Abe and Rebecca, amish, atheism, Breaking Amish, breaking amish fake, faking Amish, Jeremiah Raber, reality tv, television, TLC
Last night I watched episode 4 of Breaking Amish. I should just stop writing now. At first it was exciting to point out the lies and fakery spewing forth from TLC’s latest farce but as the onslaught continues, writing about it just starts getting depressing.
Some people find it hard to understand why I want to defend the Amish against exploitative shows like Breaking Amish. Am I not an atheist after all? Do I not hate the Amish? Well yes I am an atheist but no I do not hate the Amish. The first eighteen years of my life were spent (sometimes, depending on my mood, I might say “wasted”) as an Amish kid. However, my entire family and almost all of my friends are Amish, and I love them. The Amish culture was a large part of my life and while I do not want that life for myself any longer, I will defend it with all the power of my pen from people wishing to make money by lying or otherwise exploiting them. The Amish, in my opinion, are philosophically misguided (as any religious group is) but as a group, they are the nicest people you will likely encounter.
This episode brings us more pretending. Jeremiah pretends to learn driving again. We know that’s not true. They pretend to have cellphones for the first time. “What is texting?” asks Kate. Yeah, right! The girls pretend to get makeovers for the first time. We have plenty of pictures that proves that just plain false. Oh, look! Here’s Sabrina with her hair down at her non-Mennonite wedding years ago: (source)
“We just had our first date last night,” Rebecca proudly tells us after a night out with Abe. Apparently when they started hanging out years ago and conceived a child, they called it something other than “dates”.
A lot of people probably have questions about Rebecca’s teeth, or lack thereof. I don’t know why she had all her teeth pulled, so don’t ask me. I can tell you that the barbaric dentistry that she spoke of could be true. I know that in some of the very conservative Amish communities they really have Amish dentists armed with nothing more than a pair of pliers. Many of the Amish are not too great when it comes to their teeth. I for one, never went to the dentist in all the 18 years that I was Amish. My baby teeth either fell out on their own or I wiggled them out with my fingers (and who says Amish boys don’t cry). We brushed our teeth regularly and that was pretty much it. There were exceptions when things got really bad. I remember my sister going to a dentist for a root canal several times but other than that, I don’t remember any of my family ever visiting a dentist.
My biggest beef with the latest episode is the lack of the promised and long-awaited explanations from TLC. When are they going to explain to us why they claimed that the cast members are leaving the Amish for the first time when in reality they haven’t been Amish for up to fourteen years? When will they explain to us that these kids have encountered plenty of showers, and microwaves before? When will they tell us how photos of Kate appeared on a modelling website years ago? When will they tell us about Abe and Rebecca’s baby? When will they tell us about Sabrina’s non-Mennonite wedding that happened years ago? When will they tell us about Jeremiah’s ex-wife and three kids from years ago? Do they think we’ve forgotten? Why do they keep insulting their viewers’ intelligence?
Hello again. First please don’t stop writing. I’m learning so much from you and from this site, something I’d hoped for from the show. What is distressing, aside from the lies, is the way the “cast” constantly slams the Amish, making them out to be mean spirited people. From all of the Amish I’ve ever met/spoken to, nothing could be further from the truth. I am discussing this show and the lies it continues to perpetuate and tell my students (I’m a university professor) that to truly understand the Amish speak to them…or read about how their community handled the Nickel Mines atrocity a few years ago (I still tear up when discussing that). What a shame that most of tonight’s show focused on barbarism and intoxication…but heck…all for ratings….
Keep up the great work and Thank you!
Thank you for your support, Dr. Andrew! It means a lot coming from a person of your stature.
I would like to echo DrAndrew’s comments, ie please do not stop writing about this, your posts offer an insight I’d hoped the show would provide, but sadly lacks.
As an Australian who has never visited the States, I have had zero real life exposure to the Amish, but I have always found their way of life intriguing. Without your posts, there are many lies I would never have picked up on by myself, and may have even be fooled into believing.
Your site (as a whole) has been incredibly informative for me. So I would also like to say thank you, your work is much appreciated.
xamishatheist: Did you use fluoride toothpaste? I was wondering if some Amish do not know the importance of it or if they do indeed go buy flouride toothpaste at the store.
I know you cannot speak for all communities, just what you know from your time in your community.
Also, would you consider the community you came from to be ‘Old Order’?
I hope it is OK that I ask these questions in the ‘comment’ section–I’m not tech savvy, so I don’t know what the proper way of asking would be.
