The Queer All-Girl Skate Crew of ‘Betty’ Is TV’s Newest Must-See Squad
The new HBO series—a spin-off of the critically-lauded feature film “Skate Kitchen”—follows a diverse group of young women skaters navigating the perilous streets (and men) of NYC.
Betty, the new HBO series about a local NYC all-girl skate crew, trades in notes of DIY authenticity and flashy homogenized production. The show’s value is not precisely in its filmmaking but in its stars: Dede Lovelace, Nina Moran, Rachelle Vinberg, Kabrina “Moonbear” Adams, and Ajani Russell—all non-professional actors and actual friends who formed their own defiantly expressive group in the midst of a male-dominant urban skate culture. They each put on not only naturalistic but inventive and layered performances that keep you invested in a show that would otherwise come off as a slightly different take on High Maintenance.
Crystal Moselle has fictionalized these young women’s lives a few times before, in a Miu Miu commercial and then in the feature film Skate Kitchen (which also starred Jaden Smith as a love interest). Betty, like Skate Kitchen, draws its aesthetic from the physical circumstances of its characters, the streets and parks that are their cosmic and energetic homes, and not necessarily the apartments they share with their families or occupy alone. There’s a strong anti-gentrification ideology that feeds throughout the show—Janay (Lovelace) has a YouTube channel that points out the absurdities of urban block graffiti tours and the deliciously deadpan Kirt (Moran) pretends to be a clueless Ohio tourist in order to avoid paying the tab at a diner.
Episodes also simultaneously examine anti-blackness, homophobia, misogyny, and gendered violence, though without the heavy-handed afterschool special vibes that shows with less grounding in the communities they depict tend to put off. Instead, both the deep and casual are infused in every moment—there are very few grand pronouncements or reflections in the show, but insights that come in the midst of seemingly unrelated actions. In this way, the serious messages become unshakeable, as they are bound up in absolutely everything.
Camille (Vinberg), a shy-ish tomboy who passively rejects the girls to be one of the boys, is a supremely talented skater, but a bit slow to catch up with the social maturity of her peers of all genders. Honeybear (Adams), has an audacious street style (prominently featuring expressive pasties) and harbors a crush on another young woman skater, but hides her entire city life from her father and grandmother in Staten Island. Indigo (Russell) has a not-so-devastating secret she keeps hidden in service of her street cred, which hedges on casually dealing weed pens downtown. All the women form friendships less out of a supreme desire than a happenstance proximity. But that doesn’t dilute the bond that results—in their skate crew and in their relationships, showing up turns out to have a lot more value than showing out.
There are also many men in the world of Betty: best friends and surprise confidants, betrayers and abusers, homeboys and teachers, assholes and cops. The young men are cast with just as much inspiration as the young women, and both the bonds and tensions between them make the show honest. Forming an all-girl skate crew doesn’t render the young women’s relationship with young men automatically adversarial, but it does demand more of those relationships if the female solidarity is to remain.
And of course, there’s lots of skating. Even in that realm alone, Betty succeeds by expressing the unregulated joy of skateboarding—especially its grounding in the streets and outside of societal prescriptions of success and respectability. In fact, it’s a relief to watch a show about young women that does not demand their superiority or achievement in any conventional sense, but instead shows what might happen if you leave them be.