After the explosive success of Sam Levinson’s TV series Euphoria, millennials and gen Zers alike waited with bated breath for the controversial filmmaker’s next project. We collectively gathered online, eyelashes appropriately glittered, and dared him to produce an even more addictive world in which to immerse ourselves in. Then, at the end of 2021, he delivered and presented us with The Idol, an upcoming show that would encapsulate everything netizens adore: self-help gurus, modern day cults, sex, tragedy and pop idols.
Oh, and to make things even spicier, Levinson—alongside co-producer Abel Tesfaye (aka The Weeknd)—anointed none other than internet icon and ultimate nepotism baby Lily-Rose Depp as their leading protagonist. After having established herself both in the mainstream media and online as everyone’s resident ‘it girl’, Depp has now spilled the beans on her upcoming TV debut and how it’s allowed her to be fearless in ways she’s never experienced before.
You only have to watch the first five seconds of the show’s teaser trailer to grasp the angle of The Idol. It’s everything synonymous with Los Angeles—sex, drugs, fame, money, and exploitation. Depp’s character Joselyn is depicted as a highly sexualised popstar willing to do whatever it takes to secure global success.
Then there’s the intense intimate relationship seen on screen between Depp’s character and cult leader Tedros—played by The Weeknd—which is sure to garner some extensive online debate. Either way, the maddening hype created online has kept this upcoming series on everyone’s minds.
In a recent interview with ELLE, Depp delved into the filming process and how both Levinson and the Canadian singer created a safe on-set environment which harboured creative expression and experimentation. “I think it’s difficult to do this kind of work that can be so vulnerable in so many different ways if you don’t have a lot of trust between you and your collaborators.”
The actress continued: “I’m not interested in making anything puritanical. I’m not interested in making anything that doesn’t challenge me, or challenge other people, honestly, I think this show is fearless, and that’s something that I’ve been really excited and proud to dive into.”
During the interview, Depp—who’s the daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis—also touched upon a conversation that’s been dominating social media. Yep, you guessed it, the nepotism baby debate. In the young actress’ opinion, “people are going to have preconceived ideas about you or how you got there, and I can definitely say that nothing is going to get you the part except for being right for the part. Maybe you get your foot in the door, but you still just have your foot in the door. There’s a lot of work that comes after that.”
Now, while this statement is not wholly accurate of the landscape we’ve witnessed when it comes to nepo babies being given potentially unearned opportunities, it was Depp’s next comment that really sent the internet into hyper-spiral mode. “It’s weird to me to reduce somebody to the idea that they’re only there because it’s a generational thing. It just doesn’t make any sense. If somebody’s mom or dad is a doctor, and then the kid becomes a doctor, you’re not going to be like, ‘Well, you’re only a doctor because your parent is a doctor.’ It’s like, ‘No, I went to medical school and trained.’”
Understandably, people went wild. Naturally, Reddit was one of the first platforms to get involved, with one user writing: “Right like I genuinely don’t understand. Do they think when they say this stuff it’s going to hit and we’re all going to change our minds? Does she not have people on her team telling her not to say this? She’d get so much praise if she just owned it and now she’s just embarrassed herself… I guess they’re all really just that delusional and believe they made it themselves.”
Another chimed in, “It’s giving Kendall Jenner: If I was not famous I would be a gold medal athlete.”
Interestingly, popular Italian model Vittoria Ceretti also joined the conversation. Sharing with her followers her thoughts on her Instagram Story, the 24-year-old runway model stated: “I would really love to see if you would have lasted through the first five years of my career. Not only being rejected, because I know you have an experience with it and you can tell me your sad little story about it.”
“But how about not being able to pay for your flight back home to your family? Waiting hours to do a fitting/casting just to see a nepo baby walk past you, from the warm seat of her/his Mercedes with her/his driver and her/his friend/assistant/agent taking care of her/his mental health? You have no f*cking idea how much you have to fight to make people respect you. You just get it for free on day one,” Ceretti concluded.
While nepotism babies shouldn’t be completely written off, there’s definitely a mutual feeling among netizens that taking some responsibility and acknowledging your privilege can go a long way among us mere mortals.
