MBW Formation

Those of you who’ve read my book So Yesterday may remember the following scene in chapter 2. A focus group of cool-hunters has just been shown a new sneaker advertisement, and they all seem to agree that it’s awesome.

That is, until Jen speaks up . . .

“I was kind of bugged by the missing-black-woman formation.”

Mandy blinked. “The what?”

Jen shrugged uncomfortably, feeling the eyes on her.

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” I said, even though I didn’t.

Jen took a slow breath, collecting her thoughts. “You know, the guy on the motorcycle was black. The guy on the bike was white. The woman was white. That’s the usual bunch, you know? Like everybody’s accounted for? Except not really. I call that the missing-black-woman formation. It kind of happens a lot.”

It was quiet for another moment. But gears were spinning. Tina Catalina let out a long sigh of recognition.

“Like the Mod Squad!” she said.

“Yeah,” Hiro chimed in, “or the three main characters in . . . ” He named a certain trilogy of movies about cyber-reality and frozen kung-fu, whose title ends in an X, counts as a brand, and therefore will not grace these pages.

The floodgates broke. More comic books, movies, and TV shows tumbled off everyone’s lips, a dozen stuffed-full pop-cultural memory banks rifled for examples of missing-black-woman formations, until Mandy looked ready to cry.

She smacked the clipboard down.

“Is this something I should have KNOWN ABOUT?” she said sharply, sweeping her eyes around the table.

An unhappy silence fell over the conference room. I felt like an evil genius’s henchman when something goes wrong in a certain series of secret agent filmsรขโ‚ฌโ€as if Mandy might push a button on the control panel and we would be ejected, chairs and all, out the roof and into some lake in Central Park.

I noticed only yesterday that we’re living through a nation-changing MBW formation right now. (Gloria Steinem may have jogged my brain on this point.) So let’s all take a moment to appreciate the predictive, productive, and representative powers of pop culture.

We have a way of becoming the stories we tell ourselves.




Just to be clear: I’m not mocking what’s going on here in the US. Having a woman and an African-American man as serious contenders for president is momentous. It’s great to see.

Still, I didn’t want to let a missing-black-woman formation as epic as this one pass by unnoticed.

And for you younger folks, here’s the scoop on the late-1960s TV show The Mod Squad.

Update: To comply with Federal Election Commission equal time rules, I am also required to display a picture of the Republican candidates . . .


158 thoughts on “MBW Formation

  1. Ha, first comment, unless, at this very moment, someone else is commenting at the same time as me.
    Ah, So Yesterday. I haven’t read that in forever. I am so going have to buy it now.

  2. Really weird. I just read So Yesterday and was thinking the same thing. (About the election.) o.O

  3. HAHHH.


    Sorry. Very interesting, valid points. But the parting (Parthian?) shot was just brilliant.

    *well-meaning snicker*

  4. I actually thought about those same exact examples when i read that book for the first time a couple of months ago! insane!

    its totally true though – and the republican bit is pure GOLD.

  5. ahh Scott it is everywhere!! when i read so yesterday i thought about that for like EVER before reading some more

  6. Wow, that made my day ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for taking my mind off of auditions. I will go alert the masses of the missing-black-woman formation. Another person named Hiro in Scott’s books…

  7. i didn’t notice that he had 2 hiros until i was reading the excert. i was like hiro hummmmmmmm……
    neway i liked so yesterday a lot.. i havent read it in forever either. i think i’ll review it. o 1 last thing. whooooooooo #10!!!!!!!!!!! yay me!!!!
    or 11 or maybe if i stall long enough 13 hummmm…..* starts stalling*

  8. Eh…. Sometimes I think that there should be a missing Mexican formation with are population growing with more Mexicans.


  9. LOL. I’ve actually thought about the MBW formation several time since reading So Yesterday and it even crossed my mind during last Saturday’s Facebook debates. Fantastic post, Scott!

  10. Smith is one white dude.

    anyways that’s so awesome and so true. but i like the way it looks with the one black guy. it makes it looks fawesome. but i always end up hating the white dude.
    what is up with this? I guess white guys aren’t good at looking cool or something, although Neo will always be cool. >.> oooo burn diss oh . . . ok i’m really done now.

    good blog. and so yesterday was a really good book. read it last year. : )

  11. haven’t read So Yesterday yet….sadly. i have it. but haven’t had time to read it with all the school stuff and all. interesting post though i never thought about that.

    guess what….today in my awesome honors english class-(last day..:( ) we watched this short movie thing called “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbary and there was a wall screen that put w/e you were thinking on the wall and it was like a tv…and the kids in the movie like thought of lions and stuff and the veltd–African safari or w/e. and so then there parents were all worried and stuff and so they tried to close the room but the kids snuck back in and programed it so that the lions would pop out of the screen and eat their parents….they were some twisted little kids. lol. anyways the reason i was saying this is b/c the house like did everything for them and it reminded me of the Uglies series.

  12. Yeah that does sound like pretties, not so much uglies.
    Anyway i just felt like posting this, so my friend plays neopets , i know roght, and she made me join but its not that bad, its dumb, but there is this really cool part theyre called guilds and what you do is you have a club about a certain topic and you do activities and such so of course i had to make one to do with uglies, exapt it wasnt mine to began with i was just the manager of it but now im the owner the reson im teling u this is because i wanted to show u because if ur like me u like anything to do with uglies so here u go

  13. I have a neopets but I haven’t gone on it for a while.I looked at guild though just now and it’s pretty cool.
    See ya!

  14. I think its very cool that we may be in the middle of history here. The first woman President, fawesomeness, and of course, a black president, very fawesome too. I think it is very cool. I am almost done with So Yesterday, i have been really slow. I must repeat again because it makes me in thrilled that we may be in the presence of history.

  15. The Republican candidates made me laugh out loud.
    I’ve been fascinated by the idea of the mbw formation ever since I read the book–and I still see it everywhere, as well as variations on the theme. Disney channel does it in practically every show; the main character is one gender and race and has two friends, one of the same race and different gender, one of the same gender and different race. I think I noticed that before I read So Yesterday, though.
    Guess they wanted to push that whole PC thing.
    Even Doctor Who did it for a little bit, in the second series. But then Martha showed up, and took care of the whole situation.

  16. I hate it when you see the MBW it bothers me. It botrhers me when i feel like people are excluded. see, i was given this really awesome gift that i love. Ok, its sympathy. I always try to feel sympathy for others, most importantly if its happened to me. for Example:
    One time i sneezed on some random dude and it was totally embarrassing and then a girl and my class sneezed on me and was like ‘sorry, that gross’ and im like ‘its ok’

    and i mean like i understand that people make mistakes and i really try to be like the kindest i can because i no how it feels to be rejected and embarrassed u no?

  17. Hahahahaha! The Republican candidates! Tee hee! You know the surveys that tell you whether you are a Republican or a Democrat? I ALWAYS am in the middle. I’m neither. Yay! *I have no intention of sparking the inevitable political debate*

    I say the MBW is really Big Brother, watching you as you sleep.

  18. DUDE! I never have seen better photos of the monochromatic-white-male Republican candidates! Most of the time, they are sticking their fingers in their noses!

  19. lol thats so funny
    that makes me want to tell the world to find the missing black woman
    the republicans
    its funny ’cause its true
    rich old white dudes
    A.K.A. the republican party
    but the black dude (forgot his name)running for prez
    has to be the whites black dude ever so does he realy count

  20. i laughed so hard when i saw the “republican candidates”!!!!! it describes them so well!!!!!! haha!!!!!! my mom saw it and thought they looked scary. i’m like, “it’s funny!!!! you have to read it to understand!!!” good job on this one scott!!!! i needed a laugh!!!!! hahaha!!!! everytime i hear about the republicans i’m going to think of this and start laughing!!!!!! that probably isn’t good, because one of my friends is VERY republican. who cares. i’ll laugh at whoever i want to!!!! hehe!!! ok, bye peoples!!!

  21. *sigh* The missing black woman… yes…
    That’s very interesting. I’d forgotten about that since I read the book… but now it’s all coming back…

    I like the picture of the republican candidates- very spot on.

  22. Oh, the infamous MBW Formation. It’s everywhere.
    I laughed pretty hard at the Republican candidates there, too. n_n
    I should read So Yesterday again. I haven’t done so in a few months. *is a very hard-core So Yesterday fan*

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