Goodbye to the Skater Girls of ‘Betty,’ My Coolest Onscreen Companions During This Long, Hot Summer
I wasn’t a skater girl in high school or college—far from it, in fact. I was the quiet, not-even-that-studious nerd watching immeasurably cooler girls do ollies on the subway platform, secretly longing to borrow one of their boards and execute a perfect trick of my own. Unfortunately, my dream of being a skater was never realized, but in spring of 2020, I got the next best thing; Season 1 of HBO’s Betty, a series revolving entirely around the sweaty, occasionally sexy, often silly exploits of a pack of NYC skater girls. (Truthfully, they would probably roll their eyes at the semi-demeaning term “skater girl,” given that the show’s title reclaims a semi-derogatory term for a woman who skates or surfs.)
Season 2 of Betty premiered in early June of 2021, and the show was clearly affected by all that had happened in the intervening year; characters wore masks and talked about COVID-19, and the protests that swelled around the country in the wake of George Floyd’s murder inspired plenty of onscreen protest banners. Still, the references to the IRL world don’t seem shoehorned in or overdone in the least; Betty’s cast is comprised primarily of young, proudly feminist, often openly queer women of color, and it feels natural that they would have opinions on police brutality, public health, and the many other issues that have surged to the forefront since the show’s first season. (A lot more natural than the sporadic mask-wearing on procedurals like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, anyway.)
This season of Betty covers a lot more ground than its predecessor—queer threesomes, #MeToo-fearing boyfriends, sugaring, COVID-related income loss, and the elusive “skate influencer” economy are all touched on, and there’s a truly great runner in which bro-ish, mega-chill Kirt (Nina Moran) becomes an advisory queen of sorts to a group of confused skater boys looking for tips on how to treat women—but the show hasn’t lost its heart, probably because it remains in tune with the individual journeys of its main cast. When Honeybear (Kabrina “Moonbear” Adams) struggles to make sense of her newly opened-up relationship with her girlfriend, or Camille (Rachelle Vinberg) chafes against the sex-sells mentality of the skate label she’s been recruited to make videos for, it feels organic and true to who these women really are.
While the Gossip Girl reboot has gotten, ahem, plenty of attention (including from me) for purportedly capturing the lives of the under-21 New York elite, Betty is doing much of the same work without all the fanfare. Sure, the show’s characters wait for the L train instead of hopping in an Uber Black, and they hook up in abandoned buildings instead of multi-million-dollar apartments, but all the gossip and drama are still there, just in a slightly less outrageous form. Plus, Betty is anchored by friendship that seems genuine: When Indigo (Ajani Russell) gets burned out on the sugar-baby lifestyle after what she quietly and euphemistically terms a “bad date,” it’s Camille who pulls her to her feet, coaxing her to a Halloween party to get her mind off it. Does the party go well? No—do they ever?—and it’s painful watching Indigo struggle with what’s happened to her, but her predicament is also handled with more sensitivity and care than I personally am used to seeing when it comes to sexual assault or misconduct narratives on TV.
Betty isn’t necessarily “appointment TV” in the traditional sense; after an episode airs, I rarely see people dissecting it on my Twitter feed, and I’ve never attended a watch party (although if anyone’s throwing one for the Season 2 finale on Friday, please invite me). Still, it’s been a constant companion over this long, hot summer, during which I’ve canceled plans to repair to the comfort of an air-conditioned bedroom more frequently than I’d like to admit. As of now, Betty has yet to be renewed for a third season, but I’m crossing my fingers anyway. Honeybear, Indigo, Kirt, Camille and Janay (Dede Lovelace) are the kind of crew I wish I’d been worldly enough to hang out with in high school or college—but for now, I’ll settle for watching them fight, flirt, smoke, snack, and skate on my TV screen.
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