Weekly Digest: Merry Christmas!
Welcome to my weekly digest for December 22, 2022.
Merry Christmas to everyone! There will be lighter than usual posting here until after the new year.
The Rise of the Nepo Baby
As a follow-up on my recent post about the illusion of American meritocracy, I saw this article on the “nepo[tism] baby” phenomenon. It focuses on the entertainment industry, where, because the supply of very good looking, talented people who would like to get into it is all but unlimited, connections count for a lot.
In truth, nepo babies have always been a fact of Hollywood. Today, they’re not only abundant — they’re thriving. In an industry built on reboots, a famous last name can be valuable intellectual property. A celebrity child brings an easy marketing hook as well as millions of TikTok followers who, the theory goes, will slide seamlessly from watching their wardrobe reveals to watching their war-drama reels. Ang Lee tapped his son, Mason, for the starring role in his Bruce Lee biopic, and 2021 saw two sons of actors, Michael Gandolfini and Cooper Hoffman, follow in their dearly departed fathers’ footsteps. Streaming series such as Stranger Things, Never Have I Ever, and The Sex Lives of College Girls may well be federally funded make-work projects for well-connected private-school graduates. This year, small films such as I Am Ruth and Sam & Kate seemingly exist solely to pair famous actors with their less famous offspring (Kate Winslet and Mia Threapleton in the former; Dustin Hoffman, Jake Hoffman, Sissy Spacek, and Schuyler Fisk in the latter). And that’s just the working actors. Elsewhere, the celebrity-media complex allows Brooklyn Beckham (son of David and Victoria Beckham) to headline Variety’s “Young Hollywood” issue without ever approaching anything you or I would recognize as a normal job.
Nepo baby: How could two little words cause so much conflict? A baby is a bundle of joy; a nepo baby is physical proof that meritocracy is a lie. We love them, we hate them, we disrespect them, we’re obsessed with them.
The nepo baby’s path to stardom begins when they’re a literal baby. A celebrity child takes center stage in a series of highly visible tabloid rituals: “We’re expecting” photos, birthday parties, holidays. As they age into adolescence, the mere fact that they physically resemble their famous parents is a news event on par with a closely fought primary. (In the past five years, People.com has written no fewer than 17 articles about how Ava Phillippe looks like her mother, Reese Witherspoon.) There can be delicious Schadenfreude in the realization that, far more than most of us, a nepo baby’s destiny is determined by a spin on the genetic roulette wheel. The model Kaia Gerber has profited handsomely from looking exactly like her mother, Cindy Crawford, while Bruce Willis and Demi Moore’s daughters were undoubtedly hampered by inheriting their father’s most famous feature, his chin.
Once children receive their own Instagram handles, they become tabloid protagonists in their own right. (From “7 Reasons to Follow Reese Witherspoon’s Daughter on Insta”: “No. 2: She Takes Perfect Selfies With Mom Reese.”) Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter, Apple, went from an object, most notable for her unusual name, to a subject by issuing sassy clapbacks on her mother’s posts. Kate Beckinsale’s daughter, Lily Mo Sheen, made headlines for posting selfies with her boyfriend, who fans thought resembled her father, Michael Sheen.
Click through to read the whole thing.
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Michelle Obama on Marriage
Glamour UK: Michelle Obama confessed she ‘couldn’t stand’ Barack Obama during early marital years and people on social media have many thoughts - Apparently, a bunch of young women took issue with Michelle Obama saying that she couldn’t stand Barack for about 10 years when the kids were little. She also said things like marriages are never 50-50. There are a number of articles about this, but here’s a quote from this one:
Michelle goes on to say that she's proud of her 30-year marriage and the many happy years she's had with Barack. “I would take 10 bad years over 30,” she says. “It's just how you look at it, right? And people give up after five years.” Of knowing whether to stick with a relationship despite hard times, she adds: “You've gotta know your person. Do you like him? You could be mad at him, but do you still look at him and go, ‘I’m not happy with you, but I respect you. I don't agree with you but you're still a kind, smart person.” She then goes on to discuss “the work” that being in a long-term relationship requires – acknowledging that those initial ‘honeymoon period’ feelings will only last so long.
Note that we see here an example of what researchers have found, which is that if couples simply stick together, they eventually outlast their unhappiness.
Also, we see the criticality of respect in keeping a marriage together. For men, if your wife or girlfriend loses respect for you or starts showing signs of disrespect, this is a major red flag that the relationship is in trouble. In fact, in a world of fragilized marriage, men need to be actively monitoring and actively stewarding their respect level in a relationship. It’s not always obvious how to do that, but it’s very important.
As I’ve said before, you can learn a lot by simply studying how extremely successful couples like Barack and Michelle Obama have personally lived their lives.
Best of the Web
The New Atlantis: No Other Options - Newly revealed documents depict a Canadian euthanasia regime that efficiently ushers the vulnerable to a “beautiful” death.
The Canadian Association of MAID [assissted suicide] Assessors and Providers, the leading organization of Canadian euthanasia providers, has sat on credible evidence by its own members that people are being driven to euthanasia by credit card debt, poor housing, and difficulties getting medical care. These are people who do have some sort of medical condition but in many cases are using them to check a box in the approval process, when the relief they are mainly seeking is from other forms of suffering. And the system is doing much more to help them down the path toward death than to protect them as the public was promised.
TAC: Cultivating a Local Elite - A local elite requires locally derived and rooted sources of wealth, which is what we mostly lack these days.
New Content and Media Mentions
My three worlds of evangelicalism article was the #1 most popular article from First Things’ print magazine this year. Thanks to all of you who shared it with your friends. It is really starting to become the main way evangelicals understand the cultural changes of recent years.
Evangelical Times mentions my three world model.
New this week:
The Growing Post-Christian Right (paid only). How Republican politics is becoming disconnected from religious conservatism.
At American Reformer, J. Matthew Pinson investigates the influence of Aquinas on C. S. Lewis, or the lack thereof. American Reformer executive director Josh Abbotoy also joined Matt Peterson’s podcast to discuss the organization.