Next stop in the Ultimate 2000s Blogathon comes to us from Sally Silverscreen at 18 Cinema Lane. 18 Cinema Lane is a place for all kinds of film however Sally Silverscreen is a fan of Hallmark films and the stop for a lot of reviews on those types of films. This time, Sally comes to us with something a little different as she takes a look at 2002 drama Queen of the Damned with an editorial looking at the Toxic Valentine.
Toxic Valentine: Why Lestat and Akasha’s relationship is very problematic in Queen of the Damned (2002)
Ah, Valentine’s Day. A day when the general theme of love is celebrated. The colors of red and pink are a signature staple whenever February 14th comes around. Hearts are the official shape of the holiday, sometimes filled with candy. This special day is usually known as a happy occasion, a time we can set aside to show the people around us how much we truly care about them. Movie fans sometimes take part in Valentine’s Day festivities by talking about their favorite cinematic couples, sharing their opinions on why they think these relationships are romantic and using select movie quotes and scenes to prove their point. However, we movie fans know that not every cinematic relationship is a healthy one. Some of them are down-right toxic.
In this editorial, I will be talking about a cinematic relationship that I, personally, feel is very problematic. By looking at the title, you might already know which on-screen couple I will be talking about. Last October, when I reviewed Queen of the Damned, I mentioned that, to me, Lestat and Akasha’s relationship was one of the most problematic relationships I’ve ever seen in a movie. However, I was only able to briefly explain why I feel this way. Because of my involvement in the Ultimate 2000s blogathon, I now have a chance to explain, in detail, why this particular cinematic relationship is not a healthy one. Before I begin this editorial, I would just like to say that I am only creating this post out of pure honesty and based on my opinion. I am in no way creating this post to be mean-spirited or be negative toward anyone’s cinematic preferences/opinions. In this editorial, I will specifically be referencing the characters and story from the Queen of the Damned film. I will be bringing up specific scenes and quotes in order to prove my point. Now, let’s talk about why Lestat and Akasha’s relationship is problematic by looking at five key areas: lack of consent, lack of communication, a power imbalance, intentional harm toward a significant other, and a not-so-loving significant other.
Lack of Consent
One of the most important components to any romantic relationship is consent. Asking someone’s permission and making sure that both members of a relationship are comfortable before putting themselves and each other in any situation is usually seen as a sign of how much the other person cares for the one they love. Unfortunately, Lestat and Akasha’s relationship is lacking in this department.
In my Queen of the Damned review, I mentioned that Akasha is the one who controlled the relationship, using the analogy of Akasha driving a car and Lestat being stuck in the passenger seat. This is not only true, but it’s also important to keep this truth in mind when discussing these five key areas of Lestat and Akasha’s problematic relationship. The first instance of Akasha not asking for Lestat’s consent happens at his concert. During a performance at his concert, a group of vampires climb up on stage and try to hurt Lestat. Marius tries to fight off these vampires in order to protect Lestat, but eventually he and Lestat are surrounded by even more vampires. While Akasha shows up, in the middle of the concert, and defeats these vampires, she ends up taking advantage of the situation. Akasha crashes through the stage, (as if the concert were her own, making a showstopping entrance in the process) takes Lestat against his will, and leaves. We, the audience, never see her ask Lestat if he wants to go anywhere with her or if he even wants to leave his concert. In fact, we never see Akasha make an effort to contact Lestat and make plans with him ahead of time. While Akasha took away Lestat’s chance to choose whether or not he wanted to leave, this is not the last time Akasha refused ask for his consent.
After Akasha and Lestat leave his concert, they arrive at her house. During their conversation, Akasha briefly mentions her deceased husband. When Lestat asks Akasha about her late husband’s whereabouts, she tells him, “He’s no more. Now you are my consort”. Here, Akasha is not only forcing Lestat to be her new husband, but also forcing Lestat into a marriage with her that he has very little interest in being a part of. Once again, Akasha chose not to ask Lestat if he was okay with being in a relationship in her or if he wanted to be married to her at all. Instead, she refuses to give him a choice or a chance to voice his concerns. After this conversation, Lestat and Akasha have an intimate moment with each other in a tub filled with water and red rose petals. We, the audience, don’t see Akasha asking Lestat if he’s comfortable with the situation or if he even wants to be in the situation. During this scene, it appears, at times, that Lestat is comfortable sharing this intimate moment with Akasha. However, there are a few times when Lestat appears as if he’s slipping out of consciousness. While body language can be helpful in figuring out what someone wants or needs, body language only tells a part of the story. It seems as if Akasha only relied on a select portion of Lestat’s body language in order to receive the message she wanted to hear. Whenever Lestat appears to be slipping out of consciousness, Akasha never addresses Lestat’s reaction or asks him if anything is wrong. She just acts like nothing out of the ordinary is happening.
