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Culture > Entertainment

Nepo Babies: Can’t live with them, Can’t live without them

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Krea chapter.

It seems like everywhere we go on the internet, we can’t seem to escape the darting eyes of the word Nepotism or Nepo Baby. At the start of this year, New York Mag published She has her mother’s eyes. And her agent and this provocative piece has created a niche for itself in modern journalism as an exposé of our extremely flawed façade of a meritocracy. Who is a Nepo Baby? A Nepo Baby, as the title suggests refers to any individual (particularly but not exclusively limited to the entertainment industry) with a close family member, most commonly a parent who also works in the same industry. This individual perhaps directly or indirectly benefitted from their parent’s connections in the space. It comes as no surprise that the entertainment space is built on a network of family ties, making it exclusive and closed off to people without access to cultural and connection capital. Nicolas Cage, Jamie Lee Curtis, Gwyneth Paltrow, Timothee Chalamet, Gracie Abrams, and Dakota Johnson all have parents in the industry. And these are just the names off the top of my head. Of course, it also goes without saying that the entire Bollywood industry is built on an insidious, incestuous nepotism network and even beginning to unpack the big Bollywood families that monopolize the space would take an army and a half. And yes, it also is not news to us that a lot of nepo babies are white and upper-caste because only white and upper-caste individuals have historically had access to the entertainment space. 

However, the internet seems to be divided on how we feel about nepotism. We all seem to agree that “Nepotism is Bad”. But now what? Who is the “ideal nepo baby”? Do we, as a public want them to acknowledge their privilege? Some Nepos take the route of changing their last name so people don’t make an immediate connection to their parents and dismiss their talent. Nicolas Cage, for example, changed his last name to Cage from Coppola to hide that he was the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, one of the biggest names in Hollywood. This isn’t a commentary on Nic Cage’s acting chops but only on his not-so-sly name change and the possibility of him benefitting from his Hollywood lineage. Nepo babies aren’t working twice as hard to prove that they are actually talented, but working on their craft is the only thing they have to do because their foot is already in the door. 
In a recent interview that resurfaced on Twitter a few weeks ago, Sonam Kapoor, daughter of Anil Kapoor tells Rajkumar Rao about her first job in the industry, and denies having access to connections because she “auditioned her ass off”. She tells him that she turned seventeen, wanted to assist in a film, went to her Dad, and told him she wanted to assist Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Her father tells her that he could get her a job with any other director that he knew personally but he advised against Bhansali because he did not know him well enough. She decides to work with him anyway, without her father’s approval and in her words, she was “all on her own”. Twitter did not take well to this video, are we to feel sorry for Sonam who could work with practically all the big names in Bollywood and chose to work with a director that wasn’t pre-approved by her father?

India’s relationship with nepotism is completely different and isn’t the same as the rest of the world’s. In India, when a certain movie star has a child who is old enough, they are “launched” into the industry with massive pomp and splendor and the connections vs talent debate has never been a matter of rampant public discourse, because of how commonplace “launches” are. 

In another video that made the rounds online, the fifteen-year-old daughter of Sofia Coppola (a nepo baby herself) and Thomas Mars, the lead singer of the band Phoenix, posted a video of herself making a vodka sauce pasta on Tik Tok, and people were astonished by how out-of-touch she was. She starts off by saying that she was grounded for trying to charter a helicopter from Maryland to New York to have lunch with a camp friend. She then proceeded to tell us that she didn’t know the difference between an onion and garlic and that she had to look up images of them to be sure. She shows off her dad’s Grammy in the video and also chides her parents for never being home to take care of her. She’s been banned from having social media of her own and she posted this online anyway, taking us through her house and life, even interacting with her babysitter’s boyfriend, Ari. In a very chaotic forty-eight seconds, we learn a great deal about the domestic lives of the Coppola dynasty.

People had a positive reaction to the video and were calling her their hero. Some people were convinced that it was satire, commenting that nobody is that isolated from reality. Others have called it “the best Coppola film yet”. Some have deemed it to be high art. 

Is this all we want from Nepo Babies – just a sincere declaration of their obliviousness? It has been proved time and time again that people derive a perverse pleasure from the media and content about the rich. The rich, in turn, thrive on this aspiration of the middle class. People also derive equal perverse pleasure from critiquing the actions of the rich, which is what makes a nepo baby so powerful online. There is an air of thinly veiled mystery that is removed when we are exposed to a slice of their life because their parents are also in the public eye. There also exists a curiosity to know how these individuals rose to fame because the common man is dying to know what opportunities a nepo baby has access to and juxtapose that with his lack thereof. 

Nivi is a third-year student at Krea University graduating with a major in Social Studies. She spends her time incessantly talking, listening to Joni Mitchell's 1971 album Blue and doing the crossword.