The year is 2223. You come home after a long day at work (work still exists in the future, I’m afraid) and turn on your virtual reality entertainment center to relax. A hologram of Jamie Oliver’s great-great-great-grandson appears before you; he happily shows a pukka recipe insect-dish based. You change the channel and come across That of Phil Collins great-great-great-granddaughter in a sitcom called Emily in Mars. You change the channel again and are confronted with a film directed by a Coppola.
I obviously don’t know what the future will look like (I’d be very rich if I knew), but the way things are going, it seems that generational fame has become the new generational wealth. “Népo babies” have been a hot topic for some time now, but the issue received renewed interest this week after it was revealed that Oliver’s 12-year-old son had landed a cooking show on the BBC. This news came shortly after comedian Adam Sandler’s decision to cast his two teenage daughters in his latest film, So you’re not invited to my Bat Mitzvah, raised a few eyebrows.
I’m not criticizing any of the children. They are taking advantage of the opportunities that have been given to them, as any of us normal beings would. Yet there is a growing sense that everyone else working in the creative industries today is the descendant of someone famous. And while these kids are hardworking and talented in their own right, that doesn’t take away from the fact that there are many hardworking and talented people, without famous parents or proper connections, who will never get their foot in the door. Even if they get a foot in the door, they may not have the means to open it. Creative work is precarious and poorly paid; Without a financial safety net, it can be difficult to find the time to perfect your craft.
This is what makes people angry when they attack “nepo babies”. They don’t blame individuals, they want the system. Creative work should not be a privileged path that only the rich and connected can afford to take. However, this is increasingly the case. And the arts are all the poorer for it.