Why 'nepo babies' are all over the internet right now

TECHNOLOGY
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CNN
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One of the surest paths to success in showbiz is to be the son of an already famous and successful person.

These offspring are called nepo babies (nepo = nepotism), and they have not-so-secretly infiltrated countless beloved pop culture properties. Who was your favorite character on “Stranger Things”? Robin, was it? Nepo baby. Your favorite feline anti-hero in “The Batman”? Yes, she is a nepo baby. If you preferred the Riddler in that movie, some news – his real-life partner is also a nepo baby.

The fact that these famous and successful people are the children or relatives of other famous and successful people is not a surprise: it’s hard to forget who Maya Hawke and Zoë Kravitz are related to when they look like the spitting image of their famous parents .

But the term “nepo baby” is a relatively new one, a phrase that has inspired guilt and anxiety among those it describes. The latest issue of New York magazine featured dozens of nepo babies, even putting some of them back in diapers in a star-studded maternity hospital for her cover.

The issue exploded like a bombshell, shocking readers by featuring famous bloodlines and even including a surprise Nepo baby or two. Some fans defended their idols; others applauded the magazine for its audacity to potentially alienate countless celebrities. Some of those aforementioned celebrities chimed in.

Nepo Babies lead beloved streaming series and earn award notices. They’ve starred on Broadway and fronted major fashion campaigns. Some are widely loved. Some are Chet Hanks.

Simply put, according to New York’s Nate Jones: “A nepo baby is physical proof that meritocracy is a lie.”

“Baby Nepo” refers to the child of successful adults who benefited from nepotism in sectors such as entertainment or adjacent fields (fashion and media are two of the big others). Unlike bootstrappers and naturally gifted “nobodies”, nepo babies start out with an advantage – their fathers’ connections – although many of them later claim that their parenthood is a burden when it comes to carving their own names.

The nepo baby buzz this year started after the controversial HBO hit “Euphoria” aired its second season. Any young viewers were shocked to learn that cast member Maude Apatow is the daughter of director Judd Apatow (“Glibrado,” “This is 40”) and actress Leslie Mann (also “Knocked Up,” “This is 40”). “Euphoria” director Sam Levinson is also a “nepo-baby” – he is the son of hit director Barry Levinson, with whom he co-wrote the HBO film “The Wizard of Lies” before directing “Euphoria” .

These connections surprised some young TikTok users, who launched investigations into other relatively unknown nepo babies. (Many of the better-known nepo babies peaked in terms of fame before Gen Z was old enough to remember them.) These videos popularized the term “nepo baby.”

The debate over baby nepo reached new heights in November, when Lily Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, who is also set to star in a Sam Levinson series, rejected the term in an interview with Elle: “The internet cares a lot more who your family is with than the people who are throwing you into things. Maybe you got your foot in the door, but you still have your foot in the door. There is a lot of work that comes after that.”

Critics lashed out, including rising supermodel Vittoria Ceretti, who has worked for fashion houses like Chanel (and for whom Depp has modeled since he was a teenager). “I have a lot of nepo baby friends that I respect, but I can’t stand to hear you compare yourself to me,” Ceretti said in an Instagram story. “I wasn’t born on a comfortable, sexy pillow with a view. I know it’s not your fault, but please appreciate and know where you came from.”

All of this inspired New York magazine’s pop culture vertical Vulture to launch an end-of-year series on nepo babies, which included an exhaustive taxonomy of famous kids (and the less famous kids of super-famous parents).

Vulture’s disclosure made it clear that the universe of nepo babies is vast and potentially infinite. There are the young stars: Maya Hawke is the progeny of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, and indie darling Riley Keough is Elvis’ granddaughter. There are also plenty of long-established nepo babes like Zoë Kravitz (Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet), Kate Hudson (Goldie Hawn and stepdad Kurt Russell), and Gwyneth Paltrow (Blythe Danner, director Bruce Paltrow).

Some entries on the list were surprising: Two of the three members of “Please Don’t Destroy,” NYU alumni who create digital shorts for “Saturday Night Live,” are the sons of “SNL” producers. Sisters Rooney and Kate Mara are members of two NFL founding families. And “Fantastic Beasts” actress Katherine Waterston is the British-accented daughter of Sam Waterston, recently of “Grace and Frankie.”

And then there are those who are so talented and/or established that their nepo-baby reputation doesn’t really matter anymore. Jamie Lee Curtis is the daughter of Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. Dakota Johnson’s bonafides go back generations: she’s the granddaughter of “The Birds” icon Tippi Hedren and the daughter of “Working Girl” Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson of “Miami Vice.” And Oscar winnergay icon Laura Dern is the daughter of two Oscar nominees, Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern.

Actress Jamie Lee Curtis and her mother, actress Janet Leigh, pose for a portrait session in 1979 Los Angeles.

Vulture also found some interesting nepo baby trends: eight of them appeared in Quentin Tarantinto’s “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood,” according to the outlet. All three of Meryl Streep’s daughters are actresses who have appeared on HBO. Several other nepo babies starred in HBO’s “Big Little Lies”, which also featured Alexander Skarsgård of the Skarsgårds. (HBO, which shares parent company Warner Bros. Discovery with CNN, is apparently a big employer of nepo babies.)

Reliably, the “stans” of the stars Vulture featured came out to support their idols, defending them for leveraging their fame and criticizing the magazine for pointing out their Google-able family history. (Note: “Stan” is another term for “diehard fan” popularized by Eminem, whose daughter Hailie is also included on the Vulture roster; she hosts a podcast.)

Eve Hewson, an actress (“Bad Sisters”, “The Knick”) and daughter of Bono, tweeted ironically several times about the article. “Goals for 2023: be successful enough to be recognized as a nepo baby,” she wrote before realizing she had been mentioned in an infographic.

AND then: “Oh my god, can all the Nepo babies please unite and dress up as giant babies for Halloween.”

The article recalled some of the aforementioned nepo babies’ responses when asked about their privilege. Maya Hawke told Rolling Stone earlier this year that when it comes to “nepotism,” she acknowledged that her lineage “definitely offers great advantages in this life,” and while “you get chances for free… the chances won’t be endless.” Maude Apatow, for her part, said the label made her “saddened” but that she tries “not to let it affect (her) because (she) obviously understands (s)that (she is) in a lucky position.” .

Some critics pointed out that some of the inclusions in the Vulture build were a stretch: Phoebe Bridgers, for example, was included among the “industry babies” as the “daughter of a set builder” alongside young Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges, whose father is a director and whose grandfather was an executive at HBO. For any of Bridgers’ fansit seemed incongruous to compare the industry connections of the two stars.

Most of the nepo babies chosen by Vulture did not respond to propagation or the noise it created. After all, many of them are so famous that they manage to avoid getting involved in trends like these.

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