HBO’s Betty is “scrappy, beautiful and filled with love”
Written, executive produced and directed by Crystal Moselle (the filmmaker behind the Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary The Wolfpack), Betty is based on her critically acclaimed feature film, Skate Kitchen, which took the skateboarding scene – and the festival circuit – by storm in 2018.
“Betty is about a group of women stepping into a world that’s very intimidating and making it their own,” says Crystal. “Skateboarding is the backdrop but really it’s about relationships and women supporting each other. It’s scrappy, beautiful and filled with love.”
The critics agree. Betty has a 97% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where Season 1 was the fourth best-reviewed young adult series of 2020. As the critics’ consensus there puts it: “Earnest, audacious, and effortlessly cool, Betty captures the spirit of skating and friendship with style.”
Set in the last chapter of 2020, Season 2 captures the late summer and early autumn COVID-19 months in New York City, where masks and outside activities are the norm.
Nominated for a 2021 Gotham Award for Shortform Breakthrough Series, the show’s acclaim is a testament to both Crystal’s intimate filmmaking and striking visual style, and to the brave new world of the subculture the story is immersed in. But the shining stars of the series are the central characters of that world – young female skateboarders challenging convention, finding connection and forging their identities on the streets of New York City and in the skateparks that, up until recently, were the domain of their male counterparts.
The comedy-drama stars Dede Lovelace, Kabrina Adams (aka Moonbear), Nina Moran, Ajani Russell, and Rachelle Vinberg, who all reprise their roles from the original film, essentially playing themselves.
“As a tribute to youth, and to these young women in particular, it is as invigorating as it is sweet,” says The Guardian. Salon.com says it’s about “watching a new generation of women empower themselves and the women around them, seemingly in real time. It’s celebratory, intimate and upbeat, perfect for a summer binge.”
“I feel like this year, so much of what they’re all exploring is that otherness of what they want and who they are,” says Alliah Mourad, Season 1 co-producer and now executive producer. “I hope girls walk away from this being able to say, ‘I’m glad I’m not the only one,’ and they’re happy that we’re just celebrating ourselves. That’s what I hope they walk away with – joy.”
Which is the kind of attitude that makes Betty a great pick for Pride Month. As Black Girl Nerds says, “One of the most exciting parts of the show is its depiction of normalized queer romance,” something Vogue echoes, saying, “The five stars of Betty are predominantly women of colour, several of them queer, but the show engages these realities naturalistically: Shy documentarian Honeybear (Moonbear)’s romance with an alluring fellow skater girl is treated as just that: a romance, with realistic ups and downs, rather than a teaching moment for the audience about queer love.”
Variety hails Betty as “bold as hell”; AV Club as “authentic and endearing”; GQ as a “must-see”; The Wall Street Journal as “electric, energetic and certainly freewheeling” and RogerEbert.com as “a spontaneous and deeply sincere drama about living and skating freely.”
The whole of Seasons 1-2 are also available to binge-watch on Showmax.