Yes, we used fluoride toothpaste. Yes, our community was Old Order. Commenting, is a great way to ask questions.
Sadly, there is a dark side to the Amish, as with any religious group. As a reporter in Ohio, I covered many Amish stories.. You may be familiar with the Amish men and women, just convicted of federal assault crimes involving beard and haircutting. The leader is feared by many in our area. I have worked with David Yoder, author of “Amish Deception” and spoken with local authorities about deaths in the Amish community that are shrouded in secrecy. Oh, and then there’s that “puppy mill” thing. Authorities just raided another Amish puppy mill operation in central Ohio yesterday.
I have no doubt that crime is underreported among the Amish. Is the real crime rate among the Amish higher than the national rate? I highly doubt it but that’s just my belief–it’s not based on objective data. I do believe there is a media bias in that crime that does get reported is sensationalized a lot more than equivalent crimes among the non-Amish. That could give people the belief that crime is higher among the Amish than it really is.
As for animal cruelty, it is a sad fact that it happens among the Amish. Amish people interact with far more animals than most people do and their standards for what is acceptable treatment for animals is far lower than their standards for acceptable treatment of humans. As such, it is inevitable that animal cruelty occurs. That being said, I don’t recall witnessing much animal cruelty among the Amish, but I come from a small community that doesn’t have puppy mills like some of the larger communities.
Don Key said:
Many people who are aware of the Amish view them as modern-day saints, pacifists trying to live a simple agrarian life. But the truth is they’re just normal people with the same failings as the rest of us. On the one hand, most of their issues (child abuse, for example) are handled privately within the community. On the other hand, when incidents do come to light (like the Ohio Amish beard-cuttings), the media tends to sensationalize them more than they otherwise would.
The interesting thing is that for most of their history, the Amish were often viewed with suspicion or at least condescension. They were sinister and unpatriotic because they were of German descent and wouldn’t fight in either World War, for example. And in the post-war period, they refused to embrace progress and clung to their backward ways. But as Americans became disillusioned with the price of “progress”, they came instead to idealize the Amish as defenders of family, religion, and simpler times.
That stereotype is part of the appeal of Breaking Amish. We want to see the fish-out-of-water, we want to see how the naive, pious Amish teen navigates the grittiness of the big city. The irony is that if TLC had done this show legitimately, it would have probably been quite compelling. Instead, it’s all contrived, and poorly so at that.
How come Rebecca says all of her teeth were pulled at 19 by the Amish “dentist” but in that picture with her and Abe and their baby, she clearly still has her teeth? (https://xamishatheist.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/abe-rebecca-child-2011.jpg)
They look like her real teeth because they were not perfect. (Sorry if I am wrong about this fact, I am not exactly sure when that picture was taken)
Also, didn’t Abe say that he left school in the 5th Grade? Last night I watched the extended episode and he told someone that he left school in the 8th Grade.
Why do I feel like this show doesn’t realize that we are going to find out about all of the lies. Maybe the show will eventually tell it’s viewers that these are re-enactments of the first time they all experienced “real-life” outside of the Amish. Great blog, please keep watching and reviewing the episodes and writing the “truth”!
Valerie Mantz said:
Rebecca and Abe look very young in the picture. And her teeth in that picture look in poor shape. I’d speculate she was a very young mother in that picture (about 15-16) and that her teeth were pulled much later.
TLC’s show was obviously fake from the go get, entertaining but very fake. I am a little suprised that there are so many people gullible enough to believe it in the first place.
I hope that all the cast are finding what they need in life by doing this. They all seem to have issues.
Your blog reads very well xamishatheist. I hope you are able to continue your education, I think that you have a very good future in whatever you pursue. However, journalism seems to be a talent. Best of wishes.
Thank you, Valerie!
I am guessing there were “still no explanations” because this episode was already filmed, the cast has disbanded or otherwise been released from the need to congregate together to film new bits, and the evolution of what was previously filmed will indeed unfold to address some of these claims coming out of the woodwork.
I’m sorry you found it “exciting to point out the lies and the fakery.” There are plenty of causes I care deeply about that are misunderstood by most people. For example, I married an Iraqi Muslim, and I never tire of educating people through our own lives and examples about Islam being a peaceful religion, the perception of which is wildly skewed by a small percentage of people with other agendas. But when I point these things out, or when I notice an opportunity to clear the record after a misconception, there is no excitement – just disappointment and sadness.
In the end, this is a reality show. Look up any single reality show, even the most “reputable” show you can think of, and you’ll find claims of it being staged. It’s TV.
