'Breaking' bad: Amish paradise
I have harped on TLC for some time about its ridiculous reality shows that exploit the less fortunate and the strange. Breaking Amish is different. TLC is exploring a culture that has never been seen on television before. Why? Because the Amish traditionally don’t believe in allowing themselves to be photographed, let alone recorded. To convey the serious tone of the show, TLC began the first episode not with corny shots of a little girl with a round tummy holding a teacup pig (cough cough, Honey Boo Boo Child) but rather with simple white text on a black backdrop.
The opening titles read: “Four Amish and one Mennonite are about to take a life changing journey,” and they were not kidding. These five young adults are uprooting their entire lives and leaving their support systems to fly out to New York and see what the world has to offer. But before they can do that, however, they have to confront their abnormally conservative families. Not only do the families not want their children — who are all 18 or older — to go out on their own, but they also tell their children that if they do leave, their community will abandon them. Talk about a harsh reality.
But what are these kids — and I use the word kid loosely since they are all of college age — supposed to do? If they choose the path of their parents, they will continue to wear what the church tells them to wear (down to the width of their hems), eat how they are supposed to eat and work the long hours traditional in a community without electricity, plumbing or modern technology. The community does not even give them the tools to succeed in the outside world, only schooling the majority of children to sophomore year of high school and some only until eighth grade.
How TLC scouted these kids is beyond me, but they presented them with the opportunity to fulfill their dreams in New York City. The four Amish people the show follows are Rebecca, Abe, Kate and Jeremiah. TLC also included a Mennonite named Sabrina. Each of these kids has a specific story: for example, Rebecca wants to leave her submissive role as a woman cooking and cleaning a household day in and day out; Kate is the bishop’s daughter (the bishop is in charge of the community, making rules and enforcing them), but she desperately wants to become a model. Sabrina, however, is a Mennonite who has modern conveniences like radio — only Christian, of course. She feels out of place having been born Italian and Puerto Rican but adopted into the faith as a baby, and she wants to find herself and share her love of singing.
Although this show was respectful and interesting in the first episode, I fear what is to come. The ending clips of the following episode show these kids starting romances, Kate modeling a bikini and Sabrina clothes shopping for the first time. I foresee TLC exploiting the naivety of these kids who just want to find themselves and a new life. That doesn’t mean I am not intrigued; it just means that I worry they misnamed the show. Perhaps a more appropriate title would be From Amish to Gossip Girl.