Hitchcock said audiences were smarter than they were given credit for

The director argued that his movies weren't responsible for people's actions.

NBC/Universal

The culture is always shifting. As norms and tastes change, and society progresses in one way or another, so too must media adapt and evolve. What was once shocking to some is now tame to most. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the films of Alfred Hitchcock. While Psycho continues to resonate with audiences, it will never again be as meaningful as it was in theaters in 1960. Its most crucial scenes have been parodied endlessly, draining the movie of any surprise. While seeing a toilet in a movie may have been novel in '60, it's mundane today.

While Hitchcock is rightly remembered as the Master of Suspense, some of his most gruesome work was merely a suggestion. As outlined in a 1969 interview with The New York Times, Hitchcock's true power came from leading the audience to believe they'd seen more than they had. Tellingly, Hitchcock reveals an inherent trust he had with the viewing public. Moreso than other artists, Hitch believed his crowd was smart and not nearly as easily influenced as the mainstream news predicted.

"Violence on the screen increases violence in people only if those people already have sick minds. I once read somewhere that a man admitted killing three women and he said he had killed the third woman after having seen Psycho. Well, I wanted to ask him what movie he had seen before he killed the second woman. And then we'd ban that movie, don't you see?

"And then if we found out that he'd had a glass of milk before he killed the first woman, we'd have to outlaw milk, too, wouldn't we?" 

It's a media narrative that persists to this day: Are violent video games to blame for violent actions? Does rap music have a violent effect on its listeners? 

"At a screening of Psycho, a young boy came up to me— he was about 9 or 10— and he said to me, 'What did you use for blood— chicken blood?'

"And I said, 'No, I used chocolate sauce.' And he said, 'Thank you.' The point is that he said what did you use. He knew it was a movie, that it was pretend."

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15 Comments

AgingDisgracefully 10 days ago
Always a fan of The Alf.
But should I question my own intelligence when I get the heebie-jeebies after hearing the name, "Arbogast"?
Runeshaper 10 days ago
Hitch was a genius and he definitely was a master of suspense!
ElizabethBoop 12 days ago
I once heard that Hitch was stopped by a passport inspector at a border crossing. The agent saw his profession listed as "producer" and, not recognizing the man, asked "what do you produce?"

"Gooseflesh".
justjeff 12 days ago
Interesting little article, and somewhat timely for me... You see, I've just finished making a font based on the title card from "Alfred Hitchcock Presents (which I'll be releasing in August)...
4thtroika justjeff 10 days ago
Where can we find it?
justjeff 4thtroika 10 days ago
The font? It will be released in August, and will be available on MyFonts.com and Fontspring.com. It's a commercial font and *not* free.
KawiVulc 12 days ago
"Were". Excellent choice of words there, well done.
harlow1313 12 days ago
"Hitchcock said audiences were smarter than they were given credit for"

Broadly speaking, social media and our nation's presidential politics have left me in doubt.

justjeff harlow1313 12 days ago
That's for today's audiences... but back then people used their brains for something more than dust bins...
BrittReid justjeff 12 days ago
Great comment.....And very true.
justjeff BrittReid 12 days ago
Thank you!
WilliamJorns justjeff 12 days ago
There are still some people with common sense in this world. Sure, I might be shocked or scared by something I see on TV or in a film, but I know enough to realize, after the initial shock's worn off, that it was only a movie/TV show, and it's not real.
justjeff WilliamJorns 11 days ago
I wan't implying that *everyone* nowadays lacks common sense... but you do have to question this world when so many people - for so many reasons - are polarized, angry and reactionary...

When it comes to films, I think Hitchcock meant that audiences of his day were more discerning and less knee-jerk in their reactions...
WGH justjeff 10 days ago
People have always been like that. But the discussions happened in bars instead of twitter.
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