“Nepo Baby” memes set the internet on fire

“Virgin and Child” Remix by Pieter van Lint for 2023 (Edit by Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic)

As 2022 draws to a close, the slang term “nepo baby” — short for “nepotism baby” — has emerged as one of the most useful descriptors of the year (alongside “goblin fashion,” which earned the honor Oxford “Word of the Year”).

This week, New York Magazine published an extensive chart tracing the family ties of the entertainment industry in an article titled “How a Child Is Born” that set the internet ablaze. Some of the exposed networks were apparentlysome were surprisingand some were a little stretch. Overall, this story illustrated how the children of the rich and famous dominate the film and television industry, dispelling any lingering myth of Hollywood’s meritocracy.

But for those of us who don’t find it news that most rich and famous people are in some way connected to other rich and famous people, the most enlightening thing to come out of the “nepo baby” craze was a lot of incredible memes.

Using a video clip from the HBO series White lotus, Twitter user @sirfreeriq compared the author of the article to one of the show’s protagonists, actress Jennifer Coolidge’s Tanya McQuoid, who picks up a gun and shoots nearly everyone on the yacht in the season finale. Others pointed out how obvious the revelation really was.

Other Twitter users drew their own nepo-baby maps and named them Teletubbies character Poe, child of poet Edgar Allan Poe, rat Remy z Ratatouille a film related to the rodent that started the bubonic plague and actor Andrew Garfield, a descendant of the cartoon cat Garfield.

While nepotism in the entertainment industry is easy to trace, other industries face the same problem. On social media, users exposed preferential treatment and wealthy parents across professions, from journalism and academia to the world policy and art.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable observations came not in the form of a meme, but as a tweet by @juwugoslavija who suggested that the nepo baby discussion “obfuscates the narrative that there is a record low number of artists from working class backgrounds”. Really, and recent studies found that only 8% of UK creatives come from working-class backgrounds finding that Americans are more likely to go into art professions when they are wealthy. Nepotism may be easy to map, but it is certainly only one of many factors contributing to a culture of privilege.

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