Nepotism in Hollywood can’t be stopped, but privileged celebrities need to acknowledge it

Nepotism has been prominent in Hollywood since its conception, with many actors, singers and models getting a leg up in the industry due to their successful family members. Within the past few years, the idea of criticizing it rather than accepting it has become more in vogue.

Being linked to another celebrity or successful Hollywood employee isn’t inherently a bad thing. Many brilliant actors come from a line of accomplished stars, but to not acknowledge the opportunities and privileges that come with nepotism would be a disservice to those who get there on their own. 

In 2021, film executive Franklin Leonard got into a Twitter debate with actor Ben Stiller (nepotism baby of Jerry Stiller). Leonard pointed out that nepotism babies in Hollywood have a deluded sense that they got there on their own without the help of their famous kin. 

Stiller reinforced this fantasy by arguing, “I would bet they all have faced challenges. Different than those with no access to the industry. Show biz as we all know is pretty rough and ultimately is a meritocracy.” 

It’s ridiculous to claim that “show biz” is simply based on merit because it’s not. There are many fantastic artists working their way through Hollywood who are yet unaccomplished due to the surplus of opportunities simply being handed to the family members of previously successful stars. 

No one is claiming that nepotism babies don’t work hard or face challenges, but rather that the industry is more based on who you know than one’s actual talents and merit.

Nepotism can cause people of color to remain underrepresented in the media, as it’s difficult historically for actors of color to gain the same nepotistic privileges in the industry. Many aspiring stars who are a person of color don’t have famous relatives to help out due to how racist Hollywood is historically and presently.

Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of celebrated actor Johnny Depp and French singer Vanessa Paradis, dismissed her well-known stereotype of being a nepotism baby and not working for her massive break in Hollywood movies.

Depp claimed, “It is obviously a really easy assumption to make to think that I would just have roles landing on my doorstep because of my name, but that’s an idea I’ve always kind of rejected. I’ve always been under the impression that I have to work twice as hard to prove to people that I’m not just here because it’s easy for me. I feel like you’re not what your name is. If you’re not right for something, they’re not just going to hire you because your name looks good on the post.”

Do these celebs really think it’s a coincidence that they gained the same prominence as their famous parents? Depp literally became Chanel’s most recent muse thanks to her mother’s multiple Chanel campaigns in the 90s, despite Depp’s 5-foot-5-inch stature.

Once Depp was tired of modeling, she quickly switched to her father’s career and began acting — she starred alongside ex-boyfriend Timothée Chalamet in “The King” as well as the 2021 space picture “Voyagers.”

It’s rare for an actor just starting out to land a starring role alongside some of the most prominent actors in the industry, even if they are talented.

We don’t hear about struggling actors with these famous relations because they scarcely exist. If someone’s parents have the resources and name to get their children the resources to find success in the same industry, they can.

Depp claims that casting directors aren’t hiring because of a name, but how come it’s happening time and time again? It isn’t a coincidence that everyone from Drew Barrymore (whose family comes from almost 400 years of acting) to Jaden Smith (whose dad came from humble beginnings in Philadelphia) are industry favorites. 

Not everyone in the world can just simply wake up one day and decide to become a famous movie star — it only applies to those who have the connections to be able to have that luxury. 

Typically, when watching a new movie that presents an up-and-coming actor, they will almost always be related to someone in the industry, and you can find their connection with just a simple Google search. Even celebrities that have unfamiliar names will usually be connected to some sort of producer or agent. 

With promising young actress Beanie Feldstein, although initially unknown, her critically-acclaimed brother, Jonah Hill, tactically, has a different surname despite their close relation.

In addition to Feldstein, well-known icon of the hit franchise “Harry Potter,” Daniel Radcliffe, might seem independent. Though, he received many roles from his acting agent father and his mother, who worked in BBC casting — roles that eventually resulted in his casting in “Harry Potter” after his father was asked to have Radcliffe audition.

These actors, while their names are not explicitly included when walking into an audition, show that everyone knows everyone in show business. When standing in front of casting directors, there is a bias toward nepotism babies because many think that they will live up to or, in fact, be better than their talented counterparts.

Regular people have to be exceptional in order to be successful in Hollywood, whereas nepotism babies just have to be mediocre. Not only can nepotism babies be average, but they also have the funds to access resources that the average person would never have.

The wealth that they have had their entire lives can be used to fund outstanding classes and coaches as well as private school educations. The average Joe doesn’t have the capabilities to chase their dreams because they have to focus on making a living. 

Most actors who are just starting out in the business don’t have the means to spend all day going from audition to audition. They have to acquire survival jobs such as waiting tables or walking dogs in order to have a liveable income. Nepotism babies, on the other hand, can see as many casting agents as possible and come home at the end of the day not worrying about where their next paycheck comes from. 

Nepotism babies in Hollywood are so blind to the advantage that they have in the industry because almost everyone who is successful has a connection to get there. So they think that it’s a level playing field when there are struggling artists who are just as good as, if not better, than these family members of famous celebrities. 

Favoritism in the entertainment industry is almost impossible to eradicate. Unfortunately, the culture in Hollywood will just go around in a vicious circle with many talented — yet normal — people being left in the dust. 

One of the steps in avoiding nepotism is for nepotism babies to actually acknowledge the advantage that they have because of their family members. Jeff Bridges, son of actor Lloyd Bridges, took a leap forward in this movement by recognizing his father as the reason for his thriving career. 

In a Hollywood Reporter Roundtable, Bridges explained, “I’m a product of nepotism, that’s how I got into it.” Although this is a great step forward, Bridges shouldn’t be celebrated for stating something so basic as acknowledging his privilege. 

It should be normalized for actors and other artists to confess the fact that they had a hand up to the public — and they have a moral obligation to do so. Any nepotistic baby who ridicules criticism of their advantage is simply out of touch and doesn’t understand how much more help they have than others in the industry.  

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