Amish Reality TV Shows

The following is a post from contributer Richard Lee Dawley.

Ever since the movie “Witness,” producers and authors have tried to capitalize on their intrusion into the isolated Amish and Hutterite communities and expose them in their programs and books. Producers are not necessarily doing research for some humane reason when they produce “Amish in the City,” “Breaking Amish,” “Amish Grace,” “The Amish,” or “The Hutterites,” the latter produced by National Geographic.

Amish in the City

Amish in the City was about five “Amish” youth and five “English” youth that were put together living in a modern home in Los Angeles, California to see how they “got along.” Allegedly, each was paid $10,000 if they completed the six programs. One “Amish” character was from Wisconsin, Mose Gingerich. None of the Amish had been baptized into the Amish Christian Church, and therefore not really Amish. This adventure may have been their “rumspringa” time. When they returned home after the filming, none were baptized nor joined the Amish Church.

Breaking Amish

In this “documentary,” five “Amish” young folks were put together in a hotel near Times Square in New York City. There are no Amish living in New York City! Three of them were adopted as children. One was born out of wedlock. One was Mennonite. Jeremiah left the Amish community three times and came back. Rebecca had been married and divorced and was from North Dakota where several “break away” settlements of former Amish live. One stayed in New York City under contract to be a model. One was photographed while getting a “wax job.” These are not the usual Amish people! David Lohr, senior reporter for the Huffington Post, contacted me for my “take” on the program. He also questioned the allegations made by Jeremiah in the program about perversions in the Amish communities.

Amish Grace

This was a dramatized version of the killing of five Amish students in a schoolhouse in West Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania in 2006.

The Amish

The producer of this DVD lives in England. He also produced “God in America”. Glimpses of Lancaster, Pennsylvania were shown in some descriptive fashion. I helped him locate one of the defendants, Jonas Yoder, in the Wisconsin vs. Yoder Supreme Court case in 1972 that allowed Amish to graduate after 8th grade.

The Hutterites

Produced by National Geographic, the series seems to me to be a staged filming of life on a Hutterite Colony in North Dakota. My Hutterite source tells me they are on the King Colony which is Schmeideleut, the most liberal of the three Hutterite groups. Furthermore, most colonies have 125 people. The film showed only a dozen. 

A word to the wise: Consider the source of stories.

Richard Lee Dawley is an author, lecturer, traveler, photographer, educator, consultant, pilot, scuba diver, & ham radio operator. Dawley has been an instructor of sociology at the Milwaukee Area Technical College for 15 years.  He has been a lecturer on the Amish culture at Clement Manor Lifelong Learning, University of Wisconsin-Waukesha and Fond du Lac campuses, Elderhostel, Waukesha County Technical College Learning in Retirement program, senior centers, libraries, and other organizations for the past 15 years with over 200 presentations.

Dawley is the author of a 2003 book, Amish in Wisconsin, an anecdotal journal of his experiences visiting and living with the Amish, and a second book, Amish: Journey in Contentment published in March 2005.  His third book published in 2006 is titled Amish Assimilation: A Changing Culture.  His fourth book is Amish Snowbirds; his experiences living in a small Amish and Mennonite community near Sarasota, Florida in 2007, and 2008 writing Amish and Mennonite Snowbirds. A sixth book is Anabaptists in Minnesota: Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites, and a seventh in 2010, Amish Reader. Besides his talks on the Amish culture, he is a step-on guide for five all-day tours to Wisconsin Amish, and a Mennonite settlement for Lamers, and Badger coach companies.

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