Nepo Babies and Industry Privilege: Unpacking the Controversy

Famous Hollywood families

Recently debates about nepotism in the entertainment industry re-entered the news through the discussion around “nepo babies”. These are people many see as having industry prominence because of their family names and connections.

We’re going to delve into this debate today by analysing the defences offered for the practice and seeing if they hold up. We will also look at how nepotism affects the industry and if anything must be done about it.

Great Expectations

Some people have fought against the idea that nepotism is solely responsible for their success or that the practice is wholly beneficial. Firstly, Lily-Rose Depp argued that you must still meet certain criteria to attain work. Therefore you can argue that people with family connections don’t automatically receive jobs because of them. Their success is just more visible.

Many children of famous artists have also found themselves struggling under the weight of the expectations set by their famous family association. Gwyneth Paltrow said that “nepo babies” often must work twice as hard to prove they weren’t unfairly given a job because of their name.

Finally, some claim the practice simply amounts to parents helping their children succeed. Which frames those critical of nepotism as fighting against those simply trying to be kind.


But while raising interesting points these arguments are quite flawed. “Nepo babies” may not automatically get jobs because of their family but they have a way to be seen by industry higher-ups that others don’t, purely because of their relatives which is unfair. Their family status also often comes with financial safety. Giving them an advantage over people from disadvantaged backgrounds due to the average amount of unpaid work they put in to get their foot in the door. “Nepo Babies” success also narrows the opportunities available to new artists from underrepresented groups through “perpetuation of a narrow…talent pool“, further promoting the industry as an area only open to those with connections and money. This has been cited as a problem by many and the defences of nepotism seemingly overlook the similar serious struggles industry professionals from diverse underprivileged backgrounds go through. 

This doesn’t mean that “nepo babies” aren’t talented. Nor does it mean that they don’t face problems within the system or their personal lives. Also while we should call out nepotism, it doesn’t mean “nepo babies” should be shamed for their heritage or following their family into the industry. Nepotism is a systemic issue and serious structural work must be undertaken to make the industry less beholden to famous players’ whims.

What Should We Do?

Personal biases plus the industry’s insular, profit-driven nature ensures that nepotism will always remain in some form. But opportunities for change do exist.

Firstly, more financial support must be given to create and showcase films outside of the dominant industry producers. Independent films offer more opportunities for non-connected cast and crew. Their viewing can boost the careers of those involved and motivate others to get involved. And more financial support will relieve the monetary stress felt by independent creatives.

Secondly, the industry must be forced to give more resources and opportunities to talent from underprivileged and diverse backgrounds. Although it won’t wholly solve the nepotism issue it will allow for higher profile promotion of opportunities available for up-and-coming non-connected talent. Some also suggest the implementation of methods like blind auditions and representation targets to create fairer outcomes.

Finally, it’s important not to let unfairness be normalised. Where possible it should be called out for perpetuating an unequal industry. These points should represent a starting point for discussions on how to make the industry less nepotistic.

Also Read: Deep Brain’s AI: Transforming Hollywood’s Landscape in 2024

Posted by
Josh Greally

Writer and filmmaker. I have a masters in directing film and television and have written film reviews for several smaller sites in the past. Films are my life, but I also enjoy writing, reading, listening to music and debating.