True Talent or Leaching Off Nepotism?

If you turn on your television to watch one of Hollywood's most popular movies, there most likely exists some form of nepotism behind its scenes.

If you turn on your television to watch one of Hollywood's most popular movies, there most likely exists some form of nepotism behind its scenes. Nepotism, the practice of favoring friends or relatives in job or role selections, is especially prevalent throughout the inner workings of the Hollywood entertainment industry. The practice is so common that, often, instead of asking, "Who is this new actor?" we should be asking, "Who is this new actor related to?" Relations in the art and entertainment industry serve as the golden ticket for aspiring actors, screenwriters, and directors. These connections mean more introductions, more internships, and better access to coaches to start an individual's path to fame. In addition, access to the red carpet culture may benefit individuals' skill sets as it exposes them to an elite circle of fame and experience from a young age. This may entail even easier entrance into the entertainment scene, whose exclusivity makes it nearly impossible for other aspiring young actors to even take the first step.

Nepotism shadows many of our beloved actors and actresses. Before her well known role as Serena van der Woodsen in Gossip Girl, Blake Lively got her first role with help from her actor and director father Ernie Lively in his 1998 movie Sandman. As for Kristen Stewart, protagonist of the Twilight saga, her career was supported by her producer father John Stewart and screenwriter mother Jules Mann-Stewart. Sometimes, parent-actors even use their status to act alongside their children. Actor Will Smith starred alongside his son, Jaden Smith, in the 2006 movie The Pursuit of Happyness. This role served as Jaden's major debut role into the Hollywood world, jumpstarting his current career as an actor, rapper, and songwriter.

With help from their relatives and friends, these actors and actresses have been given a leg-up in a very competitive cinematic world. While they have had help getting a foot in the door, other aspiring actors and actresses do not have such access at all. Clearly, the call to "pursue your dreams" is much easier said than done. So, how do we measure talent and success in this exclusive industry?

First we need to acknowledge that individuals should not be favored or treated differently due to something completely out of their control. Ideally, by working hard to differentiate birth-given advantage from true talent, roles and opportunities should be awarded based on merit. True talent should be able to stand up and stand out for itself. Therefore, we should measure talent over the course of an individual's long term career, and not based on a single success story.

While achieving this change may be idealistic if we simply rely on directors and those within the industry to take action, we, as consumers, can actually serve as the driving force to initiate this adjustment. Hollywood is largely based upon consumerism. If the public and viewers begin to acknowledge nepotism as an issue, the industry itself will begin to mold to the different expectations and new demands. It's not as if similar incidents have not happened before. In the past, sexual assault and body stereotypes dominated Hollywood; however, in recent years, both the public and activists have raised enough public awareness to spark change-the #MeToo movement brought enough influence to alter public knowledge on body positivity and sexual abuse.

Similarly, the main issue with nepotism is the lack of public awareness. Some of the world's favorite characters are played by benefiters of nepotism; for example, Daniel Radcliffe. He embodies the iconic image of Harry Potter in our minds, yet that image could have been different if it wasn't for his father's acquaintance with producer David Heyman. At the end of the day, it is up to Hollywood's consumer market to recognize and bring about change. Entertainment viewers should be aware of the backgrounds of their beloved stars and make an effort to support productions that cast based on merit. Art should exhibit true diversity and welcome anyone who has a passion for the craft, not just the people who were born with a golden ticket into the industry.


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