How The Mighty Amish Quilts Have Fallen

posted in: Art 3
The Quilting Bee, Grandma Moses, 1950.
The Quilting Bee, Grandma Moses, 1950.

If you want to feel like you’ve accidentally taken expired cold medicine, I recommend the Discovery Channel’s Amish Mafia. 

When I’m home in Iowa, I watch a bit of television. I refuse to be a no-TV snob, but the truth is, I don’t have a television in Chicago and I haven’t owned a TV since I left home for college. I’ve just never wanted one very much, mostly because I am an enormous nerd who would rather read a book than do just about anything. And besides, commercials are tiny rapes.

Last night, I was clicking channels and found this Amish Mafia show. Have you heard of it? Seen it? Been as dumbfounded as I was by it? For the most part, a person can watch 30-seconds of any show on television and get the gist of it. “Oh, this is a cop drama,” you think, or “Oh, this is a sitcom where the guy is a lump and the smart wife loves the knucklehead anyway,” or, at the very least, “This is a reality show vs. a show with actors playing parts.” The producers of any show want you to do this. They want their shows to be instantly recognizable so you don’t have to think terribly hard and you can just be entertained. There’s nothing wrong with that; and the best shows actually mess with the formulas and create great, dynamic television. Consider The Sopranos; violent and humane, dramatic but often hilarious, too. Good stuff.

I watched Amish Mafia for a full 30 minutes last night and I still had no idea what was happening to me. The show follows…Amish people. Mostly men. Who have…guns. These Amish men with guns…collect money from other Amish men? With guns? Everyone is very…angry. These angry Amish men with guns talk to the camera like it’s a reality show, but I’ll bet you two bonnets and a straw boater that THERE IS NO AMISH MAFIA so it simply could not be real. Amish people don’t allow girls to play with any doll that has a face! That’s considered a “graven image” and creates idolatry; how does an HD camera filming Amish in their kitchens avoid the whole “graven image” thing? Even for a Mennonite, this seems as plausible as a fish saying, “I prefer living out of the water.”

The whole show was so confusing and lame and slightly disturbing that I had to look it up. It’s not real. It’s scripted. They’re all actors. It’s fake, fake, fake, and the reality show “feel” is calculated, calculated, calculated. The actual Amish are horrified. The actual Mafia is probably horrified, come to think of it. But Amish Mafia just got picked up for a second season, so we’ll all be horrified together for at least another 6 months or so.

The thing that makes me mad is that I even believed for one second that it was real. I did! I thought, “Gee whiz, the Amish community has heavies that break kneecaps for community funding?? That’s nuts!” And then I realized I had been suckered. I don’t like being suckered by an inanimate object, which brings us full-circle as to why I don’t have a television.

The thing that steams me the most? There are quilts all over that show and I can’t decide if this is good or bad. Should I be happy a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt is shown five different times on a major cable television show? Or should I cringe because the guy sitting on it has a gold tooth and bad attitude?