5 Nepo Babies That Crashed And Burned Spectacularly
The hottest discourse on the internet currently, brought to a head recently after a year of consistent, investigative eyebrow-raising, is that of the “nepo baby.” It being a compact, convenient little term for the omnipresence of famous sons and daughters that, against all odds, just turn out to be the same kind of superstars as their parents. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, as continued discussion almost invariably riles up the heirs in question, which produces indignant self-owns about how they SPECIFICALLY told their dad to tell the producer to make them audition, etc.
To me, the apparent lack of knowledge about nepotism’s depth is more surprising than the degree of nepotism itself. Apparently, a half-assed last name change is a whole lot more effective on most of the country than I would have hoped. And admittedly, sometimes it works out, and you get a Laura Dern. The successes, however, are not nearly as wonderfully soothing to the soul as the wreckage of a child being forced at all costs down the throats of the public like they’re making fame foie-gras.
Here are 5 tales of nepotism crashing and burning spectacularly. Though, it’s important to note, that in the case of nepotism, “crashing and burning” just means that they are still absolutely, completely fine, and richer than most people ever will be in their entire life. Society rules!
Maybe one of the most public as well as disturbingly messiest meltdowns of a forced golden child is the tale of Max Landis. The son of famous director John Landis, known for classic comedies like Animal House and The Blues Brothers, seemed to have found the perfect springboard to fame after co-writing the successful 2012 superhero movie Chronicle with Josh Trank. Of course, we now know that his former friend Trank had to ban him from the set of the movie that was supposed to be his golden ticket.
He experienced a brief stint as Hollywood’s next big thing, despite cloudy rumors that he big-timed sucked. After all, when you’re riding the Silver Spoon Express, being widely considered a piece of shit just gets you more media profiles in lofty publications titled things like “Max Landis Is A Hollywood Disruptor With An Attitude.”
He continued along, making a series of fairly dogshit movies, including his attempt to solve racism with the metaphor of orcs wearing Oakland Raiders gear (we also get the truly bile-inducing joke of “fairy lives don’t matter” within 20 seconds of that trailer). In 2019, the shoe that a well-hidden web of supporters had desperately been holding up finally dropped, with the Daily Beast uncovering multiple allegations of harassment and sexual assault. Not particularly surprising for someone whose personality is rumored to have been the basis for Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of literal supervillain Lex Luthor.
Let’s move away from the genuinely sad and evil to the more pedestrian and annoying side of nepotism: the Smith family. Willow and Jaden Smith, the children of actor Jada Pinkett Smith and mixed martial artist Will Smith, have been foisted upon the public Clockwork Orange style since before they could ride most roller coasters. Humility is not likely in the cards with a family, as someone on Reddit figures out approximately every 30 days, that named their kids a weird criss-cross-apple-sauce gender-reversed version of their own names.
Jaden Smith, while curating a Twitter account that begs for a freshman dorm full of bad weed smoke and blacklight posters, was quickly groomed to be Hollywood’s next leading man, despite being able to carry a movie as well as most forks carry soup. He was fed a constant stream of cushy roles, from The Day The Earth Stood Still to the Karate Kid remake to the truly, deeply awful After Earth, but the public never bit. He’s now described as an actor, rapper, and singer, a trifecta usually invoked by people who are good at none of those things.
Maybe his musical journey was inspired by his sister Willow, who entered the music scene at the age of 10 with the song “Whip My Hair,” a 3 minute and 55 second long anthem to the power of a good producer and an expensive music video. Now known as WILLOW, because, of course she is, she’s been nothing if not prolific. She’s released 4 albums in the last 4 years, which is usually a good sign that all the albums are really good. Some of them have even received positive reviews, though the reviews often contain sentences like “It’s common knowledge at this point that the Smith children are insanely talented at just about everything” that are impossible to read as anything but either a heavy wink or a writer’s coded cry for help. She’s also praised for her savvy collaborations and constantly shifting genres, things that are painted as a positive but sure feel like a symptom of the directionless, vague identity that nepo babies specialize in.
Joe Kennedy III
Of course, nepotism extends beyond entertainment, and none have a heritage quite like the Kennedys. Now, this entry is a little different in that Joe Kennedy III, the young progeny related to exactly all the Kennedys you’re thinking of, is by all accounts a perfectly smart and nice young man. He has a history of humanitarian work and an impressive academic resume, even if most college President’s jobs are probably less secure than a Kennedy kid’s enrollment status. He, unsurprisingly, moved into a career in politics, eventually ending up holding a Massachusetts house seat.
The disaster that’s so fascinating in the JK3 story is his failed attempt to run for the Senate in Massachusetts, because of the way the quiet-part-out-loud nepotism of the move backfired. In advance of the 2020 election, Kennedy announced that he was vacating his House seat in an attempt to primary the incumbent Democratic Senator, Ed Markey. Now, if you’re going to primary an incumbent Senator, especially one the population is widely copacetic with (Markey had a 25 percent unfavorable rating at the time) with over 40 years of experience in Congress, people are going to ask you: why?
Over the next few months, the Kennedy campaign showed absolutely zero ability to effectively answer that question, contributing to a growing feeling that the unstated reason was: “because he’s a Kennedy.” Immediately, the reason any of this was happening was the overwhelming thought pondered in print. It was called “The Democratic’s Most Confounding Primary” and even the Boston Globe put out a blistering piece calling Kennedy’s inability to explain why he was running “TV’s Best New Comedy.”
When the dust settled, Kennedy lost by a 10 point margin and became the first Kennedy to ever lose an election in Massachusetts.
An Out-Of-Shape Soccer Player
Our last entry involves no fame, no big names, but simple, hilarious, bald-faced nepotism. You’d likely be forgiven for not being familiar with He Shihua, who purchased the Chinese semi-pro soccer team Zibo Cuju in 2021. In fact, his main international recognition came from the very incident in question: when, after purchasing the team, he later informed the coach they had a new star player: his son. Now, if his son had been a soccer phenom in his own right, this might have been an understandable move. If he had been, at the very least, an athlete, it would have been barely defensible.
Neither was true. The rookie, also known as Papa’s Sweet Baby Boy, was now starting as a semi-professional in a sport where players run an average of between 6 and 8.5 miles a game, at a weight of 273 pounds. All signs point to that not being “good weight”, either.