Now the misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the Amish have been taken several giant steps further by the people responsible for the recent series Breaking Amish and Amish Mafia. There is so much I could say about the audacity of someone who is so blatantly capitalizing on the high interest in Amish culture for their own profit. I could also harp on why people are allowed to dub this as “reality television” when it is so blatantly false, but I’m not going to do that, either. Instead I want to point out how the people responsible for these shows have taken their own values (or the lack of them) and imposed them on the Amish. The Mafia is the epitome of centralized corrupt power. The structure of the Amish culture is the opposite of that.
Few people know just how diverse the Amish are. I often quote Dr. Donald Kraybill, who has pointed out that there are more than 1,900 ways to live an Amish life because there are more than 1,900 Amish church districts in the United States and Canada. Each bishop emphasizes the rules (“Ordnung”) in the church as he sees fit. This means that the Amish do not have a centralized leader, such as the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church.
This begs the question of how the Amish have been able to maintain their culture and what unifies them. I believe that the cohesion in Amish communities is their adherence to tradition. Yes, most Amish bishops can decide which rules to emphasize in their districts, but most follow the traditions that have been passed down for generations. This is why any changes that take place happen so slowly and why the Amish still exist. This is also why the very idea of an Amish Mafia is so incredibly ludicrous to anyone who knows anything about the Amish. I am the first to admit that the Amish are not all innocents — revenge exists in their communities, right alongside their amazing acts of forgiveness. Abuses of all kinds happen in Amish communities and the silence that shrouds these abuses are close to impenetrable. But most of the time these are people acting individually and not banding together to exact their twisted form of justice on people who cross them. Unfortunately, there are also times when there is a “group mentality” and a child in school will get picked on unmercifully. But this is far cry from the concept of a centralized, corrupt power like the Mafia.
In the case of Breaking Amish, it seems to me that the producers of the show assumed that the former Amish young people they hired (who may as well have been actors and actresses) would want to get into the “English” rat race for the latest fashions and technologies. But they took it a step further than even most English young people — these Amish young people were introduced to the most extreme fashions… tattoos and Brazilian waxes. (I didn’t know what the latter was until I heard about this show — and I’ve been out of the Amish for 33 years and have done quite well without them, thank you very much!) Either the people responsible for these two shows don’t know the first thing about the Amish and have no business making a show or else they do know what the Amish are about and they are desecrating the culture because they can. Shame on them, either way. I cannot help but think that the young people who acted in this show will someday regret that they did so. We all evolve and change, and sometimes we don’t want the world to know what we were like years before.
To anyone who has seen these shows, I would say, “Question what you see in these shows before you go believing it. Reality has nothing to do with it.” And for anyone who is interested, the same people produced both Breaking Amish and Amish Mafia. These were both produced by Hot Snakes Media.