The 'Ozzy' Phenomenon

By MARTHA ZOLLER, A UPI Outside View commentary  |  May 11, 2002 at 3:26 AM
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WASHINGTON, May 11 (UPI) -- Last Saturday the White House Correspondents dinner was held with the pomp and circumstance that usually happens when the media elite meet the political elite to swap barbs in the nation's capital.

But this year there was a wild card as the newest icons of MTV, Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, joined Fox News legal eagle Greta Van Susteren as her invited guests. Even President George W. Bush admitted "my mom is a big fan," prompting Ozzy to blow a kiss his way.

Me too. I am a conservative Mom but I love The Osbournes! The foul mouthed MTV series about the daily life of legendary rocker Ozzy Osbourne and his family has struck a chord with me and I'm not alone.

But before you pick up the phone to call social services and report me as an unfit mother, let me tell you the story of my family and how we caught Osbourne fever.

It all started one day when my teenage sons, aged 15 and 18, began talking about the show several weeks before the February premiere. There was talk among their friends and well laid plans to tape and pass around the episode to those in their peer group who don't have access to MTV.

The night the first episode aired I listened from upstairs as they watched and laughed hysterically. I know my boys and I respect their decisions about most of the television they watch. But as a mother I secretly hoped my 15-year-old would find the life of an aging rock star boring and decide to turn the channel to something else.

The next day when I picked him up from school The Osbournes were still the hot topic of conversation, so in the spirit of dialogue with my teen I engaged him about what he had seen. "They cuss all the time, and it's cool," he stated rather nonchalantly. I cooly fought the urge to launch into the mommy mantra; you know the "use of profanity represents a lack of vocabulary and intelligence" lecture.

Instead I offered to watch the show with him and discuss whether or not it would be appropriate for him to continue watching in the future.

He may be 15 but he's still my baby.

When the following week rolled around we all watched The Osbournes together. The language was atrocious with a constant series of bleeps that couldn't thwart even the most naïve of viewers and yet, amazingly, I found myself loving the show. My husband felt the same way.

This may be a good time to remind you that we consider ourselves very conservative parents who are very picky about the television our children are allowed to watch. On a normal day in our house you'll find us watching CSPAN, Home and Garden TV, The Learning Channel, Discovery and Fox News Channel. So I had to examine what it was about this particular program was so appealing that it draws millions of viewers from across the demographic spectrum every Tuesday evening. After watching a few more episodes, it became very clear.

When you strip away the fame, the money and the 24/7 presence of television cameras in the house, The Osbournes are a real family having real struggles with their children, just like the rest of us. At the root of it all they want to be good parents and in a world of money, travel and privilege, that's not easy.

Clearly apparent in every episode is the love that Ozzy and Sharon have for their children, even if they show it in a manner that might set the rest of America on its head. They parent the best way they know how and that's all any of us know how to do.

I don't know a single parent that hasn't wished that the little buggers came with a "how to" manual but in the end you're flying by the seat of your pants biting the head of bats and doing the best that you can.

It is blatantly obvious that Ozzy really adores his wife and loves his children. Even in the face of his very checkered and public past he struggles with topics that leave even the best parents dazed and confused like sex and drugs, but make no mistake, he talks to his kids.

While his well-earned reputation paints a clear picture of the man in his youth he shares the struggles of his own life and lays bare his soul along with his history of drug and alcohol abuse in the hopes that his children won't follow in his footsteps.

Not an easy task for a legend that represents a segment of the music world where such advice is not socially acceptable.

Ozzy and Sharon have the same problems as many parents do with their teens but they are amplified by the access that comes from being the child of a star. On some level, we like to think that even with all the money and fame, they still have to parent their children just like the rest of us -- one day at a time.

So, while the Osbournes aren't perfect and will never fit the mold of the "traditional family," teens and parents alike get to see a unique representation of a family struggling with the classic generational issues that come from being a family.

So will The Osbournes be around for another season? They say yes and MTV says maybe. Considering that the show garners one of the largest sustained audiences in television history I think they'll be around as long as they feel comfortable allowing the cameras to invade their privacy. Either way my kids will be watching and so will I.

(Martha Zoller is the host of "The Martha Zoller Show" on WDUN AM 550 in Atlanta and is a regular on Fox5 Atlanta's "The Georgia Gang." She lives in Gainesville, Georgia with her husband and children.)

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