I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish household. I know from being different. Trust me. Because of this—because of all of the very different and rather curious traditions and rituals and dress, I have always found myself more than mildly fascinated with other religions. And we aren’t just talking about Witness or Big Love type things (but don’t get me wrong—I loved the hell out of those crazy Henricksons and those residents of Juniper Creek.) I devour it all. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress? Devoured it. The Book of Mormon Girl? Nodded my head in complete understanding and solidarity.
So, really, it should come as absolutely no surprise that I was sitting in front of my television screen watching the series premiere of TLC’s Breaking Amish on Sunday night. A show following four Amish and one Mennonite through their rumspringa? Sign me up! You see, I have read all about this whole thing the Amish call rumspringa—which literally translates to “jump around”. Amish adolescents have a period of slightly rebellious behavior before ultimately deciding to stay Amish forever or to leave the Amish for the bad, bad world and be shunned by everyone they know and love.
But before you get excited—Sex! Drugs! Breaking Bad!—in reality, most of these rebellious acts involve skipping church or wearing clothing that isn’t handmade and taking off the signature white bonnet. I was under the impression that Breaking Amish was going to be about five teens and their oat-sowing ways, their voyages to ultimately decide if they are in or out.
Only the TLC show was nothing like that at all.
It’s not rumspringa at all—it was, however, uneasy to watch, felt ridiculously scripted, and at times just looked like a bad horror movie, complete with ominous music and creepy editing.
There is nothing traditional about any of these characters. Two of them are adopted. One of them is the child of a single mother who had a baby with a non-Amish man. One of them—Kate, the Bishop’s daughter—was shunned and sent to live in Florida when she was caught being filmed (WHAT?) and had some trouble with the inability to follow Amish rules, and well, actual rules—we see her showing up to court for a DUI charge. And one is just so angry—seriously, he’ll never make it as an Amish man with all of that pent-up anger. Ticking time bomb.
So, it’s almost like TLC recruited and scooped up the only people willing to be on their show—the ones with THE ISSUES. It’s hard to feel much more than pity.
And I can’t help but ask a million questions. Were they recruited? Were they lured by the magic of television and the bright lights and big city? Do they really have any idea what they are doing? Is it smart to take these four Amish and one Mennonite and throw them into New York City? Does “following their dreams” really involve tattoos and teeny, weeny bikinis? Where did the giant wad of money come from? TLC? What is up with Abe’s family? Why was Jeremiah’s girlfriend allowed to be filmed without being shunned? The entire scene felt almost reenacted. Mystery! Also Jeremiah is 32. THIRTY-TWO.
Something doesn’t sit right with this show—and it’s not just because of the outhouses and the Bishop’s wife cycling around all Wicked Witch-like.