TV

5 Ways HBO’s “Betty” Dialed Up the Queerness From “Skate Kitchen”

Based on an indie film from 2018, the new show about female skaters packs a super-queer punch.

Skater girl culture gets a queer spotlight in HBO’s new dramedy series Betty, based on writer-director Crystal Moselle’s 2018 indie film Skate Kitchen. Moselle is the showrunner for Betty, which has the same five central characters as Skate Kitchen—all New York City female skateboarders in their late teens—but different storylines. All of the actresses are real-life skateboarders.

The five gal pals in Betty include two who are queer: quick-tempered lesbian Kirt (Nina Moran) and shy aspiring filmmaker Honeybear (Moonbear), who’s semi-closeted and doesn’t like to put labels on herself. The others in the group are outspoken diva Janay (Dede Lovelace), slumming rich girl Indigo (Ajani Russell), and socially awkward misfit Camille (Rachelle Vinberg), whose tendency to show more loyalty to guy skateboarders sometimes puts her on the outs with the other girls. (In the world of skaters, “Betty” is slang for an attractive girl.)

While Skate Kitchen was told from Camille’s perspective, Betty is more of an ensemble project, with all five lead actresses getting almost equal screen time. The series covers topics like sexism, racism, drug use, class privilege, and the #MeToo movement.

NewNowNext got a sneak peek of all six half-hour episodes of Betty’s first season. Here’s what stood out to us.

  1. Kirt gives a girlfriend an orgasm in exchange for psychedelic mushrooms.

    HBO

    Kirt (pictured above), the group’s biggest stoner, loves the ladies but doesn’t want to be tied down to just one. When she starts dating a fellow party girl (Noa Fisher), it’s no surprise that the girl wants more of a romance than hit-it-and-quit-it Kirt is willing to give. Skate Kitchen showed Kirt a few meaningless hookups, but Betty shows Kirt and a new bae spending some quality time together.

    In one hookup scene at her new girlfriend’s place, Kirt gets ready to leave after experiencing some drama with her friends. But the GF entices Kirt to stay by telling Kirt that she can have her bag of super-strong psychedelic mushrooms if Kirt gives her an orgasm.

  2. Honeybear comes out—well, sort of.

    HBO

    In Skate Kitchen, Kabrina Adams (also known as Moonbear, pictured above) played the same quiet, video camera-toting character, but she was named Ruby in the movie, and her sexuality was not seen or mentioned in the film. In Betty, her character’s name is Honeybear, and her love life is seen for the first time, when she takes a romantic interest in a fellow female skateboarder named Ash (Katerina Tannenbaum). If Tannenbaum looks familiar, it’s because she played drug-addicted Brianna (AJ’s mother) in RuPaul’s short-lived Netflix dramedy series AJ and the Queen.

    Honeybear eventually admits to her friends that she has a thing for Ash, but Honeybear stays closeted to her family. When Honeybear and Ash are out on a date together, Honeybear panics when she unexpectedly sees her father walking nearby, and she tries to hide so he won’t see her with Ash. (Fun fact: Adams, a.k.a. Moonbear, co-founded the real-life Skate Kitchen female skateboarding group, which inspired Moselle’s movie.)

  3. Kirt plays queer matchmaker to Honeybear.

    HBO

    Kirt is the first one in the core friend group to notice Honeybear checking out Ash. Her strategy for playing matchmaker? She starts talking to Ash at the skatepark, gets Honeybear’s attention, and yells loudly enough for everyone to hear that Ash is gay, making Honeybear cringe with embarrassment.

    Despite this awkward introduction, Honeybear and Ash hit it off. Ash, a wannabe film composer, shares Honeybear’s passion for making movies, and they end up having a sweet-natured romance. But will it last? Stay tuned.

  4. Kirt gets more (and funnier!) queer scenes.

    HBO

    In Skate Kitchen and Betty, Kirt serves as the comedic relief. But Betty is a lot more comedic than Skate Kitchen, meaning that Kirt gets more humorous dialogue about her queerness. In a scene where best friends Kirt and Janay are getting their nails done at a salon, Kirt tells her manicurist to make the nails shorter on her three middle fingers. Kirt explains that she’s got to keep her “working fingers” well-groomed for the ladies, and makes a hand gesture that leaves no doubt what she’s talking about.

    The nail stylist reacts with a disgusted look on her face. Kirt says, “That eye-roll was kind of homophobic.” The stylist sways her neck and snaps back, “Girl, I’m gay too!” Kirt then flirts with her and asks her out on a date.

Betty premieres Friday, May 1 at 11pm ET/PT on HBO.

Writer and editor whose work has appeared in AXS.com, Examiner.com, Lifetime, People, and Billboard.