On 15 August 2022, TikToker Daniel Mac posted a new video as part of his highly popular ‘What do you do for a living?’ series—where the content creator asks that particular question to random individuals driving past him in expensive cars. Though Mac often sees his clips trending on the video-sharing app, he probably never expected the one he had filmed that day to blow up so significantly.
Featuring newly-wed Brooklyn Beckham—son of professional footballer, David, and former Spice Girls member and fashion designer, Victoria—the video caught the 23-year-old driving a McLaren P1 around Malibu, where he currently lives with his heiress wife and actress, Nicola Peltz. As always, Mac politely asked his ‘test subject’ what he does for a living, probably expecting Beckham to mention his two equally famous (and rich) parents.
And yet, surprise, surprise, it seems the nepotism baby was too embarrassed to admit this and instead decided to go for his latest hobby. “I’m a chef,” Beckham answered, to which Mac replied, “Are you like the best chef in the world?”
It doesn’t take a genius to decipher what the content creator aimed to do with this follow-up question—he was practically screaming “Stop bullshitting me, cooking pasta bolognese for your wife doesn’t make you a chef. Just say you’re a nepo baby and let’s move on.”
Alas, Beckham didn’t spot the hidden message and carried on with his half-baked ‘professional’ advice, telling all aspiring chefs to “just follow your passion, whatever makes you happy—keep doing it.”
Ever since the clip was posted on the app on 15 August 2022, it has racked up more than 5.4 million views and 309,000 likes. In the comments section, users tore Beckham to shreds, with one writing, “C.H.E.F – Child (of) Handsome Ex-Footballer” and another one joking, “‘What do you do for a living?’ ‘My parents are rich so I just kinda vibe’.”
While it’s almost impossible to live in this day and age without coming across a nepotism baby—be that in a movie, a red carpet, a runway or simply the streets of Malibu—there was something exasperating about Beckham’s blatant disregard of what was expected of him in this specific situation. His lack of self-awareness when it comes to his privilege made him an unlikeable nepo baby in no time, which brings us to model, socialite and fellow nepo baby, Hailey Bieber.
In a recent episode of the Shameless podcast, hosts Michelle Andrews and Zara McDonald discussed the entire controversy and compared Beckham’s appeal with Bieber’s. Though it should be noted that Justin Bieber’s wife is not the most beloved celebrity online, as the daughter of Stephen Baldwin and niece of Alec, she’s somehow managed to keep her privilege ‘in check’.
In a clip of the podcast shared on TikTok, Andrews suggested how Beckham could have avoided the mess he’s now in: “What would have made me think ‘F*ck Brooklyn Beckham is a legend’ is if […] he turned and said, ‘I’m the son of Victoria Beckham.’ That would be epic.”
Meanwhile, in July, Bieber sat down with—you guessed it—another nepo baby, Gwyneth Paltrow, for an episode of her YouTube series Who’s in My Bathroom? The two discussed their experience as children of celebrities who are following in the (well-trodden) footsteps of their parents and pursuing careers in the spotlight. Unfortunately for the Goop founder, stating that her nepotism is not necessarily a privilege but more a disadvantage while blending pitted dates, almond butter, a handful of fresh mint, unsweetened hemp milk, and a zhuzh of chocolate chips into smoothies didn’t paint her in the best light either.
But boy did it put Bieber’s self-awareness in contrast… and Maya Hawke’s… and Maude Apatow’s. Being wealthy and having famous parents is all well and good—kids don’t have a say in what family they’re born into—as long as it is regularly acknowledged.
It is surprisingly rare for someone in the public eye to admit, even briefly, that their success stems from who they are related to. It’s even worse when said nepo baby ignores it time and time again—remember when Beckham released one of the dullest photography collections ever?
Sure, it is natural that actors, watching their mother and father accumulate great wealth and fly around the world, would gravitate towards the industry. Of course, some children of musicians want to be in the spotlight too. More often than not, nepotism gets you through the door, but it rarely allows you to stay if you aren’t capable of proving yourself and don’t possess the necessary charisma and skills. Unfortunately however, there are a few exceptions. Some parents are just that influential.
Nepotism is obviously not going anywhere, and while that may be a hard pill to swallow for some of us, maybe we should look at the one thing we can have an impact on: holding nepo babies who don’t acknowledge their privilege accountable and calling them out on it. Once that’s done, they can get on with showing the world that they are, nevertheless, still deserving of their spot in the room. For some at least…