A Bob Ross Moment: Ironic or not, you really can’t do much better than The Joy of Painting

By on December 13, 2017


To be quite honest, my viewing habits have always been somewhat skewed. There was a time when my father had to gently glide me toward more age appropriate viewing — Power Rangers and the like — because the only thing I was interested in watching before heading off to school was infomercials. Saturdays were great, and I do have vague yet enjoyable memories of Ninja Turtles and Saved by the Bell in the mornings, pro wrestling in the evenings, but leave me to my own devices during the summer weeks and I was all about one thing: daytime talk shows.

I don’t know how many hours I spent with Jenny Jones, Sally Jesse Raphael and Montel Williams, but it was probably more than what was healthy for someone whose brain was still developing; to be fair, at least I knew Sylvia Browne was full of it.

Of course, I doubt any of those shows could hold my attention today with Maury around. Watching Maury’s mix of paternity and lie detector tests is like mainlining unnecessary drama. It’s a nonstop parade of the unhappy, the arrogant and the petty, and it makes me irrationally happy. Or it did, at least, before I stopped watching it on a regular basis.

It still has a home on my DVR, of course, and it’s nice to check out the increasingly silly episode titles – recently highlights include “Did My Twin Daughters Sleep With My Ex-Husband?” and “Is My Brother Helping My Husband Cheat? Test Them Both” — but the truth is there’s too much drama in the world from the time I check my phone after I wake up until I finally set it down before bed. I don’t have the energy for cheaters and deadbeat dads anymore; social media gives me all the drama I could want with the tap of a finger.

Maybe you’re thinking, “just put your phone down, you nit.” If only it were that simple. No, some of us, for better or worse, need social media for work, and no amount of curation can save you from the ugliness of 2017. There’s really no corner of social media you can turn to that won’t make you think reality is terrible. But there’s something you can watch before bed that can take the edge off things and make you feel, however temporarily, that the world isn’t a dumpster fire.

Bob Ross has been having a bit of a moment the last few years, thanks to a new generation rediscovering him through Twitch and nostalgia. If you want a silly shirt that mentions “happy accidents” or “happy little trees,” they’re only a Google search away, along with countless numbers of pins, stickers, journals and so on, not to mention officially licensed Bob Ross painting supplies. How much of this new found Bob Ross love is ironic is hard to say, but if you’re looking for a show that’ll make you feel better about life, you can’t do much better than The Joy of Painting.

With pretty much every episode from all 31 series of the show available on Youtube for free, you could watch an episode a night for over a year, a metaphorical pill against all the ills of the world. What you have to understand about The Joy of Painting, and Bob Ross as a public figure, is that it’s not always happy, no matter how pop culture tries to spin it. Bob is an upbeat host, always excited for a “fun” painting and giving a healthy “God bless” at the end of the show, but he doesn’t shy away from the unhappy.

The Joy of Painting knows that there’s loneliness in the world, that there’s death, and while it doesn’t revel in these things, it doesn’t pretend they don’t exist either. While The Joy of Painting is frequently happy, it could best be described as optimistic. It accepts that we will make accidents, and gives us permission to forgive ourselves for making them. It shows us that there’s beauty in sadness and loneliness. It reminds us that we can be brave, even if it’s just the bravery that comes with painting a giant, unnecessary tree over our hard labor.

I won’t try and convince you that Bob Ross was the best painter ever or that you have to like his particular brand of art; if you take buildings seriously, I can understand why Bob would not be your cup of tea. But I don’t watch The Joy of Painting to learn how to paint mountains or waves or glaciers; I watch because for 30 minutes a day it’s just a nice, drama-free chance to be reminded of some life lessons that are easily forgotten.

Unless you’re beating the devil out of your brush. All of us, even Bob Ross, need a little conflict in our lives. PJH


About Cory Garcia

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