A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Breaking Amish features some strong language ("crap," "piss," and bleeped "f--k"), as well as some sexual references, women in bikinis, and kissing. A few adults engage in some drunken behavior. Some viewers may be troubled by the decision of Amish/Mennonite parents to ask their kids to leave home and/or shun them because of their choice to leave their community. Also, there have been several claims that the "reality" depicted on this show is particularly false and crafted for entertainment rather than a true look into the lives of ex-Amish.
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What's the story?
BREAKING AMISH is a reality series that follows five adult members of Amish and Mennonite communities who have chosen to leave their homes and experience a secular life in New York City. It stars 32-year old Jeremiah, who was adopted by an Amish family and dreams of driving for a living; 21-year-old Kate, the daughter of a bishop who wants to be a fashion model; 22-year-old Abe, who feels limited by his lack of education; and 20-year-old-Rebecca, who wants to explore the big city, but knows that her actions are breaking her aging grandfather's heart. Also joining them is Sabrina, a 25-year-old woman who was adopted by a Mennonite family, and who wants to learn about her Italian-Puerto Rican heritage and her biological parents. As the inexperienced group faces the multiple challenges and temptations that come with living among the non-Amish/Mennonite or "English" in the Big Apple, they must also come to grips with what it means to be permanently shunned from their families and friends.
Is it any good?
Breaking Amish features the expected fish-out-of-water experiences that Amish and Mennonites often have when navigating the secular world, ranging from trying to find a job with a limited education to facing the temptation to drink and engage in sexual activity. Because their departure is not part of a rumspringa (a church-approved time when youth are free to leave their homes before fully committing to their faith), much of the focus is also on how they cope with the fact that they are no longer able to go home to the life and people they left behind.
Breaking Amish succeeds in underscoring how these folks struggle with the sense of guilt and confusion they feel for wanting to break away from the subculture they grew up in, but the show's dramatic reality style makes the cast's disapproving family and friends appear simply unreasonable or narrow-minded, without fully putting their reactions into a cultural and religious context. Some of the cast's desire to fully enjoy the freedoms of their new lifestyle lead them to make some questionable choices, too. The series is interesting, but it might leave you feeling conflicted about the various events that are featured here.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the history of the Amish and the Mennonites in the United States. What is the significance behind the choice they make to live apart from the secular world? Why are the punishments so strong when members of their communities choose to leave?
How does the media portray members of faith-based subcultures, like the Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites? Do you think the media portrays these communities accurately? What are some of the stereotypes that exist about their communities and cultural/religious practices?
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