Sally, I should have clarified that part. It was exciting for me to point out the lies of Breaking Amish because it gave me the opportunity to be a detective (digging into the casts’ past) and to be a whistle-blower (to reveal the hidden truth for all to see). It does make me sad that there are so many misconceptions about the Amish, I find no excitement in that. The excitement was found in confronting and blowing the whistle on a multi-million dollar television network.
To agree with everyone else: I am so glad you are watching the show along with us. It’s so important to have someone debunk these things, especially when most of the viewers are not likely to have any real life exposure to, let alone comprehensive understanding of, the Amish. People are quick to develop stereotypical ideas about what they don’t know, and it would not help to have anything this ridiculous show puts out as “reality” added to the mix.
I also agree that you are a wonderful writer and, very clearly, a thoughtful and intelligent person! Keep up the good work.
@Xamishatheist: Please do not stop commenting on this show. I (and I’m sure many others) appreciate your insight, especially since it is given from what I would consider two very disparate points of view, as an ex-Amish and as an atheist. I watched Mose Gingrinch’s Out of Order and was surprised at the need many of the ex-Amish have to find a church to join, something Breaking Amish has not yet addressed, instead opting to show the lurid side (getting drunk, going to strip bars, trying on/buying sexy underwear, etc.). I’d like to read your views on that aspect.
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I must say Episode 4 was rather boring and some parts absolutely ridiculous: Sabrina being treated to a high end haircut and make over by two PR gals she just met applying for a waitressing job? Yeah, right, like that would happen. Jeremiah with his “I’m a dork” face and another driving lesson spent gawking at the “chicks” with mouth agape like he’d never seen a woman before and getting out of the car to yell at other drivers; Rebecca’s dentist giving her $3,000 worth of dentures just because? Not likely.
I wondered about the liklihood of free dentures also. While some dentists will work with you to cut down costs, I’ve never seen one that gives away personally (organizations yes). I’m ex-Mennonite, from a more conservative group than “Sabrina” was from. However I know next to nothing about the Amish, and am finding your insites quite educational. Thanks!
I am a dentist and own my own practice. I do give away dentistry if I truly feel the person is down and out and will appreciate and take care of the work. It has amounted to this sum of money before. So while I think there’s a possibility that the dentist liked the free advertising and perhaps that’s why she did it, we do give free dentistry to a people who we truly feel for.
Sabrina used to be so fat 0.0…
I no way agree with this show but she used to be fat is all you can come up with, that means she probably worked her butt off to get in better physical shape, as for some they are still “so fat” me included, I think the intent is to bring out the falsehood of the show not tear someone down based on their physical appearance.
jack knoff said:
did the amish dentist make rebecca’s false teeth. i think her false teeth aren’t that old maybe a year ago. people in that community say she might be still married to rufus. i know abe’s mom is shunned now for what she did but she doesn’t care. some local stations are checking things out now.
I don’t blame you for feeling disenchanted with TLC. They’re getting away with outright lying about everything and even had an extended episode marathon last night! No one has any integrity anymore. TLC just cares about ratings and the participants just wanted to be on TV.
Valerie Mantz said:
Which leaves me to question, is it ethical to continue watching this show?
I appreciated what you are doing exposes this for what it is.
It sickens me most people in this world don’t even question the authentic realism of all these “reality” TV shows. Even after showing the proof this crap is fake to someone I know, they continue to watch it and argue with me that this is real. Guess you can’t stop people from falling to the trap.
On top of this and Sister Wives, Honey Boo Boo, Beauty Pageants and Weddings, I don’t see where you ‘learn’ much from TLC for it hold the name ‘The Learning Channel’. If I learned anything in the last 10 years about TV it’s that people will watch anything and everything despite how trashy it is and walk away thinking it’s real, and that it was “hilarious”.
This program is a horrible presentation of the Amish and the out come is it’s just pushing people to stereotype and hate them for no apparent reason. “I seen it on TV! The Amish are bad!”
It was so obvious on the first episode it was fake just by the way they act. It’s basically Jersey Shore in straw hats. If you wanted a smoking gun on the first episode I would suggest the scene where they went in the house and the Grandfather didn’t want to be recorded but he let them record outside his window…classic.
Thanks again for exposing the truth, this is a shame. This show is not helping people learn anything positive and the ones that believe this garbage is real will most likely go on “I seen it on TV, the Amish people, you can’t trust them!” even though they never met an Amish person in their life, those are the people TLC target. They also stereotype the hell out of Southerners or shall I say “red necks” and “white trash” with the Honey Boo Boo show.
