From the innovative title sequence to the fashion and the argot, Betty is imminently lovable. The mini-series is based on Crystal Moselle’s 2018 feature film, Skate Kitchen, about female skateboarders in New York City. The film is based on a real-life women’s skateboarding collective in New York called Skate Kitchen and features the skateboarders playing fictional versions of themselves.
Moselle met Nina Moran and Rachelle Vinberg on the subway and asked if they would like to work with her on a film. After a short film, That One Day, and Skate Kitchen, a full length feature, Betty is the third collaboration between Moselle and the skaters.
Skate Kitchen tells the story of Camille (Vinberg) a shy teenager who finds herself in the skating community. Betty is not a sequel or a prequel; it inhabits the same universe as Skate Kitchen with most of cast reprising their roles. The show begins with Janay (Dede Lovelace) and Kirt (Moran) throwing an all-girl skate session where they meet Camille and Honeybear (Kabrina Adams). When Camille’s backpack is stolen with the all-important Winter Bowl key, the girls help her look for it. They also meet Indigo (Ajani Russell) and Farouk (Reza Nader) who is conducting all sorts of shady business from his van, including dealing in weed pens.
Betty is an engaging slice-of-life portrait of growing up in the colourfully wild world of skating. The conversations and characters feel real as the girls navigate a tricky world. While Betty is light with delicious lashings of humour, it does not shy away from issues. The dialogues instead of just pushing the plot from point A to B, reveals characters. When the girls are arrested for starting a fight, Kirt who is not arrested says, “I am lucky” and the girls retort “no, you are white.”
- Season: 1
- Episodes: 6
- Run time: 30 minutes
- Creator: Crystal Moselle
- Starring: Dede Lovelace, Kabrina Adams, Nina Moran, Ajani Russell, Rachelle Vinberg, Reza Nader, Edmund Donovan, Caleb Eberhardt
- Storyline: A slice-of-life portrait of female skateboarders in New York
Rich girl Indigo reveals her pricey education with her wordplay (“Kirt started textually harassing me”) and the odd bits of information she collects. Honeybear, who changes out of her formal sweaters and skirts to vibrant clothes minus a bra, says, “There is no in or out, I don’t do labels,” even as she uses her clothes to make a statement.
There is discussion of cultural appropriation for 2000 dollars at a modelling gig, love (“If you are going to love the vagina, you best love the heart too”) and what constitutes harassment—“when you feel harassed, that is harassment”. Kirt makes her stand clear when she says, “I want to stop fighting the patriarchy and help the matriarchy instead.” And Farouk describes himself as “the nicest drug dealer you will ever meet”. The clothes speak volumes too—from Kirt’s long shorts and shirts to Camille’s formal tops and trousers, Indigo’s cornrows to Janay’s Barack Obama printed shirt.
Where there are young people, there is heartbreak. Donald (Caleb Eberhardt) forces Janay to look at power and control while Bambi (Edmund Donovan) with his passive-aggressive behaviour makes Camille take stock of what she wants from life.
The show has been renewed for a second season. Betty (the title is a reclamation like Skate Kitchen), is a funny and tender coming-of-age story of women skateboarders who are outsiders on many levels — of race, gender and sexual orientation.
Incidentally, there is no need to wait for Pride month (June in the United States) to watch Betty — the tears and laughter of growing up does not need a season or reason to indulge.
Betty is streaming on Disney+Hotstar