Breaking Amish was a contrived “reality” show about former Amish and Mennonite people who left their communities years ago but pretended to be exposed to the “English” way of life for the first time. It would appear, at least, every one of the people on the show were part of the religion they claimed; that is, the former Amish were raised Amish and the Mennonite girl was raised Mennonite (as seen in school photos wearing the requisite clothing).
Amish Mafia, however, doesn’t really claim to be a reality show but a docu-series. This distinction is probably why TLC never came right out and admitted its show was a farce. Whereas Discovery readily admitted some of its Amish Mafia scenes have been “recreated” to “protect the identities” of people in the community. Meaning… some of the scenes have been staged. This would also explain why the cast of Amish Mafia are rumoured to not really be Amish. Some of them may be practicing, some may be ex-Amish or ex-Mennonite, some may be acing the part for the show.
The premise of the show that will premiere December 11 is four vigilantes “protect and maintain peace and order within the Amish community in Lancaster, Pa.”
Local defense lawyer Steven Breit, who has several Amish clients and says he’s noticed an upswing in criminal activity in the community, told Lancaster Online (via BreakingAmishTheTruth): “There’s always been talk about [mafia activity]. Some Amish who left the church and engaged in this sort of activity.” He continues: “I see more drug activity, maybe a few more occurrences of violence than I had 20 years ago.”
Addressing (possibly premature) claims that the people on the show aren’t even Amish or Mennonite, Breit continues: ”I don’t think it’s complete fallacy. They might not be Amish anymore, but Amish by birth.”
So.. again… a cast who are no longer Amish/ Mennonite, acting for a television show.
Lancaster Online notes of the lawyer: “Breit, expected to be a major contributor on the show, acknowledged every TV series needs a hook.” Adding: “Locals seemed to agree that calling the players in the show Amish also might be a stretch.”
Separately, Donald Kraybill, an “Elizabethtown College professor and prominent researcher of the Anabaptist lifestyle,” is less-forgiving of fake docu-reality series about the Amish. Concurring that these shows are about making money, Kraybill opines: “My own view is this is trash TV. To call these shows documentaries is a fraudulent lie… There is big money to be had, and they pay these people big money to be on the show.”
Expounding upon why the show looks to be misleading, Kraybill adds: “Sure, plenty of Amish have been charged with criminal acts. I’m not saying Amish are perfect saints and walk on water, but this [show] is a twisted portrayal of the Amish community.”
As for lawyer Breit’s claim it doesn’t matter that the cast may no longer be part of the religion(s), scholar Kraybill counters, “Either you’re in the community or you’re not, in terms of baptism,” specifically addressing the show’s antagonist, Lebanon Levi, who admits in the trailer he was “never baptised.”