The struggles young women face in male-dominated subcultures are brought to light in the new six-part HBO series Betty. Written and directed by Skate Kitchen creator Crystal Moselle, Betty has strong cinematography and a charming narrative that encapsulates feminism and friendship in the New York City skater scene. Representing women from all walks of life, the show, despite the occasional awkward performance, is empowering and stands as an engaging watch that resonates with the times.
Named after the demeaning term given to girls at skate parks, Betty follows five women’s lives and relationships as they overcome social and male perceptions of them. The series begins with Kirk (Nina Moran) and Jayne (Dede Lovelace) coming together after a failed attempt to organise a girl skating session. We are then introduced to the shy photographer Honeybear (Kabrina Adams), Camille (Rachelle Vinberg), “trying to fit in with the guys”, and eventually the mysterious newbie Indigo (Ajani Russell). In a structure similar to The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, each woman is a fully realised character dealing with their own journey before coming together to celebrate and support each other.
Betty presents not one but five different representations of women coping and overcoming male-dominated spaces with a refreshing display of candour. The nuanced relationships and relatable scenarios prove to be mature reflections and something everyone (skater or not) will no doubt relate to. However, with some characters more engaging than others, the series struggles to hold our interest. When Camille and Honeybear’s journey is so dynamic, Kirk’s relaxed scenes feel inconsequential and a distraction from the rest of the story. As is the struggle with most stories crowded by protagonists, it is difficult for the same level of attention and detail to be created throughout the six episodes.
One of the strongest elements in the series is its colourful depiction of the underbelly of New York. With captivating skating sequences and visuals, Betty is a love letter to skating, demonstrating clear emotions and passion through its cinematography. The excitement of the sport and the power of the women shown are mesmerising. Moselle makes you wish you were a part of her world, daring you to pick up a skateboard and join.
Betty is a series for our time; it is young, fresh and holds an important message about female empowerment and confidence. It may not present the most complex narrative, but it will no doubt leave you smiling at your screen.
Betty is released on Sky Comedy on 9th June 2020.
Watch the trailer for Betty here: