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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, May 29, 2024

In the age of nepo babies, separate the good from the bad

Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher and Billie Lourd (grandmother, mother and daughter respectively) are pictured.

New York Magazine dubbed 2022 “The Year of the Nepo Baby,” with a comical cover of popular nepotism children photoshopped onto the bodies of babies and a collection of articles providing deep insight into the world of celebrity children. The articles garnered much attention, including comments from nepo babies and celebrity parents, with many people asking the age-old question: Are these nepotism babies actually bad?

Nepotism babies, also known as nepo babies, are the children of popular celebrities or famous figures who advance their careers through their parents’ networks. Though the concept of nepotism babies can be applied to many industries, such as politics and finance, the term is mainly used in the entertainment industry. In the world of Hollywood, children of famous actors, directors and producers are at an advantage, as their parents have connections in the industry and can help them receive jobs and attention that they might not have had access to otherwise. 

Of course, nepotism babies tend to have an easier path to fame thanks to their parents, which can lead to mediocrity if the child is not actually talented. However, there needs to be a distinction between nepotism babies who deserve their fame and those whose fame is clearly the sole result of nepotism. Not all nepotism babies are bad; they just had an easier rise to fame than someone not born into the industry.

A clear example of a nepotism baby who earned their career is Miley Cyrus. With famed country singer Billy Ray Cyrus as her father and the iconic Dolly Parton as her godmother, Cyrus was surrounded by talent from birth. Despite that, Cyrus made a name for herself through the “Hannah Montana” (2006–11) series, pop hits like “Wrecking Ball” (2013) and “Party in the U.S.A.” (2009) and most recently, her record-breaking single “Flowers” (2023). Cyrus is one of the rare nepotism babies whose fame surpasses her father. 

There are also frequently nepo babies who, although they tend to stay in the entertainment industry, pick a different career path from their parents. Lily Collins, daughter of singer Phil Collins, chose to become an actress, while Gracie Abrams, daughter of director J.J. Abrams, chose to become a musician. When a nepo baby strays from the career of their parent, their fame tends to be less attached to them, though, in the case of Abrams and Collins, it is likely helpful that they have fairly common last names. 

Many of today’s popular nepotism babies (think Maude Apatow and Maya Hawke) can trace their nepotism to their parents, but there are others where that connection spans multiple generations. Billie Lourd, who is most known for her roles in “Scream Queens” (2015–16) and “American Horror Story” (2011–), is the daughter of Carrie Fisher — yes, Princess Leia is her mother — and granddaughter of Debbie Reynolds, whose career spanned almost 70 years. Despite being a double nepo baby, and the daughter of Princess Leia, Lourd was actually rejected for the lead role of Rey in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015) and was instead offered a smaller role as a rebel lieutenant. 

While all the nepo babies mentioned up until this point seem well-deserving of their careers, there are many whose talent is questionable. A common denominator between all these sub-par nepotism babies is, for some reason, Ryan Murphy’s love for them. Murphy, creator of shows like “Glee” (2009–15) and “American Horror Story,” has a tendency to cast second-rate nepo babies. Kaia Gerber, for example, who is the daughter of Cindy Crawford, is a decent model but a highly inept actress in her six “AHS” episodes. Similarly, Paris Jackson, daughter of Michael Jackson, delivered a pretty lousy performance in her episodes of “AHS.” Thankfully, she was only in three. That being said, nepo babies like Billie Lourd, Lily Rabe and Emma Roberts are excused from this slander; even though they too appeared in Murphy’s shows, they did a phenomenal job. 

Other low-rate starlets from high-profile parentages include Deacon Phillippe, son of Reese Witherspoon, who was featured in a few episodes of the recent season of “Never Have I Ever” (2020–) where his acting was laughable; Hero Fiennes Tiffin, nephew of Ralph Fiennes who played Lord Voldemort in the “Harry Potter” movies, who starred in the atrocious “After” franchise; and Scott Eastwood, son of Clint Eastwood, who is arguably just a Hollywood pretty boy and not a great actor. 

The conclusion with nepotism babies is that though the connections and family fame result in breaking into the industry being easier for them, it is not always a bad thing. Some nepo babies are talented and great at what they do, while others should probably choose another career path. What is most important when it comes to nepotism babies is that they acknowledge the advantage they have been given in life and do not pretend to be ‘self-made.’ The nepo babies who try to make it seem as if they made it in the industry on their own just give the rest a bad name. Take a leaf out of Jamie Lee Curtis’ book and plainly say, “I’m a nepo baby. … I am proud to be.”