Netflix has painted quite a picture of the late Bob Ross and his still-standing empire, and let’s just say that it’s missing more than a couple happy trees. The documentary, which dives into the inner-workings of Bob Ross’s personal life, has highlighted some of the more complex parts of the landscape artist’s legacy—particularly when it comes to his relationship with the Kowalski family.
While Ross goes unscathed through the feature (save the details of past affairs and the fact that his afro is indeed, permed), it’s the Kowalski family who’s sitting under a damning light by the end. Viewers on social media took note as well.
The Kowalski family still runs and operates Bob Ross Inc. in present day, having been majority owners of the company when Ross died in 1995. The back half of the documentary alleges that a combination of legal pressure, questionable ethics, and full-on bullying may have led to their ability to control the intellectual property and branding behind Bob Ross Inc. Ross, who is still a beloved figure in pop culture, has swaths of new generation fans with no idea how complicated the situation is, and thus, we have a mob on our hands. The name on their lips is Kowalski.
The documentary suggests that over a dozen people from Ross’s world have opted out of speaking publicly against the Kowalskis for fear of retaliation, but the internet is a fearless, often anonymous, place where you can fire off an angry tweet alongside a SpongeBob meme and live peacefully. The good people of social media will not the let the fires die. This was no happy accident, they insist, and they want justice.
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