“Glad You Came” by The Wanted is one of my favorite songs. I love the clever lyrics of the refrain where the last word of the previous line becomes the first word of the next line. It also has a compelling rhythm to it that pounds out in a very demanding way. The whole thing kind of reminds me of sex where one thing leads inexorably, but a bit unexpectedly, to another—all accompanied by a strong and steady beat. All good here.
I was reminded of the name of the group as I read The King by J.R. Ward. One of the elements in her world building is the idea of the bonded male (world building is an important element of fantasy writing where the lay of the land is explicated and the laws are set out- and it’s really important for an author to be consistent- so that there are no incongruous deus ex machina moments—like when Batman is always able to pull exactly the right tool or device out of his utility belt to solve the problem of the hour—that always annoyed me), because nothing will cause a fan backlash faster than when a writer colors outside of the lines with respect to the rules he or she has developed. So, for example, it would be the height of illegitimacy for one of J.R. Ward’s vampires to be able to go out during the day (unless they are half human) or for Sookie Stackhouse, who reads minds, to suddenly become telekinetic when that was not one of her stated abilities. Being consistent in world building is important for verisimilitude—which is a critical characteristic of good fantasy, ironically. But I’ve digressed quite a bit.
Back to “The Wanted” and how it relates to The Black Dagger Brotherhood series. As part of the internal rules, each vampire male bonds with a specific female who becomes his mate. And when a male becomes bonded, it’s for life. And while it doesn’t seem to work quite that way for females, it always seems to work out such that the bonded male woos and wins the female he desires, and she, in turn, becomes totally devoted to him.
I think Stephanie Meyers in the Twilight series said it best: when a male is totally focused on a female, when he loves her beyond reason and would do anything to see her happy and content and always puts her needs before his own, why wouldn’t she respond with reciprocal feelings? Well, there’s the stalker angle, where that kind of devotion could be a little creepy, depending on who the guy was. But, in these books the guy is always super-hot, smart, competent, and successful. So what’s not to love? It’s a dream come true, at least for most women, I would guess (but let me know your thoughts on that, for sure).
And there’s the rub: it’s all a dream—just a fantasy. But, as this is a space devoted to finding truth in fiction, let’s delve a littler deeper to find out what this trope actually means and why it’s repeated so often (Kresley Cole’s Immortal After Dark series, Thea Harrison’s Elder Races series, and G.A. Aiken’s Dragon Kin series, to name just a few, all contain variations on the theme of the bonded or mated male and his singular female).
Because in truth, don’t we all want to be wanted with that kind of intensity? I know I do. And I figure I’m not terminally unique, more’s the pity, so I must have a lot of company at this particular party. Being wanted is heady stuff. Being wanted elevates us, makes us feel desirable and enhanced (unless we pull a Woody Allen and decide we’d never want to join a club that would accept us as members- but that is a different problem altogether and a subject for another post). Don’t we all dream of being pursued- with intent and persistence? Of being chosen over all others and recognized as being special—at least to one among our species (it’s not quite the same to generate such dedication from our dog). Doesn’t it play right into our deepest desires to be singled out with laser-like focus as the object of someone’s undying love? Wouldn’t such an event validate us in a way that we long to experience? I will only speak for myself here, but my answer is a resounding “Hell yes! Where do I sign up for that?!”
To be so decisively, definitively, demonstrably loved and wanted, that is the ideal, and that’s what these books are reflecting—our deepest desire to belong, to be a part of something bigger than ourselves—to be half of a consuming love for the ages.
And, I believe some of us do get that, but they are the lucky few, and it’s not clear to me that these chosen few share any particular characteristics or physical traits; I’ve met some really physically unattractive women whose husbands are utterly and completely besotted with them, so it’s not about external beauty, for sure, and I’ve met some men who seem like total jerks, and their wives kiss the ground they walk on, so it’s not a personality contest, either.
But mostly, the ideal is a fantasy—a perfection toward which we strive while recognizing the simple underlying truth that we all just want you to want me, like the old Cheap Trick song says. And even if it’s not perfect, it’s still deeply satisfying when we feel way, even just a little. And the ideal, as represented in these awesome reads, reminds us that because this is our world, and we get to do at least some of the world building, the need to be the wanted is as compelling for men as it is for women, and women would do well to remember the Golden Rule in these situations. When we offer the status of the wanted to another, it’s a good bet that those feelings will be reciprocated, just like Stephanie Meyers says. Score another for truth in fantasy!