Whose Kid is That? Nepotism in Hollywood

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Celebrity status is now bigger than ever.

From streaming services demanding new films and shows per week, to the exacerbation of celebrity presence on social media, there are more and more ways for famous people to infiltrate our lives…and their children are quick to follow. It is becoming impossible to watch a new show or movie without discovering — upon a quick IMDB search — that the young stars are the byproduct of the Hollywood elite.

When discovering new child celebrities, it has basically become custom for people to ask “whose kid is that?”

Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” featured the acting of three relatively new faces: Margaret Qualley, Harley Quinn Smith and Maya Hawke. Margaret and Harley are classic examples that acting runs in one’s blood, as Margaret is the daughter of Andie MacDowell and Smith is the daughter of Kevin Smith.

Maya’s case is much more egregious. While her father is famed actor Ethan Hawke, her mother is Uma Thurman. Yes, that Uma Thurman. The Uma Thurman that was hailed as Quentin Tarantino’s muse for most of his career. When young Maya was asked about it on the red carpet, she claimed that she went through the same process as everyone else. 

Blatant — and not-so-blatant — nepotism is nothing new. One of the most influential families in film making, the Coppolas, descend from a renowned music composer, and span the industry from the creator of “The Godfather” (Francis Ford Coppola) to Nicholas Cage, Francis Ford’s nephew.

Three-time Oscar-nominated actress Laura Dern is the daughter of two-time Oscar-nominated actor Bruce Dern. Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal descend from filmmaker parents. Many of the celebrities that are considered household names come from households where fame is the expectation.

Nepotism in Hollywood is not just bad because it can be unfair, but the main problem arises when it comes to second chances. Indie actor Lucas Hedges’s first ever film appearance was in a movie directed by his father. Most people in the entertainment industry understand that there is usually one chance — one chance to have a break that will send them to stardom.

However, when a person’s parents are the people doling out those chances, those breaks multiply. Robert Downey Jr., one of the highest paid actors of the last decade, did not always have success following him. He spent almost a decade after his big break in and out of jail and rehab for substance abuse issues, and became a liability to have on set. Luckily, he was able to pull himself out of that space and become the actor he is now…with a little help from his family; chances like that come when your father is a renowned director and cinematographer. 

Another main challenge currently facing Hollywood is its lack of diversity. With nepotism, it is naturally becoming increasingly more and more difficult to cast and create diverse films when directors keep picking from the same families. In Greta Gerwig’s recent adaptation of “Little Women,” 3/7 of the main cast members are products of nepotism. 

Nepotism has been a problem since Ancient Greece and it’s prevalent in many more spaces than Hollywood, but Hollywood acts as a trendsetter. It’s lead can change what is acceptable in industries throughout the world, and it must decide if a new generation should be exposed to diverse and fresh-faced talent, or get to know more of the likes of Lily Rose Depp.

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