Opinion | ’Nepo baby‘ hate disregards reality

By Talia Duffy, Assistant Opinions Editor

On social media sites, the seasons are marked not by changing weather but by the vilification of a new group of people. A few years ago, it was band kids. Last fall, it was “Stranger Things” fans.

For some reason, the internet hive mind has decided to highlight this winter season with “nepo babies.”

The term, which abbreviates “nepotism” to “nepo,” is used to describe celebrities with rich, famous or well-connected relatives. The general consensus is that nepo babies’ careers and successes are undeserving — or, at least, less genuine. Trending posts feature peoples’ disappointment when they find out their favorite actors had parents in the industry. 

But nepo babies aren’t quite the villainous success-stealers the internet makes them out to be. 

The nepotism narrative is more about name-calling than reality. It’s impossible to magically shoot to stardom simply because of your parents’ success. Yes, natural advantages might provide a foot in the door, but a so-called nepo baby would fail without real talent and hard work to back up their initial boost.

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As a result, a lot of nepo babies are actually good at what they do; their genuine contributions to film, TV, music and more should not be discounted due to their parentage. Most people had no idea so many celebrities were nepo babies before this sudden discourse — which proves they made it more on their individual merit than anything. 

Privilege is a hot topic right now, which is likely how this debate came to fruition. However, there are ways to properly and improperly use privilege. If someone lives off their family name, scrounges for adjacent success and does no work of their own — if someone’s official title is “media personality” — criticism might be more deserved.

Once stars become known as themselves instead of “this person’s son” or “a member of that family,” nepotism accusations no longer make sense.

Some, like Nicolas Cage — formerly Nicolas Coppola — have changed their names to avoid being tied down by their family’s reputation. Others have outright lied to avoid favoritism. John David Washington used to tell people his father was in jail instead of the truth: his father is Denzel Washington, one of the most famous actors in the world.

The real injustice is condemning these people and their work because of where they came from. Since the peak popularity of nepotism discussions in late December, tabloid sites have released a slew of articles analyzing the parentage of various celebrities as if it’s a groundbreaking exposé. 

Realizing where someone comes from doesn’t change anything. Jake Gyllenhaal’s acting is just as impressive as it was before the internet found out his parents are filmmakers. Miley Cyrus’s music is just as catchy as it was before the internet remembered her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, was a country musician first. 

If anything, nepotism only explains how they first got interested in their respective fields. It’s natural for young people to gravitate towards their parents’ careers and receive influence from the environment they grew up in. Family and environment are huge contributors to skills, interests and goals.

Does the internet expect children of actors and musicians to stay away from those industries just because it’s unfair? Natural advantages will always exist in one form or another. It could be that your parents are physics professors, so you’re great at math. It could be that they’re Hollywood screenwriters, so you love movies and want to star in them.

At the end of the day, these conversations are pointless. From the fruits of nepotism, society gained some distinguished actors and musicians who put in the effort to become greater. Entertainment is a business, and sometimes it runs in the family.


Talia is a sophomore in Media.

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