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"...another reason I'm intrigued with the hanged of Salem, especially the women, is that a number of them aroused suspicion in the first place because they were financially independent, or sharp-tongued, or kept to themselves. In other words, they were killed off for the same sort of life I live right now but with longer skirts and fewer cable channels." Sarah Vowell, The partly cloudy patriot.


Now onto the Amish

Netflix only has a couple movies about mormons, so I am having to watch other kinds of films. Last night I saw Devil's playground, which is about rumspringa - the time that occurs when amish kids turn 16 and are allowed to explore the world of the '"english" (us). The purpose is to allow them to get some of their desire to see the world outside of the Amish out of their systems, and to give them a chance to choose to join the church and be baptized (they don't believe in baptizing babies- they think that people should choose to be baptized - or something like that).

The amish group in the documentary seem to be a more liberal - less encapsulated grouup of Amish. This makes sense given that they actually allowed the filmmaker to live with them and document things for 2 years. Thus, even though it isn't necessarily representative of all Amish, it is still instructive and interesting.

I struggle a lot with my feelings about that religion, which I won't go into here, except for one piece. The Amish believe that children should not be educated beyond the 8th grade, and are only educated (typically) by Amish teachers in amish schools (one room schools) among other amish children. They believe that education beyond that age causes people to become prideful.

At first I was really pleasantly surprised that they allowed kids to freely choose whether or not to join the church - it seemed to me to be a really good model and a supportive one. What concerns me about this, however, is that if indeed at age 16 kids really do have the freedom to choose to join the church or not (those who don't join the church are allowed to stay in contact with the community, and are not shunned for not joining - you are shunned if you join and then leave - as happened to one of the young women in the film), only being educated to 8th grade is a set-up to make them *have* to join the church. After all, living among the "english" with only an 8th grade education really leaves few to no opportunities - especially for girls. The boys at least seem to learn some sort of trade that is marketable and that affords them the skills to get a decent job. Girls seem to only be prepared for motherhood, and as such have few skills to allow them to make a living.

And let's say they want to get further educated - what are their options if they have no schooling past 8th grade and are older than age 16? One young woman was able to go to college without having ever gone to high school, which I'd imagine is pretty rare.

Further, being so isolated makes it hard for them to live among the "english." Although it seems as though the kids in this film were somewhat anomalous in how wild they went in their rumspringa - I can imagine that living among us heathens for the first time - with little to no exposure to our lifestyles beforehand - could really be overwhelming and that they would likely 9especially in the teen years) take a path that is not likely good for them (like one boy in the film began dealing drugs and became addicted).

It interested me too that the boys tend to - during rumspringa - dress "english" and drive cars, whereas the girls wear their traditional clothing. It's a bit odd (anachronistic) to see amish girls in their bonnets and dresses getting drunk and dancing.

It's a good film - I recommend it highly.


At 9:21 PM, Blogger AAYOR said...

In the reality TV show "Amish in the City,"the women wore "english" clothes, wore makeup, etc. They were actually far more liberal-acting than were the boys. Are you trying to say that that show was full of crap??


At 11:58 PM, Blogger shrinkykitten said...

Oh no, I'm sure if it's on teevee, it's teh truth! I think both may have some truth, and some falsehoods. I mean, some groups may have girls who dress english (the girls in the doc wore makeup), and some may not. I don't have cable, so I missed that show - and it's not on dvd. It'd be interesting to compare them.

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Limon de Campo said...

You might be interested in Mormon-produced cinema. Have you watched any of those yet? After I read Under the Banner of Heaven, I ordered The Best Two Years and Singles Ward, a "comedy." They were englightening films.


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