Ben and I watched Devil’s Playground the other night, the documentary about Amish kids on Rumspringa. It’s worth seeing, especially if you don’t know anything about the subject – basically, the Amish believe that you have to make the choice to become a Christian on your own, so when their kids turn sixteen they give them the freedom to go out into the “english” world – where most people I know live – and decide for themselves. 90%, apparently, decide to go back to being Amish, so that kind of tells you a lot right there, but I think the film could have gone deeper – basically it just followed the lives of a few kids, but there were still a lot of questions I had.
What was interesting to me was that with only a few exceptions, most of the kids only use it as an opportunity to watch TV, drive, and do a LOT of partying, and the parents seem to be completely aware that after a while of this, most of them will realize it’s kind of just easier to come home. And there are aspects of this that are pretty cool, if you think about it, and the sense of community the Amish have is very strong, but the thing I can’t get down with is the fact that by and large you’re disowned if you decide to go english. That’s kind of a lot of pressure on a so-called “choice”. I think what I’d really like to have seen is much more about either Amish life in general or about the people who do leave; how their spiritual life has changed, what it’s like to be without your family – they touched on it this with one girl who left to go to college, but that was about it – it just seemed way deeper than they showed and that there would have to be some kids who either left or thought about leaving – aspiring artists, or kids with questions about their faith, or with a passion for something besides partying or even wanting to explore things they don’t know about. There was a reality show on a while ago called Amish and the City – and it was only a step up from the Real World in that they mixed the Amish kids in a house with english kids (and waited for hijinks to ensue), but they also introduced the Amish kids to all kinds of new experiences, and although it seemed as though most of them would go back to being Amish, you could see how exciting it was for them to go in the ocean for the first time, or to travel, eat new foods, and in some ways, even though it was like, the WB I think, they showed some things the movie didn’t – that may be because the nature of a reality show starts with a certain contrivance, and that in real reality (oh dear god I hope that’s not what it’s going to be called now) kids don’t go that far from home, and do kind of limit it to partying a lot. But to me, I just thought, well, if that’s the case, I’d rather see an entire movie about one very interesting Amish kid making that decision.