Having gone on something of a 4oD binge last night, I have hit documentary gold with Amish: World’s Squarest Teenagers. The Amish are a people who I have heard rather a lot about in the past year for one reason or another, and this documentary offers a fascinating insight into their lives, especially when they collide with Western society. The five Amish teenagers in the programme – Jerry, Andrew, Leah, Becky, and Leon – are in the period of rumspringa, or running around, during which they are allowed to experience live outside of their small communities. For these five, this means a journey to England to see how the teenagers here live their lives.
The result is both amusing and informative. The teens spend their first week in England learning about knife crime and break dancing in South London, and their second painting and attending a music festival with a group of Kentish teenagers. They are largely unyielding in their beliefs and baffled by the English way of life, often consulting the Bible for guidance. But they are also willing to try new things; playing rounders (much better than their English peers), singing in public, dancing, painting with acrylic and PVA glue, listening to a rock band (even if one girl does plug her ears), even drinking. Their joy in what we consider to be small things is touching to observe.
What also struck me about this programme was the degree of tolerance shown by the hosts. Where they could easily have become defensive at some of the questions posed by the Amish teens (whose earnest, uncompromising faith could be interpreted as judgement by some) or the obvious disinterest in some of their favourite pastimes (the break dancing for one), they are eager to provide answers and to learn from their guests. As I was half expecting them to be chosen for their ability to create friction, disillusioned by too many reality shows, this was a pleasant surprise.
Although based in England, Amish: World’s Squarest Teenagers provides a fascinating insight into the Amish culture. I will certainly be feeding my addiction with the final two episodes in the series, and if you have not done so already, I would encourage you to do the same.
Amish: World’s Squarest Teenagers is available on 4oD.