The show that made me a true believer, yet something is a-mish.
I am in love with the new dramatic-Amish reality show, or Dramish, if you will, airing on Sunday nights on TLC. It is a documentary that shows the extremely difficult and possibly staged transformation for 5 Amish kids who leave their strict communities for New York City. As we are now 4 episodes in to the 10 episode season, the ratings are the highest that TLC has seen in 3 years. I am slightly obsessed.
The cast members have been explaining aspects of Amish life that I didn’t know existed. Sure, we all make fun of the Amish living in their bubble of 1800’s technology, riding horse and buggies, etc. Instead of thinking of the Amish as a backwards cult, I opened my mind. Not the stereotypes but the reality of growing up in this sheltered world is what makes the show so fascinating.
These are some things I learned that made my jaw drop: They don’t believe in showing love. They consider affection, hugs, kisses, holding hands, and any sign of love to be a vanity. They also don’t believe in taking pictures. None of these kids have any childhood photos. They don’t know what they looked like when they were younger, neither do their parents nor anyone else.
They don’t believe in wearing red because it screams “Look at me!” They don’t allow you to be video taped, so all of the Amish kids are basically shunned for having TLC cameras in their midst. Sunglasses are vain, and against the rules. As are cellphones and any technology that would allow them to contact the outside world. Literally, the Bishop of any given Amish community can pull these rules out of his ass. I say “his” because this is a strong patriarch. Women are only allowed to cook and clean. Men in the Amish community do work hard, on fields doing physical labor, and have never cooked nor done laundry in their life. Women are expected to serve, sew, and be married off like property. That is it. Oh, and no one goes to school past the 8th grade. Because, I suppose, that’s ’nuff learnin’. And they are expected to take all of this abuse with a stoic and calm exterior.
The Amish don’t show emotion. But the most concerning thing about this is that they also choose to adopt a ton of children. Jerimiah, 32, is one of five children to be adopted in his family. Sabrina, 25, and a menonite, was adopted as well. I wonder how the Amish pitched their lifestyle to the adoption agency.
“We want a child. We have money, eggs and crops to trade, but we will not show the child love. And it will do chores like fucking crazy.”
Sure, adopt away, no harm done! Here’s two extra hands to work on your field! The only thing worse than being born into an Amish family is being adopted into one.
Recently, the questions of fraud and in-authenticity have been raised to cast and to TLC. To be specific, apparently Abe and Rebecca have a child, Sabrina is already married, and Jerimiah has a wife and kids outside of the Amish world. So the main concern is that TLC set the show up as 5 innocent and unknowing kids who have never left the Amish before. After the accusations and rumors began flying last week, TLC admitted:I were Amish, living all these years deprived of life’s guilty pleasures, I’d probably be really judgmental too. They pick apart each others flaws immediately. For a religion that preaches against vanity, they are all quite shallow in their opinions of others. They have heard about “the bishops daughter” before ever meeting her. One of the boys, Abe, says bluntly of New York City, “There’s a lot of skanks.” It seems like the perfect storm of reality TV- love, gossip, drama, and a sinfully close look at a religious world. Is it too good to be true?
“There is a lot of information floating around about the group featured on ‘Breaking Amish.’ Much of it is not true, but some of it is — and is addressed in upcoming episodes.”
I don’t know what to believe anymore. Their wide-eyed responses to the world, to buying cellphones, and to their sheer bafflement of sushi, tell me that they are the Amish ingenues that TLC claimed. But other moments, like the confusing explanation of Kate getting a DUI in Florida prior to the show, leave questions unanswered. Are they faking? Probably. But will I continue to watch? Hell yes.
Welcome to the real world my little Amish friends. Full of sin, excitement, and stripper poles. Get used to it.