I’ve checked the TLC site and I think this was just episode 3. Help me understand… did I miss something?
No response? There are just 3 episodes on the TLC website. Why do you say episode 4???
Read through his Breaking Amish timeline and you will see that four episodes have been aired so far. The TLC website is obviously not updated.
Four episodes have played on television.
Wonderful blog. I grew up in South Central PA… in my town we have Amish and Old Order Mennonites (who don’t drive cars)… also many Mennonites who are quite open to/lenient with technology.
I’d like to hear more of your thoughts on how women are treated (and how it compares to the way the media presents it). I understand there’s a degree of sexism, that gender roles are defined. However when I’ve seen these cultures represented in the media, it seems commonly shown that women are regularly treated with disrespect, regularly reminded by men of their “place”, talked down to.
This isn’t something I actively associate with them, but it seems to be a strong part of others’ perceptions. I saw someone online who watched the latest Breaking Amish and took from it that the Amish remove women’s teeth, specifically.
There is definitely some degree of sexism among the Amish and eventually I want to write a post that goes more in-depth about Amish prejudice. Among the Amish, the women have their defined role (obedient, child-bearing housewife) and it is generally assumed that she will voluntarily conform to that. In reality, the Amish woman does (as far as I know) conform to that role without complaint. They believe just as well as the man does that it is exactly what they’re meant for. However, that is (generally speaking) the extent of sexism among the Amish. The Amish male is usually very nice and respectful to women and at least in my experience, the women are not put in their place or talked down to.
The Amish don’t remove women’s teeth just because they’re women. I assume that she removed her teeth because dental problems required it.
At least in the Mennonites I was raised in:
Women are taught to be submissive. You don’t have careers outside of being a wife/mother for the most part. Some that don’t get married become registered nurses, others teach school with no formal education themselves.
Women are given, to some degree, an active role in decision making when it comes to church “politics”, but teaching to the congregation by a woman is a big NO. They can be Sunday school teachers to the little kids, etc.
One reason why I left…I refused to accept the life they wanted to map out for me.
I’m not sure when Reality TV was ever “Real.” That being said, I would love to watch a show where a bunch of city folk move to an Amish community for a few weeks and learn a thing or two about life. I would love to live with an Amish family for a while! They seem like such nice people, regardless of what this show makes of them.
Don Key said:
The BBC actually did that show (“Living with the Amish”) where they took some UK teenagers and had them live with the Amish. It was a follow up to an earlier BBC show “Amish: World’s Squarest Teenagers” where some Amish went to the UK. Both were very well done and both are worth seeking out. I believe they showed an edited recap of the latter show in the US as “Amish on Break”.
Did anyone else notice in episode 4, the short clip from when they’re in the bar and two guys (whose faces were blurred out) come up to Jeremiah and ask him “so you’re amish or something?” and he says “well I actually left the amish about like-” and they cut to something else right before he said how long ago he left. So I wonder if maybe that wasn’t staged and those were people asking him a real question and he told them the truth and the editors just cut it off to keep the whole “first time leaving” thing going, but then I wonder why would they even include that bit at all? I dunno, the whole thing is weird
Don Key said:
Also notice that the three of them all had ID readily available to enter the bar in the first place?
Mr. Deleted said:
Reblogged this on Deceivers.com and commented:
As a former Amish, I have to completly agree with this man on everything (except I’m a Christian.)
Laura L said:
At first I watched the show because I buy produce and bakery from very nice Amish people. I wanted to learn more. I NOW watch this show only to find the lies. Afterward I look for your take on the episode. Please don’t stop writing the truth.
Yes its TV. Yes all “reality” or “nonscripted” TV is staged. But this is total FRAUD. Just say it is a made up story when even the premise is completely made up. What these dishonest producers and network did is like James Frey marketing his book as nonfiction when he knew he made things up past artistic license into pure fiction.
Thank you for doing this and please keep it up.
I live less than a mile from the restaurant “Sabrina” “interviewed” at. I honestly couldn’t believe they sent her to Astoria when she asked for a “Puerto Rican neighborhood.” Whoever told her that was a plant. Queens is incredibly diverse–but Astoria, while it has pockets of different cultures (including a significant Brazilian population, and communities from other parts of South and Central America, and an Italian bit, and a sizable influx of Slavic populations), is a historically Greek neighborhood. If someone was really looking for Puerto Rican culture, you’d hit up some other neighborhoods that are less trendy (Astoria is rapidly gentrifying, home to a lot of twentysomething professionals) and perhaps a little more real. But then they wouldn’t be able to feature trendy restaurants on TV, I suppose. Don Coqui is certainly a very good Puerto Rican restaurant, but in a neighborhood known for a young population which likes its night spots and its ethnic food, it caters to that population. So not exactly the same cultural space as a historically Puerto Rican restaurant or neighborhood, not by any means. Certainly not where one would go if one wanted to really “learn about Puerto Rican culture.”
