‘Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed’ Documentary Explained

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Netflix documentary Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed highlights the amusing life of the famous American art instructor. But he was not teaching it in a school or any institute but reaching out to the whole world. “The Joy of Painting” was a show that aired on PBS from 1983 to 94′, where Bob Ross hosted the show and painted a landscape in a duration of about half an hour.

The Netflix documentary, directed by Joshua Rofe, focuses on the infamous legal battle between Bob Ross’ son, Steve Ross, and Annette Kowalski, the driving force behind Bob Ross Inc. (the company established by Kowalski’s and Bob Ross). The control of the company fell in the hands of Kowalski’s post-Bob’s death. It was alleged that the Kowalski’s used Bob’s name to sell products posthumously and earned a profit when Bob had written in his will that Kowalski’s wouldn’t be allowed to use his name. Jimmie Cox, who was Bob’s half-brother, struck a deal with the Kowalski’s and gave them the autonomous control of Bob Ross Inc., behind Steve’s back. But apart from this legal scuffle, there were many things that we come to know through this well-made documentary. Let’s try to understand the artist and performer Bob Ross and his convoluted world. 


What was the Reason Behind Bob Ross’ Popularity?

Was Bob Ross way better than his contemporaries? The answer is subjective. But I believe it was not his painting that made him so famous. Obviously, he did create one hell of a piece in less than 30 mins in each of his shows, but still, it was not something that wasn’t seen before. 

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The magic lay in his performance. His soothing voice, his calming aura, and his catchphrases had the potential to stop time and make you feel good. Everybody has their own struggles in life and their own battles to fight. Amidst all that, seeing Bob Ross paint those tranquil landscapes was just therapeutic. Those 30 mins of “The Joy of Painting” convinced you that life was not so bad after all. Through art, Bob was able to accomplish a bigger goal. His art touched lives, saved them, and made this world a better place for them to live in. 


Kowalski’s – the Power Brokers 

They say, “it’s just business, nothing personal,” but is it ever not personal. That was the motto that the Kowalski’s lived by. They were the power brokers who knew how to harvest upon the brand of Bob Ross. They knew that the brand was going to outlive him. That is why they wanted the exclusive rights of the company. This facet of the documentary reminded me of consumerism and how it has brainwashed us completely.

We would wear a Che Guevara T-shirt even if the Bolivian Army were manufacturing it, considering ourselves an ideal Marxist. That’s because we buy their narrative. Bob never wanted his company to go into the hands of Kowalski’s. Annette and Walt Kowalski harped on the brand’s emotional value that Bob had created and made a humongous profit out of it. People’s emotions were kept on a scale, weighed, and then sold at the best possible price. 


What you do with a big ol’ two-inch brush?

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Art is something that goes beyond the tides of time. It breaks the barriers and crosses each and every boundary. That is why Bob Ross said, “what we create here is gonna stay forever.” 

A genuine creation is often the driving force for any artist. 

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An earnest creation can often cheat death and continue living, bearing the identity of its creator. That’s why Bob never died. He lived on with all those who find refuge in art. Scattered individuals, I like to call them. They all collected their broken fragments because one man decided to pick up a brush and paint his thoughts on a blank canvas. 

Streaming on Netflix, do not miss out on this one!


Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed is a 2021 Documentary Film directed by Joshua Rofé. It is based on the life of famous art instructor, Bob Ross.

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Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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