Ozzy Osbourne is supposed to inspire teenagers to take drugs and commit suicide, not bring about cheerful remarks from a right-wing President of the United States. The Ozzy I knew – the Ozzy I listened to during the 1980s – was a wild, rebellious, drunk of a man, carrying on about nuclear war, barking at the moon, and the merits of Alistair Crowley. Now, far from dangerous, Ozzy is seen as an amiable loser; a caring father who just happens to scream obscenities on occasion. His brain is clearly destroyed after years of hard drugs and cheap liquor, but he has become a national symbol nonetheless, much to my disgust and embarrassment.
I’ll admit to enjoying the first season of “The Osbournes,” if only because it was charming to watch a rich celebrity make an ass of himself. Ozzy, as well as his family, had genuine charm and undeniable personality. They were foul, yes, but never took themselves too seriously and had not let loads of cash change their attitude about life. For some reason, it seemed fresh and new and I felt it was justified to hail the show as a bold new direction in television programming. Now, with the second season underway and all authenticity lost, the show reveals itself to be nothing more than cheap self-promotion; a weekly infomercial for all things Osbourne. Kelly has a record deal, Jack wants to promote, and Sharon, that relentlessly cheerful entrepreneur, is now the matriarch of a group of products in search of exposure rather than “just folks” trying to get through life. Even Sharon’s cancer seems phony, almost as if it was concocted in a writer’s conference to add flavor to the show. Knowing that Sharon is as savvy a businessperson as they come, I would put nothing past her in the drive to make the Osbourne clan the most recognized people on the face of the earth.
Still, crass commercialism aside (what with the ads, dolls, books, and CDs), “The Osbournes” drives me nuts (at least this season) because the very people who called for Ozzy’s head on a plate now praise him as a genuine role model. Maybe it is the teenager in me that never left, but I want to see George W. Bush asking God to rain down his mighty judgment on the sinful Ozzy, not look in his direction with a wink and a nod. Ozzy inhales bats, skips about with Satan, and vomits blood – he does not attend correspondent’s dinners in Washington D.C. Some people are embarrassed because they feel Ozzy is being exploited and made a fool; I say not for the reasons you might think. Rather than serving to entertain the masses as a clown, he has become pathetically, painfully mainstream. He is as likely to be mentioned by your grandmother as he is your stoner buddy down at the record store. He is trendy, he is cute, and he is everybody’s friend. At the very least Randy Rhodes did not live to see this day. We’ve gone from Diary of a Madman to guest appearances on the decidedly un-hip Jay Leno. Is there nothing sacred, least of all the heavy metal music I loved as a youth?
But who am I kidding? Now I see Vince Neil on Surreal Life. Metallica has long since ceased to be interesting, and that includes the haircuts. These bands I loved – cheesy, lacking any real talent, and foolish in their posturing – made me smile because I felt a kinship with anyone so derided by the majority of America. The more talk there was about burning records and banning songs from the radio, the more I knew my ear was in tune with the truth-tellers and the wise men of rock. All of that is gone now; not the puritanical hypocrites, of course, but they have moved on to bigger, better targets. No one cares about the gods of metal, unless of course they can be appropriated for the next commercial enterprise.