Monday, September 10, 2012

NEW SHOW: Breaking Amish

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

If you weren't aware, this series is a short look by TLC at four Amish and one Mennonite who have decided to leave the only lives that they have ever known and discover the world of the "English" in NYC. ("English" is what they call non-Amish people.) This first episode introduces us to the five characters (three female and two male, all from Pennsylvania except one from Ohio), giving us some backstories on their lives, sometimes showcasing their families, helping us understand why they want to try something different, and illustrating the "jumping the fence" process. There are also quite a few historical tidbits, like, "Pennsylvania Dutch is the first language of the Amish. It is a dialect of German." Some facets of the pilot make you wonder how common some things are in those cultures (like, does EVERYONE have a scooter and play on trampolines?). The five featured people are rather different, and I was pretty surprised to learn that two of them are adopted. I was also taken aback at how much cash one of them had, and that they all had their own suitcases. Of course, I don't know how much they use banks or whether they travel much as families, but hopefully those facts will come out later. [but I'm not a complete novice on the Amish culture, either... I attended a Meeting of Friends in undergrad and wrote a paper on the Amish for a Religion in America course, and I did spend a weekend in Lancaster once.] Have you checked out this show? If you read on and decide to tune in, let us know what most grabbed your attention!

This episode doesn't actually get as far as having the young adults in Manhattan, but you can see, below, from left to right: Kate, Jeremiah, Sabrina, Abe, and Rebecca.
Walling McGarity/TLC
Breaking Amish "Jumping the Fence" (S01E01):
Kate, 21, Lancaster, is a Bishop's daughter. She wants to be a model, having seen magazines in the mail. She explains that there are no photos in the Amish culture and she doesn't know what her parents looked like when they were younger or what she looked like as a baby. [I knew there were no photos (thanks to an Amish girl in first grade), but never thought about how you'd never know what you looked like as a baby!] She doesn't like all of the restrictions, like how you can't have zippers on their dresses and the seams on bonnets must be a specific width... but she does like that Amish stick together. [...except that's about to work against her when she's shunned!] When her father learned that she was being filmed, he kicked her out. She packed a few dresses and her Bible, and headed to Florida, where she has friends. [I'd like some information about how she has friends so far away! are they pen pals?] She stayed in Delray Beach for several weeks, got her driver's license, and was having fun when disaster struck. [how did she learn to drive so quickly? Though I guess she had some buggy experience?] She drank twice the legal limit, drove without her lights, spent the night in jail, and was charged with a DUI. She lost her license and got a court date, but she had the date reset for four weeks later so she could get a lawyer. [how is she going to be able to afford a lawyer?] She returns home, but can't bear all of the disappointment she will cause her parents, so she plans to write them a letter after she's in New York. [eep!]

Jeremiah, 32, Holmes County, Ohio. [the pilot doesn't actually mention his age, though I'm not sure why. I am also a little surprised that he's 32 and still unmarried.] Five out of seven kids in his family (himself included) are adopted. His family has a successful farm, but he'd be leaving a "set life" if he went to New York. He tells his girlfriend (whom he was thinking of marrying in the Fall) about his plans, and she's surprised that he'd leave, as she'd have to shun him. [I guess she has no desire to try living with him and without her family, huh? was he secretly hoping she'd come along?] He's always wanted to drive a car, have privacy, and go to the tops of tall buildings. [interesting goals.] The Bishop's wife sees the cameramen, which could cause him to be shunned, so he immediately packs some clothes and his Bible. [no "goodbyes" to his family?]

Sabrina, 25, Lancaster, PA. She's the lone Mennonite on the show, so some differences include that they can drive cars, have electricity, and listen to Christian radio. She wants to be a singer, but that's considered showing off, so no way. She also wants to wear jeans and earrings. [I can totally believe that!] She was adopted, and because her birth father was Puerto Rican and her birth mother was Italian, she's always been curious about her background. She even subscribes to a Spanish magazine so she can learn about the culture. [all of these magazines make me wonder about the print media allowed...] She's been receiving "hate mail" because she has been thinking of leaving the community, and knows that she'll lose a lot of friends if she leaves. [how are people "finding out" about Sabrina's desires?] She tells her friend, Rose, about her plans, and Rose finds it weird that Sabrina doesn't think she's "normal" as-is. [cute giraffe tea kettle!] Sabrina's parents wouldn't appear on camera when she told them about wanting to leave. Her mom was okay but her dad got mad. [her mom was okay with it? can we find out more about that, please?]

Abe, 22, from Punxsutawney, PA, dropped out of school at 15 years old and has been thinking of leaving the community since he was 18. [we do not yet know if Rebecca and Abe know one another.] He regrets not being able to read better than a third grader. He introduces us to his mother, Mary, his sister, Ella, and his brother, Andy. He tells his mother about wanting to go to New York, and she says that if he does so, he'll be shunned and won't be allowed to eat with the family anymore. Andy admits to Abe that he'd also go experience the world, but he cares too much about his parents. [I'd like to know more about how Abe has broken free from that mindset.] His sister disagrees, thinking that leaving would be throwing away your life. One night at dinner, Abe announces that he's going to do what he wants, and his mother simply ask that he think of the family once in a while and say his prayers at night. [I thought that she took it rather well! of course, if he's been thinking about leaving for four years, this probably is something that she's thought about over time.]

, 20, from Punxsutawney, PA, is up washing clothes at 5:45am. She thinks that men and women should be equal, and that a guy who would do inside chores would rock her world. She shows us an outhouse, a gas light, a "hopes and dreams" cabinet, and talks about having a phone on the edge of the property, used for emergencies or to call drivers. [I would have liked to hear about some instances when they need drivers, but maybe another time.] She lives with her grandparents (her mother had sex with an English guy as a teenager) and dreads telling her grandfather that she's leaving. [I wouldn't have thought to make toast with a broiler!] Her cousins tell her that she'd have to miss her grandfather's funeral if she left and the worst happened. [foreshadowing?] After her grandfather sees the cameramen, he asks her to get her stuff and leave. [I was a little sad that she wasn't able to tell him in her own way.]
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1 comment:

kona lisa said...

Hi, I stumbled across your post b/c I also saw the Breaking Amish premiere. I have been reading Amish novels since I discovered thema few months ago at the library quite by accident. Beverly Lewis is a prolific Amish fiction writer. She wrote The Shunning, which is also a hallmark movie. I've learned a lot about Amish culture from her books. For example, Amish people call for drivers if they need to travel long distances in a day. They might call a driver to go to the hospital or to deliver homemade goods to a store or homeless shelter, or to pick up fabric and supplies to sew clothes, etc. So the phone isn't just for strict emergency situations.