The recent online discourse surrounding nepotism in the entertainment industry has been mostly tedious, with an occasional sliver of genuine insight amidst the memes. It’s never been a surprise to note just how overwhelmed the film, TV, and music worlds are with the offspring of the wealthy and notable, although perhaps the sheer volume perplexed some. Such conversations are important, even at their smarmiest, since they offer an opportunity to fully examine the privileges that undermine the lie of meritocracy we’ve been sold since birth. When you’re born without the full deck, it’s tough to make your way into the game, let alone play it at the same level as your competition. I feel like audiences have some tolerance and even respect for some nepotism kids who have proven themselves or are working to establish their talents in obvious ways. Consider Jane Fonda, Anjelica Huston, Carrie Fisher, and others. Sure, Maya Hawke had a lot of doors open to her thanks to her parentage, but she’s also evidently talented and making intriguing choices as an actor. If you’re going to be a nepotism kid, why not make the most of it?
That brings us to one Brooklyn Beckham. The son of football legend David and Posh Spice-turned-fashion designer Victoria, Brooklyn has become an inescapable figure of Gen Z celebrity in recent years. He’s everywhere, from the extensive Vogue coverage of his wedding to actress and heiress Nicola Peltz to covers of Vogue with his wife (see a pattern?) The pair are being sold as a power couple, the true heirs in more ways than one to his parents, who carved a major empire from the force of their partnership over 20+ years. But what does Brooklyn actually do?
Brooklyn Beckham gotta be the worst nepo baby to ever exist pic.twitter.com/l0HUSxg25e— Meech (@MediumSizeMeech) January 31, 2023
He was a photographer for a while, doing shoots for Burberry and then releasing a maligned book of his wonkiest work. Then he was a chef, showing how to cook a middling bacon sandwich on American daytime talk shows. He even landed a cover of Variety during their Young Hollywood season for his, uh, career. He’s also done some modeling, which is practically a requirement for modern nepotism kids. Now, he’s getting into the celeb booze business, much like his dad, by becoming the ‘co-founder’ of a sake brand. Note that he didn’t actually found the company, WESAKE. He’s just getting that credit Elon-style. The launch didn’t exactly set the world alight given the oversaturation of the celebrity-branded alcohol business and Beckham’s own admittance to Rolling Stone that, while he loves ‘Japanese culture’, he doesn’t know any Japanese music or bands.
Perhaps Beckham is the right bland white guy to make sake the cool hipster thing with his TikTok audience. I’ve no idea. Given his current record of career failures, I’m inclined to say no. There was something wearily predictable about this pivot, which feels like a new celebrity requirement in the multi-side hustle era of fame (honestly, I thought he’d try a skincare brand next, but don’t write that off for the future.) As the Rolling Stone interview reveals, even with a heap of softballs flung his way, Beckham doesn’t display much in terms of personality or real passion for what he does, and he does a lot. Or, at least, he tries a lot.
This is what fascinates me about Beckham, and makes me feel kind of sorry for him. He’s barely in his mid-20s, an age when most of us had no idea who we were or what we wanted to do with our lives. Most of us are fortunate to go through our quarter-life crisis without the world judging us for our failures. There’s an appeal to Brooklyn’s well-funded and highly public exploration of new hobbies to monetize. Who wouldn’t want a risk-free opportunity to find themselves? The flip side of that is the awkward reality of Beckham’s own failings. He just doesn’t seem to be very good at what he does. His cooking videos are frequently painful to watch. His photography book was lampooned upon release (Elephants. So hard to photograph.) He doesn’t seem comfortable in front of the camera. He’s not especially magnetic as a model.
All of this would probably be easier for the public to deal with if it were just another instance of a guy figuring himself out. The problem comes with how Beckham is immediately elevated to Expert in fields he’s utterly unqualified for. Rather than take time to learn the craft of photography, he immediately landed big deals and a coffee table book of his work. I didn’t even know he was interested in cooking until he was on TV showing it off. He’s taking the opportunities launched towards him, which is what anyone in his position would do, but his ineptitude only further exacerbates our exhaustion with nepotism’s absolute dominance over the industry. You have everything available to you, all the time and money to learn, and you just don’t? The education part is so bereft of passion for you that you don’t even want to engage with it?
Is Brooklyn Beckham claiming to be a chef an elaborate troll? He can’t possibly be this unaware. pic.twitter.com/2NbBafQz7x— Slarty Bartfast (@DatCatDer) September 29, 2022
Hard work sucks. Sure, it can bring immense satisfaction, depending on what you’re doing, but we live in times of ceaseless grind and side hustles that demand we monetize every aspect of our lives to the point of total joylessness. Doing stuff is fun, but do you know what’s even better? Having done it. writing is one of my life’s true pleasures, but the buzz I get from having written the thing I was obsessing over for lord knows how long is truly unbeatable. So, if I had the chance to skip past the agonies, the frustrations, the sheer dumb panic of work and jump straight to achievements? It must be great in some way. At least for a while. It’d get boring eventually, leave you feeling empty. Or maybe it wouldn’t if everything you did was entirely risk-free and guaranteed a high level of financial and personal gain.
It’s not as though Beckham will ever have to worry about his culinary dreams drying up or lacking sufficient funds to compete in an over-saturated field. If his sake sales slump, he won’t feel the loss as ‘co-founder.’ He dropped photography with ease, and modeling too. When he decides to become a vlogger or space cowboy or whatever else takes his interest, he’ll have every safety net at his disposal. He’ll still be driving a McLaren P1, the kind of car that no chef can afford unless they’re a decades-long fixture of the field.
But so does every nepo kid. Maya Hawke doesn’t have to worry about how she’ll pay the bills between auditions. What makes Beckham feel so clownishly unearned by comparison, is that massive gap between the status of the opportunities at his disposal and the total mediocrity of his output. There’s no fluke of talent, no moment of self-aware humor, or charm that would hint at something deeper. There’s just money. That’s still something, and plenty of people have turned their lavish displays of wealth into content for the social media generation. So it speaks volumes to the absence of personality that Beckham can’t even make that compelling.
Ultimately, I think Beckham is almost like the Rosetta Stone of nepotism; its unfairness in action at its starkest. You don’t see hordes of people defending him or claiming he’s a secret genius. He’s not a fandom idol. Even the blinding profiles barely seem to believe their own words. That makes him far easier and more fun to rag on than a lot of other nepotism kids who, at the very least, seem to be trying things.
I wonder if there’s any satisfaction in this cycle for Beckham, one of endless half-arsed hobbies vaulted into inexplicable professionalism by a media eager to get an easy story and access to generational wealth. Does he really see himself as a chef in ten years? What does he hope to accomplish with the sake brand? Or is he comfortable within the bubble of the Beckham name? I must admit that I’m oddly curious to see what career he stumbles upwards into next. Is there anything he can do?