Lack of Communication
A necessary component that is interwoven with consent is communication. In a romantic relationship, words are needed to share feelings, address concerns, and build/strengthen a bond. As I mentioned before, Akasha is the one controlling her relationship with Lestat. Therefore, she is controlling their conversation. During their first conversation at her house, Akasha is talking at Lestat and not to him, leaving very little room for Lestat to contribute to their conversation. In fact, half of this conversation is about Akasha. For example, when she tells Lestat about things she has observed about him, she says “You live your life in the open, like I did”. After she tells Lestat that he is now her husband, Akasha tells him “That’s why I kept you safe. Alive”. It seems like Akasha always finds a way to insert herself into the conversation. She doesn’t want to bother with Lestat’s perspective on anything. It is clear that Akasha is not interested in participating in an equally balanced conversation between her and Lestat.
It’s also important to observe how Akasha talks about Lestat. She mostly refers to him as “my love” or my king”. However, she only addresses Lestat by his name on less than three occasions. Based on this observation, it appears that Akasha wants to highlight her connection to Lestat, almost as if she holds a sort of ownership over him. During the film’s climax, when Lestat is drinking some of her blood, Akasha tells the other vampires in her presence “You see how he obeys me”. In that sentence alone, Akasha not only refuses to address Lestat by his name, but also seems like Akasha does not see Lestat as an equal sigfinicant other to her, but instead something she feels she can control.
A Power Imbalance
In a healthy relationship, both members should be equal to one another. Any type of power should be shared amongst each other and a balanced amount of control should be given to each member of that relationship. Unfortunately, this is not the case for Lestat and Akasha’s relationship. Because Akasha is a queen and one of the first vampires ever created, according to Queen of the Damned, Akasha feels she has the right to do, say, act, and treat others whatever and however she wants. This is why Akasha is the one controlling her relationship with Lestat, because she feels she is the most important and powerful vampire in that particular cinematic world. In the morning, after Akasha takes Lestat to her house, she tells him “This is but a taste of what we shall share, my love. My king. Behold our kingdom”. However, Akasha purposefully leaves him out of the process of building their “kingdom”. Lestat wakes up all alone and, later, finds several dead mortals at the pool and on the beach. He has no idea where Akasha is until she shows up minutes later. During this conversation, Lestat appears to be unhappy with what Akasha is telling him, even looking disgusted when Akasha talks about the dead mortals on her property. In their relationship, Lestat and Akasha never make any decisions together, don’t discuss any matters of importance, or contemplate Lestat new “title”. It honestly feels as if Lestat and Akasha aren’t on the same page, let alone the same book.
Because of Akasha’s title and her amount of control in their relationship, if appears to be negatively affecting Lestat as a person. Earlier in the film, Lestat is interacting with two female fans. When one of the fans tries to physically take advantage of him, Lestat pushes her hands away and tells her “Don’t do that”. Since there was no power imbalance present in this interaction, Lestat appeared comfortable addressing this fan’s error in not asking for his consent. In his relationship with Akasha, Lestat says very little to her. In the two conversations they had at her house, Lestat only asks short questions. At Marahet’s house, during the film’s climax, Lestat mostly stays silent, more often than not speaking when someone is addressing him. During their intimate moment in the rose petal filled tub, Lestat doesn’t say a word to Akasha, even when she bites his chest. Based on his reaction, it seems like Lestat was negatively affected by her actions, but doesn’t speak up about it to Akasha. It hard to tell if he is remaining quiet out of fear or to play along with Akasha’s plan in order to defeat her. Throughout their relationship, the audience doesn’t receive any voice-overs from Lestat like in previous scenes within this film.
Intentional Harm toward a Significant Other
When we think of a typical, healthy relationship, we think of significant others who treat each other with kindness and respect. Images of loving actions, such as hugging and snuggling on the couch, sometimes come to mind. In Lestat and Akasha’s relationship, we never see them perform loving actions toward each other, such as hugging. Even though they have an intimate moment on two separate occasions, both of them involving a lot of kissing, that is the closest thing to a loving action we see throughout their relationship. During Lestat and Akasha’s intimate moment in the rose petal filled tub, Akasha decides to bite Lestat’s chest. This causes him to flinch in pain and have a bloody wound on his chest. Akasha, however, does not seem to care that she has physically hurt her “husband”. Instead, she continues to kiss Lestat as if nothing ever happened. Lestat also never mentions this incident to Akasha or anyone else. The next day, at Maharet’s house, Lestat drinks some of Akasha’s blood. When Akasha is trying to make Lestat stop, she physically pushes him to the point of, practically, throwing him. This causes Lestat to fall on cement stairs. Fortunately, Lestat does not appear to receive any injuries from this incident. As for Lestat, the only thing closest to a harmful action toward Akasha happens on two occasions;
a) When Lestat is drinking her blood, but in this situation, he is pretending not to stop in order to provide a distraction so the other vampires can have a chance to defeat Akasha and;
b) When Lestat drinks Akasha’s blood again, but this time, to protect himself and the others at Maharet’s house from Akasha’s dangerous and villainous ways.
