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Bob Ross, Inc. (BRI) has taken a stand against the new Netflix documentary Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal, and Greed (2021), which chronicles the TV painter’s rise to fame and subsequent legal controversies after his death. In a public statement released yesterday , BRI denounced the film’s “inaccurate and heavily slanted” narrative and accused its director and producers of bias.
The Joy of Painting star and posthumous meme celebrity, who died of lymphoma in 1995, is lovingly remembered as much for his mastery of alla prima landscape painting as for his life wisdom, soothing voice, and exuberant hair. His talents and charms are “accurately captured in the film,” admits BRI, the company that owns the rights to Ross’s image.
But BRI takes issue with the film’s portrayal of the company’s current owners, Walt and Annette Kowalski. Longtime business partners of Ross who co-founded BRI in 1984 along with the artist and his wife Jane, they gained complete control of the business after the couple’s deaths. The second half of the documentary describes their successful bid for Ross’s intellectual property, allegedly using intimidation and ruthless legal force, ultimately snatching the rights to his name and likeness from Bob’s son and heir Steve Ross and continuing to profit from them today.
According to a New York Times review of the documentary, the Kowalskis “are not painted in a flattering light.” The film has prompted growing calls for a boycott of the company and Bob Ross-branded products, from paint sets and swimming trunks to a toaster that burns the painter’s face on bread slices — all featuring images licensed through the family.
The Kowalskis have strongly rejected the claims and accused director Joshua Rofé and producers Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone of failing to represent their perspective. If not for their efforts, said BRI’s statement, “Bob’s artistic and cultural relevance … would have been lost decades ago with his passing.”
“Had the filmmakers communicated with openness in their correspondence, Bob Ross Inc. could have provided valuable information and context in an attempt to achieve a more balanced and informed film,” the company said.
In an interview with NPR, Falcone said it had been difficult to find people who were willing to speak on the record about Ross for the documentary; many of them were hesitant or outright refused out of a fear of litigation. “That was when we sort of figured out, oh, boy, this might be a little different than what we thought it was going to be,” Falcone said.
“We never set out to make a hit piece. We like Bob Ross and we still do,” Falcone said. “We were just surprised to uncover some of the things we uncovered.”
Bob Ross, Inc. and Netflix have not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s requests for comment.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
What is the relation between possessing a person, possessing their image, and dispossessing their progeny
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.
We cannot be indifferent to the long-lasting effects of photography. The photographs at the center of Lanier v. Harvard are relentless in making Renty and Delia Taylor work and perform as slaves. The pain inflicted on them has not ceased. Photography has the capacity to propagate harm, and we have the moral obligation to interrupt…