Ah, the nepotism baby discourse. You might wrongly think that after an entire New York Mag package and Hailey Bieber née Baldwin emblazoning the phrase on a pared-down crop top, there’s little left to be said. I did, at least. Until yesterday when a new voice approached the microphone, erhm TikTok-ophone: Sofia Coppola and Thomas Mars’ daughter, Romy Mars.
In a fit of teenage rebellion, Romy made public (though has since deleted) a video of her attempting to make “vodka sauce pasta,” also known more commonly as Penne alla Vodka—more on her culinary shortcomings later. The dish wasn’t so much her rebellion as the public video was. According to Romy, her parents’ “biggest rule is like, I’m not allowed to have any public social media accounts.”
“Here’s why,” she says as she holds up her dad’s (Thomas Mars, lead singer of Phoenix) Grammy Award. “They don’t want me to be a nepotism kid, but TikTok is not gonna make me famous, so it doesn’t matter.” Unfortunately, Romy is an unreliable narrator.
You might think, again incorrectly, that a TikTok about making vodka sauce pasta would showcase Romy making said vodka sauce pasta—but nary a noodle gets sauced. Instead, the promise of vodka sauce pasta serves as a vehicle in which we, the audience, are transported into the world of a nepo-baby. First, it provides us with exposition: “Make a vodka sauce pasta with me because I’m grounded because I tried to charter a helicopter from New York to Maryland on my dad’s credit card because I wanted to have dinner with my camp friend,” Romy explains in her kitchen. I’m immediately drawn in—not just because I am from Maryland and live in New York and the possibility of traveling home via chopper has never once crossed my mind or been financially viable, but because Romy’s version of teenage disobedience is already so heightened and wildly foreign to me that I simply had to see how it plays out. Is film’s greatest purpose not to transport its viewers?! Also, I wonder where she goes to camp.
Next, we’re introduced to a rising tension. Romy admits she does not know the difference between onions and garlic and had to Google it. She then slices open a shallot and ponders to us, the viewers, whether she’s even handling an onion. Again, we’re exposed to the limitations of Romy’s narration. But my voyeuristic tendencies, the desire for a passport into the nepo-verse, override any issues of her fallibility. A faulty protagonist doesn’t ultimately threaten the premise.
“I feel like this doesn’t look like an onion. This looks like the inner workings of a ballsa-” she says before the edit cuts her off. And before we can get too unsettled by the implications of both what she was about to say and her being unable to distinguish between two very common root vegetables, she segues into a surprise character introduction.
Meet Ari, Romy’s babysitter’s boyfriend. He’s a kindly 30-something man who looks like he’d be—in a film at least (hint, hint, Sofia)—a considerate high school English teacher who acts as a refuge to his capricious students. After Romy asks what he thinks of the helicopter fiasco, he generously spins her incorrect pronunciation of the word “fiasco” (she says, “fiasca”) as a political statement on gender roles. “I like ‘fiasca’ because it’s like a feminine form of the word fiasco. It’s women’s history month, so…” she says before concluding the short film by announcing Ari has to go pick up literally all of the ingredients needed to make vodka sauce pasta (except for the onion, which is actually a shallot.) In under 50 seconds, we are taken on a wayward journey of insurrection, influence, gender politics, and helicopters. Succession is on notice.
After rewatching the video approximately 18 times, I’ve concluded not only is it genuinely a work of art, but that nepo babies are....good? Well, they’re good if we let them exist in their natural habitats and are afforded glimpses like this into their worlds. Sure, they shouldn’t be given jobs they aren’t qualified for, and sure, it’s fun if not also medically healthy to complain about them. But I will always welcome their perspective on not being allowed to charter a helicopter across state lines while still in high school. Also, Romy, next time just buy an Amtrak ticket, much cheaper, less conspicuous, and eco-friendly. I’m sure you could’ve gotten away with it that way.