missed just about every episode in this half-season. But this isn't post about who A is.
No, this is about the numerous Psycho allusions and references scattered throughout the episode, including but possibly not limited to:
- a visit to a motel that bears a not-inconsiderable resemblance to the Bates Motel. (It might very well have been the facade from the Universal backlot.
- a creepy motel owner with a style akin to Anthony Perkins' Norman Bates.
- stuffed birds mounted in the motel office, plus a later reference to Faux-Bates being all alone with his stuffed creatures.
- blonde character takes a shower, with a number of homage angles, most notably a shadow seen through the shower curtain.
- a closing scene stolen right out of the film, with a psych patient's condition being explained while several characters watch this individual through a two-way mirror. Said character is wrapped in a blanket as Bates was at the conclusion of the film, and has an internal monologue played while the camera focuses on their face. And again, many homage camera angles here.
Me being the film nerd I am, I was on the lookout for Psycho callbacks from the moment the motel showed up. As they piled up, I couldn't help but wonder how many of the tween target audience got all the references to a film more than 50 years old. And then THAT made me curious as to if the writers wrote this expecting their viewers would get the joke and applaud them for being clever - or if they had no expectation that the references would be spotted. (Given the preponderance of references, I'm going with the theory they didn't expect the homage to be invisible.)
I couldn't help but picture some devoted PLL tween viewer being completely oblivious to all the nods. And that's not a "Damn kids today! Get off my lawn!" judgement. The film was released in 1960 and it's not exactly an all-ages classic on the order of Psycho. (Though it would be a real shame of those teens lived their entire lives ignorant of a classic that has to be one of Hitchcock's best.)
I've been in that situation before. When I was in about 4th or 5th grade, I was a regular viewer of Tiny Toons Adventures. One episode was called "Sepulveda Blvd" and it cast Montana Max in the role of a struggling writer who ends up being taken in by Elmyra Desmond - a has-been actress who wants Max to write her comeback vehicle.
Sound familiar? It's the plot of Sunset Blvd. At the age of 10, that fact escaped me - but when I was 19 and had to attend a screening of the Billy Wilder classic for film class... we'll lets just say I had a lot of "there's something familiar about this" moments.
So has that ever happened to you? Ever seen an homage before you saw the original and not figure it out until long after the fact?
And if you want to see the Tiny Toons Homage, you can find it here.