‘Betty’ Season 1, Episode 2: “Zen and the Art of Skateboarding” Review – The Bumpy Route From The Lens of Female Skateboarders

The second episode of Crystal Moselle's ‘Betty’ looks further into skateboarder Honeybear, and other subplots that surround the influence-internet culture, secrets, and the “Me Too Movement.

HBO

When The Skate Kitchen first formed together in Crystal Moselle’s 2018 skate collective feature, we were introduced to a young real-life skating sisterhood that shined their talent of kick-flips, the essence of youth, and highly amusing conversations amongst the skate ramps. Shining their lives effortlessly throughout the hot summer days of New York City, weaving through traffic to a soundtrack that executes a beautiful and surreal warmth within adolescence, and showering in a sense of laughter and conformability throughout each silly little argument, the girls, despite being struck with the male-dominated world every now and then, handled their lives in what could only be described as effortless and liberating. However, despite the narrative that mostly tied into Camille (Rachelle Vinberg), and the all-girl skaters that swiftly shuffled in behind her, Honeybear (Moonbear), the quiet teen who was always seen dripping in an amount of coolness and color, thoroughly attached to her camera, didn’t really get the limelight that was showed amongst the other skaters. Until now. 

As the second episode of Betty starts, unlike the premiere that oozed with a luminous setting and bright tone, we are invited into Honeybear’s bedroom that couldn’t be more opposite than her everyday vibrant style within the skate park. Pictured in a bleak-looking uniform that screams for any remote of color, Honeybear, while secretly pulling out her pink and white sideboard and dropping it out of her window, bears an expression that could only remark a slight sense of hope. Cutting to a scene that shows her father and her grandmother dressed in the same deep-colored clothing, camouflaging with the room’s bare interior, we instantly learn that Honeybear, the free-spirited teen we saw prancing around with her camera in the first episode, is merely covering up her wild side in a house that — through signals of her father’s dismissive tone and sneering comment towards her being a vegetarian — is restrictive on being different. A household that, while still displaying love and endearance, doesn’t allow her to shine as brightly as the everyday pasties she wears around the city. And it shows that, clearly, as the scene ends and a clash of loud pop music follows her out, onto a boat, and eventually to a skate park, away from her hometown, dazzled up in her iconic and multicolored getup – camera and everything. A Honeybear that we are used to seeing, and most definitely can’t live without when envisioning the all-powerful skate sisterhood. A psychedelic picture that is simply unmissable amongst the kickflips that make up the colorful park. 

As the episode continues in the same visual delight as its premiere, Betty places us in the presence of Kurt (Nina Moran) and her newly-made friendship with Indigo (Ajani Russell). Further taking us on a visually crisp montage, backed with the radio edit of Basement Jaxx’s ‘Romeo’, we start to see a good friendship in the making as the pair express themselves in the heat of the moment over their shared love of ice cream, laughs within the bustling city, and their heartache over a dog, they soon address with strokes, across the water fountains. As far as the episode has told us, Indigo is still practicing her skateboarding skills with Kurt from their previous engagement, however, once bathing in the sun comes to an end, Indigo feels a rush of uneasiness as Kurt suggests they go to the skate park. Proving once again how male-dominated the world of skateboarding truly is — “I don’t feel like having a bunch of thirsty-ass dudes looking at me” — the two skate teens approach the ramps with an exciting glow that dimmers down once Kurt sees Camille skating past with her so-called group of “f–boys.” 

When the previous episode ended, Janay (Ardelia “Dede” Lovelace), Kurt, and Honeybear were left stranded in the rain outside of the Winter Bowl skateboarding club, due to Camille’s lack of persistence to the guard to let them in — besides her own determined success of letting herself in. From what we learned from that scene, besides how utterly shocked the trio were by their fellow skateboarder’s behavior, is that Camille will do anything to stay on the side of the boys. And from what the latest Betty episode shows, her constant hanging by their side, laughing and joking as she edges forward for (what seems like) approval from her distinctive group, it becomes obvious of how her presence amongst them is composed. Bending over to eagerly see what they’re all gathering around looking at, only to be ignored by her constant curiosity, and standing outside the group in an image that depicts her smaller than the rest of them, the sharp yet mellow tune that’s added in the background makes it all the more questionable if she feels at home there. Particularly when across the other side of the skate park, the sounds of laughter and playfulness echo amongst the all-girl skate sesh — reminiscing in the moment Camille once had when searching for her lost backpack with them days before: a time in which, from what it seems, no longer carries with her when associating with her male-led bunch. A small-time adventure that more or less makes us dubious if Camille is going to go back to the joyful gang, or stay put in a circle that continually ridicules female skateboarders as “Betty’s.” 

Carrying on the same light-hearted atmosphere as its middle, and embroidering in more humor, tricks, and identity that make up the skateboarding sisterhood that we so longingly desire to be apart of, the episode soon starts to center on a subplot that feels, while in the context of a laidback 30-minute comedy, is evidently crucial and important to include when pieced together with youth and the internet culture. With the lens focusing on Janay and her friend Donald (Caleb Eberhardt), and their rather enthusiastic Youtube series ‘The Janay & Donald Show’, we soon start to see a friendship that’s built on awkwardness, passion, and chaos that blends perfectly with the pair’s loud and bizarre personalities — a couple who, while talking about two neighborhoods, graffiti, and an opening of a “new and authentic bistro”, make the simple things all the more enjoyable.

However, when coming across as a pair who share and understand each other online, it certainly doesn’t contribute the same quirky perception when the cameras are off. Realizing that Donald has disabled the comments on their videos due to “trolls” firing negative remarks towards his fellow host, Janay soon learns that Donald’s strip of engagement with their viewers is a complete lie. Hearing the truth at the skatepark through Honeybear’s concern and screenshot proof, Janay, while angry at Donald for lying, learns, through his persistence of giving in, that he is a target in the #MeToo movement. Phrasing the whole situation as a “witch hunt”, Donald quickly turns Janay onto his side by making her understand that the “troll” who caused the switching of the comments, was a girl who feels the need to seek revenge after her unreciprocated feelings towards him. A storyline that, while coming across evidently important and serious, makes us eager to explore more along the lines of what Janay’s close friend is saying, and more importantly what he isn’t saying. A subplot that, while coming across as dark sideline, could quite ultimately become a larger story in the remaining four episodes. A scenario that portrays just how authentic and real Betty as a show truly is, and how a series on a skating sisterhood can be so much more than its tricks and flips.

As episode two comes to an end, with a few bumps along the way, we learn two lessons: that friendship is key, and that skating in the skatepark can be all the easier if stereotypes didn’t take such a strong presence amongst the two genders. Whether it be showcased in Indigo’s accidental knock of one of the male skaters, quickly causing a massive showdown of hostility and backhanded insults; or a casting agent taking pictures of those who fit the “skating aesthetic”; Betty invites us into a world that feels free – despite the amount of competition and ignorance entwined around its story. More or less telling us that while set in a society that is built around lies, hopelessness, and mistreatment, a skating sisterhood entangled with crushes, relationships, humor, and connection can still be there for us. 

To support the site and gain access to exclusive content, consider becoming a patron.

Keli Williams

Keli Williams is a freelance writer based in Liverpool. She loves all things cinema and Paul Thomas Anderson. Bylines include The Simple Cinephile, Little White Lies, Girls on Tops, Screen Queens, and more. Follow her on twitter @kelionfilm and Letterboxd @beforesnrise

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.