Breaking Amish, or Breaking the (Already Low) Standards of Reality TV?


I’m not sure if I’m the only TLC addict out here, so let me describe the basis of this show.  “Breaking Amish” is a new reality TV show on TLC that follows 5 young adults as they leave the Amish life and try to assimilate into what they refer to as the “English” life (or what we may call regular, modern day life that we are accustomed to).  Naturally, I thought this was an awesome (embarrassing, I know) concept for a show and I anxiously awaited the premiere earlier this month.

I have to say that the show seemed legitimate during the first episode.  This episode showed the Amish cast members in their Amish habitats, for lack of a better term.  The characters were featured in solo interviews with the camera during which they outlined their reasons for wanting to leave the Amish in search of an “English” life.  Each character specifically pointed out that he or she would be shunned upon leaving, and the episode ends as they walk away from their homes, suitcase in hand, into the sunset.

I’ll admit that I didn’t think much of the accuracy of the show until I saw the second episode.  It is in this episode that the 5 young Amish guys and gals are seemingly dropped in the middle of NYC with a bucket load of cash and standing reservations at a hotel, courtesy of TLC of course.  They consequently roam around the city in search of the least-Amish things possible – sushi, tattoos, becoming models, and beginning relationships with each other just to name a few.  One particularly disturbing scene is when one of the male characters crashes into all of the cones at his driving test because he is busy ogling a pedestrian’s behind (and seemingly believes this to be a normal reaction).

After watching 2 episodes of Breaking Amish, I’ve had enough.  I decided this even before entering the show’s title into Google.  The show honestly seems like TLC producers are aiming for the recently ex-Amish characters to fail (where do they get the money to get tattoos? To buy alcohol? To stay together at a hotel?) for the entertainment of viewers like me.  Ethics of TLC aside, I honestly feel bad for how clueless the characters seem about city life.  But…are they really all that clueless?  If you enter “Breaking Amish” into any search engine, a wide assortment of articles questioning the authenticity of the show come up.  In fact, many allegedly “close” family members or friends of the cast have come forward to reveal that these characters actually left the Amish years ago.  Assuming this is correct, was it right/ethical for TLC to air this show under false premises? Is it right for TLC to encourage risky behavior, or is it the cast members fault? Discuss please!

Here’s a link to the trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gn_xBfetzo

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5 thoughts on “Breaking Amish, or Breaking the (Already Low) Standards of Reality TV?

  1. I’ve never actually seen this show, but I’ve seen commercials and it looks absolutely ridiculous. I can’t believe the Breaking Amish show isn’t even real, but honestly it doesn’t surprise me. It seems like all reality shows are fake in one way or another. It isn’t ethical for TLC to air a show under false premises, but I think people can safely assume that since it’s a reality show, some aspects of the show are going to be fabricated

  2. I actually watched the first episode too! I hadn’t heard of it before the premiere, but one of my roommates was excited about it so I ended up joining her. It seemed odd from the very beginning that they had agreed to be on the show, the family members especially. I’ve pretty much come to assume that all reality shows have a heavy degree of producer-induced action.

  3. Wow. Quite a little bombshell you have here.

    Ok, first, the “rumspringa” is a real aspect of Amish life. ;This documentary, The Devil’s Playground explores it and as I recall, it is tied to beliefs about when one can be sure one is choosing that life. Which, if you think about it, makes sense. In fact, the Amish believe in adult baptism (for which they were gleefully killed at some points in European history) and the rumspringa may be tied to that. Rites of passage are very common in cultures… can you think of any around here? 😉

    Second, what _are_ the ethics of saying you are a reality show? A comedy about Amish out of place is a common variation on X out of place (Beverly Hillbillies and so on). SO, why make it a “reality” show and are there ethics of the use of that term? What is the line between reality and voyeurism?

  4. I hate reality TV for this reason. I always have the feeling that I am being duped. In today’s world of TV, everything is done to boost ratings. This argument for ratings is also found in The Newsroom on HBO. Like Jordi said, rumspringa is real, but the movie Devil’s Playground paints a more bleak picture of the right of passage. A lot of Amish on rumspringa develop depression or serious drug addictions. I doubt TLC wanted a show like that.

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