Breaking Amish: A Guilty Pleasure TV Show
Breaking Amish, a TV series that premiered last year on TLC is my guilty pleasure TV show. Watching the young Amish and Mennonite people, explore big city life and all the sins that come with it feels voyeuristic, yet I faithfully DVR the show to watch, rewind and explore the world with them.
This show highlighting the journey from innocence to experience has been, according to Huffington Post, a triumph for the cable network and made a strong debut by averaging 3.2 million viewers a week, a record for the network for the first season of a show.
TLC explores and perhaps exploits the secretive and closed world of the Amish, bringing their bright-eyed wonder to our sordid, modern world.
Here's a bit about the show and why it is my guilty pleasure.
Premise of the Show
In this reality TV series, a group of young Amish or Mennonite men and women are taken out of their communities and brought into what they refer to as the "English" world.
Each of them is making a decision about whether to leave their Amish roots for good or to go back and accept their groups' religions and teachings which include modest dress, hard work and no electricity.
In the first season, the group ends up in Sarasota, Florida where there happens to be an established community of mostly Mennonite people. Scandals emerge, boundaries are tested and ultimately each decides to follow their dreams in the English world and leave the community they grew up in behind.
This also means that they are shunned from their families for leaving the sect, a decision none seem to take lightly.
In the second season, a different group of Amish/Mennonite are flown to LA to live, each harboring their own secrets, concerns and baggage.
Have You Ever Watched Breaking Amish?
Characters and Connections
Many of the cast know each other from the community so there is a deeper understanding of their roots and backgrounds.
In the first season the main cast included:
- Abe: Young Amish man who ends up marrying Rebecca despite her colorful past and the controversy it causes with his family and his friends.
- Jeremiah: He is the wild one of the bunch, with multiple piercings, a ready-to-fight attitude and a longing for female companionship.
- Kate: A beautiful Amish-turned-model woman who has her own secrets and wild behavior.
- Rebecca: Marries Abe. Seems to enjoy controlling everyone and stirring up trouble. She is jealous of Kate's modeling career.
- Sabrina: In the show she is in an on-again, off-again relationship with Jeremiah and ends up searching for her birth family in Puerto Rico towards the end of the show.
Although the second season is not drawing as strong of an audience, it still has well over a million viewers a week. The lower numbers may be due to the show being shown in the summer rather than the Fall as the first season was. In the LA season, some of the characters have connections to the first season's cast.
- Iva: Beautiful blonde with a bit of a flirty attitude. She has a connection to Season One having dated Jeremiah.
- Betsy: A married woman who seems to have no problem leaving her husband to come to LA. She is disliked by the others and seems awkward and disconnected.
- Lizzie: Big droopy eyes and a quiet demeanor help to hide the fact that she's pregnant by her secret English boyfriend and doesn't really know what she will do.
- Devon: Seems to have the most experience among the groups and reveals to Lizzie's brother, Samuel, when they happen into a strip bar that he is more experienced than the others.
- Matt: Overly sincere and devout, he indicates that he too is hiding a secret. His lack of interest in girls and his interest in sewing seems to give hints about what his big secret might possibly be.
Is The Show Fake?
Accusations have emerged that Breaking Amish is fake and that the Amish young people are really actors.
Some of the rumors never did get addressed, such as: Were Abe and Rebecca married before the show? How long had these people been out of their communities?
While all of the cast had been Amish at one time, they have different levels of English world experience prior to the show.
And of course, the producers are the ones who can present the show the way they want it to be told.
Just as in any reality TV series, dialogue, scenes and incidents are spliced and edited to tell a story. Watching closely you can see changes in hair, position or even clothing that shows a certain scene was put together in a different order. Emphasis and de-emphasis of certain events or conversations can be made with simple production choices and even background music.
While some of the accusations of a past life for the cast are not unfounded, it seems. others actually ended up being part of the show, as revelations emerged about skeletons in the cast members' closets.
But anyone who doesn't know that Reality TV is anything other than "real" does not understand the purpose of these types of shows.
Producers of Breaking Amish obviously found a group of interesting people with conflicting personalities--all characteristics that make for good TV.
There is truth and there is fiction and then there is that blurred area in between. Watching the show to understand the Amish should not be the goal. Watching the show to catch a glimpse of ourselves is what viewers are truly doing.
A Little Bit of All of Us
I think that what makes Breaking Amish an interesting series is that it allows the audience a glimpse into the secret world of these very closed communities by way of the kind of young people it can produce. It also gives us a glimpse of ourselves.
We have all gone from innocence to experience, made mistakes, foolish decisions and stretched towards a better life.
To live in a world so far from modern technology is a rarity these days. Seeing their delight in the simple things such as cars and electricity makes the audience realize what is taken for granted in our own lives.
Audiences become attached to characters as they try to understand their world and who they really are and what they will become.
In a particularly heartbreaking moment, one of the characters talks about playing with faceless dolls as a child. She indicates that the Amish dolls are faceless to teach children that people are all alike in God's eyes. She then says "I would have liked a doll with a face."
This moment becomes a metaphor for the whole show as these young people try to find their own, individual identities.
Just like James Stewart's character in Hitchcock's Rear Window, we sit and watch, unable to help, respond or stop them.
But we still watch.