This week New York Magazine declared 2022 “the year of the nepo baby” and published a deep dive into the taxonomy of famous offspring.
For those who haven’t waded into the discourse, a “nepo baby” (short for “nepotism baby”) is a the child of a celebrity — or anyone who has power and influence in their field — who uses their parents’ influence to get a step ahead in their careers. Some archetypal examples are Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, and Maya Hawke, daughter of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman.
To clarify the term, New York Magazine categorized nepo babies into several tiers. The highest being “classic nepo babies” who inherit famous family names like Depp and Hawke. Then, there are “industry babies,” or children of people who work behind the scenes in the entertainment industry who also might benefit from their parents’ connections. One example is Phoebe Bridgers, whose father is a set builder. The children of billionaires, like Paris Hilton, aren’t to be forgotten either.
New York Magazine traces the origin of “nepo baby” to a tweet posted by a Canadian tech-support worker named Meriem Derradji in February. She tweeted, “Wait I just found out that the actress that plays Lexi is a nepotism baby omg 😭 her mom is Leslie Mann and her dad is a movie director lol.” With that tweet the lexicon of the internet was forever changed.
Every time a new nepotism baby is revealed to the public, whether it be Maude Apatow in Euphoria or Hawke in Stranger Things, the internet erupts in outrage and self-righteousness over who gets opportunities in the entertainment industry. But as Buzzfeed’s Izzy Ampil points out, the conversation surrounding entertainment nepotism babies is often a superficial “pop class analysis” of a problem that permeates every industry that too often starts and ends with celebrities. Some readers urged New York Magazine to analyze the reproduction of privilege in other industries, like journalism, banking, and politics.
New York Magazine‘s examination of nepo babies brought the concept back to the forefront of Twitter’s hive mind, resulting in just about everyone weighing in. But at least the memes have been entertaining.
As is common when something reaches the internet masses, nepo baby quickly became democratized by the people, with users sharing their definitions of nepo babies and discussing inequality in their respective industries. For example, one Twitter user wrote, “My only contribution to the nepo baby in academia discourse is this: I’m the first and only person in my family to have a PhD. I was legitimately surprised when I started this job and learned how rare that was.”
Shortly after the New York Magazine article was published, Twitter and TikTok users began to satirize the extremely specific and frankly nitpicky nepo-baby categorizations by sharing the advantages and qualities they inherited from their own families. The meme is a clever way of forcing us to examine our own privilege or disadvantages. TikTokker @literalwhore posted, “I’m a nepo baby at a mid-sized lake in Warsaw, Missouri (my dad sets the fishing limit and we don’t have to pay for parking.”
Twitter user @literELLY wrote, “I hope no one ever finds out that I’m a nepo baby (inherited mental illness from not just one but both of my parents).”
May we use nepo baby as a jumping-off point to further scrutinize the ramifications of generational wealth and privilege across the board! Until then, the internet is going to do what it does best.