The late painter Bob Ross is arguably one of the most recognizable artists and art instructors of the 20th Century. He is most notably known for his PBS show The Joy of Painting that aired from 1983 to 1994, through which he inspired people at home to paint using his simple wet on wet oil technique. Recently, actress Melissa McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone released a documentary on Netflix that showcased the actor’s life and legacy. However, according to Art News, ever since the documentary’s release on August 25, 2021, it has been met with an onslaught of controversy and criticism.
The company in charge of Bob Ross’ estate, Bob Ross Inc., responded to the documentary’s content in a recent public statement. The Hollywood Reporter detailed that Bob Ross Inc., while they acknowledged that Bob Ross himself was “accurately captured,” that the company was portrayed in an “inaccurate and heavily slanted way.”
By contrast, the day the Netflix Documentary was released, Melissa McCarthy and her husband spoke with NPR and set the precedent that when they first set out to make the film, it was intended to be a tribute to the painter’s life and career. Being fans of Bob Ross, they wanted to showcase his legacy on screen. However, McCarthy said that when they were trying to arrange interviews with Bob Ross Inc. and others who were close to Bob Ross, they were met with a lot of rejection and unwillingness from those who knew the artist. They maintained that the documentary would have been much more balanced if they had been able to interview more people.
The main reason for the controversy surrounding the Netflix documentary is the disproportionate perspectives that encompass what happened to Bob Ross’ estate following his death in 1995. One of the only people in the documentary that McCarthy and Falcone were able to meet with in order to get a first-person account of the events that took place after Bob Ross’ death was his son Steve Ross, whose bias against those who took control of his father’s fortune and legacy is overtly obvious. Bob Ross’ son argued that he and Ross’ other next of kin were cheated out of their inheritances when the rights to Bob Ross’ company and works were given to his long-time business partners Walt and Annette Kowalski.
The Bob Ross documentary isn’t the only piece of content that is being plagued by controversy. Netflix original, The First Temptation of Christ, is getting removed from the streaming services library after two years of pressure to take it down. Ironically, the movie is being removed to be replaced by an equally controversial but much more popular, Seth Rogan and James Franco mashup called The Interview. The movie largely pokes fun at North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un and is widely known for its use of Katy Perry’s Firework song. However, the film’s initial 2016 release was stunted over threats that the US received from the North Korean government. Those looking forward to the resurgence of The Interview can watch it on Netflix beginning on September 1, 2021.