The term has been around since the dawn of time — well, ever since we’ve registered the act of famous people birthing other famous people — but discussions of nepotism in Hollywood took flight again earlier this week with a viral social media post expressing surprise that Maude Apatow (Euphoria’s resident Lin-Manuel Miranda) is the daughter of Knocked Up director Judd Apatow and actress Leslie Mann.
Many of us might have rolled our eyes at what is generally commonplace knowledge or tutted something about it all being in the name. As one Twitter user sounded off: "Can’t believe y’all are today years old for learning this. Like duh!" Elsewhere it’s sparked a mass social media awakening, like the 'ker-thunk' of an anvil hitting the brain, at the realisation that pretty much everyone in Hollywood — from Euphoria creator Sam Levinson to greats such as Sofia Coppola, Angelina Jolie and Tracee Ellis Ross — had their career propelled by famous parents.
In one corner of TikTok — with a hashtag of 10.6 million views — users are exploring every gilded facet of being a nepo baby, from celebrating the coveted #expensive aesthetic ("basic but in a Lily-Rose Depp kind of way") to unpacking the tiers these celebrities fall into and therefore how harshly we should either judge them or fold their talented little bodies into our arms.
"Timothée Chalamet nepotism and Lily-Rose Depp nepotism just isn’t the same thing!" One TikTok user launches into a versus-style discourse, breaking down the difference between having rich, well-connected parents and having a celebrity parent with a famous surname in the same industry. Another user comments: "Parents knowing someone vs parents BEING someone are so different."
Other videos openly mock the likes of Lily-Rose Depp, the Hadid sisters and particularly Kendall Jenner, who has previously disregarded how the privilege of her family name might have elevated her to become one of the world’s highest paid models and who, in one notorious Keeping Up With The Kardashians interview, claimed the fame made it "harder" for her to become a model. The irony is certainly not lost on #nepobaby TikTok.
Here, Olivia Rodrigo is celebrated as the antithesis of a nepo baby, having risen to the same acclaim as her contemporaries due to natural graft, career progression and your double dose of looks and talent, rather than as a beneficiary of influential parents (she was born to a schoolteacher and therapist). Her track "jealousy, jealousy" has arisen as the unofficial #nepotismbaby anthem – "All your friends are so cool, you go out every night/In your daddy's nice car, yeah, you're living the life/Got a pretty face, pretty boyfriend too/I wanna be you so bad and I don't even know you" — with some users speculating whether it's a direct jab at Rodrigo’s IRL friend Iris Apatow. Yes, yet another Apatow nepo baby.
Branching off, the hashtag #nepotismbabyaesthetic has 23 million views as TikTok users celebrate the amorphous style of the Jenners, Kaia Gerber, Lila Grace Moss and Iris Law. Some even shun the small, necessary detail of inherited fame, wealth and influence, insisting that dressing like them is a way to "manifest" the same outcome. Dress for the job you want? Why not, we're here for it. Elsewhere, some TikTok users employ tongue-in-cheek jabs at the lack of talent and perceived minimal effort of some nepo babies, putting on lacklustre outfits overlaid with the text: "When your sick day outfit is serving nepotism baby vibes" and the caption: "They stay wearing the bare minimum and getting praised for it."
The general consensus is that there is always going to be nepotism in Hollywood: famous parents will always help their famous children get a foot in the door. And — as unfair as it is for the rest of us who have to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps — why wouldn’t they? But one thing is clear: there is a distinct difference between the Zoë Kravitzes and the Brooklyn Beckhams of the world. They each live an advantaged life illuminated by a famous surname but one is the new Catwoman, the lead in one of TV’s greatest reboots of all time and an undisputed style icon — and the other? Well, the other struggled to focus a lens for the entirety of his "photography" book. Then there are the likes of Billie Eilish — whose parents may be revered actors with connections but who independently amassed acclaim and recognition in a separate industry due to sheer talent — and Margaret Qualley (the daughter of Andie MacDowell), who blew critics away with her portrayal of a single mother teetering on homelessness in Netflix’s Maid. The bottom line? Talent is vital and owning your privilege is, too.
At the end of the day, Hollywood nepotism is everywhere. It’s multifaceted and nuanced, and terrible and fine, and we must accept it or be tormented for eternity. What else is there but to put them all on an island, Hunger Games-style, and make them talent competition their way to our approval. Let’s see Brooklyn Beckham try to tap dance his way out of this one.