TLC's Breaking Amish: Brave New World brings reality TV's "whitexploitation" show to Sarasota
Here’s the thing about the new season of TLC's Breaking Amish, dubbed Brave New World:
Every second I view it, it feels like my IQ points are slipping further away.
TLC sent out links to a screener of the first episode, airing at 10 p.m. Sunday; too late for me to include in my Monday column about Breaking Amish invading Pinecraft, a small section of Sarasota where many Amish and Mennonites go for vacation.
Before I viewed the new episode, I spoke with the show’s executive producer, who chalked most of the negative reaction to his Breaking Amish and Amish Mafia series to insular figures in the religion who didn’t like his young stars choosing to live outside the communities.
But it only take a few minutes of Brave New World to see that this show echoes some of the worst qualities of what I like to call reality TV’s “whitexploitation” or “hicksploitation” shows. These are programs which stereotype and misrepresent poor white subcultures as badly or worse than people of color are sometimes treated in media.
NPR aired my commentary on the subject this morning, noting how shows such as Buckwild and My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding show oversexed, undereducated young white folks getting drunk, hooking up and making loads of bad choices in circumstances scripted to look like a real-life drama series.
Brave New World follows in that grand tradition, with the five stars of Breaking Amish inexplicably deciding to pile into an RV and trundle down to Pinecraft, after complaining steadily about how the Amish in Pennsylvania have rejected them after they chose not to return to their sheltered, devout Amish communities.
The key figure here is Jeremiah Raber, a lightning rod for drama in the series’ first season. He currently lives in Sarasota and is shown on camera making the pitch to his other buddies to drive down.
But he’s also been shown to be manipulative, untrustworthy, unfaithful to girlfriends and unwilling to take responsibility for his own drama (online sites link to documents indicating her was previously married and divorced, indicating he left the Amish faith a while ago). One of the big conflicts toward the end of the first season, for instance, involved Raber hiring a stripper for friend Abe’s pre-wedding party, despite being told that was off limits.
In a non-reality TV universe, most of his friends -- especially Amish girl-turned-New York model Kate – would never pile in an RV with such a skeevy dude. But because they’re likely bound by contract, they each mumble something about “going to Florida to get away and think things over,” as Abe brings new wife Rebecca and his sister to hang with horndog Jeremiah and two other people for a trip to the Sunshine State.
This crew gives away when they’re reading lines fed by the producers, taping “confessional” segments facing the camera which couldn’t look more scripted if they held the pages in front of them while talking. The whole production – a growing pile of bad decisions, impulsive behavior and outright deceptiveness – just leaves the indelible impression that you’re watching a group of dimwitted losers going through the motions for their next reality TV paycheck.
I couldn't even watch long enough to see if the first episode had any real footage of Florida. My I.Q. points are too precious to me.
Anyway, click here to read my story of how many in Pinecraft recoiled at the thought of such a show in their midst. And look below to see my NPR commentary on the whitexploitation trend.