It’s Brooklyn Beckham’s world, we just live in it. And the sooner we accept this as the natural order of things the better, frankly. Six months after taking his GCSEs, the 16-year-old just shot an advertising campaign for Burberry fragrance.
The news has been greeted with inevitable outrage by some established fashion photographers. When you’ve worked at a career for decades and then a kid with a cute man-bun who last year still hadn’t decided whether to be a footballer or a photographer leapfrogs you on the career ladder, taking photos on his skateboard, that’s going to wind you up. I get that. But to accuse Burberry of not picking the best man for the job entirely misses the point. The purpose of an advertising campaign for Burberry Brit is not to promote photography as an art form, it is to promote and sell a fragrance aimed at young people. Brooklyn Beckham behind the camera has put this campaign in broadsheet newspapers and on celebrity gossip pages before Burberry have bought a single ad site. And I suspect a 16-year-old landing a dream job by taking really good selfies will prove to be a pretty compelling story for the teenagers this product is aimed at.
Who knows: secretly, the Queen might be a bit fed up that she’s had weekly audiences with 12 prime ministers and made 16 state visits to Australia, and yet Princess Charlotte, who can’t walk or talk, came in four places above her at number one on Tatler’s list of People Who Really Matter. But she’s just going to have to keep a stiff upper lip about it, because it’s the kids who count, these days. Before Brooklyn’s Burberry news, the last fashion advertising campaign to make the news was Louis Vuitton’s womenswear, which stars Jaden Smith, son of Will and Jada. Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny and Vanessa, just landed her first glossy cover of the new issue of Love magazine. At this rate, the current state of affairs, in which women campaign for more visibility in public life after 40 or 50, may soon seem in hindsight to have been a golden age for oldies. The way things are going, 20 will soon be the age at which you become invisible.
But the hostility to the offspring of the famous is less about youth than about celebrity. The modern obsession with celebrity has created a new global aristocracy. But having manufactured these people for our own amusement, we accidentally breathed life into a whole Debrett’s of new dynasties. The Kardashian-Wests, the Beckhams, the Osbournes, the Jolie-Pitts. Stardust has crystallised into real power, with famous parents able to hand front-row seats at fashion week and lucrative modelling contracts down to the next generation much in the way that the aristocracy of old would hand down titles and oil paintings. All we wanted were pretty people to look at in movies and in Vogue, and we went and created the modern equivalent of a hereditary peerage, by mistake. There is a lot of snobbery here. Note how much more the unstoppable rise of celebrity offspring gets our goat when they come from what aren’t, in the cultural sense, posh families. If your surname is Coppola, or Gainsbourg, the world will look less cynically on your pursuit of an artistic career than if your surname is Beckham.
And anyway, the only people who really truly understand how the world works, these days, are kids. Brooklyn Beckham landing the Burberry gig is just the next logical step in a process that began when they started making TV remote controls so complicated that only people under 12 could figure out how to use them. Proficiency with a light meter is not necessarily a more important skill than the ability to create an image and a caption that works on social media. Thirty years of experience, or millions of Instagram followers? No contest.
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