Don Key said:
The other thing that bothered me about that bit was that it played right into the stereotype of New Yorkers as rude. I was born in the Bronx and lived and worked in and around the city for much of my life. I can tell you that New Yorkers are generally very helpful, although they can be abrupt and they don’t suffer fools gladly. You’ve got Sabrina standing around in Mennonite garb, asking idiotic questions about where the Puerto Rican neighborhood is, while being filmed by a camera crew. The passerbys rightly reconized this as a stunt and simply refused to take part.
Thank you for noticing this. I have been following this feed & I am glad you spoke up about this. I have never been to New York & I am happy you clarified this point.
Totally agree on Astoria being a set-up. I live very close to Don Coqui, though I’ve never tried it. Astoria is not even close to being a Puerto Rican neighborhood. Clearly the producers were on a hunt for a NYC Puerto Rican restaurant that was willing to be filmed, to pretend to give Sabrina a job and that had some young, hip girls working there who would agree to take Sabrina out for her “first makeover” (yeah, right). Only Don Coqui fit their needs, so Astoria had to conveniently be recommended to Sabrina as a Puerto Rican neighborhood. This obviously isn’t the biggest problem with the show, but like the poster above, really bothered me because that’s my neighborhood!
v byler said:
As an ex-amish, I seen the lie in the introduction of the charaters in the first episode. The whole thing makes me sick and I can’t watch it. Actually, it is dispicable.
Brittany Dumas said:
The funnest thing right now is I bet they’ve posted comments on here .
Hey there! I just wanted to say: Great Blog! I know absolutely nothing about Amish culture, but it did not surprise me at all to hear that most of Breaking Amish is staged. (It’s pretty obvious).
However, I do know a little bit about television and how shows are run, and so I can tell you point blank why TLC are not amending the show’s premiss. No doubt, it’s partially because they don’t want to (admitting to something like this would send ratings plummeting) But mostly it’s because they can’t.
Reality shows like this aren’t filmed in “real time”. That is to say, they don’t film for five days straight, spend the sixth day editing, air it on the seventh and then start the whole process over again the next week.
All these events were shot months ago, The editors got all the footage at once and have spent a serious amount of time in the editing room working on the nine episodes simultaneously .
There is a certain point in the editing process where they can’t make any more changes. Seriously. For the final cut they process the film (or data, I guess) in such a way that in order to change even the font they have to start from scratch.
Most networks prefer to have all episodes in final cut before the first episode airs. So it would not surprise me at all if all nine episodes were edited, locked and sitting in a neat little pile on someone’s desk.
No matter how much we scream and yell, TLC is most likely past the point of no return and are unable to take feedback. They have gone on record saying they would though… Who knows maybe they were planning to reveal the fake-ness all along. Perhaps someone’s parole officer shows up in episode seven and leaves everyone in shock. Personally I think the best we can hope for are some confessional interviews at the end of the last episode, which they may be in the process of shooting now!
But as for a disclaimer…. I wouldn’t hold my breath
I might not be the sharpest tool in the shed but, if Rebekkah had her teeth pulled at 19 and she’s 20 now then that would mean having left the Amish years ago she had to have went back to her community to have her teeth pulled. Knowing how barbaric the way they pull teeth is that makes no sense to me. She’s obviously lying. I know reality tv is fake for entertainment purposes but to be that obviously just makes no sense.
Thank you for your honesty. While some may get agitated or even angry about your questions and statements, one really should appreciate your honesty. About Breaking Amish, well, having majored in Theatre Arts, I have often thought parts of that show are indeed scripted. Some of the many things that I have noticed that raise questions are: some of the cast members are quite tanned in “places the sun don’t shine”, ie that would not be exposed in “dresses down to the ankle” and “long sleeved shirts”. Also, it appears that one of the girls actually has had a pierced navel from their swimsuit photos. It would seem that the Amish would not favor body piercings…
Nat Geo channel reran Amish at the Altar today which I am watching now. Great to see Sabrina as an Amish girl in this show. Please continue writing your recaps of the show as you bring valuable insight to what is portrayed:)
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