Bob Ross Netflix Documentary Is Disturbing, But Not the Way You Think - VRGyani News and Media

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Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Bob Ross Netflix Documentary Is Disturbing, But Not the Way You Think

It’s a bit wild to think of the ubiquity of Bob Ross given that the guy was A. A largely enigmatic figure and B. A painter on public access television. Ross wasn’t in movies or TV shows and didn’t guest-host Good Morning America — he devoted his life to teaching people how to paint, infusing his program The Joy of Painting with a serene tone and heartfelt affirmations. Ross spoke directly to us, the viewer, to tell us we were capable of great things if we put our mind to it. It's no surprise that Ross means a lot to many people.

Which is why when Netflix dropped a trailer for a Bob Ross documentary called Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed, there was a collective “oh no” felt across the internet. Over the last few years, we have rightly seen a reckoning with Bad Men as people have felt comfortable coming forward with their terrible behavior that has been swept under the rug for too long. Folks like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey and Scott Rudin are finally being held accountable for their horrendous actions. So you’d be forgiven for assuming that this Bob Ross documentary might have similar revelations – that we were about to find out that the man who taught us to draw happy little trees was, secretly, not so great.

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Thankfully, that’s not the kind of revelations that this Netflix documentary has in store. If you don’t want to be spoiled you don’t have to read any further, but just know that Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed reinforces the notion that Ross was ultimately a pretty good man with pure intentions. He devoted his entire life to teaching people how to unlock the artist inside of them, and there aren't any major skeletons in his closet.

That’s not to say the documentary doesn’t have any revelations about Ross. Through candid interviews with his son and friends, we learn that he had a habit of being flirtatious, and reportedly wasn’t entirely faithful to his wives throughout his marriages. But the “Betrayal and Greed” portion of the documentary’s subtitle is referring to the business dealings of Bob Ross, Inc., and specifically what happened after Ross’ tragic death in 1995 from cancer.

The documentary puts forth the notion that Ross’ business partners, Walt and Annette Kowalski, were obsessed with continuing to sell Bob Ross as a brand following his death, and due to previously signed contracts constrained some of Ross’ career decisions. In the documentary, Ross’ son Steve Ross claims that the Kowalskis tried to get Ross to sign over his name and image to Bob Ross Inc. while almost literally on his deathbed, as they wanted to further exploit the Bob Ross brand for more products and classes.

The film goes deeper into all of this, and covers how Ross and the Kowalskis got into business together in the first place, so I highly recommend checking it out. Plus, unlike many other Netflix documentaries, this one is a scant one hour and 33 minutes – no six-episode docuseries here. The film does a nice job of painting a picture of Ross as a man, warts and all, versus the unknowable profile the public has had of him over the years. And in the end, you walk away with an even greater appreciation for what he did for the art world and community throughout his relatively short time on television, while also feeling sad at how many of his actions were constrained and controlled by business dealings — up to and including obscuring his death so as not to result in declining sales of Bob Ross products.

So yes, the Bob Ross documentary is disturbing, and will make you think about Ross in a very differently light. But it's not that kind of documentary.

Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed is now streaming on Netflix.



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