A not-so-loving significant other
For any romantic relationship, there needs to be a significant amount of love between those two people. A true love where both individuals love that person for who they are as well each other’s characters is an important ingredient. In Lestat and Akasha’s relationship, however, it never feels like they truly love each other. Because Lestat was forced into the relationship by Akasha, it doesn’t seem like he is invested in the relationship. Meanwhile, Akasha claims to love Lestat, but her reasons for loving him make one wonder if her intentions are self-centered. Earlier in Queen in the Damned, Akasha visits a vampire bar. When she arrives, she sees Lestat on television. When a patron at the bar asks if she likes Lestat, Akasha replies by saying “He reminds me of someone”. Days later, when Akasha forcibly takes Lestat to her house, she tells Lestat “Now you are my consort. That’s why I kept you safe. Alive”. As Lestat asks her if she really did save him at his concert, Akasha asks him “You thought it was all you” and then says “The ego of a king as well”. Based on what Akasha has said, it seems like she loves Lestat because he reminds her of her deceased husband. Though she never directly tell Lestat or anybody this, it is left to be assumed by the audience.
During their relationship, Akasha doesn’t really make an effort to get to know Lestat. In fact, she assumes she knows enough about him in order for their relationship to work. In their first conversation at her house, she tells him “all your wishes are come true”. When Lestat asks Akasha to specify what wishes she’s referring to, she tells him “For a companion. To share eternity”. Prior to this interaction, Lestat never mentioned anything about wanting or needing a companion. In fact, when Marius visits Lestat in Los Angeles, he tells Marius “I only have myself. You taught me that”. Also, during Akasha and Lestat’s first conversation at her house, she tells him “You’re bold, like your music” and “I know you, Lestat. I know that you crave to have the world at your feet”. Two things happen because of Akasha’s assumptions. The first thing is Akasha is basing her knowledge of Lestat on the image he’s presented as a musical performer. She’s only listened to a few of his songs, seen him on television once, and interrupted his concert. The musical side of Lestat is only a small part of him, so Akasha does not have as much information about him as she thinks she does. The second thing is Akasha assumes she knows what Lestat wants. Throughout the film, Lestat has said that he wants to walk in the light and not hide in the shadows. But, because Akasha does not take the time to ask Lestat what he wants, she gives him a royal title that he did not want or ask for. In Lestat’s case, he knows enough about Akasha to know what kind of a person she is. All of his knowledge of her comes from Marius, after Lestat stumbled across Akasha’s statue-esque being in Marius’ house. While in Los Angeles, Marius shares with Lestat that not only has his music woken Akasha up, but that she also killed her husband and took his blood and powers.
As I’ve said before, Akasha is the one controlling this relationship. This causes her to feel like she can do and say whatever her vampire heart desires. Despite the fact that she is the film’s villain, she doesn’t seem to have any trace of kindness or empathy toward others. At Maharet’s house, during the film’s climax, Akasha asks Lestat if he loves her. When Lestat says “Yes”, Akasha says “Then prove it” and orders him to kill Jesse, a woman that Lestat not only knows quite well, but also would rather be in a romantic relationship with. If two people love each other, they do not need to prove anything to the other person. Their actions and choices should speak for themselves. By Akasha forcing Lestat to prove his “love” for her by hurting someone else shows that Akasha doesn’t really think that highly of Lestat or anybody that he personally knows. If their relationship was healthy, Lestat’s love for his significant other would be enough proof that he cares about that person. It seems no matter what Lestat does or says, it will never be good enough for Akasha.
While Lestat and Akasha’s relationship is very problematic, it fortunately does not last long. Lestat and the other vampires at Maheret’s house are able to successfully defeat Akasha. This allows Lestat to escape this toxic relationship and enter a healthy, romantic relationship with Jesse. When I’ve read reviews for Queen of the Damned, no one had brought up Lestat and Akasha’s horrible, but short-lived relationship. It also doesn’t help that this film’s marketing campaign paints their relationship in a very different light. On the film’s poster, Lestat and Akasha are the only two people featured in the image. In the trailer, not only are Lestat and Akasha the only two characters who are prominently featured, but the movie’s footage and the voice-overs are set up in a way that makes it seem like Lestat chose to be in a relationship with Akasha and had contemplated turning to the dark side. As my editorial and the film itself shows, this is far from the truth. Even though movie fans would, probably, rather talk about the cinematic relationships worth rooting for, it’s important to take the time to talk about the not-so-healthy relationships in film. When observing these choices and behaviors, we movie fans and people in general can learn how not to treat others as well as leading a better example in our own real-life relationships, whether or not they’re romantic. It will not only make for a better Valentine’s Day, but also for better and many years to come.
Have fun at the movies!
A huge thanks to Sally for joining the Ultimate 2000s Blogathon with this insightful and thorough editorial. Be sure to head over to her site, 18 Cinema Lane and give her a follow to check out her great content!
As always, you can find the full list of entries updated daily HERE!