Dating a Sociopath in "Interview with the Vampire"
The challenges of being with someone who doesn't have empathy.
Is Letstat a Sociopath?
Let's cut to the chase. Yes, Lestat (Sam Reid) is most certainly a sociopath.
The only possible mitigating factor is that he's a vampire, and we could wonder if all vampires are sociopaths, but Louis proves that theory wrong by maintaining empathy and remorse.
Sociopaths, or more accurately, people with antisocial personality disorder (APD), have certain characteristics (you can read about the criteria in this post). They don't feel empathy for others. They lack remorse for their actions. They act manipulatively, deceitfully, and always in their self-interest. They break rules, they are aggressive and impulsive, and worst of all, they are often incredibly charming.
The definition of a sociopath could have been based on Lestat. He meets every criterion, and to an extreme. He doesn't just hurt people without remorse, he kills people with pleasure. He's not only charming and funny, he knows exactly what to say to ingratiate himself in every social situation.
Lestat also doesn't care if he hurts people and always has justifications for his actions. He thinks he is "freeing" people whom he deems worthy by giving them the gift of death. And he thinks he is saving Louis (Jacob Anderson) from a life of inauthenticity and thinly veiled servitude by making him a vampire.
Dating a Sociopath
It probably goes without saying that dating a sociopath is not a good idea. The criteria of APD describe a person who is self-centered, manipulative, untrustworthy, impulsive, aggressive, and abusive. Since people with APD lack empathy, they do not understand (or care) if they hurt their partners, and they make no efforts to repair unless it is a manipulation to keep their partners from leaving.
As the journalist Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian) observes, Louis was in an abusive relationship with Lestat. Curiously, when they first spoke years ago, Louis seemed empowered and angry when speaking about Lestat, but during the current interview Louis describes Lestat with more affection and recalls their relationship as more romantic.
Louis insists he wasn't a victim, but let's take a look at the cycle of abuse in trauma bonding to learn more about their relationship.
Trauma bonding results from a cycle of abuse. It is a pattern with 7 stages that ensnares the survivor in the relationship, making it difficult for them to see how abusive it is and even more difficult to get out.
Let's look at how Lestat and Louis's relationship follows this very pattern.
Their relationship starts with Lestat showering Louis with attention and gifts. They shop for new clothes, attend the opera, and he helps Louis purchase a club. Lestat even arranges to have a private meeting with Louis's favorite prostitute as a way of seducing him. At first, it's exciting and intoxicating, especially for a man like Louis who feels he's never been fully seen by a romantic partner before now.
2. Trust and Dependency
Louis is entirely dependent on Lestat after becoming a vampire. He doesn't even know how to use his senses, let alone how to survive in a human world. Lestat is the only person he can turn to and trust as he learns how to be a vampire.
Lestat keeps Louis wanting more by revealing new vampiric abilities Louis can learn... that is, as long as Louis stays by Lestat's side. He fosters the image of being Louis' protector and mentor, breeding trust and dependency.
Lestat's patience runs thin as Louis becomes increasingly discontent with their life. He tolerates Louis's guilt at first, but eventually Lestat expects Louis to give up what he would describe as the unnecessary feelings of guilt and sadness, and enjoy their eternal life together.
Several times, Lestat explodes at Louis, reprimanding him for his human-like emotions and urging him to be the dominating predator that he is.
4. Manipulation & Gaslighting
Lestat does all that he can to convince Louis that his feelings and beliefs are wrong, invalidating any emotion or opinion that doesn't align with his own.
One great example of these abusive tactics is when Lestat sleeps with a female singer and Louis expresses his hurt feelings by asking, "Aren't I enough?" Lestat laughs cruelly in response before explaining he likes "variety." This is his hurtful way of informing Louis they have an open relationship.
Notice that Lestat makes no effort to empathize with Louis or have an open discussion about the boundaries of their relationship. In fact, quite the opposite; instead of hearing out his partner, Lestat comments that they're communicating "so much better now" to reframe the conversation as something positive then kisses Louis to end the discussion.
5. Resignation & Giving Up
Louis becomes resigned to his life with Lestat. Although he keeps trying to follow his moral compass, Louis is always pulled back in by Lestat. For example, he criticizes Lestat for humiliating the opera singer before killing him, but when Lestat yells at Louis to accept his nature, Louis joins in on the meal. He struggles to fight Lestat's instruction on how he should act even though it is against his own beliefs.
6. Loss of Self
Lestat removes everyone from Louis's life- his family, friends, and many coworkers- and thus, Louis has no one to keep him grounded. His mother calls him the devil, his sister is afraid of him, and his brother is dead. He does his best to stay true to himself, but his life and his self are slowly lost.
7. Being Trapped in the Cycle
Despite Louis's protests about the problems with their shared life, he stays with Lestat for years. Lestat has isolated him socially, made him dependent financially, and is his only resource for vampiric information. Louis is trapped in the intense cycle of their relationship.
Louis may not see himself as a victim, and "survivor" is the more appropriate term anyway, but their relationship is textbook abuse with all 7 stages of trauma bonding.
Survivors struggle to leave abusive relationships because the abuser adeptly convinces them that the relationship is fine, great even, and any problems in the relationship are because of the survivor. They also believe that their survival depends on their abuser loving them, which is actually somewhat true for Louis.
This relationship gets a solid F.
Abusive relationships shouldn't be pursued. In fact, therapists won't even work with couples if there's domestic violence or this level of abuse.
This is one relationship that can't (or shouldn't) be saved, but unfortunately, they have an endless lifetime ahead of them and it will be hard for Louis to get out.