Tom Hanks Has Entered the Nepo Baby Discourse Chat
Every now and then, the discourse around nepotism in a number of industries rears its head, prompting nepo babies around the world to defend the fact that they actually are talented, thank you very much. After New York Magazine put out a piece titled “An All But Definitive Guide to the Hollywood Nepo-Verse”, many celebrities were quick to point out that, despite getting a leg up into whatever industry they’re in, that didn’t stop them from being the best of the best.
A few weeks on, Tom Hanks has decided to weigh in on the debate surrounding nepotism in the film industry, without any stake in the game of course. It’s a coincidence that all of the actor’s children have all gone on to act professionally. In fact, Hanks’s youngest son, Truman, appeared in his father’s latest film, a comedic adaptation titled A Man Called Otto.
Speaking to Reuters in a video interview published via The Sun, Hanks dismissed nepotism as line of criticism in acting, insisting that his children were simply carrying on what he called the “family business”.
“Look, this is a family business,” the actor argued. “This is what we’ve been doing forever. It’s what all of our kids grew up in. If we were a plumbing supply business or if we ran the florist shop down the street, the whole family would be putting in time at some point, even if it was just inventory at the end of the year.”
“The thing that doesn’t change no matter what happens, no matter what your last name is, is whether it works or not. That’s the issue anytime any of us go off and try to tell a fresh story or create something that has a beginning, and a middle, and an end.
“Doesn’t matter what our last names are. We have to do the work in order to make that a true and authentic experience for the audience.”
Basically, he’s missed the point entirely.
Criticism directed at nepo babies doesn’t rely on the fact that they’re not talented. Many of them are—but not acknowledging that familial privilege got them to where they are is plainly shortsighted. There are thousands of incredibly talented people who never get a foot in the door for a number of reasons, ranging from their skin color to their sexuality or just sheer bad luck.
Having the luxury of time to hone your craft and the space to make a name for yourself for an average level of talent is just part of nepo privilege. Even if those who get to that point are talented, their beginnings in the industry were handed to them on a platter. That means there’s less space for newcomers, made especially hard for those from marginalized backgrounds or minority groups.
To use Hanks’ own analogy of working in the family business, it’s not like these nepo babies are helping their parents out on a Saturday. Many blue-collar family businesses, like the plumbers and florists referenced by the actor, rely on support from within their family to get by. Can the same be sad for A-list actors whose children go on to star in films? Of course not. To be blunt, the comparison is nonsensical.
For true diversification of the arts, all industries need to move away from the “it’s who you know” mentality. Even (and especially) if it’s members of your own family that are benefiting, Mr Hanks.
(featured image: Jimmy Kimmel)
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