Is Ozzy the new right-wing hero?
If you gasped when you heard that Ozzy Osbourne — the man known for chomping on bat heads — is going to perform for the Queen of England at the 50th anniversary of her reign on June 3, then you haven’t been paying attention to Ozzy’s life lately. Somehow, since ”The Osbournes” became an enormous MTV hit, he seems to have become the darling of all sorts of conservative institutions — including the stateside family values crowd.
At the May 4 White House Correspondents Association dinner, where Ozzy and wife Sharon were guests of the right-leaning Fox News Channel, he was welcomed by none other than Presdient Bush. Last Thursday, he won an award from an anti-drug coalition for his harrowing depiction of heroin addiction in the 2001 song ”Junkie.” And even former Vice President Dan Quayle singled out the Osbournes as positive family role models in a May 9 speech that otherwise found little that was family-friendly in primetime TV.
Quayle’s speech, at the National Press Club in Washington, marked the tenth anniversary of his notorious condemnation of fictional TV newswoman Murphy Brown for choosing single motherhood. But he praised the Osbournes as ”an intact family.” (Intact, that is, except that Ozzy and Sharon’s daughter Aimee moved into her own place to avoid being filmed — and Ozzy has two kids from a previous marriage.) ”You have to get beyond this sort of dysfunctional aspect,” Quayle said of the foul-mouthed family, but once you do, ”you have a mother and a father involved with their children. And from the one episode I saw, they were loving parents,” He added, ”I’m not encouraging anybody to live his life. But… many of the things he’s trying to say are positive.”
Specifically, Quayle praised Ozzy’s anti-drug exhortations to his kids, not to mention his own personal example. ”In a weird way, Ozzy is a great anti-drug promotion,” Quayle told the Associated Press after his speech. ”Look at him and how fried his brains are from taking drugs all those years, and everyone will say, ‘I don’t want to be like that.”’
Another tribute to Ozzy, the anti-drug messenger, took place at the sixth annual Prism Awards, held in May at CBS Television City in Los Angeles. The awards, which ”honor the accurate depiction of drug, alcohol and tobacco use and addiction in television, feature film, music, and comic book entertainment,” are selected by a committee of entertainment industry insiders and drug research scientists. Usually, producers and media execs submit works for nomination, but a Prism publicist told EW.com that the committee found and nominated Ozzy’s ”Junkie” on its own. (Guess they hadn’t listened to older Ozzy tunes like ”Sweet Leaf” and ”Snowblind.”) Alas, Ozzy wasn’t there to accept the award in person; presenter Casey Kasem accepted it for him.
Not everyone on the right is entirely pleased with ”The Osbournes.” ”Dan Quayle is right to a certain degree. There is love in the family. But there is a lot of disrespect,” says Bob Waliszewski, youth culture specialist for Focus on the Family. ”When those teenagers can yell obscenities at their parents, they’re not showing a side of the family most of us would like to promote.” As far as Ozzy’s anti-drug advocacy, Waliszewski tells EW.com, ”While Ozzy has seen the errors of his own drug-use past, his comment to his daughter to use a condom sent a destructive message not only to his own daughter but also to other teens in America.” If Quayle had really been looking for a former bad boy who turned role model, ”he could have picked Alice Cooper, who had a wild past and is apparently doing things right today.”
The new-found recognition for Ozzy (and Alice, for that matter) reflects a more nuanced reading of rock and its theatrics than conservative groups used to offer. In the past, they slammed Osbourne and others for their supposed Satanic trappings. But now, says Melissa Caldwell, director of research and publications for the Parents Television Council, ”most people recognize that it was a stage persona and not Ozzy Osbourne himself.” She adds, ”As for being a role model for good parenting, the Osbournes leave a lot to be desired. But at least both parents are there and seem to be involved in their kids’ lives. He deserves some credit for trying to distance himself from the guy who bites the heads off bats.”