In December, the Discovery Channel came out with another outrageous “reality” show about the Amish. This time, they (their parent company also operates TLC which put out Breaking Amish last summer) claimed to be filming the Amish mafia (which is nonexistent, by the way) as it went about its business. The show is called Amish Mafia and I believe the finale has aired already.
I’ve been asked about the authenticity of the show and why I haven’t written about it like I did with Breaking Amish. Well, there are several reasons why I haven’t written about it. First of all, after seeing previews of the show, I didn’t think anyone would actually believe any of it. Secondly, while I was successful in putting the truth about Breaking Amish out there, it felt a little counter-productive because the resulting controversy increased the show’s viewership. Something is seriously wrong with us and our entertainment industry when lying to us makes entertainment companies more profitable than telling us the truth.
I was wrong about nobody believing the show. One Facebook poll (which is likely biased) of more than 2000 viewers, had rather surprising results. A full 41% of the voters believe the show is totally or mostly real, 45% think the show is totally or mostly fake, and 14% don’t care whether it’s real or not.
Another reason I didn’t write about the show is that I don’t personally know any of the cast. Often when there is a television show about the Amish, with ex-Amish cast, I know one or two of them. This time I didn’t. I’m going off on a little tangent here so bear with me; The world of Amish and ex-Amish is fairly small. Wikipedia puts the Old Order Amish population around 250,000. Any Amish person who gets around, knows people or has some connection to someone in almost every Amish community. If an ex-Amish person tells you that they know someone on one of these shows, then there’s a good chance he or she is telling the truth. I personally know about half a dozen Amish and ex-Amish kids that have appeared on a variety of these shows and I know quite a few more that declined parts in those shows. So far, I’ve only been asked by one production company to appear on an Amish reality show. I politely declined. End of tangent.
So on to the authenticity of Amish Mafia… The cast of the show appear to be real ex-Amish people but the reality of the show seems to end there. The whole idea of there being an “Amish mafia” that protects the Amish is ludicrous. I watched several of the episodes and found them to be highly amusing–the basic plot of the show is that amazingly farcical.
The Discovery Channel openly admits that the Amish deny the existence of an Amish mafia. Of course they’re just capitalizing on a conspiracy-oriented, fantasy-prone viewership that believes denial is proof of truth.
Before I get myself all worked up about it, I’ll just let a pair of renowned Amish experts tell you in their own words:
“My own view is this is trash TV. To call these shows documentaries is a fraudulent lie.” ~Donald Kraybill, professor at Elizabethtown College and a prominent researcher of the Anabaptist lifestyle [link]
“When I first saw the trailer [for the show], I thought maybe it was a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit on reality television because it was so far fetched. My sense is this Amish mafia is about as real as the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company in The Office.” ~Donald Weaver-Zercher, professor at Elizabethtown College and expert on the Amish [link]
I conclude this post with an update on Breaking Amish: The word on the street is that the production company is working on a second season of the show and they are currently filming in Pinecraft–the Amish community in Sarasota, Florida.
Katie Troyer said:
We don’t see them in Pinecraft. They asked the Bent and Dent store to hire their people and shoot there. They said “No”. They asked at Yoder’s Village. They said “No”. They have been at the park but very discreetly one time. They probably know they will get chased off…
Hopefully none of the businesses there will fall for it.
I have to say when I first saw the adds for this debacle I thought it was a joke. Then as they continued to advertise I figured that it might have something to do with Sam Mullet and his followers. Because they are looking for good press after the Hate Crimes charges. Now I think they are trying to turn the Amish community into a side show ala the American Gypsies and Honey Boo-Boo.
I have to admit, I watched this show. But I knew full well it was all fake. There’s even a disclaimer at the end that says the show is mostly recreations. I actually just enjoyed the storyline. It was like a regular tv drama. However, I don’t condone Discovery trying to peddle the show as fact. I can’t say I’m too surprised that you mentioned they were filming in Florida. Everything else is fake. I’m sure the fact that they said they were in PA and OH was fake too. But anyway, I enjoyed your post. Keep up the good work.
Actually, those are two different shows that I mentioned in the same post. Amish Mafia is the one on Discovery Channel and Breaking Amish played last summer (2012) on TLC. Breaking Amish is the one that is supposedly filming a second season in Florida.
Yeah that’s what I meant. All season, Breaking Amish said they were in PA. I’m thinking season two will still have the same people in it, so I’m wondering if they’ve been filming in FL the whole time.
I’ve been waiting to see if you’d deal with this peculiar show. They are indeed,as bxtorr19 said, trying to use (abuse) the Amish theme to increase viewers. Since Breaking Amish got great ratings, let’s degrade the Amish right into the ground! Discovery Channel’s show about persons who’ve left the Amish apparently was far too tasteful. 😦
Err…National Geographic’s show–sorry!
for more on fictional Amish Mafias, see The Silk Code
I would like to know who these actors are. Really how do the amish deal with abuse dealt them by the english who would try to take advantage of them?
Most Amish are pacifists and will not retaliate against English that try to take advantage of them. It’s almost unheard of for an Amish person to take civil action against anyone.
Anastasia Ashworth (The Mouse Avenger) said:
Whoa, talk about turning the other cheek!
Wow, talk about turning the other cheek!
I haven’t commented on this blog for awhile as I rarely express myself publicly but I want to comment on this as I do know some of the cast from amish mafia as i grew up in the same neighborhood as they did. Levi and Alvin did grow up amish and Alvin did join the amish church and later left. John grew up in Smicksburg Pa. which is the same as the Ohio Amish culture and somewhat different from the Lancaster Amish culture in which Levi and Alvin hail from. As for the show it is totally fake and frankly these actors really do need to take acting classes as thier acting skills really suck and the producers really need to improve the script writing. On another note have you ever read the Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintence by Robert Pirsig? If you like philosphy I highly recommend this book.
Firstly, I have really enjoyed this blog. I also rated down some nasty comments on other posts – why would people attack you in this way? Ohhhhh because you got too close to their bone probably. Sad and transparent arguments really. Anyway, I digress…I have just watched this Amish Mafia and John and the female (sorry can’t think of her name) said they have double lives. She lives Amish during the day but not at night. ha ha ha ha ha That is such an insult to viewers intelligence. I didn’t realise religions worked like that – only during the day. Ridiculous! Also, I wonder why the networks are so hell bent on dissing Amish? I live in the UK and this is well out of my world but why the sudden ‘fashion’ for this portrayal of the culture?
Ya… I knew the second that I saw both of those shows that they were fake. The Amish don’t allow their picture to be taken, let alone filmed! I can’t believe that people would lie about the stupid shows, and that people would actually believe them!!