So we all dislike nepo babies, right? Taking up opportunities that could go to more talented, less connected individuals? Banking on their family names for our attention? But what if they’re like, really cool about it? What if they make a funny TikTok?
No matter how much people claim to hate nepo babies, or even just hate the label, everyone has continued to talk about them constantly. The conversation reached its peak with the New York magazine nepotism cover story and has yet to simmer down, mostly because celebrities with famous parents just keep on doing things. Riley Keough (Elvis’ granddaughter) was in the news for her titular role in the Amazon Prime series Daisy Jones and the Six. Elder nepo baby Jamie Lee Curtis (daughter of the actors Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis) won an Oscar last week. Now, we’re hearing all about Romy Mars, daughter of director Sofia Coppola (herself the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola) and musician Thomas Mars.
There’s no hard consensus across these stories—Keough’s performance is kind of good, it’s kind of bad that Curtis won, and it’s kind of great that Mars posted this TikTok. The only real thing we all seem to agree on, though, is that we cannot stop filtering celebrity news through the lens of the nepo baby—even when we’re the ones perpetuating the meme.
The 16-year-old Mars’s first brush with virality comes from a video of herself vaguely attempting to make a vodka sauce and explaining why she isn’t supposed to be on social media at all. She says she’s been grounded because she tried to charter a helicopter to see a friend several states over, and she’s transparent about the fact that her parents are famous and do not want her to become famous too. “They don’t want me to be a nepotism kid, but TikTok is not gonna make me famous, so it doesn’t really matter,” she says. She is at once entirely relatable and yet incomprehensible—the perfect recipe for an over-the-top reaction from random people eager to form a new parasocial relationship.
We all know that TikTok regularly makes people famous regardless of who their parents are. And the fact that she is the daughter of a famous director who is also the daughter of a very famous director practically ensures her rise on and off the app. Still, maybe she really did think her videos wouldn’t get picked up—it’s also totally understandable that she might have hoped for the opportunity to use TikTok like any normal teenager would.
The problem is that none of us are willing to afford her that opportunity. We’re too committed to perpetuating the nepo baby obsession, however the discourse sees fit. Mars has since deleted the TikTok, but video rips are still going around on Twitter. There, one clip has over 35 million views and thousands upon thousands of flattering comments. “A perfect short film, we have a third generation of Coppola directors,” one viewer wrote. “This is cinema… she’ll be the greatest Coppola,” said another. The media followed, us included. Jezebel dubbed the video a “cinematic masterpiece.” The New York Times brought in a media studies professor to weigh in.
Mars very much appears to be a bright, funny, self-aware young woman. But to even joke that this TikTok is the sign of a rising star in directing just shows how much we’re the ones who perpetuate the nepo baby system. One minute people are criticizing 64-year-old Jamie Lee Curtis for having legendary parents, the next they’re pushing this idea that Mars is a genius for having a little fun on an app. And even if no one really believes any of that, we’ve still fully thrust Mars into the public eye as some sort of likable, accessible public figure by virtue of her name alone.
So what is it that separates a good nepo baby from a bad one? The right name? Self-awareness and a little levity? Maybe it’s just the whims of the internet on any given day. No wonder Sofia Coppola wanted her daughter to avoid this—she’s surely experienced it all firsthand herself. We started the week barely even knowing Sofia had a teenage daughter and ended it considering Mars a celebrity in her own right. There’s good reason to critique the whole nepo baby industrial complex, but we’re also the ones who buy into it.